Scabious water - Screen table

Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820. Originally published by University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, 2007.

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Scabious water

[scabowes water; scabiouse water]

Although the name SCABIOUS arose from Scabiosa herba, the 'herb for scabies' [Mabey (1996)], both John Gerard and Nicholas Culpeper wrote first that the various forms of scabious found in this country were 'effectual for all sorts of coughs shortness of breath, and all other diseases of the breast and lungs'. Culpeper only later extolled a decoction or the juice for use against 'scabs and the breaking out of the itch', adding that the distilled water was equally effective when 'the green herb is not in force to be taken' [Culpeper (1792)].

OED earliest date of use: 1605

Sources: Inventories (early).
References: Culpeper (1792), Mabey (1996).


Plaster work of Italian origin, designed to imitate certain kinds of stone

OED earliest date of use: 1747

Sources: Patents.


[skerne; skarr; scarre; scarn]

A piece of weaver's equipment, from the contexts of the two examples noted in the Dictionary Archive used in association with the WARPING BAR [Inventories (1686)]; [Inventories (1699)]; [Inventories (1715)] and/or the WARPING TROUGH [Inventories (1705)]. This indicates it was used in preparing the WARP for the LOOM. It seems to have been a Midland term, noted also for Worcestershire, and was not apparently used in East Anglia.

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).

Scented water

An alternative name for any one of the PERFUMED WATERS. A list of scented waters given in one piece of promotional literature towards the end of the eighteenth century included two LAVENDER WATERs, HUNGARY WATER, EAU SANS PAREIL and 14 other waters fashionable at the time [Tradecards (1794)].

OED earliest date of use: 1741

Sources: Newspapers, Tradecards.

Scissors chain

[sicers chaine; scissor chaine; scisser chaine; chaines for sissers]

A light CHAIN for keeping safe and to hand a pair of SCISSORS, probably one for attaching them to the belt or girdle. The scissors chain was an item of fashion, often made with a fancy linkage like the '3 open linckt Scisser Chaines' valued at 18d in the stock of one tradesman [Inventories (1715)]. His 'double Snake Chain' was, judging from the context, also for scissors. A scissor chain was rarely valued so highly as a WATCH CHAIN.

Not found in the OED online

Found described as SINGLE

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).

Scoring engine

[scoring or shading engines; scoring and shading engine]

An ENGINE for scoring the blocks used by the navy. Ure's 'Dictionary of Arts described precisely what it did: it would receive 'two blocks' and formed 'the groove round their longest diameters for the reception of their ropes or straps' [OED online, Scoring]. The devise was deemed to be of sufficient importance that its export was prohibited in the 1780s [Acts (1785)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1839

Sources: Acts.

Scotch cloth

[skottish cloth; scotts cloth; scotts cloath; scotts clo; scottisshe clothe; scottish cloth; scots-cloth; scotish cloath; scoth cloth; scotche clothe; scotche cloth; scotchcloth; scotchcloath; scotch clo; sco cloath; sco clo]

The usual definition given in the standard dictionaries is of 'a TEXTILE fabric resembling LAWN, but cheaper, believed to have been made originally from Nettle fibres'. It is not referred to either by Kerridge or by Montgomery, possibly because they consider that the term indicates no more than a LINEN CLOTH made in SCOTLAND. There is something to be said for this view. For example, the act of 1711 that regulated the quality and measurements of various types of SCOTCH LINEN, did not refer to scotch cloth [Acts (1711)]. The anonymous author of 'The Plain Dealing Linen Draper' seems first to suggest it was a distinctive cloth, being 'of general use, and of great consumption ... a sort of Sleasie Soft-Cloth ... of no great wear, but is fine of the price'. He further commented, 'since Callico hath been dear, [it] is much used for Linnens for Beds and for Window Curtins'. However, towards the end of the section on Scotch cloth, he used the term rather more loosely as if he was referring to Scotch linen in a general way [Anon (1696)]. The contexts of some entries in probate inventories are less than clear as to meaning, but others in the Dictionary Archive seem to indicate a distinctive cloth. For example, among a long list of specifically named linens, the appraisers of the shop of Jesse Ghevins of Newport, Isle of White placed Scotch cloth at various valuations, while John Pares of Rochdale had a number of unspecified linen cloths, followed by Scotch cloth and LAWN [Inventories (1592)]; [Inventories (1623)].

