Last night I went up to the quiz at "The Hammer and Pincers". As usual, I was with my teammates -- both called Michael. Every quiz, you have to come up with a team name and we always change ours. Last night we were The Bananas.
One of the questions was; "In square yards, what is the area of an acre?" Well, we had an idea that an acre is a bit bigger than half an average football pitch but our estimation was way off the mark. The actual area of an British acre is 4840 square yards.
After the quiz, not wishing to contemplate Beryl the buxom barmaid, bloody Brexit or brewers of beer, we instead considered the acre. What figures needed to be multiplied to reach the magical sum of 4840? And it gradually dawned on us that we knew little about this important measure of land area. I said that it should be a requirement of all schools to take classes of children out on to the school field and there to mark out an acre so that that knowledge would remain in their minds forever. I never had such a lesson.
So what is an acre? Historically it is the area of a land that a man could till or plough in a day with a single ox. That rectangle was not square because that would have required more awkward turning of the stubborn beast. No, the original shape of an acre was an oblong. It measured one chain by one furlong - the word "furlong" being derived from one "furrow long" - 220 yards. The length of a chain is 22 yards which even today is the length of a cricket pitch. There are 640 acres in a square mile.
To confuse matters, in other countries an acre may cover a different area of land. For example, an Irish acre is 7840 square yards and an American builder's acre is 40,000 square feet.
Numbers have a habit of slipping out of my mind. It's always been the same. My brain is not designed to cling on to numbers so I doubt that any of these figures surrounding the acre will stay in my head for very long. One way of thinking about an acre is that it covers the same area as sixteen tennis courts. This graphical representation may also help you to visualise an acre:-