Money and its Value in the 1740s.

The smallest single unit of account was the farthing and the largest was the guinea.   Values rose as follows: 4f (farthings) =1d (penny); 12d = 1s (shilling); 20s = £1 (pound). A crown was 5s and a guinea 21s. Other common coins were the halfpenny, sixpence and half crown.

The value of money is hard to express in modern terms. If he was lucky a boy could get 11/2d.  for an hour’s woodchopping. A labourer earned between 10d. and 1s./3d. for a day’s work, while live-in servants earned £3/10s. to £5 a year, on top of their board and lodging. A shopkeeper might live on annual profits of £30-50, which was also the sort of money earned by a craftsman in a high-value trade. A middle-class family would be quite comfortably off on £350, while anyone with £500 or more was regarded as fairly rich. Incomes over that belonged to the privileged. Government sinecures could draw £2000 or more, out of which underlings would be paid to do the work, if any work was involved. A very small handful of super-rich landowners had incomes in excess of £25,000.


Here are a few prices I have picked up from various sources.


1/2d. - a pint of milk; half a loaf of bread

1d. – a day’s fee for a child at a dame school or charity school

3d. - postage on a 1-page letter going 80 miles, paid by recipient

5d.– 1 lb (500g) of butter or cheese

6d. – dinner of cold meat, bread and a pint of porter beer 1s. – a pamphlet or paper covered book for popular reading

1s. – a music lesson

1s./6d. – to dry-clean a coat

2/6 – 1 lb of candles

4/6 – petticoat for a working woman

4/9 upwards – 1 lb coffee depending on quality

5/7 – worsted stockings

6/6 – bridle for riding horse

7/6  – 1 lb cheap tea; a new novel by Samuel Richardson

10/6 to £1/15s. – men’s wigs

16s. – silk stockings

£4 to £15 – a riding horse depending on age and condition

5gn. – a silver watch; half-length portrait by provincial artist

£22 – a year’s rent for a small single man’s apartment in London

£77 6s. – a new four-wheel coach

£20,000 – lottery prize in 1769

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