The anonymous author of 'The Plain Dealing Linen Draper' included further useful detail that elucidates some of the entries in the Dictionary archive. For example, he declared that it came in two widths; a YARD and ¾ yard, thus explaining the BROAD and the NARROW noted in the Dictionary Archive. The PIECE varied in length, with the coarsest variety being in the shortest lengths. He rather obscurely spoke of a numbering system, providing yet another example of standardisation in this period (see NEEDLE and SHOE for other examples of standardisation).

Scotch cloth attracted some of the lowest valuations noted, often being under a SHILLING. the highest noted was 2s 6d, but valuations above 20d were rare.The popularity of Scotch cloth reached its peak in the second half of the seventeenth century and thereafter became less common in the shops. This may have been that British manufacture of imitation continental linens and INDIAN cottons ousted them from favour. Houghton showed how Scotland itself was following the trend, exporting 24,000 ELL of so-called GERMANY LINEN to England in 1694. Possibly this explains why Scotch cloth was measured both by the YARD and by the ELL. A single example of Scotch cloth has been noted of the term applied to a piece of household linen and not a fabric.

OED earliest date of use: 1675

Found in units of ELL, PIECE, YARD

Sources: Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Tradecards.
References: Anon (1696).

Scotch holland

A TEXTILE, in the form of a type of HOLLAND made in Scotland, as was much other LINEN CLOTH. Prices advertised in the eighteenth century were in the region of 2s 6d YARD. By the mid-eighteenth century, the term 'Scotch holland' was sufficiently attractive to be used in the names of shops as in the 'Scotch Holland Warehouse' [Newspapers (1741)].

Sources: Newspapers/tradecards.

Scotch snuff

[scots snuff; scotch rappee and portugual snuff; scotch & spanish snuff]

Sometimes reduced to 'Scotch', this is the purest kind of SNUFF made from the TOBACCO STEMS alone or stems mixed with a small proportion of TOBACCO LEAF. Although probably made in Scotland originally, where its popularity developed before it did in England [Goodman (1993)], it also became a type made elsewhere [Newspapers (1743)]. Scotch snuff was only lightly liquored in processing, which would have darkened the product, though further liquoring was done to make BROWN SCOTCH SNUFF [Dodd (1845)]. According to Angerstein, Scotch snuff had become more popular, after a factory in BRISTOL making SPANISH SNUFF was shut down 'during the war' (which one he did not specify), after it had been rumoured that the Spaniards had 'put poison in the snuff to kill Englishmen' [Angerstein (2001)].

OED earliest date of use: 1733

Found described as BEST, DRIED, FINE, High and low dried, TRUE
Found in units of POUND

Sources: Acts, Inventories (late), Newspapers, Tradecards.
References: Angerstein (2001), Dodd (1845).

Scouring tub

[scowring tub; scoring tubb]

Scouring was a general term applied to washing but specifically to the process of cleansing WOOL or CLOTH. Thus a scouring tub was in general terms identical with a WASHING TUB, though used more often in industry than domestically. It was particularly found in the manufacture of WOOLLEN CLOTH. In most examples in the Dictionary Archive it was associated with a WRING or wringer as in 'one scoring tubb & wrings' [Inventories (1681)].

OED earliest date of use: 1464

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Scraping box

A utensil used in SUGAR making, the exact purpose of which is unknown. The only example in the Dictionary Archive was for four scraping boxes and blocks valued altogether at 10s [Inventories (1674)]. Randle Holme included a rather unhelpful illustration of the scraping box among the Sugar boiler's tools, but he did not describe it [Holme (2000)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).
References: Holme (2000).



A screel is a term not found in the dictionaries, but it appears more than once in the Dictionary Archive. It seems to be an obsolete term for a SCREEN in the second sense, found in association with the equipment for making MALT as in 'A hair Cloth & Screel' [Inventories (1708)], and in the form of 'A Corn Screel' in the 'Corn Chamber' [Inventories (1752)].

