imperial bushel

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Convert imperial (UK) bushels to major current units of capacity.


One imperial bushel is about 36.368 735 liters or 1.0321 U.S. bushels. chart symbol

In British imperial measure, 1826-1976, a unit of liquid or dry capacity = 8 imperial gallons, defined in the act establishing imperial measure, passed in 1824 (Act 5 George IV c 74). By the act the bushel was to be eight gallons each “containing ten pounds Avoirdupois of distilled water weighed in air at the temperature of sixty-two degrees of Fahrenheit's thermometer the barometer being at thirty inches...” The act further (sec 14) defined the gallon as 277.274 cubic inches, making the imperial bushel 2218.192 cubic inches (approximately 36.350 liters). This value lasted until 1889, when an Order in Council of 28 November 1889 redefined the imperial gallon as 277.463 cubic inches, making the bushel 2219.704 cubic inches. In fact, the volume of 10 avoirdupois pounds of water is closer to 277.4194 cubic inches, yielding a bushel of 2219.355 cubic inches.

In 1963, the Weights and Measures Act redefined imperial measure in terms of SI rather than British prototypes, and made the gallon 4.545 964 591 liters. This was a year before the CGPM redefined the liter, and assuming the British were using the existing definition, the value converts to 4.546 091 878 cubic decimeters, making a bushel of 36.368 735 cubic decimeters or 2219.366 cubic inches. The Act also abolished the bushel. The 1985 Weights and Measures Act defined the imperial gallon as exactly “4.54609 cubic decimeters” (Schedule 1, Part 4), which would make the bushel 36.368 72 liters—but the bushel had already been abolished. The meandering history of this unit illustrates the folly of legally defining a unit in two different ways.

The Weights and Measures Act, 1963¹ called for the imperial bushel to be abolished in 1968, but its use in trade was actually abolished by the Weights and Measures Act of 1976.² By Statutory Instrument No. 484 of 1978, use of the bushel was no longer authorized, and it was again prohibited in the Weights and Measures Act of 1985.

1. Elizabeth II c31.
Public General Acts and Measures, 1963.
London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1963.

Page 500.

2. Elizabeth II c77.
Public General Acts and Measures of 1976, Part II.
London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1976.

Page 1895.


In Cape Colony, South Africa, another Imperial bushel was inadvertently created by section 3 of Law 11 of 1858, which defined the imperial bushel as 2218.191 cubic inches equal to 8 Imperial gallons. The error had no practical effect, but shows again the folly of having two different legal definitions of the same unit.

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