Monday, February 15, 2021


Brigg people lamented the end of an era 50 years ago when D-Day arrived - this 'D' standing for decimalisation. February 15, 1971 (also a Monday) saw the UK switching from 240 old pence in the £ to 100p in new money.
Although this move had been planned for many months, some folk were still confused as they tendered cash in Brigg shops and eateries (the popular Bridge Street cafe being seen above half a century ago. How much did a cuppa or a breakfast then cost in new 'p'?).
Old coins - such as the two-shilling piece, equivalent to 10 new pence - continued to circulate long after D-Day as both forms of currency operated side by side.
But many people were sad to see the phased withdrawal of florins, half-crowns and bobs. When decimalisation took full effect, the only tanner remaining was Elsie on Coronation Street, the silver tanner coin being worth six old pence.
People were proved correct in thinking that decimalisation would cost them money on a daily basis; prices in the shops were 'rounded up' to the nearest new money equivalent, rather than down!
Decimalisation came at a time when the UK was keen to show its commitment to the Common Market and the continent where 100 had long been the standard unit. Metrication of lengths and weights was also embraced later for the same reason.
Presentation gift packs (illustrated above) containing one example of each new coin, mounted within a cardboard case and a plastic folder, were given to many Brigg kids 50 years ago by grandparents, aunts, uncles and parents.
We gradually dipped into ours when pocket money failed to keep pace with rising inflation in the early 1970s and some of our souvenir new money coins ended up in the till at the tuck shop opposite Brigg Grammar School, in exchange for crisps and sweets.
Brigg people of all ages retained examples of old coins after they ceased to be legal tender. Somewhere we have a silver crown (five shillings - 25p) later passed down to us. Did anyone keep original £1 or 10 shilling (50p notes)?
The guinea (£1 and one shilling - £1.05p) lived on in horse racing and bloodstock sales, but the Government otherwise pressed on with enforcing the removal of our traditional British currency and the terms associated with it.
However, decimalisation and metrication did bring a welcome bonus for Brigg children. It was no longer necessary to learn their 'times tables' for multiples of 12, 14 and 16. This knowledge had been necessary because 12 shillings = £1, and imperial pounds (weight) and ounces involved multiples of 14 and 16.

As far as the Government was concerned 50 years ago, it was a case of 'in for a penny, in for a pound' as the old saying goes; it was determined to see decimalisation implemented without delay.