On other genealogy sites I often see people ask "what would £X be worth today" questions, and I never really have a good answer. Particularly with UK probate records becoming more accessible, it is often straightforward to find out how much a person owned when they died, but less easy to interpret what that sum actually meant. How much was "wealthy", how much was "poor"...

I know of a few online converters, but they often seem to give inconsistent results.

So, how would you answer the question: What would £100 in 1750 be worth today?

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    Another calculator is at: inflation.stephenmorley.org and it only goes back to 1751 but gives £100 then equals £20,100 now. – lkessler May 23 '16 at 6:15
  • An important limitation of this approach is that relative prices of land, food, and employment have changed a lot. So it's not like a forex conversion and there may not be a consistent answer. – pjc50 May 23 '16 at 9:03
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    @pjc50 If you could expand on that a little, it would make a good answer. :) – Harry Vervet May 23 '16 at 10:42
  • If you are including the whole of the UK population, the vast majority of "poor" people would not have any entries at all in the probate records. Even now, the current practice (at least in my personal experience) is that if a deceased person has made a straigforward will which is not contested by the beneficiaries, and has few disposable assets (say less than £10,000), a solicitor will advise that the estate is dealt with as if the will did not legally exist , simply to avoid the cost of proving it. So there will be nothing in the probate records at all. – alephzero May 23 '16 at 11:54
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    Sorry but in the UK it is simply not up to the solicitor or the beneficiaries, but the banks or whatever institutions hold the assets in question. Companies will release assets on the evidence of a death certificate and possibly sworn affidavits, but only if the assets are less than their own limit, which may change across company and probably according to circumstances. It may very well be that the limits that you have come across are all set at around £10k, but other companies may have other limits. – AdrianB38 May 23 '16 at 14:13

The Purchasing Power of British Pounds from 1270 to Present page, in response to typing in 1750 (Initial Year), 100 pounds (Initial Amount) and 2016 (Desired Year), returns:

In 2014, the relative value of £100 0s 0d from 1750 ranges from £13,920.00 to £1,638,000.00.

and describes various ways of providing that estimate including (amongst others):

If you want to compare the value of a £100 0s 0d Income or Wealth , in 1750 there are four choices. In 2014 the relative:

  • historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £14,050.00
  • labour earnings of that income or wealth is £178,100.00
  • economic status value of that income or wealth is £278,200.00
  • economic power value of that income or wealth is £1,638,000.00
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    Yes - important to realise that retail price inflation is not the only yard-stick. As wages went up in real terms, an inheritance of a specific value could have less significance when measured against how many years / months / weeks it would have taken to earn. – AdrianB38 May 23 '16 at 14:18

The Bank of England has an inflation calculator that will try to give you an idea of what a sum of money at a date in the past would be worth now in terms of it's purchasing power.

Obviously this sort of conversion is not an exact science, so I think you have to expect that answers are going to span a fairly wide range.

The National Archives has a currency converter for the period between 1270 and 2017: Currency Converter

It shows what you could buy at the date in question for the sum involved, as well as an equivalent today, e.g. for £50 in 1850

In 2017, this is worth approximately: £4,009.31

In 1850, you could buy one of the following with £50:

Horses: 3

Cows: 9

Wool: 75 stones

Wheat: 24 quarters

Wages: 250 days (skilled tradesman)

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