The "Gentleman Jack" series is based on the diaries of Anne Lister - a XIX century woman, often declared as "first modern lesbian" (the "gentleman" is apparently a slur, similar to modern "dyke").

Anne is approached by the coal industrialist who wishes to rent the right to mine coal on her land, and, to his surprise, she provides a detailed cost and profit analysis:

You sell your coal in Halifax at eight pence a corve [...] I’m reliably informed that the cost of getting and hurrying to the surface twenty corves of coal is six shillings. That’s seventy-two pence divided by twenty, that’s thruppence ha’penny per corve. Which means you make four-pence ha’penny clear gain. Per corve. So let’s times that by five and we have one shilling and ten pence ha’penny - or twenty two pence - per square yard. Four thousand eight hundred and forty square yards in an acre, times twenty-two, and your clear gain per acre is four hundred and fifty three pounds and fifteen shillings.

Just to put that in perspective: a family of 5 could live quite comfortably for bit over 1 pound per week while spending about 2 shillings on coal and the life savings of Anne's elderly father (a landowner and retired officer) were around 450 pounds.

It is bit unclear is the number presented above a total income from an acre of field or just an annual one, but since Anne is tempted to open her own mine, with the initial cost of 2000 pounds that (according to her advisor) would be quickly paid off, it seems that this might be an annual rather than total income.

I've found this study that shows the fortnightly wage for a minter around 1835 to about 300 pences per fortnight (or 12.5 shillings per week)1

Are those details about coal mining revenue reliable?

1 For a help with currency conversion, let me quote Terry Prattchett:

Two farthings = One Ha'penny. Two ha'pennies = One Penny. Three pennies = A Thrupenny Bit. Two Thrupences = A Sixpence. Two Sixpences = One Shilling, or Bob. Two Bob = A Florin. One Florin and One Sixpence = Half a Crown. Four Half Crowns = Ten Bob Note. Two Ten Bob Notes = One Pound (or 240 pennies). Once Pound and One Shilling = One Guinea.

The British resisted decimalized currency for a long time because they thought it was too complicated.”

Here is a chart:

Shillings & Pence (s. / d.) Pence Equiv. Coin / Note Name
0 / ¼ ¼ d. Farthing
0 / ½ ½ d. Ha'penny (Half-Penny)
0 / 1 1 d. Pence
0 / 2 2 d. Tuppence (Two-Pence)
0 / 3 3 d. Thruppence (Three-Pence)
0 / 6 6 d. Sixpence
1 / 0 12 d. Shilling or Bob
2 / 0 24 d. Florin
2 / 6 30 d. Half a Crown
5 / 0 60 d. Crown (Five Shillings/Bob)
10 / 0 120 d. Ten Bob (Note)
20 / 0 240 d. Pound (Note) (£)
21 / 0 252 d. Guinea (Coin)
  • 1
    @PieterGeerkens the cost of mining itself is provided (6 shillings per 20 corves) and I'm assuming that the coal is sell in bulk at the nearest bulk dealer (at 8 pence a corve). So skipping the cost of transport to the town this is pretty close to the final profit.
    – Yasskier
    Feb 1 '21 at 3:16
  • 1
    Earning a lot of money was certainly plausible - a lot of landowners became very rich from this - but I think the numbers being quoted here are total value per acre ("there is that much coal down there which could be dug out"), not annual rental. That would presumably be a much smaller fraction depending on the speed of extraction.
    – Andrew
    Feb 1 '21 at 11:22
  • 1
    When one considers that most of the "confusion" is simply slang for various coins; and compare to the profusion of similar US slang terms: Nickel for 5₵, Dime for 10₵, Quarter or Two Bits for 25₵, Buck for $1 = 100₵, Sawbuck for $5, C-Note or Benjamin for $100; there's really no basis for regarding either as inherently more complex, as opposed to merely unfamiliar. Feb 1 '21 at 16:22
  • @Andrew I should have added it earlier (and just did): Anne decides to invest 2000 pounds to open her own mine and she expects relatively quick (a few years) profit, so while it seems vague, the quoted 453 pounds seems like an annual income.
    – Yasskier
    Feb 1 '21 at 19:51

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