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Obsolete and unfamiliar words
from Wills, Probate Inventories, etc.
 
 
 
 
 
 
late medieval kitchen.... 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
1. 
 
Obsolete and perhaps unfamiliar terms found in old documents such as Wills, Probate Inventories, Deeds, etc
 
ACCOUNTING & CURRENCY
li s d = £ s d = pounds shillings pence
 
In England the currency units were the pound, shilling & penny,
usually expressed in latin as libra (li, l or £), solidus (s) & denarius (d), where £1 = 20s  and  1s = 12d.
 
Counting was often done in scores (a score = 20 = xx) so in accounts or inventories you may come across this: 

             xx   
             iiij    
 
i.e. xx over iiij = 20 over 4 which means four score = 4 times 20 = 80.
Compare this with the modern French word for 80, quatre-vingts = "four twenties".

OB = half


The mark in England was not a unit of currency but a unit of money of account, equal to 13s 4d (i.e. 2/3 of £1).
 
In account books and inventories an amount in money could appear written as e.g. "5 marks" but more often that 5 marks would be written as the currency equivalent, £3 6s 8d.  This is why so many inventory valuations end in either 6s 8d (1/2 mark) or 13s 4d (1 mark).  Only accountants could have devised such a system, but one reason it survived so long is that 6s 8d (1/2 mark) or multiple thereof was used as a standard professional fee for services rendered.
 
Although the mark did not exist as a coin in England, the gold noble when first issued under Edward III in 1344-46 was valued at 6s 8d (= 1/2 mark), later increased to 8s 4d. The gold angel when introduced under Edward IV in 1464-70 was also worth 6s 8d, but also changed as the value of all gold coins tended to change over time.
 
The term noble continued to be used as a word meaning "1/2 mark" long after the noble itself had ceased to be in circulation as a coin.  For example, we have seen a cash bequest of one noble in an English Will of 1581 when no such coin existed.



The Ryal was an English Gold coin of 15 shillings, issued under both Mary (1553-1554) and Elizabeth I (1558-1603), a development from an earlier 10 shilling Ryal or Rose-Noble first minted under Edward IV in 1465.
 
The gold coin presently known to numismatists as a Spur-Ryal was minted during James I's second coinage (1604-19) and third coinage (1619-25).  Initially it had a value of 15s but, as with all gold coins, in 1612 its value was raised by 10% to 16s 6d
 
It appears the term Spur-Ryal was already in use as a nickname for the Ryal under Elizabeth, at an earlier date than most books on numismatics would have us believe, as at TSL we have seen it mentioned in an English Will of 1581.  The name derives from the "rose on a sun" design that appears on the reverse of these coins, this having the appearance of the "wheel" of a horse-rider's spur, as is shown in this detail from a 15th century monumental brass at Barsham in Suffolk:
 
 
 
The obverse of the earlier coin displays Queen Elizabeth in a ship, with the rose of England below her.
 
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Our thanks to Dr Barrie J. Cook, Curator of Medieval and Early Modern Coinage at the British Museum Department of Coins and Medals, for assistance with this.



The guinea was a gold coin minted in England and the UK between 1663 and 1797.  Originally 1 guinea = 1 pound,  but rises in the price of gold caused the value of the guinea to increase, at times to £1 10s.  From 1717 the value of a guinea coin was fixed at £1 1s.
 
In 1816 the guinea was superseded by a new coin, the sovereign (value £1), but the word guinea continued in use as a term for money of account (value £1 1s), for pricing of luxury goods, or for gambling, until the arrival of decimalised currency in 1971.

The crown, originally crown of the double rose, was an English silver coin of value five shillings, introduced as part of Henry VIII's monetary reform of 1526. The crown was equal to a Venetian ducat, a Flemish gelder and a French êcu.

NAME OF CHRIST
XP 
or 
 
 
 
The letters XP or monogram  represent Chi Rho - the first two letters of the name "Christos" or "Christ" when written in Greek, as Χρiστοσ. In English language documents of the 15th-17th centuries these were often used as an abbreviation of the full name of Christ or as an abbreviation of Chr, the first three letters of the name of Christ when written in English. These are found used on their own or as part of other words, e.g. Christian (xpian, xpan), Christ (xpist) or Christopher/Christofer (xpopher, xpofer).
 
