Weights and measures
Until the mid 19th century a wide diversity of weights and measures were used in Scotland. Standardisation took place from 1661 onwards, and in 1824 an act of parliament imposed Imperial measures and defined the proportions of older measures to Imperial measures.
Inventories contain lists of items (especially agricultural produce) so it is worth getting to know weights and measures which were used in Scotland between 1500 and 1900.
The firlot was equal to about 36 litres (in the case of certain crops, such as wheat, peas, beans and meal), and about 53 litres (in the case of barley, oats and malt).
- 1 chalder = 16 bolls
- 1 boll = 4 firlots
- 1 firlot = 4 pecks
- 1 peck = 4 lippies or forpets
Extract from an inventory of 1764: 'six bolls seed Oats and ten pecks seed Bear (barley)'.
A Scots pint equalled about 2 and 3/4 Imperial pints (about 1.7 litres)
In Scots Troy weight 1 pound equalled slightly more than the pound avoirdupois (about 496 grammes), but weights varied in towns, and these local weights were called 'tron weights'.
Linear and square measures
Scots inches, feet, chains and miles were slightly larger than Imperial equivalents.
- 1 mile = 8 furlongs
- 1 furlong = 10 chains
- 1 chain = 4 falls
- 1 fall (or fa) = 6 ells
- 1 ell = 3 and 1/12 feet
- 1 foot = 12 inches
In square measure an ell was slightly larger than an Imperial yard and slightly smaller than a square metre.
- 1 acre = 4 roods
- 1 rood = 40 falls
- 1 fall = 36 ells
Extract from an inventory of a tailor: 'Eleven eln Coarse tow cloth at ten pence p[er] Ell'.
Search the glossary for specific terms used in weights and measures. Guidance is also provided on agricultural produce and livestock, dates, numbers and sums of money, reading older handwriting and unfamiliar words and phrases.