Monday, 30 May 2016

Old Implements and Instruments from the Essex Wills

Continuing my posts on the vocabulary of the Essex Wills and its place in English lexical history, an introduction to which can be found here.

The Essex Wills are naturally full of words for household goods. The majority are words that are still used, though the things to which they are applied may now be different in design or appearance. A large majority are words, or meanings of words, that are no longer used, but are carefully recorded in dictionaries, and especially in the Oxford English Dictionary. But a significant number have escaped notice by lexicographers and yet can be found, often in large numbers, in wills, inventories, and other non-literary documents of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (and sometimes in earlier and later documents). 

This article deals with a miscellaneous collection of words for implements and instruments which seem to have escaped notice by the main dictionaries, though some occur in provincial glossaries. As usual, the Essex Wills are the entry point, but the words are found in many other documents too, most of them non-literary.

bout hammer

From the Essex Wills:

1568 (VIII. 215) 2 ‘boute’ harness [probably an error for hammers], 1 upright hammer, 1 hard hammer

1591 (VI. 4) bowt hammer
1593 (VI. 211) 1 ‘bowte’, 1 hammer.., 1 upright hammer

1598 (XII. 69) a beckhorn, 2 boute hammers, an ouperitte [i.e. upright] hammer.

This word is known from provincial glossaries to mean a blacksmith’s heavy two-handed hammer.  Later examples are fairly plentiful, and mostly localized in eastern England. Notice that unlike many of these words, it has surfaced in ‘literature’ in the form of John Bunyan.

a1630 Faithful Friends iv. v, If my wife scold, my bout-hammer shall roar.

1648 S. Marshall Sinne of Hardnesse of Heart [Wing M783] 37 Would’st thou have the stone in thy heart broken? bring it under the  bout-hammer of Gods Word. (Stephen Marshall, B.D., was a ‘minister of Gods Word at Finchingfield in Essex’.)

a1688 Bunyan Of Antichrist & his Ruin (1692) God will..break him in pieces with his bout-hammers.

1674 in D. Yaxley Researcher’s Glossary (2003) 19  2 bont hammers 1 hand hammer [probably a transcription error for bout]

1741 Dramatick Epil. in J. Holmes Grammarian’s Geog. & Astron. (1751) 257 Vulcan was drest like a Blacksmith with a Leather Apron on, and a Bout-Hammer on his Shoulder. (This text was written for Holt School, Norfolk.)

1808 Sporting Mag. Aug. 285/2 Strong as the bout-hammer.

1830 R. Forby Vocab. East Anglia I. 37 Bout-hammer, the heavy two-handed hammer used by blacksmiths. This word is not in the Dictt. however common here and perhaps elsewhere.

1846 J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps Dict. Archaic & Provincial Words I. 201/2 Bout-hammer, the heavy two-handed hammer used by blacksmiths. East. See Aboutsledge, and Beaumont and Fletcher, iv. 289.

1852 Gentleman’s Mag. Apr. 421/2 Working the bout-hammer, at the blacksmith’s anvil.

1863 W. Gee N.E.D. Vocab. Wds. beginning with Letter B, Bout-hammer, H. [=Halliwell].

1866 J. G. Nall  Great Yarmouth & Lowestoft 519 Bout-hammer, a blacksmith's heavy two-handed hammer.

The English Dialect Dictionary has bout-hammer sb. East Anglia ‘a blacksmith’s heavy two-handed hammer’ with an oral example from Norfolk.

This may be related in some way to OED’s about-sledge n., 1678–1990, as Halliwell-Phillipps (1846) suggests. If OED’s etymology for that word is correct, bout would have to be a shortening of about; but the earlier occurrence of bout hammer in the Essex Wills and elsewhere casts some doubt on this.

OED’s bout n.², sense 2 is: a ‘round’ at any kind of exercise, a turn or spell of work; as much of an action as is performed at one time’ (the antecedent to the familiar sporting sense). It is dated 1575, and could easily be earlier. This word is said by OED to be apparently a specialized sense of bought n.¹,  a bend, a curve, a loop of rope. It’s not clear whether the hammer sense could be directly connected with this word.

course of handles

1574 (III. 311) 12 course of handles

This is shearmen’s terminology. Shearmen’s equipment not infrequently includes handles. The ‘handles’ used seem to have been counted in ‘courses’. Compare: 

1985 S. Wright in L. Charles & L. Duffin Women & Work in Pre-industrial Eng. iii. 113 In 1610, for instance, George Davis left his apprentice a pair of shears and ‘four course of handles within one month after my wife shall leave of the trade which i dowe nowe use’.

This is probably OED’s course n. sense 29 ‘a set of things made or used at one time; spec. of candles made at once’. OED only exemplifies (from 1552, 1572, and 1712) courses of candles.

cronge and biche hook

There are (probably) two examples of cronge in the Essex Wills:

1569 (VIII. 216) a plough, chain, a ‘cronge’ [ploughing equipment]

1570 (II. 248) 1 ‘crouge’ otherwise called a ‘biche hooke’ [ploughing context]

It seems a reasonable assumption that crouge in 1570 is a mistranscription or scribal error for cronge, given that the latter is a word found elsewhere in the context of ploughing. 

cronge is discussed on page 301 of F. G. Emmison Elizabethan Life: Disorder (1970) but the meaning is said to be unclear. 

There is an OED entry cronge n. ‘A hilt or handle’ with one 1577 example from Harrison’s Description; here the cronge is the handle of a long spit; possibly the 1842 example below has a connection with this meaning. In our case we may assume that the word refers to something handle-like. 

Other examples:

1633 Q/SR 283/28 in Essex Rev. (1953) 62 215 Unam aliam ferri aratr anglice vocatam a crouge. [The editor explains this word as OED1’s crow sb. 1 ‘A piece of plough-iron’, but surely we have again the same error of u for n as in EW 1570.]

1800 W. Lucas Let. 12 June in Annals Agriculture 35 315, I find too, that by making the crongs (as they call them) of the whippletree moveable, the lever may be lengthened at either end so as to balance the strength of unequal-sized horses.

