St Johns wort - Stammet

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

This free content was born digital. All rights reserved.


In this section

St Johns wort

[st johns-wort; st john's wort]

The common English name for plants of the genus Hypericum, in former days often referred to as HYPERICON. All parts of the plant were used. Later editors of Culpeper's work made the rather curious comment, 'It may be, if you meet a Papist, he will tell you, especially if he be a lawyer, that St John made it over to him by a letter of attorney.' He added that it was 'a singular wound herb', suggesting that it could be used boiled in WINE, as a decoction, and in an OINTMENT, while the seeds could be dried and ground to a powder [Culpeper (1792)]. He uses it in his recipe for OIL OF SWALLOWS [Recipes (Culpeper)], and it appears as an ingredient in standard recipes for MITHRIDATE [Recipes (Pemberton)] and of VENICE TREACLE [Recipes (Pemberton)].

OED earliest date of use: 1551

Found as an ingredient in MITHRIDATE, VENICE TREACLE

Sources: Recipes.
References: Culpeper (1792).

St Johnsons cloth

[saint johnsons cloth]

A Scottish LINEN CLOTH, presumably from Perth, for which St Johnson was an alternative name. It was apparently traded either BROWN (i.e. unbleached) or as GREEN LINEN CLOTH.

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Acts.

St Michael oranges

The context of the only example in the Dictionary Archive suggests a sweet ORANGE, similar to the CHINA ORANGE [Newspapers (1790)]. If the name makes reference to a place, it is not clear, which of the possible St Michaels was meant.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Newspapers.


[stagg; stage]

The male of a deer, especially of the red deer, specifically a hart or male deer of the fifth year. Later this word also denoted the flesh or horns of the stag. Stags' heads, stuffed and mounted to display the antlers were then, as now, were used for decoration. It may be for this purpose that a haberdasher had '2 Staggs Heads 2 Steel Grates the signe & Irons' listed among his shop equipment, although in this case the stags' heads may have been a form of display stand similar in structure to antlers [Inventories (1721)].

OED earliest date of use in this sense: c1185

Stag, sometimes in the form of 'Stage', was also an unrelated descriptor applied to FUR skins, meaning not seasoned, RAW, untreated. In this sense it was contrasted with SEASONED rather than with TAWED and applied to CALABER, FOIN - WOMB, and grey CONY SKIN [Rates (1582)]; [Rates (1660)].

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1545

Sources: Inventories (late), Rates.

Stag horn

[stags hornes; staggs horne; stagg horne; horns of harts or stags]

The HORN of a STAG, what would now be called its antlers, was in essence synonymous with HARTSHORN, but the two terms were usually perceived differently. The former was applied primarily to the horn when used in APOTHECARY and to make ammonia, the latter was almost invariably used for making objects such as the HAFT of a knife. When used thus, the term was frequently abbreviated as in '9 stagg tobaccoe stoppers' [Inventories (1733)], and 'Stag and Wood Hafts' [Newspapers (1790)]. Like a stag's head, the stag horns on their own were mounted and displayed decoratively like the '3 pair of Staggs Hornes' in 'ye Great Parlour' [Inventories (1723)].

OED earliest date of use: 1663

Found in units of DOZEN Found rated in HUNDRED, HUNDREDWEIGHT

Sources: Inventories (late), Newspapers, Rates.

Stag skin

[stagg's skin; skin of any stag]

The prepared HIDE of a STAG. Like BUCKSKIN, stag skin seems to have been used particularly for making BREECHES as '16s 6d. for a stagg's skin to make my breeches' [Diaries (Stapley)], and the illustration of a stag is used in the trade card of a breeches maker [Tradecards (1786)]. It may be that in such examples the term was used loosely and 'stag skin' was regarded as synonymous with 'buckskin'.

OED earliest date of use: 1657

Found described as VIRGINIA Found used to make BREECHES
Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Tradecards.


Apart from many other meanings not found in the Dictionary Archive, a stage was a scaffold for workmen and their tools or materials, as in 'a Small Parcell of Coals Stages Stooles and Lumber' [Inventories (1735)]. Within this general definition, the term was applied in special ways in particular trades, like the CANDLE STAGE, HANDLE STAGE and WARPING STAGE.

It was also a variant spelling of STAG in its second meaning.

OED earliest date of use: c1440

Found described by SAW, TALLOW Found describing POLE

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

Stags head

[staggs head]

The only entry in the Dictionary Archive '2 Staggs Heads' [Inventories (1721)] appears among the shop equipment of a haberdasher. Possibly a stags head was some sort of hanger reminiscent of a stag's antlers on which HABERDASHERY or fabrics could be displayed.

Not usefully in the OED online

Sources: Inventories (late).

Stair rod

A metal ROD, usually of BRASS fixed in eyes at each side designed to keep the CARPET secure on the bend of each step. They were intended to be visible and decorative. The only example in the Dictionary Archive is in a late advertisement [Tradecards (19c.)], and may therefore come outside the early-modern period.

