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Units and Currency

Basic units of measurement.


Imperialsymbol(s) usedS.I.
1 inch( in )= 25.4 mm
1 foot( ft )= 0.3048 m
1 yard( yd )= 0.9144 m
1 chain* = 20.12 m
1 mile = 1.609 km

* There are several definitions of a 'chain'. The one Monash used was probably the surveyor's chain of 66 feet.


1 yard = 3 feet


Imperialsymbol(s) usedS.I.
1 square inch( 'sq in' or in² ) = 645.2 mm²
1 square foot( 'sq ft' or ft² ) = 0.0929 m²
1 acre  = 0.4047 hectare
1 square mile  = 259.0 hectares


'square' (building floor area 10 ft x 10 ft) = 100 ft² = 9.29 m²


Imperialsymbol(s) usedS.I.
1 cubic foot( 'cu. ft.' or 'c.f.' or ft³ )= 0.02832 m³
1 cubic footas above= 28.32 litres
1 cubic yard( 'cu. yd.' or 'c.y.' or yd³ )= 0.7646 m³
1 gallon( gall )= 4.546 litres


1 cubic foot = 6.23 Imperial gallons.
1 Imperial gallon = 0.161 cu ft.
1 cubic foot = 1.28 Imperial bushels.
1 cubic metre = 1000 litres.
1 Imperial gallon = 1.20 US gallon

Because the standard symbol for 'litre', a small-case L (i.e. 'l'), is barely distinguishable from the symbol for unity ('1') in some fonts, 'litre' has been written out in full on this web page.


Imperialsymbol(s) usedS.I.
1 pound mass( lb )= 0.4536 kg
1 hundredweight mass( cwt )= 50.803 kg
1 ton mass( ton )= 1.016 tonnes


1 Imperial hundredweight = 112 lb.
1 Imperial ton = 20 cwt = 2240 lb.


Imperialsymbol(s) usedS.I.
1 pound force( lb )= 4.448 N
1 hundredweight force( cwt )= 0.4982 kN
1 ton force( ton )= 9.964 kN


Concentrated gravity loads were usually expressed in hundredweights (cwt) or tons. (For conversion, see 'Force' above.)
Equivalent uniformly distributed loads (UDLs) were expressed as pounds (or hundredweight) per square foot. (For conversion, see below.)
Pressures from contained liquids (usually water) and granular solids (coal, wheat, earth) were expressed as pounds per square foot.
Pressure exerted by footings on soil was expressed in pounds per square foot, though for rock, tons per square foot was sometimes used.
Stresses within materials were expressed in pounds or tons per square inch.

Pressure and stress.

Imperialsymbol(s) usedS.I.
1 pound force per square footlbs per sq ft
= 0.04788 kPa
= 0.04788 kN/m²
1 cwt force per square footcwt per sq ft
= 5.363 kPa
1 ton force per square foottons per sq ft
= 107.3 kPa
1 pound force per sq inlbs per sq in
= 0.006895 N/mm²
= 0.006895 MPa
= 6.895 kPa
1 ton force per square inchtons per sq in
= 15.445 MPa

Measurement of cement.

The proportion of cement in a mix, and the ratio of cement to water, are critical factors affecting the strength and durability of mortar and concrete. During Monash's time, and for many years afterwards in the English-speaking world, cement was measured by volume. Its apparent volume varies during transport and handling. As a result, M&A and RCMPC were involved in constant disagreements with municipal engineers and clients over the quantity of cement used in mixes. Cement was supplied in casks and bags. A series of postcards announcing dispatch of cement from APCC's Fyansford works to the Wheeler's Bridge project suggests that a large bag was equal to 4 casks and a small bag equal to 2 casks. Unfortunately the size of bags seems to have differed from one supplier to another. Figures quoted or implied for 'a bag' range from 1.1 cubic feet to 2.56. If the single mention of 1.1 in our research notes is taken as an aberration, or was a 'small' bag, the range for a (large?) bag is from 2.00 to 2.56. Figures mentioned for the content of a cask range from 3.1 to 4.5 cubic feet. If we accept JM's opinion that the 3.1 figure (in a letter from A. C. McKenzie of the Geelong Harbor Trust) was a typographical error for 4.1, then the range is 3.57 to 4.5 cubic feet.


Pounds, shillings and pence

There were 20 shillings in one pound, and 12 pennies (pence) in a shilling.

Penny (plural 'pennies' or 'pence')  d
Shilling= 12 pences
Pound= 20 Shillings£


'Three pounds, four and sixpence.'
'Three pounds four and six.'
'Three pounds four shillings.'£3.4.0
'Four shillings and sixpence'
or 'Four and six.'
'Four shillings.'4/-
'Sixpence'6d or 6d

Where accounts (e.g. cost estimates) are set out in these web pages, entries have been right-justified in the form £xx 00 00. The above examples would appear as £3 04 06. This was not standard practice at the time.


In 1899 labourers' wages started at 7 shillings per day. A man, horse and cart could be hired for 10 shillings. During most of the period 1900 to 1914, labourers' wages remained fairly steady, figures between 8/- or 9/- per day being common. In 1914 builders' labourers were paid 10/4 per day according to a federal award.
In 1900 M&A's foremen were paid £4 per week. Engineering assistants were started at £2 10 0 per week throughout the period. Office/messenger boys (aged 14) were paid only 5/- per week.

When H. G. Jenkinson became resident engineer in charge of the Adelaide office (reporting to Monash in Melbourne) he started at £17-10-0 per month (£210 per annum). By 1913 this had risen to £360.