1841 W. Lucas Let. 17 July in Farmer’s Mag. 4 213 And a second swillyard, acting as a second lever, with the sling whippletree, or weightree, attached to it, with another foot chain and crong, would still further assist in keeping the beam horizontal, and the plough upright. [Lucas is from Broomfield, Essex: this is confirmed by a similar letter of 1839 in Farmer’s Mag. 3 (1839) 445 ‘to the editor of the Chelmsford Chronicle’.]

1842 in N. & Q. (1901) 346/2 Pitch bar and dung crong [Stebbing, Essex].

1904 N. & Q. 13, 77, 146.

1955 Essex Rev. 64 165 There are numerous entries of new ‘crongs’, when associated with a way-tree (always spelt ‘weytree’); it means the hook welded on to a band fastened to the middle of the way-tree. An entirely different use of the word ‘crong’ occurs in a single entry: ‘lining dung crong’; here it is equivalent to the word, still occasionally used, and recorded by Mr. Gepp under ‘crome’.

In Early English Books Online we find 1577, 1587 Holinshed ‘vp to the verye cronge’. This, and the 1842 example above, is probably the ‘handle’ sense. The term seems not to be in the English Dialect Dictionary. 

W. Lucas (1800 and 1841 above) is helpful in showing that the cronge is attached to the whippletree, which is the same thing as the swingletree (‘in a plough..a crossbar, pivoted at the middle, to which the traces are fastened, giving freedom of movement to the shoulders of the horse or other draught-animal). The 1955 example above confirms this, and tells us that the cronge is actually a hook welded to the swingletree (waytree is another synonym for this); not strictly a handle, but certainly a means of handling something. See the discussion of biche hook below.

Etymology: could this word be a derivative of the base of OE cringan, bearing the same relationship to it as crank does to crincan? OED at crank n.¹ says that crank is ‘apparently an ablaut-derivative of the verb crinc-an, cranc, crunc-en, found (but very rare) in Old English as a by-form of cring-an, crang, crung-en to fall in battle, of which the primitive meaning appears to have been ‘to draw oneself together in a bent form, to contract oneself stiffly, curl up’. Crong could be a parallel derivative of the commoner cringan; for the difference in vowel from crank compare song (sing) and bond (bind).

On the face of it, biche hook = ‘bitch hook’. This compound occurs in the same context as one of our cronge examples, if the emendation of crouge is correct:

1570 (II.  248) 1 ‘crouge’ otherwise called a ‘biche hooke’

The example itself states that it is a synonym of cronge. This matches the evidence compiled for that word which shows that a cronge is a hook welded to the swingletree of a plough as part of the apparatus by which the plough is attached to the draught animals.

In the Essex Wills we also find:

1577 (IV. 23) A dung rake, a long saw and a short, a mattock, a shod shovel, a spade, a grinding stone and the iron to turn it, a plough with coulter and share, a plough bitch, a double hook, an axe, a hedding [recte hedging] bill, a long and short pitchfork…

This again is a ploughing term and comes next to ‘a double hook’, which suggests that it may be the same thing.

Remarkably, there is a lumbering term bitch hook, attested, as far as I can see, only in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, which is (see quot. 2007 below) ‘a grab hook on the doubletree of the horse’; the doubletree being ‘the cross-piece to which the swingle-tree of a carriage, plough, etc. is attached’ (OED), i.e. the exactly analogous part of the apparatus.

?1960 British Columbian Lumberman 44 10 The woods crew pre-set the chokers, which are immediately attached to the ‘bitchhook’ when the rigging is skinned back from the landing and spotted by the rigging-slinger.

1967 O. W. Blake Timber down the Hill 131 Bitch-Hook, extension hook to lengthen crotch line.

2007 D. MacKay Lumberjacks 95 The line was fastened to a ‘bitch hook’, a grab hook on the doubletree of the horse which then pulled the log quickly and easily up onto the growing pile once the cant-hook men had placed it in proper position by rolling it up a little ramp.

2008 Concise New Partridge Dict. Slang 59 bitch hook, an all-purpose quick-release hook for use with a tractor and chain CANADA, 1992

This would appear to be very much the same kind of thing; if it is, the term survived unrecorded for 400 years, surfacing in North America (the English Dialect Dictionary seems to have nothing on this).

The word doghook n. in the OED, which you might expect to have some connection with bitch hook, is of similar age (1528), though only in sense 1 ‘a hook used for leading a dog’; it does, however, have another sense (2a) ‘an iron bar with a bent prong, used to join parts of machinery, secure or hoist a log, etc.’, which dates only to 1821, but has overlap in sense with dog n.1 19a ‘a grappling iron with a spike for clutching an object to be hoisted (as a log or a barrel), or for driving into a log to secure it for sawing, transportation, etc.’ which dates back to 1538. It is not difficult to imagine that a bitch hook could be a variety of dog hook, rather as there are male and female screws, etc.

lathe or layer 

These are terms in the Essex Wills for what is almost certainly the same thing, an implement used in the making of cheese, paraphrased as a press in the quotation of 1543. The settlements from which the wills come are given in the lists below.


Frating 1571 (III. 250) a cheese ‘leathe’ in the kitchen

Little Bentley 1584 (V. 173) 1 ‘lathe’ to make cheese

Langford 1588 (XI. 18) a lathe to make cheese

Tolleshunt Major 1592 (XI. 38) my cheese lathe and cheese press

South Hanningfield 1594 (XI. 169) cheese lath

Halstead 1596 (XII. 201) 1 moulding board, 1 lathe, 2 pair of quernstones

Fingringhoe 1597 (XII. 166) cheese lathe

Little Waltham 1597 (XII. 167) cheese lathe

Chelmsford 1599 (XII. 211) a grindstone, a lathe, an elmen plank in the sollar

Southminster 1580 (X. 119) the ‘lathe’, half the motes, an old cheese bread

South Hanningfield 1602 (XII. 129) cheese lathe

Examples outside Essex Wills (one apparently from Kent and two from Essex):

Church Commissioners: Rochester Capitular Estates CCRc_T137_01 (Medway Council City Archives) 30 September 1396. In the dairy a defective churn, a ring and a cheese lathe not appraised.

