Yard - History

History

It was first defined in law by a document thought to date from 1266-1303 known variously as the Composition of Yards and Perches, Compositio Ulnarum et Perticarum, or The statute of ells and perches. The text from the manuscript known as BL Cotton MS Claudius D 2 (as published in Ruffhead's Statutes at Large) reads:

It is ordained that 3 grains of barley dry and round do make an inch, 12 inches make 1 foot, 3 feet make 1 yard, 5 yards and a half make a perch, and 40 perches in length and 4 in breadth make an acre.

An alternative reading from Liber Horn (as published in Statutes of the Realm) states:

And be it remembered that the iron yard of our Lord the King containeth 3 feet and no more, and a foot ought to contain 12 inches by the right measure of this yard measured, to wit, the 36th part of this yard rightly measured maketh 1 inch neither more nor less and 5 yards and a half make a perch that is 16 feet and a half measured by the aforesaid yard of our Lord the King.

The Composition of Yards and Perches belongs to a class of documents known as Statutes of uncertain date generally thought to be from c. 1250 to 1305. Although not originally statutes, they gradually acquired the force of law. In some early statute books Composition of Yards and Perches was appended to another statute of uncertain date, the Statute for the Measuring of Land also known as Statutum de Admensuratione Terrase, An Ordinance for Measuring of Land, sometimes (erroneously) listed as 33° Edward I. st. 6. (1305). The Composition of Yards and Perches was repealed by the Weights and Measures Act of 1824 (5 George IV c. 74, par. 23).

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