Remember Decimal Day? 50 years on from currency changing forever
- Credit: Archant Library
On February 15, 1971 - 50 years ago to this day - decimalisation arrived.
At the time Decimal Day was referred to as 'D Day' but the change to UK currency had nothing to do with landing on French beaches. Instead, we swapped bobs, tanners, florins, half-crowns, shillings and thrupenny bits for pounds and pence.
For hundreds of years, our currency hinged on there being 12 pence in a shilling. There were 20 shillings in a pound - or, 240 pence.
The shift on Decimal Day brought in a system based on units of 10 - a change many countries across the world had already made.
Decimal coins were released into circulation three years earlier in 1968 to give people a chance to adapt. But some coins were similarly sized or valued and it caused confusion for many.
Readers might remember that banks were not open on weekends at the time but they were also shut for the Thursday and Friday before Decimal Day to prepare and convert people's accounts.
But how did we fare with the change here in Norfolk?
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Large department stores like Bonds and Curls in Norwich dual-priced goods and printed off conversion charts to help shop assistants at the tills.
Retail staff across Norfolk received extra training in the weeks leading up to the shift. Some shops insisted that customers use decimal currency in the days leading up to the official change over.
One aspect of pre-D Day life stayed the same, at least for a while. You could still 'spend a penny' at public toilets using old money because it took some time for the locks to be changed on the doors.
The editorial comment in the Eastern Daily Press from Decimal Day declared:
A particular problem of our change-over, however, has been that it is one of those situations in which grandmothers and the older generation generally are being politely shown by their school-aged juniors how—well, if not to suck eggs, at least to buy them in the new coinage.
In response to this particular problem, some smaller local shops encouraged older customers to visit at slower times of the day for a little bit of practice with the new coins.
It may have caused some confusion or disruption at the time, yet as the editorial comment noted on the day:
But when the change is for the better, when it serves to make everyday living that little bit more simple, one can expect the fuss to die down soon enough.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have memories of Decimal Day and would like to share them.
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