1543 Will of John Smyth 10 May in Trans. Essex Archaeol. Soc. (1865) 3 60 Item, a chese lathe or presse for chese. Item, thre chese breades.

1638 in F. W. Steer Farm & Cottage Inventories of Mid-Essex 1635–1749 (1969) 77 One cheese laethe, tow pootes, one braspoot.

layer (also lare):

Ramsey 1571 (IX. 128) cheese layer

Ingatestone 1574 (IX. 23) cheese-layer

St Osyth 1574 (IX. 60) cheese layer

Great Bromley 1577 (IV. 106) 2 saucers, a cheese ‘lare’, my great hutch

Ardleigh 1582 (IV. 158) 1 little table which should serve for a cheese, 1 ‘lare’

Ardleigh 1582 (IV. 158) 1 cheese ‘layre’

Havering 1588 (V. 97) a cheese layer with a great weight

Ramsden Bellhouse 1589 (V. 89) 1 cheese layer and the better half of my cheese motes

Example from outside the Essex Wills (still from Essex):

1574 Inventory of the goods and chattals of Henry Sydaye of Paglesham in Calendar of Queen’s Bench Indictments Ancient 639, Part II (Essex Record Office T/A 428/1/35) Item the chese lare and the troff to it and ij chese mottes iiijs.

No examples in the English Dialect Dictionary.

Here is a map showing the distribution of these words.

There may be no pattern here at all—or there may be some significance in the fact that the layer/lare forms are on the south-western and north-eastern edges and the lathe ones occupy a roughly oval central area.

These terms must be synonyms for ‘cheese ladder’, explained in the OED in the following quotation at ladder n. 3a:

1688 R. Holme Acad. Armory iii. 335/1 A Cheese Ladder..serveth to lay over the Cheese Tub for the Cheese Fat to rest upon, while the Dairy Woman presseth the Whay out of the Cruds. The cheese fat or vat is a wooden hoop with a loose bottom, both parts perforated with holes to let out the whey.

The English Dialect Dictionary explains cheese ladder as ‘a wooden framework to support a sieve through which milk is strained into colers or into the cheese-tub’; also at ladder sb. 2

Cheese ladder in early modern English is local to several counties, including Cheshire, Gloucestershire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Warwickshire, and Worcestershire; in the nineteenth century it is the general term for this implement.

Lathe is probably lathe n.3 sense 1 ‘a supporting structure, stand, or scaffold’, even though the evidence for this (quot. 1476 only) is so thin; the Danish word lad which shares its early Scandinavian etymon has the general sense ‘supporting structure’.  The cheese-making sense, then, may be just the last remaining trace of this.

As regards layer or lare, there is a very slightly better evidenced English word lare n.2 (OED) meaning ‘turner’s lathe’ which is etymologized by OED as ‘? connected with LATHE n.3’. 

The English Dialect Dictionary has lare sb. ‘Obs. Dev. a turner’s lathe’; cites Horæ Subsecivæ (1777) 243 and Grose (1790) MS. Add. (M.); also Cotgrave Tournoir, a turners wheel, called a Lathe, or Lare.

So if lare could mean, or even be a variant form of, lathe in the wood-turning sense, and there also existed in Essex the synonymous terms cheese lathe and cheese layer/lare meaning ‘a support for the cheese (vat)’, it seems likely that these are forms of the same word, even though the phonological details are unclear. It is even perhaps possible that ladder, layer, and lathe are all alterations of an original form.

One further item in the Essex Wills that may be relevant is 

1586 (V. 317) turning laver

It is possible that ‘laver’ here represents a form of lathe. Turning lathe is a well-established term for what we now call simply ‘lathe’, though not attested in the OED as early as this. 


In the Essex Wills, apparently a double plural of screw.

1567 (VIII. 146) the pan bound the best, 2 ‘scruces’, best joined cupboard

1568 (VIII. 211) 2 pair of ‘skrouses’, 1 ‘genne’ and 1 ‘trysse’

1570 (II. 86) 2 pair of ‘scruses’ with all my ‘lystyng shores’ [perhaps read lyftyng shores] and the implements

1589 (V. 124), 1589 (XI. 173) 3 pair of ‘scruses


1588 (XI. 157) my 2 pairs of ‘skrewes

OED records no occurrences of a double plural form of screw, and nor does it enter any sense of screw that might come in a pair; but compare these examples, where pairs of screws seem to be a large lifting device:

1791 Gentleman’s Mag. Oct. 889/2 Four pair of screws for raising ships that are stranded, in order to their being repaired.

1819 Blackwood’s Edinburgh Mag. June 357/1 The Admiralty yacht, lately under repair in Woolwich dock-yards, was, on the 12th instant, raised from her bearings sufficiently high to have the bottom of her keel coppered, by the application of a single pair of screws, under the direction of Mr W. Hookey, assistant builder. The vessel is one of 120 tons, having on board 30 tons of ballast, with all the stageing, &c. attached. The whole operation was performed by eight men, in five minutes; and Mr Hookey is decidedly of opinion, that he could, by the application of ten such pair of screws, which are those used in his bending machine, raise any frigate in the service.

In the Essex Wills 1570 example, the ‘scruses’ could be such a lifting device, if for ‘lystyng shores’ we were to read ‘lyftyng shores’; cf. the use of this term in:

1843 Architect, Engineer, & Surveyor  Jan. 43/2 The exterior angles of the tower at the north-east and south-east corners had given way. Two lifting shores of strong timber, 14 inches square, shod with iron at each end, were immediately inserted.

Shore here would be OED’s shore n.³ 1a ‘a piece of timber or iron set obliquely against the side of a building, of a ship in dock, etc., as a support when it is in danger of falling or when undergoing alteration or repair; a prop or strut.’ 

The following quotation, where scruses and shores are paired, seems to match the 1570 one above; if so, this is dealing with large-scale items for building repair:

1885 S. Tymms & J. R. Thompson Handbk. Bury St. Edmund’s (ed. 5) 91 The first Market Cross of which we have any record was erected by the Guildhall Feoffees in 1583-84, but was so badly built that twenty years after it was necessary to put ‘scruses and shores to uphold the same’.

