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Quarter (unit)

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Quarter (unit)

The quarter (lit. "one-fourth") is used as the name of several distinct English units based on ¼ sizes of some base unit.

The "quarter of London" mentioned by the Magna Carta as the national standard measure for wine, ale, and grain[1] was ¼ ton or tun. It continued to be used, e.g., to regulate the prices of bread.[2] This quarter was a unit of 8 bushels of 8 gallons each, understood at the time as a measure of both weight and volume: the grain gallon or half-peck was composed of 76,800 (Tower) grains weight; the ale gallon was composed of the ale filling an equivalent container; and the wine gallon was composed of the wine weighing an equivalent amount to a full gallon of grain.


  • Length 1
  • Weight 2
  • Volume 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
    • Citations 6.1
    • Bibliography 6.2


In measures of length, the quarter (qr.) was ¼ of a yard, formerly an important measure in the cloth trade.[3][4][5] 3 qr. was a Flemish ell, 4 quarters were a yard, 5 qr. was an (English) ell, and 6 qr. was an aune or French ell.[3][4] Each quarter was made up of 4 nails.[3][4] Its metric equivalent was formerly reckoned as about 0.228596 m,[5] but the International Yard and Pound Agreement set it as 0.2286 exactly in 1959.[n 1]


In measures of weight and mass at the time of the Magna Carta, the quarter was ¼ ton or (originally) 500 pounds. By the time of the Norman French copies of the c. 1300 Assize of Weights and Measures, this had changed to 512 lbs.[6] These copies describe the "London quarter" as notionally derived from 8 "London bushels" of 8 wine gallons of 8 pounds of 15 ounces of 20 pence of 32 grains of wheat, taken whole from the middle of an ear;[7][8] the published Latin edition omits the quarter and describes corn gallons instead.[9]

The quarter (qr. av. or quartier) came to mean ¼ of a hundredweight: 2 stone or 28 avoirdupois pounds[10] (about 12.7 kg).


In measures of dry volume, it was equivalent to the seam[11] or 8 bushels of 8 grain gallons of 272 cubic inches.

In measures of liquid volume at the time of the Magna Carta, the quarter of wine was (originally) ¼ tun: 8 London bushels or 64 wine gallons.[12][11] The tun was subsequently defined down 4 gallons to 252 and the quarter was effectively ¼ pipe or butt.[12] The quarter of wine was a gallon larger than a hogshead.[12] As 231 cubic inches were considered to make up a wine gallon,[13] the measure was about 242¼ L.

The ale gallon was 282 cubic inches,[14] meaning the quarter of ale was about 295¾ L.

Cardarelli also claims it can vary from 17–30 imperial gallons for liquor.[15]

See also


  1. ^ Although not enacted in the United Kingdom until 1963.



  1. ^ 9 Henry III c. 25 (1225).
  2. ^ 51 Hen. III st. 1. (1266)
  3. ^ a b c Stockton (1823), p. 26.
  4. ^ a b c Wormell (1868), p. 68.
  5. ^ a b Rutter (1866), p. 12.
  6. ^ Reynardson (1756), p. 1361.
  7. ^ "Tractatus de Ponderibus et Mensuris",, retrieved 25 September 2014 .
  8. ^  .
  9. ^  . (English) & (Latin) & (Norman French)
  10. ^ Cardarelli (2003), p. 34 & 37.
  11. ^ a b Cardarelli (2003), p. 34.
  12. ^ a b c Reynardson (1756), p. 1356.
  13. ^ Reynardson (1756), p. 1357–1358.
  14. ^ QR (1827), p. 141.
  15. ^ Cardarelli (2003), p. 46.


  • Cardarelli, François (2003), Encyclopaedia of Scientific Units, Weights and Measures: Their SI Equivalences and Origins, London: Springer, .  
  • ". By Captain Henry Kater, F.R.S. Phil Trans. for 1826.An Account of the Construction and Adjustment of the new Standards of Weights and Measures of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. By John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State of the United States. Prepared in obedience to a Resolution of the Senate of the 3d March, 1817. Washington. 1821. 2. Report upon Weights and Measures—1. Art. VI.", .  
  • Reynardson, Samuel (1756), "A state of the English weights and measures of capacity, as they appear from the laws as well ancient as modern; with some considerations thereon; being an attempt to prove that the present Avoirdepois weight is the legal and ancient standard for the weights and measures of this kingdom", The Philosophical Transactions (From the Year 1743, to the Year 1750) Abridged and Disposed under General Heads. The Latin Papers being translated into English, Vol. X: Containing, Part III. The Anatomical and Medical Papers. And Part IV. The Historical and Miscellaneous Papers, London: Lockyer Davis & Charles Reymers .
  • Rutter, Henry (1866), "Measures of Length: III.—Cloth Measure converted into Metric", The Metric System of Weights and Measures compared with British Standard Weights and Measures in a Complete Set of Comparative Tables; also, Tables of Equivalent Prices under the Two Systems; and of Chinese and Indian Weights compared with Metric Weights, etc., London: Royal Exchange . (English) & (French)
  • Stockton, A.M. (1823) [Reprinted 1839], "Cloth Measure", The Western Calculator, or a New and Compendious System of Practical Arithmetic; containing the Elementary Principals and Rules of Calculation in Whole, Mixed, and Decimal Numbers Arranged, Defined, and Illustrated, in a Plain and Natural Order; Adapted to the Use of Schools, throughout the Western Country and Present Commerce of the United States, 4th ed., Pittsburgh: J. Howe for Johnston & Stockton .
  • Wormell, Richard (1868), "87. Cloth Measure", Murby's Graduated Arithmetic, Specially Adapted to the Requirements of the Revised Code, London: Thomas Murby, p. 68 .
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