Rods, Chains and Scruples, more on the imperial measurement system…

After yesterday’s post ( and Greg Cambrell’s comments containing a list of imperial measures (thanks Greg!), I have had quite a few queries on imperial measurements.

Greg has kindly sent me a scan from the back of his school exercise book from the 1950s :


Who knew there were so many types of measures and weights? I’d heard of inches, rods, roods and chains before, along with ounces and pounds, but I wonder how many of us knew there were 3 Scruples to a Dram and 8 Drams to an Ounce?

Of course the imperial system (to a metric mind like my own at least) seems as crazy as the English language must seem to a native speaker of the latin derived languages such as French, Spanish, Italian or others. Doing some further research, I have discovered this is also somewhat a hot topic in some circles.

By way of introduction, here is a history of measurement care of Wikipedia :

and Encyclopaedia Brittanica :


and here is a fiery debate on imperial versus metric!

Lastly, whenever you are next faced with an imperial to metric conversion or vice versa, here is a handy calculator (noting you can usually just type the conversion you want into Google and it will do it for you on the spot) :

So next time you are at the shops, have some fun and ask for 2 scruples of cumin, a flemish ell of fabric, 3 gills of lemonade and ask the real estate agent how many poles the block of land has? (he or she will then likely start looking at the fence posts).

Have fun!

Malcolm McBratney


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