The 1568 example may possibly contain words for two other mechanical devices, if genne is gin n. and trysse is trice n. (for the latter, see below).

But the 1567 example (the only one not in a pair) looks like a small domestic item. Are these examples relevant to it?

1605 Acct. in A. Constable Mem. George Heriot (1822) 202 Item, put to v great diamondis, v needles, and v scrues of gold, weighing xvj penyweight, inde ij li. viij s. Item, for making the said needles, and puting to the said scrues, ij li. x s.

1648 Will of Sir Edmund Bacon, Bart. in S. Tymms Wills & Inventories from Reg. Commissary Bury St. Edmunds (1850) 217, I give him alsoe my chaine of beads with scrues.


1568 (VIII. 211) 2 pair of ‘skrouses’, 1 ‘genne’ and 1 ‘trysse’

Possibly a later example of trice n.1, ‘a pulley or windlass’ (1357–1462); the three OED examples are from Ely, Promptorium (Norfolk), and Norwich. Given that skrouses may be a form of screw, and hypothesizing that genne is a form of gin n.1 3 ‘mechanical contrivance’, it would fit the context.  The English Dialect Dictionary has trise v. Lincs., Dorset, Somerset ‘to lift up, raise’.


Essex Wills examples:

1583 (IV. 91) 2 wimbles, a wrybit, and a mattock

1584 (V. 24 2) axes, 1 wrybit and 1 broad chisel

This is clearly some sort of tool used by a carpenter: wry suggests something set at or incorporating an angle (cf. wry adj. 2a) and bit is normally the sharp end of a piercing tool (bit n.1 6: at present attested from 1594, later than this word). Note from the examples below that this term was carried across to New England, where it is quite commonly attested. Note also the variant spellings rye bit(t).

Earlier and later examples from outside Essex Wills (no evidence from Early English Books Online; the word is not listed by Holme in Acad. Armory):

[?a1547] in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII: Preserved in the Public Record Office, the British Museum, and Elsewhere, Volume 1, Part 2 1098 An ax, a wrybit and an awger.

[?date] in A Book of Strattons: Being a Collection of Stratton Records from England and Scotland, and a Genealogical History of the Early Colonial Strattons in America, with Five Generations of Their Descendants, Volume 1 (1908) 160 A cross cut saw, a handsaw, a hamer a perser stock, a wry bit, 3 axes, 2 wedges, a paire of beetle rings.

1652 Inventory of James Lindale of Duxburrow in Mayflower Descendant (1909) 11 90 It 2 chissels one wrybitt and an auger.

1671 Will & Inventory of John Barnes in E. A. Stratton Plymouth Colony (1986) 451 Item 3 Iron wedges 4 augers a wrybitt a handsaw an adds a bilhooke.

Possibly in: R. A. Salaman Dict. Tools used in Woodworking & Allied Trades (1975). 

1685 in C. M. Whipple A history of William Whipple of Dorchester, Massachusetts and Smithfield, Rhode Island, Whipple, 1652-1712 (2006) 24 Among his tools were a froe, a Rye bit, iron square, small jointer, carving tool, axe , clearing plane, whetting steel, wimble stock and bits, soding iron, compasses, and brass rule for a chalk line.

[?date] in Early Rec. Town of Providence (1894) 132 3 Chizells, i Gouge 00-01-04 2 Augers & a Rye bitt 00-02-00 2 bench hookes 2 hand sawes a drawing knife.

[?date] in E. B. B. Butler & M. M. M. Butler Planters Early New England (2009) 328 A croscutt saw, a hand saw, a hammer, a perser stock a wry bitt, 3 axes, 2 wedges.

It seems surprising that this everyday carpenter’s tool has escaped the notice of lexicographers.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Spinning and weaving in early modern Essex

Continuing my posts on the vocabulary of the Essex Wills and its place in English lexical history, an introduction to which can be found here.

The Essex Wills are naturally full of words for household goods. The majority are words that are still used, though the things to which they are applied may now be different in design or appearance. A large majority are words, or meanings of words, that are no longer used, but are carefully recorded in dictionaries, and especially in the Oxford English Dictionary. But a significant number have escaped notice by lexicographers and yet can be found, often in large numbers, in wills, inventories, and other non-literary documents of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (and sometimes in earlier and later documents). 

Here are six terms from spinning and weaving that seem not to have been recorded in dictionaries: three kinds of loom and three kinds of wheel. As I know very little about these crafts, I can only offer them as contributions to the history of textile manufacture.

bastard loom

 Presumably ‘bastard’ in this term is the OED’s bastard adj. 6 ‘Of abnormal shape or irregular (esp. unusually large) size’. These are some occurrences in the Essex Wills:

1568 (II. 173) bastard loom

1574 (III.  415) the bastard loom standing next the great yard with the latch shuttle

1583 (V. 229) bastard loom

Elsewhere we find:

1498 Will of Robert Dacres of Beverley, Weaver in Testamenta Eboracensia (1869) IV. 137 Johanni Williamson, cognato meo, unum wollen-lome, et unum bastard-lome cum iiij heyldes et slayes pro panno lato et iiij heyldes et slais pro carsey. Antonio Awburgh, apprenticio meo, unum bastard-lome, illud proxime infra ostium, cum iiij heyldes et sleys pro panno lineo, et iiij pro panno canabeo.

1878 T. North Church Bells Northamptonshire  356 To one person he left ‘3 geere viz. a flaxen, harden, & a woolen’, to another ‘a bastard’s loom’, and to a third ‘a broad loom’.

[date?] in Archaeologia Cantiana (1923) 36 51 John Colman my servant have one implement called a bastard loom with all thereto.

1987 M. G. Andrews Men & Mills 187 These mills are the group organized a long time ago by Sam Patterson, who thought of the idea of a beautiful mattress covering and made it on a bastard loom created for him by Crompton & Knowles and Draper.

