The deerstalker cap and cape-backed overcoat. The pipe. The grace of gaslit Victoriana. The clop clop of carriage and cobblestone. The fog rolling in from England's imperial seas. Baker Street.

The Cost of Living

In the era of Sherlock Holmes, England uses pounds, shillings and pence. The penny has been in use as the basic unit of currency since introduced into England around the year 785 by King Offa of Mercia. Paper notes are large, ungainly things. Safeguarded against forgery by watermarks. Coins are much more common and are the means of everyday exchange. Although no longer minted, the guinea is still used throughout England to indicate the amount of 21 shillings. The guinea has an aristocratic overtone and is used when dealing with professional fees. Payments for land, horses and art are often quoted in guineas. It is popular amongst the gambling fraternity too.

12 pennies (d)= 1 shilling (/-)
20 shillings (/-)= 1 pound ()

Cash AmountWrittenSpoken
two and a half pennies2 dtuppence-ha'penny
two and three quarter pennies2 dtuppence three farthing
four pennies4dfourpence
two shillings2/-two shillings or two bob
eight shillings and four pence8/4eight and four
twelve shillings and six pence12/6twelve and six

Type of CoinDescription
Farthing= A quarter penny. A copper, later bronze (1860), coin.
Half PennyKnown as a ha'penny. Pronounced hape-nee. A copper, later bronze (1860), coin.
PennyThe basic unit of English currency. A copper, later bronze (1860), coin.
Three PenceKnown as a thrupp'ny bit or thruppence. A silver coin.
Groat= Four Pence. Known as a Joey. A silver coin.
SixpenceKnown as a tanner. A silver coin.
ShillingKnown as a bob. A silver coin.
Florin= Two Shillings. Known as a two shilling piece or a two bob bit. A silver coin.
Halfcrown= Two Shillings and Six Pence. A silver coin.
Double Florin= Four Shillings. Minted from 1887 until 1890. A silver coin.
Crown= Five Shillings. A silver coin.
Half Sovereign= Ten Shillings. A gold coin.
Sovereign= One Pound (). Known as a quid. A gold coin.
Double Sovereign= Two Pounds (). A gold coin. Not commonly struck for circulation.
Quintuple Sovereign= Five Pounds (). A gold coin. Not commonly struck for circulation.

Social ClassDescription
Upper ClassDo not work. Income comes from inherited land and investments
Middle ClassMen who perform mental or "clean" works, paid monthly or annually
Working ClassMen and women who perform physical labour, paid daily or weekly wages

LifestyleTypical Incomes (annual)
Merchants & Bankers10,000
Middle Class (doctors, lawyers, clerks)300-800
Lower Middle Class (teachers, journalists, shopkeepers and the like)150-300
Skilled Workers (carpenters, typesetters and the like)75-100
Sailors and Domestic Staff40-75
Labourers & Soldiers25

Gamekeeper's knife4/-
Derringer1 - 3 Pounds
Revolver4 - 8 Pounds
Shotgun(single barrel) 4 Pounds
Shotgun(double barrel) 6 Pounds
Rifle4 - 10 Pounds
Holster and Gun Belt1 Pound
Ammunition8/- per Box of 100
Shotgun Shells8/- per Box of 25
Saddle, Bridle & Pads8 Pounds
Poor Horse4 Pounds
Fair Horse10 Pounds
Good Horse 20 Pounds
Excellent Horse30 Pounds

Rental HousingCost (weekly)
A furnished house in the West End5 to 25 guineas
'Elegantly furnished rooms' in West End4 to 15 guineas
An unfurnished house in Holland Park (wealthy suburb, Kensington area)7 to 10 guineas
A sitting room and bedroom in Pimlico (well-to-do suburb)1 to 4 guineas
A house in suburban Walthamstow (a railway commuter suburb, NE London)10 to 40/-
Three rooms in Soho (relatively poor but central London district)14 to 20/-
House on Shaftesbury Park model housing estate, built for working men and their families in Battersea (varied with size of house, from five rooms through to eight)7/6d. to 11/-
Single room in Soho (relatively poor but central London district)6 to 8/-
Single room for "mechanic" (manual labourer) in lodgings 3 to 6/-
Two rooms in Peabody Model Housing4/9d.
Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes model housing estate, two room cottage3/6d.

HotelCost (per night)
Bed & Breakfast, with dinner and 'attendance' at the Midland Grand Hotel14/-
Bed & Breakfast at a City boarding house3/-
Bed in shared room in 'low lodging house'1 to 4d

Average Weekly Expenditure

Item S/d
Meat 4/0
Bread (10 loaves) 2/3.5
Flour 2/0
Vegetables (18 lbs) 1/0
Other Vegetables 0/4
Butter 1/0
Fruit 1/6
Milk (1 1/2d per day) 0/10.5
Tea (1/2 lb) 1/0
Cocoa (1/2 lb) 0/6
Sugar (4 lbs) /0/10
Soap (1 1/2 lbs) 0/6
Soda, starch, blue 0/.5
Candles 0/1
Parafin (1/2 gallon a fortnight)
Coal (1 cwt) 1/3
Beer (3 pints at 3 1/2d) 0/10.5
Rent 5/6
Boots (for whole family) 1/8
Clothes for the man 1/0
Clothes for wife and children 2/0
School fees 0/4
Provident Club [savings] 1/6.5
Medical attendance
wife & children

Yearly Expenditure

Item /S/d
Rent 105/0/0
Rates and taxes
including gas
Coals 12/8/6
Wages 48/2/1
Food: Butcher 46/9/11
Food: Baker 9/8/8
Food: Dairyman 35/4/8
Food: Grocer 38/8/10
Food: Greengrover 10/6/0
Food: Poulterer 10/3/7
Dress: Wife 35/8/4
Dress: Husband 19/17/3
Washing 34/14/9
Doctor & chemist 33/1/0
Traveling & tips 43/7/5
Local traveling 19/17/9
Stamps 7/16/7
Stationery 8/1/3
Pleasures, presents
Wine 15/0/8
House repairs 26/12/10
Garden 4/13/9
Balance 50/19/2


Item /S/d
1 overcoat 1/15/0
1 umbrella -/7/6
1 hat -/2/6
1 silk hat -/7/6
1 week-day suit 2/0/0
1 Sunday suit 2/10/0
1 pair socks -/1-/10
1 pair boots -/10/6
repairing boots -/6/0
1 under vest -/2/6
1 flannel shirt -/3/0
1 collar -/-/5
1 pair cuffs -/-/8
cutton, buttons -/0/1

Weekly Prices

Item /S/d
Rent 0/6/0
Breakfasts 0/1/8
Dinners 0/5/0
Teas 0/1/0
Boot-cleaning 0/0/3
Coal and Wood 0/1/0
Washing 0/0/9
Tobacco, etc. 0/0/6

Peterson, The Commissionaire