Not found in the OED

Found described by CORN

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (late).


[skrene; skreene; skreen; skreane; scrine; screne; screin; screene; screene]

In architecture, the screen is a fixture built of stone or wood dividing one part of a building from another, such as the choir from the nave in a church or the main part of the medieval hall from the lower end and so concealing the doors to the kitchen. Screens were also moveable pieces of FURNITURE, sometimes entirely functional as the MEAT SCREEN, or both functional and decorative. Most screens were intended to ward off the heat of a fire or a draught of air; either as as a FIRE SCREEN of some sort or as the smaller HAND SCREEN. Usually, they consisted of a SCREEN FRAME, which was then covered with fabric or WAINSCOT. It is this dual structure of frame and covering that explains the rather curious reference to a 'Naked Screen' [Inventories (1748)]. Although some screens were a single unit, others were FOLDING SCREENs composed of several hinged leaves, like the '6 leaf leather Screen' [Inventories (1723)].

Screens could be very decorative, which seem to have been an desired and expected feature, considering that even a Quaker like Sarah Fell used 'red Inkle to make a skreene up [Diaries (Fell)]. In the eighteenth century, when screens could be as much an item of display as of use, innovators found new ways of decorating them; thus patents for 'Making japanned high varnished panels in paper, for ... screens' [Patents (1772)], and for 'Printing and colouring transparencies on silk, cotton, linen, and other woven goods, for ... screens' [Patents (1800)]. The desire for enhancing its decorative role meant that the screen was thus one of the incentives for developing new technologies. In turn, these novelties created more work and indeed problems for the housewife, and a service industry developed, as in the advertisement announcing that 'a Man, ... always attends at the above Place, ... makes Paper Screens and if required will work at your House by the Day at reasonable Rates' [Newspapers (1750)].

There were various secondary meanings to the term. Apart from the meat screen, the term was applied to a form of RIDDLE to separate out some desired material like COAL, STONE or GRAIN from the dust and dross. The most important of this type of screen found in the Dictionary Archive are the CORN SCREEN and the MALT SCREEN. Such screens were used for working on a bigger scale than with a SIEVE. Such a screen probably consisted of a substantial frame filled in with a wire mesh, and fixed at an angle so when a shovel full of material was thrown against it, the good stuff was stopped and fell on the near side, while the smaller dross passed through. Even for these mundane INPLEMENTS OF HUSBANDRY, innovators were busy as the invention shows of a 'Machine for ... working and binding wire for making sieves, screens, meat-safes, &c.' [Patents (1793)].

OED earliest date of use: 1393


Sources: Acts, Diaries, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Tradecards.
References: Sense 2:, Seymour (1987).

Screen chair


The term has not been found in the dictionaries and appears only once in the Dictionary Archive, where it was listed with other chairs [Inventories (1700)]. It was probably a CHAIR with either a high back or a high arm to protect from draughts or the heat of the fire. It is not a term noted by Gloag [Gloag (1952, revised 1991)].

Sources: Inventories (late).
References: Gloag (1952, revised 1991).

Screen fan

[skreene fanne; skreene fane]

From the context of the only example noted in the Dictionary Archive, a screen fan was a FAN intended to protect the user from the fire rather than one for decorative and social use [Inventories (1636)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (early).

Screen frame

[skreen frame; screen fframe]

The frame of a SCREEN, invariably made of WOOD without its cover of fabric or paper. The 'Naked Screen' recorded in one inventory was presumably a screen frame [Inventories (1748)].

Not found in the OED

Found described as OLD

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Screen table

A small writing TABLE with a SCREEN at the back, so that the table could be taken near the fire, and the writer's face screened from the heat. Gloag describes one from the Gillow records for 1790 in which the sliding screen was made of MAHOGANY covered with pleated SILK. A more elaborate version, called by cabinet makers of the late-eighteenth century a writing FIRE SCREEN or a screen writing table, was similar to a DESK with a fall front and a fitted inside. While the carcase acted as a fire screen, the fitted legs allowed the writer's feet to remain warm [Gloag (1952, revised 1991)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (late).
References: Gloag (1952, revised 1991).