1996 J. Jones Family Life in Shakespeare’s Time 78 Besides a pair of looms, two kersey looms and a bastard loom, there were two warping bars and two troughs.

There seem to be no examples in Early English Books Online.

So the term is by no means limited to Essex: it was probably country-wide. And the 1987 example suggests that it is still a familiar term to those in the craft.

broad loom

Essex in the sixteenth century was evidently full of these:

1560 (I. 41) broad loom

1560 (I. 207) my least broad other broad loom

1568 (II.  144) 2 broad looms and one narrow loom

1574 (III.  407), 1581 (X. 42), 1584 (IV. 181) broad loom.

Surprisingly, given the existence of the adjective (broadloom adj. at broad adj., n.1, and adv. Compounds 2, 1925–1963) there is no entry for the noun in the OED and only one example of it (body carpet at body n. Compounds 2)—but this is from the twentieth century, so such looms, though doubtless now very different, must still exist:

1963 Which? Mar. 71/1 made on a broad loom (6 ft. wide or more) instead of the usual ‘body’ carpet which is in rolls 18–54 in. wide.

Given that broadloom as an adjective describing carpets is an everyday term, you really would expect the dictionaries to have picked up the noun. The term occurs passim in the nineteenth century. 

Earlier and later examples include:

1537 in N. W. Alcock People at Home: Living in a Warwickshire Village, 1500–1800 (1993) 31 In the Schop A brodlom and all sych geres that longyth to the sam.

1610 R. Vaughan Most Approued, and Long-experienced Water-workes (STC 24603) sig. E4v, All which be appointed Attendants to maintaine and furnish twenty broad Loomes for the finest cloth; tenne narrow Loomes for courser Wooll, Flax, Hemp, and Hurds. Tenne Fustian Loomes, with such Silk-loomes as necessity shall require.

1683 E. Chamberlayne Present State England [Wing C1844] Because of the  Broad- Looms wherein it was wrought.

1779 Extracts from the Diary, Meditations, and Letters of Mr. Joseph Williams of Kidderminster [page] In my sixteenth year I began to weave in the clothier’s broad loom.

1996 The William and Mary Quarterly (Third Series) 53), pp. 43-66 55 Andrew Snider, who died in 1783, had one broad and one narrow loom, and the 1805 inventory of Samuel Sellers notes he had two looms with very specialized functions.

narrow loom

Clearly contrasted with the broad loom, for weaving narrower textiles. In the Essex Wills:

1560 (II.  117) narrow looms

1568 (II.  144) 3 broad looms and one narrow loom

1574 (III. 407), 1584 (IV.  181), 1589 (XI. 37), 1594 (VI. 170) narrow loom

Earlier and later examples:

1537 in N. W. Alcock People at Home: Living in a Warwickshire Village, 1500–1800 (1993) 31 In the Schop... 3 Narrow lomys and that belongyth to them. 

[a1565] in E. Ralph Cal. Bristol Apprentice Bk. Part III, 1552–1565 66 [Modernized text] To have at end one narrow loom.

1599 Will of John Coocke, weaver, St Mary Redcliffe in S. Lang & M. McGregor Tudor Wills Proved in Bristol 1546–1603 (1993) 53 To Reginald Newes a narrow loom and a flock bed.

1780 Descr. Tunbridge Wells 121 In the year 1727, a Mr. Henry Tricker made worsted and stocking yarn, and kept four narrow looms wherein was wove Calamanco’s, Camblets, Cloth-Serges, Stuffs for Gowns, &c. &c.

1849 Plough, Loom, & Anvil Oct. 229 This was a narrow loom, for cassimeres, made at the Oneida factory, in 1818, and started by William Graham, an accomplished weaver and excellent man, who, I believe, is yet living in the northern part of this county.

Dutch wheel

Obviously a kind of spinning wheel, but I don't know whether the design came from, or was thought to come from Germany (‘Dutch’ formerly = ‘German’), or whether ‘Dutch’ was used in the familiar semi-derogatory way for something felt to be outlandish.

From the Essex Wills:

1582 (IV.  173) 1 little Dutch wheel

1584 (V. 181) 2 Dutch chairs, a Dutch wheel, a great wheel

1584 (X. 61), 1588 (XI. 14), 1590 (XI. 106) Dutch wheel

More can be deduced from some of the following:

1712 Inventory William John of Gwynedd in H. M. Jenkins Hist. Rec. Gwynedd Pennsylvania (date?) xxiv. 339 2 Dutch wheels, and 2 other spinning wheels.

1764 Rep. & Observations Robert Stephenson to Trustees Linen Manufacture 52 Her Doulass was spun on what is called an Irish Wheel, with a Hoop Rim, and comes at Half the Price of the Dutch Wheel, and answers every purpose of the Dutch Wheel.

1788 Annals Agriculture 10 312 Our women spinners of wool [in Lusatia], with the Dutch wheel, (a great spinning-wheel introduced a few years since), if they spin kette, (chain-thread), earn, per diem, 4 groschen, 6 pfennings, to 5 groschen, (about 6d. English).

1848 Mechanics’ Mag. 14 Oct. 377/1 John Butterworth [1774–1845]..was sent at six years of age to work at a Dutch wheel in the neighbouring village of Royton, by which he was able to earn about 1s. 4d. per week.

2001 L. Ulrich Age of Homespun ii. 101 Although eighteenth-century inventory-takers continued to use these terms, ‘Dutch wheel’ gradually edged out ‘linen wheel’ in western Connecticut and some parts of Massachusetts.

2005 W. H. Crawford Impact of Domestic Linen Ind. Ulster 52 Spinning was done [in the eighteenth century] on the Dutch wheel, kept in motion by a treadle. By two separate cords the wheel turned both the bobbin on which the spun yarn collected and the flyer which spins and distributes that yarn along the bobbin.

