Quarter (unit)

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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 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.


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 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 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[edit]


  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", Sizes.com, retrieved 25 September 2014.
  8. ^ Adams, John Quincy (1821), Report upon Weights and Measures: Prepared in Obedience to a Resolution of the Senate of the Third March, 1817, Washington: Gales & Seaton.
  9. ^ Ruffhead, Owen, ed. (1763a), The Statutes at Large, Vol. I: From Magna Charta to the End of the Reign of King Henry the Sixth. To which is prefixed, A Table of the Titles of all the Publick and Private Statutes during that Time, London: Mark Basket for the Crown, pp. 148–149. (in English) & (in Latin) & (in Norman)
  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.