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.
TREACLE in either of its forms was viscous and therefore, one would have thought, unsuitable for storing in a BOX, though that had rather different connotations in this period, and could mean a receptacle; hence SUGAR BOX and MUSTARD BOX. This is supported by the earliest citation in the OED that referred to 'A siluer triacle-boxe'. It may also be the case that treacle was crystallized or otherwise solidified to make a form of SWEETMEAT perhaps akin to BROWN CANDY [Inventories (1670)]. MARMALADE was another commodity sometimes made sufficiently solid to be contained in a BOX. Either way, the term has not been noted after 1660, possibly because by then SUGAR was cheaper and could serve the same purpose more conveniently.
Treacle MUSTARD was a name supplied by sixteenth century herbalists to the plant THLASPI arvense on account of its supposed medicinal virtue. It was also called MITHRIDATE MUSTARD. By later writers the name was applied to Clypeola jonthlaspi and to Erysimum cheiranthoides.
OED suggests that TREACLE water was a distilled CORDIAL whose main ingredient was VENICE TREACLE in an alcoholic base. However, both John Houghton and Eliza Smith associated green WALNUTs with this water. The former claimed that the 'young nuts [walnuts] before they shell ... are sold in the physick-markets of London abundantly; the juice of which is a principal ingredient in treacle-water, for it is reckoned a great alexipharmick' [Houghton], while the latter included a recipe in her Complete Housewife in which the juice of green walnuts was the principal ingredient [Recipes (Smith)].
A cyclindrical PIN of HARDWOOD (usually OAK) used in fastening TIMBERs together, especially in ship building and other work where the materials were exposed to the action of the water. John Houghton commented that 'the best, toughest ... therefore dry and young timber is preferr'd for this' [Houghton].
The OED gives several meanings, all of which are variations on a central theme. The term itself may come from the French 'trancher' meaning 'to cut' and the first definition given in the OED is to a cutting instrument or KNIFE. In the Dictionary Archive this has been noted only as a TRENCHER KNIFE.
In the Dictionary Archive, a trencher was a PLATE or PLATTER usually of WOOD, but occasionally of PEWTER [Acts (1512)]. It could be square or circular, flat (the most useful shape for carving meat) or TURNED up to provide a rim. Some were even shaped like a PLATE. The trencher constituted the cheapest, and commonest form of utensil from which to eat solid food. Its use probably replaced the slice of BREAD used in the Middle Ages for the same purpose, though that had the added advantage that it caught the gravy oozing from the Meat, and at the end could itself be eaten. Trenchers were occasionally defined as DOUBLE or SINGLE. The former was used for a more complex utensil that was hollowed out on both sides so that it could be turned over and used for a second dish [Gloag (1952, revised 1991)]. Trenchers were occasionally used as containers, rather than for eating; they have been noted, for example, with both TOBACCO and FRUIT as a descriptor.
Trenchers were usually made of a HARDWOOD that was non-porous, did not transmit its taste or odour to the food and turned well, such as BEECH or SYCAMORE [Toller (1975)]. Trenchers of this type would have been labelled COMMON or WHITE. Other trenchers were labelled RED. It is not clear whether these were made of a reddish coloured wood or were PAINTED, or whether red trenchers and painted ones were essentially different. In the Books of Rates for instance, the term 'red or PAINTED' was used [Rates (1660)]. Neither terms appear in the Dictionary Archive after 1660.
The Books of Rates usefully record the history of the trencher through the early-modern period. In 1582 trenchers were defined as 'of the common sort', THICK, and PAINTED [Rates (1582); Rates (1582)]. By 1660 trenchers were either 'white sort common', or 'red or PAINTED' [Rates (1660)], but by 1784, when trenchers were being replaced by EARTHENWARE or PEWTER, trenchers 'of wood' attracted a rate of a mere 11d the GROSS [Rates (1784)]. Although some trenchers were imported (in the Dictionary Archive some are labelled as FLANDERS) and rateable throughout the period, they were always valued, whether in the shops or in the home, at less than 1d each. For example, 2 DOZEN small ones were valued at only 2d altogether [Inventories (1590)].
Found describing CUPBOARD, FRAME, HECK, PLATE, RACK Found described as BEECHEN, COMMON.FINE, EARTHENFLANDERS, FRUIT, HARD, NEW, OAKEN, OLD, PAINTED, RED, ROUND, SMALL, SQUARE, THICK, tinnen, TINWARE, TOBACCO, wearing, WHITE, WHITE - WOOD, WOODEN Found made of ALDER, BEECH, MAPLE, cleft WILLOW, WOOD
Found in units of DOZEN, GROSS Found rated by DOZEN, GROSS of 12 dozen, THOUSAND
See also CASE TRENCHER, TRENCHER BOX, TRENCHER KNIFE.
Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates, Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Gloag (1952, new ed. 1991), Toller (1975).
The OED has a 'trencher basket [earliest date 1630], but no trencher box. It was a box of a convenient shape to keep TRENCHERs in. Trenchers have also been noted in a CUPBOARD, a FLASKET and on a FRAME, a HECK and a RACK.