Is it possible that the Dutch wheel was in fact the now familiar spinning wheel design?

long wheel

A different kind of wheel, perhaps? Examples in the Essex Wills:

1589 (V. 261), 1589 (V. 291), 1589 (VI. 215) long wheel

Later examples:

1688 R. Holme Acad. Armory [Wing H2531]  Spinning Wheele, called a  long Wheele, or a going Wheele, or a Woollen Wheele.

1726 Dictionarium Rusticum (ed. 3) II. LONG-WHEEL, Going-Wheel, large Spinning-Wheel, or Woollen Wheel, is so called because Wooll is only spun with it, and at none of the other sorts of Wheels; it consists of the following Parts. 1. The Stock, standing on the four Feet. 2. The Standard, that bears the Wheel. 3. The Axle-tree on which the Wheel turns. 4. The Wheel wherein  are the Nave, the Spokes, and the Rim. 5. The Head-standard, or two Pillars that bear the Spool. 6. The Spool, on which the Wheel-string is put. 7. The Spindle,whereon the Yarn is turned. 8. The Wheel-String that turns the Spool and Spindle, 9. And lastly, The Wheel-Finger, by which the Wheel is turned.

1760 Ann. Reg. 1759 162/1 To be knit from two threads of soft worsted, spun on the short wheel, called the Canterbury or Leicester wheel, 20 l… For causing to be knit, on the above conditions, the best and largest quantity of the like worsted hose, of the same size, and about the same weight, but knit from three threads, the long wheel spinning, 15 l.

1995 T. Hersh Cloth & Costume, 1750–1800, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania 29 Occasionally the terms ‘large wheel’ and ‘long wheel’ were used to indicate wool wheels. Altogether 713 inventories had some type of wheel for spinning.

The term is widely evidenced in historical sources.

woollen wheel

The same as a long wheel; perhaps the earlier term. In the Essex Wills:

1559 (I. 274) woollen wheel

1561 (I. 53) woollen wheel

Outside Essex Wills:

1585 Inventory in J. Wallace Hist. Blyth (1869) 7 Two old bills, and one woollen wheel.

1610 Inventory of Isabel Wharton of Gedney Lincs. in P. Crawford & L. Gowing Women’s Worlds in Seventeenth Cent. Eng. (2000) iv. 121 Item a linen wheel and a woollen wheel.

1675 in N. W. Alcock People at Home: Living in a Warwickshire Village, 1500–1800 (1993) 48, 1 wolinge wheel and 1 linnine wheel. 
1688 R. Holme Acad. Armory [Wing H2531]  Spinning Wheele, called a long Wheele, or a going Wheele, or a Woollen Wheele.

1789 Inventory in G. Anjou Ulster County, N.Y. Probate Rec. (1906) 43 A Woollen Wheel…A Spinning do.

1858 Rep. Select Committee Destitution (Gweedore & Cloughaneely) (House of Commons) 359 That man had a very comfortable house; he had three bedsteads and beds in ticks; good bedclothes, dressers, chairs, a table, boxes, a woollen wheel, two sacks of oatmeal.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Old Essex Housewares

Continuing my posts on the vocabulary of the Essex Wills and its place in English lexical history, an introduction to which can be found here.

The Essex Wills are naturally full of words for household goods. The majority are words that are still used, though the things to which they are applied may now be different in design or appearance. A large majority are words, or meanings of words, that are no longer used, but are carefully recorded in dictionaries, and especially in the Oxford English Dictionary. But a significant number have escaped notice by lexicographers and yet can be found, often in large numbers, in wills, inventories, and other non-literary documents of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (and sometimes in earlier and later documents). 

bail kettle, bailed kettle

These items occur at least five times in the Essex Wills:

1561 (I. 116), 1590 (V. 165) bail kettle 
1561 (II. 124), 1569 (II.  72), 1572 (IX. 15) bailed kettle

Surprisingly, both can be found in very recent and quite ordinary, non-regional sources:

1871 Ann. Rep. Commissioner of Patents 1869 I. 528/1 With the bail-kettle, formed after the fashion of a common tea-kettle. 
1952 Hospital Management 73 69 Bail kettles 4 sizes. 
1918 Department Store Merchandise Manuals 99 Dutch ovens are cast iron bailed kettles with a tightly fitting cover. 
1938 Bull. Business Hist. Soc. 12 63 We consign none but bailed kettles.

What is a bail? It’s the curved and hinged handle that traditional kettles used to have; OED’s bail n.sense 2 (attested from 1463):

The hoop-handle of a kettle or similar vessel.

This OED entry does not include bail kettle or any other compounds, while bailed adj.2 (1548, 1603) has only the sense ‘hooped (and covered) as a wagon’.

The Essex Wills also have:

1581 (X. 43) bailless kettle

And again, surprisingly, we can find a modern example of this:

1980 J. P. Brain Tunica Treasure 139/3 Undoubtedly, most, if not all, of these bails came from some of the bail-less kettles in the collection.

basting ladle 

I have noticed only two examples of this in the Essex Wills:

1582 (IV. 170); 1592 (VI. 33) basting ladle

There is indeed a quotation in the OED illustrating this at basting n.² 1a:

1822 W. Kitchiner Cook’s Oracle (ed. 4) 187 Put a little bit of butter into your basting-ladle.

But it is not acknowledged with a ‘lemma’ (subordinate or nested headword). It really should, as the basting ladle was an item with a certain cultural significance, often referred to:

1613 Alcilia Philoparthens louing folly [STC 4275] And with the  basting ladle did him beate.

1633 T. Heywood Eng. Traveller [STC 13315] About went his Basting-Ladle.

1638 Hocus Pocus Junior [STC 13544] Halfe hollow, like a basting-Ladle.

1639 in F. W. Steer Farm & Cottage Inventories Mid-Essex (1950) 80 In the buttery 2 basting ladles.

1649 Mercurius Brittanicus No. 4 26 Harke, harke, what a noise is here with frying pans and scummers, and basting ladels, and dripping pans.

1650 10 Dec. in G. F. Dow Probate Rec. Essex County, Mass. (1916) I. 127 A skimer & a basting ladell.

1656 S. Holland Don Zara del Fogo (Wing H2437) Butter in a Basting-ladle.

[There are four more examples in EEBO down to 1683.]