OED earliest date of use: 1858

See also STAIR EYE.
Sources: Tradecards.

Stall gear

The equipment needed to set up a stall in the market or in front of a shop. It probably consisted of the poles and STALL BOARD but may have excluded the TILT CLOTH.

Not found in the OED online

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

Stall stuff

This term has been noted only once, being noted in a stable. However, this is probably without significance as it is listed with other miscellaneous goods as 'a Parcell of fuell and stall ware ...' [Inventories (1716)]. The most likely explanation is that 'stall' is a mis-spelling of STALE or STEAL, that is a HANDLE. As a maker of BRASS and PEWTER the craftsman concerned would have needed handles for his WARMING PANs, SAUCEPANs and the like, but he would almost certainly not have made them himself.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (late).


According to Montgomery, the name is derived from an Italian term meaning both warp and weft of WORSTED. It may have come to English via the French term 'ESTAMINE', which was normally translated as TAMMY. The OED even suggests that 'tammy' and 'stamin' were synonymous, though that seems unlikely. Most sources suggest that stamin was originally a coarse CLOTH of worsted and that its earliest use, according to the OED, was to make undergarments for ascetics. Kerridge gives a different origin. According to him continental stamins were made from the thirteenth century, either of SILK or of silk-wool union yarns. From the late fifteenth century, weavers in NORWICH, Yarmouth and elsewhere in East Norfolk, substituted the silk with worsted, so that stamin was included among the many NEW DRAPERIES made of a light worsted yarn, or of part worsted and part carded WOOLLEN yarns, for which Norwich was particularly noted. In this sense, according to Kerridge, it was used to GOWNs, PETTICOATs and COATs, as well as FURNISHINGS such as CURTAINs etc. In 1523 Great Yarmouth gained some control over the regulation and inspection of their stamins independently of Norwich.

Unlike the two similar sounding TEXTILES, STAMMEL and STAMMET, stamin has barely been noted in the Dictionary Archive, and not at all in the shops. To add to the confusion, in the eighteenth century 'stamin' was sometimes used to render the French term etamine, meaning a strainer.

OED earliest date: 1225; 1440 in the later sense; 1725 as a strainer

Sources: Acts.
References: Kerridge (1985), 22, Montgomery (1984), 351.


[stamnells; stamell; stamel']

The OED suggests that it was identical with STAMIN, and if the two were not the same, they were certainly similar. According to Beck, it was a TEXTILE made of WORSTED, usually dyed RED, and used to make BREECHEs, GOWNs, PETTICOATs, etc. in the seventeenth century [Beck (1886), under Stammel]. In quotations in the OED, the most common descriptor was red or SCARLET. A secondary meaning of the term thus came to be the colour that stammel was usually dyed, apparently an inferior red to that obtained by the use of COCHINEAL. It may be in this sense that a dyer in 1707 claimed he 'dyeth all sorts of Yarn, by way of frame-work, commonly called stamping, Blues, Greens, Lemons, Stamels, Peaches, Purples, Black and many other colours' [Newspapers (1707)]. In the Dictionary Archive it was highly valued for a textile, at as much as 15s a YARD. It was sometimes found among SADDLERY. Its use generally seems to have diminished during the seventeenth century.

OED earliest date: 1530

Found described as GREY, SAD, single shoot Found describing CLOTH, FRINGE
Found in the shops measured by ELL, YARD

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Newspapers.
References: Beck (1886), Montgomery (1984), 351.


As with STAMIN, there is much confusion. Kerridge suggests that stammet was a YARN that had been shrunk and smoothed by scouring, used to make the TEXTILE called TAMMY, as well as other fabrics that needed similar characteristis such as BAYS, KERSEY and SAY. However, for legal reasons, Flemish weavers used the term to label the fabric KERSEY, and Fuller's comment illustrates this well: 'Expect not that I should reckon up their several names, because daily increasing, and many of them binominous, as which, when they begin to tire in sale, are quickened with a new name _' [Fuller (1662, abridged ed. 1952)]. In one quotation in the OED stammet was being used to make HOSE. In the Dictionary Archive, it was not uncommon in the sixteenth century and seems to have been comparable in value with STAMMEL, though it has not been noted in association with SADDLERY. Its use seems to have diminished during the seventeenth century rather earlier than that fabric. Overall, the suspicion that the two might be identical and have suffered from clerical and transcription errors, has not been confirmed. However, the Dictionary Archive would suggest that Kerridge's belief that stammet was originally a yarn might more properly be applied to STAMMEL.

OED earliest date: 1531

Found describing MINIKIN
Foundfor sale measured by YARD

Sources: Inventories (early).
References: Fuller (1662, abridged ed. 1952), Kerridge (1985), 53, 86, 91, 110, Montgomery (1984), 351.