Old Money

It’s not uncommon, when a temperature is related in Celcius, or a measurement in a metric scale for the Fahrenheit or  Imperial measurement to be described as ‘in old money’ – “nineteen degrees Celcius or sixty six in old money”.

This can be traced back to February 15th 1971 when Britain introduced decimal currency; prior to that date all prices were in Pounds, Shillings and Pence… with a Pound comprising twenty Shillings, each of twelve Pence.


After ‘D-Day’ the pound comprised one hundred ‘New Pence’ each worth two point four old pennies. This caused considerable confusion, with mnemonics being developed based on the clock face (five new pence equals one old shilling and so on) and for many years people would translate prices back into ‘old money’.


The wider introduction of metric measurements started in the mid sixties and is now virtually complete, with a few not inconsiderable exceptions – street signs, speed limits and car speedometers are still marked in yards and miles, and beer is still served in pints (and halves).

Some traders, particularly market traders, continued to resist metric measures and insisted on selling fruit and vegetables by the pound and ounce and were prosecuted by over enthusiastic local authorities, becoming known as ‘metric martyrs’ but recently the policy of prosecution has been withdrawn.

metric martyr

Another use of the term ‘old money’ is to describe Britain’s aristocracy who, despite having considerable (inherited) weath are more likely to be wearing threadbare corduroy trousers and driving ageing Volvos than conspicuously flaunting their wealth as the ‘nouveau riche’ are prone to do.