1676 Probate Rec. Essex County, Mass. (1920) III. 49 Basting ladle, 1s. 6d.

1719 in F. W. Steer Farm & Cottage Inventories of Mid-Essex 1635–1749 (1969) 247 A basting ladle of brass.

1772 F. Gentleman Cupid’s Revenge i. i. 15 When she talked of the dripping-pan, the basting ladle could not be far off.

1793 Gentleman’s Mag. Feb. 127/2 She seized the basting-ladle, and with it gave the king a severe blow on the back.

The basting ladle was both the sceptre and the weapon of the cook. He used it to beat his subordinates (and enemies) and it symbolized his supremacy in the kitchen. The term was common down to about 1870. The item, and its name, still exist of course, but the cultural connections have probably got lost.


A familiar word used in a way that is difficult to interpret. It occurs in the Essex Wills as a ‘premodifier’ (a subordinate word standing before a noun so as to describe it) to characterize various  household items: bell candlestick occurs at least 8 times; e.g. 

1561 (I. 214) 2 bell candlesticks of latten

1577 (IX. 48) 1 of my best latten bell candlesticks 

bell chafer occurs once (reference unavailable) and two examples occur with pan:

1566 (II. 225) her bell brass pan

1567 (VIII. 126) a brass bell pan. 

One might guess that this has some relationship with OED’s bell-metal n. meaning ‘an alloy of copper and tin’. But in our examples, bell co-occurs with brass and latten (an alloy similar to brass), which would seem to rule that out. Perhaps it refers not to material, but to shape, style, or method of manufacture.  There seems to be no evidence on EEBO, but the following earlier and later examples are found:

1554 in E. Peacock Eng. Church Furniture (1866) App. 187 Item too bell candillstickes. Item one lesse candillstick of bell fasshion.

1590 Will of Helen Ford, widow, St Nicholas in S. Lang & M. McGregor Tudor Wills Proved in Bristol 1546–1603 (1993) 17 [modernized text] To her daughter Joan one platter and one bell candlestick.


Some part of a manufactured article. There are five examples of chine in the Essex Wills: 

1559 (VIII. 138) a dozen of pewter or broad chines

1559 (VIII. 139) a dozen of broad chines pewter

1574 (III. 113) 1 bedsteadle..hath a broad chine

1575 (IV. 39) my brass pan with the broad chines

1597 (VI. 98) the best of my two brass pots with the broken chine.

Evidently this is not OED’s chine n.1 ‘fissure’ or chine n.2 ‘backbone’. It might be connected in some way with chine n.3 sense 1 ‘the projecting rim at the heads of casks, etc., formed by the ends of the staves’ (dating from before 1475) in that it clearly refers to some material object that may or may not form part of a larger whole. The objections to this view are that (a) the context is domestic rather than coopery, (b) the material involved seems to be metal, except in the case of the ‘bedsteadle’, and (c) the OED’s chine is a rim formed by the ends of the staves rather than a continuous surface.

Compare also these examples of the derivative adjective chined:

1562 (I. 152) 1 broad chined [platter]

1567 (II. 49), 1569 (II.  89) broad chined

1602 (VII. 58) broken-chined candlestick

It does look as if the thing referred to is the rim of a plate or pot, or the base of a candlestick. But why are Essex Wills’ chines only either ‘broad’ or ‘broken’?


This item occurs only once:

1582 (V. 13) the ‘colefatte’ in the brewhouse

Since fat was an earlier form of the now standard vat, perhaps this is coal vat. We normally think of a vat as a container for liquid, but OED’s vat n.¹, sense 3a, is ‘a cask, barrel, or other vessel for holding or storing dry goods’ and sense 3b is ‘formerly used as a measure of capacity for coal’. These correspond to fat n.¹, senses 3 ‘a cask or barrel to contain dry things’ (1540 onwards) and 4 ‘used as a measure of capacity’ (1413 onwards).

A few examples from outside the Essex Wills lend support to this idea:

[date?] in Pre-Reformation Rec. All Saints’ Church, Bristol (2004) 259 Item for nails and for hauling the bars to the cole fate [?coal vat] - 20d. Item for clamps of iron to the cole fate - 7d. Item for 9 studs to the cole fate.

1700 C. Povey A discovery of indirect practices in the coal-trade [Wing P3040] Every  Coal Fat Containing Sixty six Gallons.

1858 P. L. Simmonds Dict. Trade Products 398/1 Vat, a large wooden or metal cistern or tub;..The old London coal vat contained 9 bushels.


cragg seems to be a word of incredibly limited distribution, and hence it’s not in the OED. The Essex Wills contain as many examples as are to be found elsewhere:

1582 (X. 177) crages

1596 (VI. 188) 1 hand basket, 1 cragg, a brewing tub

1602 (VII. 142) 3 milk bowls, 1 ‘crage’, 1 biggest brewing tub

The English Dialect Dictionary has an entry for cragge, sb. It tells us that it is obsolete, found in Essex and southern counties, is also written cragg, and means ‘a small beer-vessel’. Previous lexicographers who recorded it are Ray (1691) and Grose (1790). The latter means Francis Grose’s Glossary of Provincial and Local Words, which gives exactly the same definition. He may well have simply borrowed it from:

1691 J. Ray A Collection of Words not generally Used [Wing R 389] 94 (South and East Country Words) A Cragge; a small Beer-Vessel.

The etymology is not established.

cup dish

This looks like a fairly obvious compound of cup and dish. What could it have meant? My first guess was that the cup dish was the partner of the cup before the word saucer had that application, which, according to the OED, it acquired only around 1700 (and if you think about it, it’s an odd use of a word which originally meant ‘a receptacle for condiments’). Alternatively, cup in this compound could be cup n. 1b ‘a hollow vessel of wood or metal, used for drinking’, in which case cup dish would be a kind of tautological compound. It occurs at least three times in the Essex Wills:

1585 (V. 51), 1585 (X. 201) cupdish

1598 (XII. 44) a cupdish, 2 dishes, 1/2 dozen trenchers

It is also found in these works (via Early English Books Online):

1648 J. Goodwin Neophytopresbyteros [Wing G1183] 133 What mighty waves are here raised in a  cup dish of water?

a1646 J. Gregory Gregorii Posthuma (1649) [Wing G1926] The Pæonians adored the Sun under the form of a Cup-dish.