BRITISH VOLUME MEASURE
















 

2 JACKPOTS = 1 GILL
2 GILLS       = 1 CUP
2 CUPS        = 1 PINT
2 PINTS       = 1 QUART
2 QUARTS    = 1 POTTLE (or QUARTERN)
2 POTTLES   = 1 GALLON
2 GALLONS  = 1 PECK
2 PECKS      = 1 PAIL (or BUCKET)
2 PAILS       = 1 BUSHEL
2 BUSHELS  = 1 STRIKE
2 STRIKES   = 1 COOMB
2 COOMBS   = 1 CASK
2 CASKS      = 1 BARREL
2 BARRELS   = 1 HOGSHEAD

1 BUSHEL = 2 PAILS, 4 PECKS, 8 GALLONS, 16 POTTLES, 32 QUARTS, 64 PINTS

MET /METTE /MEATE = measure of grain (barley, oats, etc) equal to 1 strike

THRAVE = a measure of unthreashed corn (barley, oats, etc), also of hay, straw or rushes.
                The amount varied between localities but a thrave was often 2 stocks of 12 sheaves.

English COUNTY names

In Britain (i.e. England, Wales, Scotland) "shire" is an earlier alternative word for "county", describing an administrative district.
The word "county" was
 introduced following the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.
The two words 
remain synonymous, e.g. "Dorsetshire" may also be described as "The County of Dorset"; "Devonshire" as "The County of Devon".
A few English counties (Cumberland, Northumberland, Cornwall, Middlesex, Sussex, Essex, Kent, Surrey) did not use the word "shire" as part of their name.

Among less familiar county names are:
County of BERROCK (or BERKS)                                                      = Berkshire (or Berks)
County of DUNELM                                                                         = Durham
County of HANTUM (or HANTS)                                                        = Hampshire (or Hants)

County of OXON                                                                             = Oxfordshire
County of SALOP                                                                            = Shropshire

County of WIGORNE                                                                       = Worcestershire (e.g. "Comes Wigorne" = County of Worcester)
County of WILTON (or WILTS)                                                         = Wiltshire (or Wilts)
County of EBOR 
(from Eboracum or Eboracensis = "of York")             = Yorkshire  
(e.g. "Eboracensis Comitatus" = County of York)

Church of England DIOCESE

Diocese of CANT (Cantuariensis = "of Canterbury", County of Kent)   = Diocese of Canterbury
Diocese of DUNELM or DUNHOLM (Dunelmense = "of Durham")        = Diocese of Durham
                                                                                                      Palatinum Dunelmense = Lord Palatine & Bishop of Durham
Diocese of EBOR (Eboracum or Eboracensis = "of York")                   Diocese of York
Diocese of LONDON (Londoniensis = "of London")                            = Diocese of London
Diocese of SARUM                                                                         = Diocese of Salisbury
Diocese of WIGORNE                                                                     = Diocese of Worcester
Diocese of WINTON (Wintoniensis = "of Winchester")                       = Diocese of Winchester
                                                                                                      Episcopo Winton = Bishop of Winchester

DATES




OLD STYLE CALENDER DATES
(before 1752)




MONTHS OF THE YEAR
The recommended resource for understanding old dates is "A Handbook of Dates for Students of British History"
by C.R. Cheney (Royal Historical Society guides & handbooks No.4) 1st ed. 1945, 2nd ed. revised by Michael Jones (Cambridge University Press) 2000

also see 
here for a brief list of helpful date information provided by the University of Hull - State Papers Project
 
In the UK, Ireland and colonies before 1752 the calendar year began on 25th March, thus:
     - for Old Style (OS) Julian Calendar dates before 1752 the New Year began on 25th March.
     - for New Style (NS) Gregorian Calendar dates in 1752 and subsequently, the New Year began on 1st January.

before 1752, dates between 1st Jan. & 24th Mar. inclusive were often expressed as e.g. 15th March 1731/2

7 bris   or 7 ber                              = September (anciently the 7th month of the calendar year   - latin sept  = 7)
8 bris   or 8 ber                     = October      (anciently the 8th month of the calendar year   - latin octo = 8)
9 bris   or ber                             = November  (anciently the 9th month of the calendar          - latin novem = 9)
10 bris or 10 ber (X bris or X ber) = December   (anciently the 10th month of the calendar year - latin decem = 10)
 
  
 
2. 
 
A random selection of archaic English words taken from old documents
 
ALMARY
a safe
ANDIRONS   
 
 
iron supports, one placed at either side of a hearth to support the ends of burning logs.
 
