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In the tv show, Peaky Blinders, season 1, money is mentioned over and over again:

  1. Tommy gives Polly 200 pounds for Ada and Freddie to get away to America and start a new life.
  2. Tommy gives 1 pound and 20 shillings to Danny who lives in London
  3. Tommy offers 8 pounds to Finn Shelby's fiancee, who is an on/off escort, as their wedding gift.
  4. Tommy gives 2 pounds 20 shillings to Grace for a pretty dress for a formal horse racing event.

Given inflation, 1 pound in 1918 is roughly 57.2 pounds in 2020, https://www.in2013dollars.com/uk/inflation/1918?amount=1

But it feels 1 pound could have bought you much much more than 57.2 pounds today, a simple example will be, a person can never survive with 57.2 pounds in London for a month in 2020.

Any ideas?

  • The inflation rate you used may be a bit subjective depending on source. The calculator here inflates 1£ to 65.90£ from 1918 to 2018 and I doubt if it actually dropped between 2018 and 2020. – user18935 Mar 23 at 5:15
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    20 shillings = 1 pound, so some of your figures are suspect. £1/20/~ = £2. – Tetsujin Mar 23 at 6:33
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    I'm not sure I can turn this into an answer, but prices fell in general across the first half of the 20th century & only rose sharply towards the end - thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-2950798/… covers it well – Tetsujin Mar 23 at 6:37
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    This is a history question and should be asked on history.se "how much you could purchase with 1 pound in 1918 London" Because in London bread was pricey than in rural Wales. – SZCZERZO KŁY Mar 23 at 12:47
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The best way to show how much it was worth, would be showing the cost of things.

There are quite a few websites that show you approximate costs, i.e. "the cost of living" would tell you that you could get an average house in London for 300 pounds.

If you want to look into smaller items, check here or here:

  • Bread would cost 12.5 pence (d) = 1 shilling and 2 farthings. So for one pound, you could buy about 20 loaves of bread (unless my math is off)
  • 1 ton of coal was 1 pound 35 pence
  • Sugar was about 0.07 pound per kg
  • Milk was about 0.07 pound per pint
  • A weekly grocery was about 0.51 pound

So for example, the 200 pounds in the original post would be enough for a 2/3 of a house in London, even if by the rough inflation calculation it is barely 11,440 current pounds. Just to compare, the average price in London in the cheapest suburb was in 2019 around 290,000 pounds (over 690,000 if you look at the whole city, including super expensive areas). On the other hand, currently, bread in UK costs by average around 1 modern pound, so if we stick to the 57.2:1 conversion rate, you could buy almost 3 times as much bread for the same value.

BTW, let me quote Terry Prattchet here, explaining the nuances of the old currency system:

Two farthings = One Ha'penny. Two ha'pennies = One Penny. Three pennies = A Thrupenny Bit. Two Thrupences = A Sixpence. Two Sixpences = One Shilling, or Bob. Two Bob = A Florin. One Florin and one Sixpence = Half a Crown. Four Half Crowns = Ten Bob Note. Two Ten Bob Notes = One Pound (or 240 pennies). One Pound and One Shilling = One Guinea.

The British resisted decimalized currency for a long time because they thought it was too complicated."

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  • Isn't a pence £0.01, or was it different back then? Because if it is £0.01, that's 8 loafs of bread for £1 – Flater Mar 25 at 23:25
  • @Flater 1 pound was 20 shillings, each shilling was 12 pennies and one penny was 4 farthings. So 1 pound was 240 pennies. Terry Prattchet commented it his book (check updated answer) – Yasskier Mar 26 at 0:15
  • The quote is from Good Omens, which was cowritten by Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett. Are more in-depth explanation of both old and new British currency (and the transition) is available in a video by Atomic Shrimp. – TRiG Mar 27 at 17:57

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