1657 E. Wright Certain Errors Navigation [Wing W3689] chapter xvii, This pin must be made of lattin, with a very sharp point, and is to be fastned upright in a round box of wood, which must be of the fashion of a great  cup-dish, containing the rose within it, being covered above with a clear round glasse.
This last quotation describes the making of a sea-compass. Since the rose was round, and could swivel in any direction on the pin, I suspect that the box was roughly hemispherical, in which case the second interpretation of cup dish may be correct.

curble, curbled 

There are several examples in the Essex Wills:

1560 (I. 257) a cauldron (that for Joan with a curble)

1591 (XI. 150) 1 brass ‘curble’ as it hangeth in the kitchen

[no date] (I. 180) a cauldron with a ‘cerbbell

1596 (XII. 201) 1 great brass pan hanged with a kirble

1601 (XII. 179) 1 curbled pan and my best copper kettle

OED’s curble n. has two senses.

sense 1: = curb n. 1, which is ‘a chain or strap passing under the lower jaw of a horse’ (1598) 
sense 2: = curb n. 8, which is ‘a frame round the top of a well’ (?1780)

The sense of the word in the Essex Wills is not in the OED and is unclear, and the examples are earlier than the senses in the OED. It must refer to some kind of attachment to a kitchen implement by which it hangs: compare OED’s curb n. 8b ‘a framing round the top of a brewer’s copper’. Possibly it referred to the apparatus for raising and lowering a cauldron or pan over the fire; compare:

1857 T. Wright Dict. Obs. & Provincial Eng., Kirble, the windlass of a well.

I have found one other example from the eastern counties:

[date?] in East Anglian (1900) 8–9 383 Item I give to Agnes my wief the cownter table in the hall the cupborde in the hall and the great panne with the curble and also all the beds and bedding.

There seems to be nothing relevant in Early English Books Online.

kettle brass

Presumably a kind of brass from which kettles are made. Four examples occur in the Essex Wills:

1569 (II.  242) kettle brass

1576 (III. 208) kettle brass pot

1581 (X. 3) kettle brass

1584 (V. 51) 1 posnet of kettlebrass

Additionally we find:

1655 E. Terry Voy. to East-India (1777) 14 These Boos and Baas, as they call them, were formerly bought in great plenty, for small quantities of kettle-brass, and iron hoops taken off our empty casks, which were all for this long voyage hoop’d with iron.

1913 M. Bell Old Pewter vii. 12 Harrison, in a ‘Description of England in Shakespeare’s Youth’, when eulogising English pewterers and pewter, says: ‘I have also been informed that it consisteth of a composition which hath 30 lbs. of kettle-brass to 1000 lbs. of tin, whereunto they add 3 or 4 lbs. of tin-gloss (in modern parlance, bismuth)’.


Used several times in the Essex Wills as a premodifier with the names of kitchen containers (kettle, skillet). The OED has a section of compounds that covers this use ‘with the sense “having the capacity of one pottle”’, i.e. (sense 1b) half a gallon or 2.3 litres; but OED does not have these compounds:

1558 (VIII. 111) pottle skillet

1575 (IX. 5), 1584 (V. 5), 1553? (II. 143) pottle kettle


There are three examples of stample in the Essex Wills:

1563 (I. 221) 1 brazen mortar with the ‘stample’ thereof

1572 (III. 281) a latten mortar with the ‘stampell’

1578 (IV. 191) my spice mortar and the ‘stampell’

Evidently this means ‘pestle’. Equally obviously it must be a derivative of stamp, with the -le ending found in the names of devices.

But there seem to be no other examples of this noun elsewhere. Only a verb stample is traceable, but it has a corresponding sense:

a1500 MS Balliol College 354 f. cvii in S. J. Ogilvie-Thomson The Index of Middle English Prose. Handlist VIII: Manuscripts containing Middle English Prose in Oxford College Libraries (1991) 10/2 Take a quantitie of vineger as mvche of the iuse of rue a quantitie of grenes and a quantytie of sowre bucade stample them well together.

1597 W. Langham Garden of Health [STC 15195] Stample it and apply it warme.

1599 R. Perceval Dict. Spanish & Eng. [STC 19620] Machucàr, to stample with pestle.

1630 T. Bonham The Chyrugians Closet [STC 3279] Boyle them in the broath of flesh, then stample and straine them... Boyle the hearbes in aq: q.s. vnto tendernesse, then stample them.

1896 W. W. Skeat Nine Specimens of Eng. Dialects Vol. 32 40 ’A striv’th vor stample ’e abroad. [Glossed as ‘tread upon’.]

tinker’s kettle

Perhaps this is a variety of kettle obtainable from a tinker (as opposed to a blacksmith, say?). Judging by the last example below, it was a superior kind. These are some of the examples in the Essex Wills:

1569 (II. 89)  a latten chafing dish, a tinker’s kettle

1575 (IV. 39) a brass kettle called a tinker’s kettle

1588 (XI. 203)  the greatest kettle, a tinker’s kettle, a smaller kettle

1588 (XI. 203) an old tinker’s kettle of a pottle

1592 (XI. 42)  a great kettle, a tinker’s kettle, a posnet

1596 (XI. 53) tinker’s posnet

1600 (XII. 94) my best kettle called the tinker’s kettle

There is a discussion of its meaning in F. G. Emmison Elizabethan Life: Morals and the Church Courts (1976), page 27, which says that a clause in a will ‘“The tinker’s kettle commonly used to wash vessels in” tells of other uses’. It shows that this must have been a reasonable large open vessel. Similarly the expression is defined in Southampton Records Series (1992) 35, page 477 as ‘a pot or cauldron’.

It is possible to find various proverbial and allusive uses of the expression, e.g. ‘to sound worse than a tinker’s kettle’ or ‘the coin may mend a tinker’s kettle’; but these seem to depend on a literal meaning ‘a kettle owned or used by a tinker’ and not to indicate a particular kind of kettle.