Note on Some Old Measures

The bushel was one of the measures mentioned by Trevor in his article "Do you recall?" in a recent issue of The Friend.

A bushel was a dry volume measure equivalent to 8 gallons, widely used in agriculture and horticulture before the advent of the bulk handling of cereal grain in farming (in the late 1950's). Cereals were commonly bought, sold and stored in large jute sacks which held four bushels. These sacks were usually hired from the West of England Sack Company and were commonly called West of England sacks.

Since the bushel is a volume measure, the weight of a sack of grain depended on the type of cereal. Moreover, the bushel weight of any cereal was also variable, depending on such factors as fullness of grain and moisture content. The average bushel weights of the common cereals were:

Oats 42 lbs (19.05 kilos)

Barley 56 lbs (25.4 kilos)

Wheat 63 lbs (28.6 kilos)

The corresponding weights for a West of England sackful in each case would therefore be

Oats 42 4 112 = 1 cwts. (76.2 kilos)

Barley 56 4 B 112 = 2 cwts (101.6 kilos)

Wheat 63 4 B 112 = 2 cwts (114.3 kilos)

Farm workers were expected to handle these sacks unassisted and not infrequently to carry sacks up a ladder from the ground floor to a grain loft. Considering that a sack of wheat weighed 2 cwts it is little wonder that many farm workers had back problems.

The following article was published in The Cambrian Register in 1796.


WALES, called Cyrnru by the natives, was originally divided into many royalties or lordships, and often varying in the number; but in general all of them were subject, in a degree, during some periods at least, to one or the other of the three principalities of Gwynedd, Powys, and Deheubarth; or North Wales, Powys, and South Wales.

The greatest district of a determinate extent, was the Cantrev, analogous in most respects to the English hundred. The Cantrev constituted of a certain number of subdivisions, ascertained by the primitive measurement of the Britons, as defined in the laws of Hywel, and therein said to be first instituted in the time of Dyvnwal.

The measure of length consisted of the following gradations:

Tri hvd heidden, un modvedd, Three barley corn lengths, one inch

Tair modvedd, un palvod, Three inches, one palm

Tair palvod, un troedvedd, Three palms, one foot

Tair troedvedd, un cam, Three feet one pace

Tri cham, un naid, Three paces, one leap

Tair naid, un grwn, Three leaps, one ridge, or land

Mil grwn, or tir, un milltir. One thousand lands one mile.


The ancient constitution of Wales thus explains the measure of a lawful acre. Four feet in the length of the short yoke; eight in the field yoke; twelve in the lateral yoke; sixteen in the long yoke; and a rod equal in length with that in the hand of the driver; with his other hand upon the middle knob of that yoke; and as far as that reaches on each side of him is the breadth of the acre; and thirty times that is its length.

It is otherwise defined thus:

Sixteen feet are in the length of the long yoke; sixteen yokes make the length of the acre; and two make its breadth.

In the short yoke there were two oxen a-breast; in the next four; in the next six ; and in the last eight. This method of yoking cattle was not disused in some parts of the country in the last century.

Neither meadow, pasture, nor wood land were included in the acre; for only the arable ground was measured, and that of every other description was deemed waste.

4 Erw, 1 Tyddyn, tenement

4 Tyddyn, 1 Rhandir, district

4 Rhandir 1 Gavel, bailiwick

4 Gavel, 1 Trev, township

4 Trev, 1 Maenol, manor

12 Maenol, and 2 Trev, 1 Cwmwd, association

2 Cwmwd, 1 Cantrev, or hundred towns.

Or thus:

4 Erw, 1 Tyddyn

16 -, 1 Rhandir

64 -, 1 Gavel

256 -, 1 Trev

4 Trev, 1 Maenol

50 --, 1 Cwmwd

100 -, 1 Cantrev.

The present division of Wales, consisting of thirteen counties, were settled on the introduction of the English laws into the country. In these the ancient Cantrev and its subdivisions were preserved generally; but the bounds of the principalities were not, and perhaps intentionally for political reasons.

Conrad Davies