 
 
Image result for andirons
 
BACKSIDE
the rear of a property; the back yard or farm yard, perhaps with outbuildings
BANKER
cloth or covering of tapestry for a bench or seat
BED BORDES
probably the carved ends of the bedstead
BEDE ROLL
manuscript roll listing deceased people whose souls were to be prayed for, using rosary-beads to count each name
BERYS or PELOW BERYS
pillow-cases
BEVWDEKYN 
rich stuff of silk interwoven with threads of gold
BORD-ALYSAUNDER
cloth of Alexandria
BREGANDYRS 
body-armour of small plates, covered with cloth or leather
BULTYNG-PIPE
strainer
CARTBOTE
the right to use wood taken from common ground to make or repair a cart
CHAFER
a small, closed, transportable brazier containing burning charcoal or hot ash
CHAFING DISH
a dish placed on a chafer to keep food warm
CITTLE / KETTLE
an open cooking pot with semi-circular handles on both sides to suspend it over the fire; sometimes covered
COCKLOFT
space between the ceiling and the roof, reached by ladder; an attic or garret
COW-WHITE TITHE
a tithe paid on the milk of each cow
CRABBE / CRAB
stick, staff or cudgel made from the wood of a crab-apple tree. A town bailiff would carry a crab "by reason of his office"
CROCK
cooking pot, generally of iron or brass, with three short legs and a handle by which it could be hung over a fire; sometimes an earthenware pan
COBYRONS
iron posts supporting a spit for roasting over a hearth
CODROUND 
quadrant, in squares
COPE
a covering
CORPORAS
the cloth placed under the consecrated elements in the Mass
COSTERS
pieces of tapestry for the sides of tables, altars, beds, etc
COSTRYNG / COSTERING 
carpet or wall hanging
COUNTERPOYNT
counterpane
COLVCHER
covering for a couch
DOLE
piece of arable land:

   - an indefinite part of a field

   - long narrow slip of green turf in a field, having ploughed ground on either side

   - strip of meadow land the use of which is rotated annually
DAGSWAYNE
rough coverlet for beds, tobies, or floors
DOUBLET
military jacket
FIRE DOG
bar supporting the end of a log, or on which a spit is turned in the fire-place.
FLITCH
the side of an animal, usually bacon, sometimes beef, salted and cured, and frequently ‘hung from the roof’
FORSER
cabinet or casket
FOYNES
fur of polecat
FRETOR CHAFYR
a dry (or frying) chafing-dish, as opposed to a water-chafer
FRONTELLES
hangings for the front of the altar
GARNISH
a quantity of pewter ware
GUARDIAN IN SOCAGE
the guardian of an infant who inherited lands held in socage under feudal tenure
GARDNAPYS
table-napkins
GRAYLE
gradual, or music-book for the Mass
HANGLES
chains in a chimney from which pots and pans were hung on “pot crooks”
HARDEN
coarse cloth made from hemp
HAYBOTE 
the right to use wood taken from common ground to mend fences
HERIOT
debts due to the lord of the manor on the death of a freehold or copyhold tenant
HORSE
a frame or stand on which to place barrels, vats etc
HUVVER
a ridge separating one tenant’s land from another in the medieval open farm system
HACHEMENTES
hangings with armorial bearings
HANGLE
hook fixed in a chimney, for hanging pots
KINE, KYNE
cows, cattle - usually the milking cows in a herd
JACK
mechanical device for turning a spit over a fire
a JHESUS / JESUS
the letters i.h.s. embroidered
JOBMASTER
one who rents out horses and carriages by the job
KIVER
shallow wooden vessel or tub
LANDER
one who emptied tubs at the top of a pit or mine shaft
LAMMAS LANDS
common land on which tenants of the manor could pasture animals from Lammas Day until sowing time
LUMBER
odds and ends of wood; disused objects, superfluous furniture
LATON
mixed metal, resembling brass
LAVOUR
washing-trough
lLAY METAL
mixed metal, e.g. tin or pewter
LAYER
vessel for holding water
LECHYNG-KNIFE
slicing-knife
LEY STOW
burial
MATE / MAT
plaited rush or straw mat placed over the cords of a bed; a mattress
MARTRONS
fur of a marten
MASER
large bowl
MYLYGNES
edgings
MYNHES
fur of a weasel
NONAGE
The period during which one is under legal age
NUTTE
coconut cup
KNOCKNOBBLER
a person appointed to drive dogs out of church
PARCEL-GILT
partial-gilt  -  silverware that is gilded on only a part of its surface

