Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England

A Kings Ransom


A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse; a friend sent me this image, they thought it might be of interest to readers. It’s a hand bill dating from 1841, now pinned up in a local shop (but maybe it should be in the local museum).

stolen black mare-1


I thought £5 in 1841 sounded like a very handsome reward, I asked Mr Uhdd how we might calculate such a thing, he went off to Google the question: it was touch and go whether the answer was  going to  be  either, fascinating, or one of those question where you wished you’d never asked

"The real price of every thing, what every thing really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it… But though labour be the real measure of the exchangeable value of all commodities, it is not that by which their value is commonly estimated… Every commodity, besides, is more frequently exchanged for, and thereby compared with, other commodities than with labour." – Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776

It seems you can calculate (and calculations are something I tend to avoid at all costs, I would never make an accountant*) by a host of measures,  but for ease, we will distil the question down to two.

By the retail price index… in 1841 £5 was equivalent to  £361

and  by average earnings…  it was  £3,830

If someone would like to flesh out the bones of this old horse and its value, please carry on in the comments

This is the quote for me

"What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing." – Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan, 1892.

These days it tends to be quad bikes that get nicked not horses.

* nor would it be wise for me follow a career as an air-traffic  controller the conversation would go along the lines of   ‘flight 7326 you are clear to land;  err, opps,  no, I mean flight 3762… Err no; wait a mo; would the blue plane like to land now and can the red one hang around for a minute, thank you.

Author: uphilldowndale

Watching the rhythm of rural life, from the top of a hill in northern England. Having spent most of my life avoiding writing, I now need to do it! I am no domestic goddess, but if I were expecting visitors to my home, I would whisk round with the duster and plump up the cushions and generally make the place look presentable. I hope that by putting my words where others may see them it will encourage me to ‘tidy up and push the Hoover around’ my writing. On the other hand I may just be adding to the compost heap. Only time will tell! Pull up a chair, sit yourself down, I’ll put the kettle on.

7 thoughts on “A Kings Ransom

  1. ★★★★★

  2. I always think of the price of a chippy on a Friday night! £5 today doesn’t even buy two fish suppers (or fish & chips for those not in Scotland) – but in 1841, I wonder how many it would have bought? Sadly, I rather suspect that no-one (or no-one in their right mind!) has ever published a table of fish supper prices through the decades. It might make interesting reading, though.

    • OMG could I just eat a bag of chips with fish bits on top… it has been a long day, the sort to make you want to seek comfort food. As kids we had a chippy tea most weeks, it now seems like an expensive supper to this household

  3. Interesting indeed! xx

  4. Don’t know about fish suppers in 1841, but the price of a loaf of bread should make a good comparison. Per http://www.johnhearfield.com, the weight of a twopenny loaf was 18 ounces in 1758. The price of wheat had doubled by 1800, so the 18 ounce loaf might have cost 4 pence.
    So, £5 would have bought about 125 loaves of 18 ounces (125x18oz=2250 oz.).
    Today’s 800 gram (31 ounces) loaf costs £1.20 (Kingsmill white), say 4 loaves @ 31oz. (4×31 oz.=124 oz.).
    So the price of bread has gone up by 18 times. By my reckoning that makes the 1841 £5 worth £90 today.

    What a cheapskate!

  5. I wonder whether Mr Longden ever got his black mare back? Your air traffic controller bit really made me laugh:)

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