On this day in 1712, Thomas Bowrey paid his coal account with Joseph Flowman. He paid £7/8/6 for 5 chaldrons of coal.
As I have previously noted for units of measure in the East Indies, the value of units in England were not fixed at the time. A London chaldron was the equivalent of approximately 1,420kg whereas a Newcastle chaldron was about 2,690kg – a considerable difference. Although most London coal came from Newcastle at the time, it is assumed that Flowman would have been using London measures.
£7/8/6 is worth more than £1,000 today. Today you can buy a 50kg sack of coal for £27.50. At this price, 5 chaldrons would cost you £781.
Without knowing how often the Bowrey household purchased their coal, a full comparison cannot be made but the same website from which I could purchase the 50kg sacks of coal estimates that a 3 bedroomed semi-detached house today costs around £1,000 per year to heat depending on the type of coal used or type of gas boiler installed. Bowrey’s house in Marine Square, Wapping was most likely a 3-storey terraced house. His household would have used coal for cooking and heating water as well as heating his house.