This term often indicated that only the interior surface of a cup, chalice or other vessel was gilded, but it could also be used to describe patterns or images made using a combination of both gilt and ungilt areas
PLOUGHBOTE
the right to use wood taken from common ground to mend or make ploughs
PORRINGER
bowl-shaped dish in pewter or earthenware (perhaps silver in wealthier households), often with ear-shaped handles and a cover, used for soup, porridge, potage etc.
PAGEAUNT
hanging or coverlet with scenes
PAINTED CLOTH
a substitute for tapestry (as a wall hanging)
PANE
hide of fur
PAVYSE
large shield
PAXBREDE
small tablet on which is a representation of the crucifixion, presented at Mass to be kissed by the faithful
PELE
shovel
PLOMTY
feathery
PORTEIOS
a breviary
POSSENET
a little pot
PRYKET
a taper
QUERNE
a hand-mill
QUY
Heifer or female calf up to three years old, or before it has calved
RAGMERSSHE
silk
RAY
striped
RENNYNG BED
moveable bed
RYDELL
a curtain
SACRING-BELL
small bell rung during Mass
SELOR / SELURE / CELOR
fine serge or woollen cloth
SENGYLL
cloth canopy of a four-poster bed
SHANKES
fur from the legs of animals
SKELLET
saucepan with a long handle
SPERAT DETTES
good (or hopeful) debts
SPERVYOUR / SPARVER
canopy or wooden frame above a bed
STANDART CHEST
large press for plate or linen
SUPERALTURE
a consecrated slab for covering an altar, or used as a portable altar
SAWCER / SAUCER
sauceboat, usually metal, for holding sauces and condiments; these were not used to hold cups until the 18th century
SOCAGE
one of the feudal duties and hence land tenure forms in the feudal system

a farmer or other landholder who held his land in exchange for a clearly defined fixed payment to be made at specified intervals to his feudal lord,
who in turn had his own feudal obligations, both to the farmer and to the Crown
TITHE
a charge equal to 1/10th of annual produce or earnings, taken as a tax for the support of the church and clergy
TRENTAL
a series of masses said for a deceased person, usually on 30 successive days but occasionally on a single day
TAPET
a hanging cloth of any kind
TARTRON
a type of silk or cashmere
TESTER
rectangular wooden panel forming the top a four-poster bed
WAIN
wagon used for agricultural purposes
WHICH / WHITCH
a bin or tub made of split planks of oak, wedged and pegged together; a chest, coffer or hutch. Used for storing meal, flour, etc
WITHDR AUGHT
a closet
WRETHYN
twisted
WONG
an enclosed meadow or low-lying land
 
 
3. 
 
 
a glossery by E.W. Timmins © 1997
 
(as published in "Selected Wills of West Northamptonshire 1500-1700 AD" by Grenville W. Hatton)
 
 
4. 
 
Lists of Archaic Terms from "Barry Sharples' Miscellany Website" © 2008-2011 
 
Days and Dates
 
 
5. 
 
Index of Terms Used in 17th Century Wills & Inventories  from Dorchester & Fordington, Dorset
 
by Michael Russell © 2009 
 
 
6. 
 
 
A Glossary of Archaic Medical Terms, Diseases and Causes of Death
 
 
7. 
 
Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820 by Nancy Cox and Karin Dannehl, 2007
 
A dictionary of nearly 4,000 terms found used in documents relating to trade and retail in early modern Britain.
This represents part of a larger dataset produced by the Dictionary Project at the University of Wolverhampton,
by whose kind permission it is reproduced on the "British History Online" website.
 
 
8. 
 
Terms listed in Supplement to Court Leet Records, vol.1 1550-1624 Publications of the Southampton Record Society
 
Edited by Prof. F.J.C. Hearnshaw & Mrs D.M. Hearnshaw  -  Published by Cox & Sharland, Southampton, 1905
 
contents:
GLOSSARY OF SELECT TERMS       by W. F. Masom, M.A.
NOTES ON SYNTAX                       by W. F. Masom, M.A.
NOTES ON DIALECT                      by J. S. Westlake, M.A.
INDEX OF PERSONS                     by C. N. Webb
INDEX OF PLACES                        by Gertrude H. Hamilton
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 


 
 
 
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