Monday, June 23, 2014

Money in the Regency: What Did it Cost?



In Proper Conduct, the heroine spends a good deal of time worrying about money that is not there, particular after her father spends nearly 1,000 pounds on a horse.  Not an excessive sum to someone such as the Prince Regent, whose racing stud farm cost him 30,000 pounds a year.  But all these numbers seemed to need a bit perspective.

In the Regency...
- Four farthing made a penny.  (A pence.)
- Twelve pennies (or twelvepence) made a shilling.
- Five shillings made a crown.
- Twenty shillings made a pound.
- Twenty-one shillings made a guinea.

Coinage in use in the Regency included:
- gold for one, two, five and half-guinea coins
- silver for one, two, three, four, six penny (or pence), shilling and crown coins
- copper for half-pence and farthing coins

Two-penny coins were called tuppence. And there were all sorts of slang names for coins including a quid (pound), a bob (shilling), a goldfinch (guinea),

Due to a shortage of copper and silver coins in the late 1700's, firms began to use tokens to pay wages.  There was also a growth in payments by foreign coins.

The annual expenses of a great house could run between 5,000 and 6,000 pounds a year including housekeeping, repairs, stables, parklands, gardens, home farm costs, servants, and taxes.

Mrs. Whitney's  Boarding School for Young Ladies at Buckingham cost twelve guineas a year, and one guinea extra if tea and sugar were required to be served.

In Bath, one paid two guineas were paid for subscription balls, five shillings for concert tickets, and ten shillings sixpence for a subscription to the booksellers.

With an income of four hundred pounds a year, one could employ two maids, one groom and keep one horse in London.  On seven hundred a year, one could have one manservant, three maids and two horses.  For a thousand a year, one could have three female servants, a coachman, a footman, two carriages and a pair of horses in London.

There were three to four hundred families whose income was over 10,000 pounds a year, due to vast land holdings.

During the London season, the lease on house in the West End could cost as much as 1,000 pounds.

Anyone with a debt of twenty pounds or more could be sent to debtor's prison  (However, a member of Parliament could not be imprisoned while Parliament was sitting.)

The capital to secure an estate was approximately thirty times the desired income.

The Earl of Egremont saw a rise in income due to land rentals from 12,976 pounds in 1791 to 34,000 pounds in 1824.

In Somerset (where Proper Conduct is set) 30 acres for let went for 35 pounds per annum, with the tenant paying all taxes except land tax.

In 1801, a 100-acre estate in Sussex sold for 3,500 pounds.

In 1804, due to the silver shortage, the Bank of England issued light-weight token silver coins for one shilling, three shilling and six pence coins.

From 1811 to 1812, an estimated 250,000 people lived comfortably on more than seven hundred pounds a year each.  A half million shopkeepers made a hundred and fifty pounds a year each, two million artisans lived on the edge of poverty at 55 pounds per annum, and one and one half million laborers earned only 30 pounds a year each.

In 1813, a cow fetched about 15 pounds at the market, while a ewe went for 55 to 72 shillings.

In 1816, a new British one pound coin made of gold, the sovereign, began to be produced.                                                  

In 1820, 1,100 years after the first English silver pennies were minted, the last British silver pennies were minted.

4 comments:

Anne Stenhouse said...

Wonderfully useful and informative post. Thank you. Anne Stenhouse

Marie Laval said...

What a fascinating and informative post. I always wonder about money and how much things would have cost during the Regency period. I am so grateful you put it all together. I know I will refer to this post over and over again. Thank you!

Pamela Kelt said...

Love the nitty-gritty of this. It's so hard tracking down this kind of information. Thank you. I've filed it all away.

One small question re this: 'Four farthing made a penny. (A pence.)'

I think of a penny as singular and pence as plural. Not familiar with 'a pence'.

shannon donnelly said...

Pence does technically refer to a collection of pennies. However, English being what it is, pence in the casual usage can refer to a single penny or several pennies. There was time the English just called them "p" as in: "Do you have five p I can borrow?"