In England, from at least 1340, “stone” has usually referred to a unit of mass = 14 pounds. For a discussion of the origin of the 14-lb stone, see sack. Use of the stone in trade was abolished by the Weights and Measures Act of 1985. Among other uses, a person's weight is often still expressed in stones with the remainder in pounds, for example, “6 stone 10.”
ITEM, Whereas great Damage and Deceit is done to the People, for that divers Merchants use to buy and Auncel weigh Wools and other Merchandises, by a Weight which is called Auncel; It is accorded and established, That this Weight called Auncel betwixt Buyers and Sellers, shall be wholly put out; and that every Person do sell and buy by the Balance, so that the Balance be even, and the Wools and other Merchandizes evenly weighed by right Weight; so that the Sack of Wool weigh no more but xxvi Stones, and every Stone to weigh xiv l. and that the Beam of the Balance do not bow more to the one part than to the other; and that the Weight be according to the Standard of the Exchequer : And if any Buyer do the contrary, he shall be grievously punished, as well at the Suit of the Party, as at the Suit of our Lord the King.
25ᵗʰ Edward III. Statute 5, c. 9. (1351-2 ce). The abbreviation "l" is "livre" in the Norman French original.
As late as 1862, however, over a dozen other definitions of the stone were in use in various trades and locations in the United Kingdom.
A stone of 5 pounds used for glass, mentioned in a document of 1302. It is also mentioned in Worlidge's dictionary (1704), which describes a 5-lb stone of grass, 24 of which make up a seam. “Grass” is probably a misprint for “glass.”
In the 13ᵗʰ century a stone of 8 pounds was used for spices and pharmaceuticals, “wax, sugar, pepper, cinnamon, nutmegs and alum.” By 1496, it was already referred to as being “of old time called the stone of London.” In the 1600s the 8-lb stone was still used for spices, but by 1700 it had become associated with butchers. The Weights and Measures Act of 1834 mentions it in passing as a unit to be suppressed in favor of a universal 14-lb stone. In 1934, 582 years after Edward III specified “every stone to weigh 14 lb,” the Board of Trade was writing its inspectors about “the old London or butcher's stone,” advising them “New machines [that is, scales] graduated in 8 lb units will be accepted for verification and stamping until 31 January 1935 it being understood, (1) that after that date no new machines so graduated are to be stamped.”
In Counties Armagh, Monaghan, Tyrone, and probably others, Ireland, 18ᵗʰ century, a stone of 16 pounds used for wool, feathers and tallow.
In County Down a stone of 16 pounds used for undressed and hackled flax.
In County Clare a stone of potatoes was 16 pounds in summer, but 18 pounds in winter.
An Account of Ireland, statistical and political.
London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1812.
Volume 2, pages 198, 199, 202.
In the town of Burport, England, 16ᵗʰ century, a unit of mass used for hemp, = 20 pounds.
resorte to your said Towne to bye and provyde hempe and therof make canes ropes halsers traces halters and other tacle, …That no maner of person or persons, dwellyng or inhabytynge within the dystaunce of fyve myles frome the said Towne or Boroughe of Burporte, shall from hensforth sell or cause to be solde out of the Market holden and to be holden within the saem Towne or Borough of Burporte to any person or persons, any hempe which shall happen to growe within the said fyve myles in dystaunce from the said Towne or Borough; … PROVYDED always that xx poundes weyght shalbe accompted to the Stone.
21 Henry VIII chapter 12 (1529)
In the county of Northumberland, England, 18th century, a unit of mass for wool = 24 pounds avoirdupois.
As weights and measures vary in different districts, we think
it right to apprize our readers that, in the following Reports of Northumberland
A Stone of Wool = 24lb. Avoirdupoise.
A Stone of every other article = 14lb. ditto..
J. Bailey and G. Culley
A General View of the Agriculture of Northumberland, with Observations on the Means of its Improvement…
Newcastle: printed by Sol, Hodgson, and sold in London by Robinson and Nichol, 1797.
In Assyria, a unit of mass, about 1,290 grains. Obviously, a scholar's translation. We do not know the name of the unit in its native language.
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Last revised: 2 December 2014.