Guides

Weights and measures

Extract from a testament

Background information

Dry measure

Liquid measure

Weight

Linear and square measures

Further reading

Background information

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.

Dry measure

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)

Extract from an inventory of 1764: 'six bolls seed Oats and ten pecks seed Bear (barley)'.

Liquid measure

A Scots pint equalled about 2 and 3/4 Imperial pints (about 1.7 litres)

  • 1 gallon = 8 pints
  • 1 pint = 2 chopins
  • 1 chopin = 2 mutchkins
  • 1 mutchkin = 4 gills

Weight

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'.

  • 1 stone = 16 pounds
  • 1 pound = 16 ounces
  • 1 ounce = 16 drops (or draps)

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

Extract from an inventory of a tailor: 'Eleven eln Coarse tow cloth at ten pence p[er] Ell'.

Further reading

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.