A KNIFE for the table to be used with a TRENCHER. This meaning seems to have died out in the early seventeenth century. The latest reference in the Dictionary Archive is dated 1612 [Inventories (1612)] and in the OED, 1553.
OED defines this as a small salt cellar placed near a guest's TRENCHER at table. It is at least as likely that it sometimes meant a TRENCHER that had a cavity hollowed out in one corner to take the SALT, though the quotations in the OED do not lend themselves to this interpretation [Toller (1975)], and nor do the examples noted in the Dictionary Archive.
A LACE made at, or made in the style of that made in 'Treves', a place that has not been identified, but may have been Treviso, near VENICE, also noted for its lace. The only example in the Dictionary Archive was for 'single treves lace 6 gs at xxxs' [Inventories (1583)]. The use of the descriptor SINGLE supports the suggestion that it may have come from around Venice [Caulfeild and Saward (1885, facs.1989)]. If this interpretation is correct, it would have been used principally for ecclesiastical vestments.
The earliest noted was 'a Tryar for Malte or Corne' valued at 16s 8d [Inventories (1635)]. This was an expensive piece of apparatus, probably designed to assist mechanically the separation of grain, whether MALT or CORN, from the CHAFF and other detritus. The second example was 'One pair of Tryers' valued at 1s 6d owned by a GUNsmith [Inventories (1750)]. This INSTRUMENT was probably similar to the 'Calabers', which Randle Holme included among Gunners Instruments and described as 'compasses with bending points' [Holme (2000)]. They were probably what would now be called Callipers, and they were used for measuring the dimensions of SHOT. The third example is also related to gunnery; 'Gun-powder, Powder-tryers, and Pocket-Pistols' [Tradecards (1760)]. The POWDER trier, also known as a POWDER BOX, or a powder prover was an apparatus for testing the strength of GUNPOWDER. Randle Holme illustrated a simple version [Holme (2000)], which he described as a brass container with a small hole at the base and a hinged lid. The whole was attached to a vertical plate from the top of which a curved iron arm with internal ratchets fixed in such a way that the edge of the lid could engage with them. A measured quantity of gunpowder was placed in the container, the lid closed and the powder was then set alight through the hole. The quality of the powder was measured by the number of ratchets that the lid was forced up. This was a simple devise that could be used by anyone and repaired by any blacksmith. It was thus ideal for use in the field.
A stand for a POT, KETTLE or other vessel set over a fire for cooking or heating. Originally, and properly, it stood on three feet. In this form it became less practical once the down hearth was discontinued and replaced with a GRATE. Most of the trivets found in the Dictionary Archive came from the eastern counties, and most were prior to 1660. This suggests this earlier form since grates were only introduced slowly in the east, due largely to the lack of coal there. The trivet was later often made with one or two vertical projections by which it could be secured on the top bar of a grate, but in this form it seems to have been less common in the early modern period.
A trivet was also the label given to a similar structure when made of wood and used elsewhere in the house; for example as in the entry 'one poudring tubb ij Bucking tubbes iij shelves a stande iij trivettes iiij Barrelles iij firkens' [Inventories (1587)]. In this case it seems to have been used a stand for BARRELs and the like.
A flat round tablet or lozenge made of some medicinal substance powdered, worked into a paste with mucilage or the like, and dried. Unlike the LOZENGE, which was sometimes intended as a medicament, and sometimes as a SWEETMEAT, troches were exclusively medical, though they were as likely to be found HOMEMADE, or as a QUACK MEDICINE or in the Pharmocopoia. For example, John Josselyn included a recipe for troches to be used against seasickness in his instructions for emigrants, which included spices known to soothe the stomach like GINGER, CINNAMON and MUSK, and which he suggested 'you may gild', presumably to keep them clean if carried in a pocket or the like [Diaries (Josselyn)]. Nicholas Culpeper commented that troches were 'easier carried in the pockets of fools such as travel; as many a man (for example) is forced to travel whose stomach is cold, ... in such case, it is better to carry troches of Wormwood or Galangal, in a paper in his pocket, and more convenient by half, than to lug a gallipot along with him' [Culpeper (1792)].
Various types of troches have been noted in the Dictionary Archive, and others may well have been available according to demand and the whim of the apothecaries who made them. Most were labelled by their principal ingredient, like TROCHES OF VIPERS and TROCHES OF MYRRH, but in others the name indicated their use, like OPENING TROCHES and PECTORAL TROCHES.
Troches are found fairly frequently among APOTHECARY WARE before 1700, but the term seems to have lost popularity thereafter in favour of the lozenge, which served the same purpose, and had the added advantage that it could appeal to those with a sweet tooth as well as those seeking relief from discomfort.
Troches of myrrh
Although not in the Pharmacopoia, TROCHEs of MYRRH appear to have been a popular medicament found among the stock of several retailers. Myrrh is not awkward to store, unlike for example SQUILL and VIPERs, both of which were made into troches for convenience, so the troche was probably used to present myrrh in an attractive form to patients.
Troches of squills
In Latin 'Trochisci e scilla'. These were included in the mid-eighteenth century Pharmacopoeia, largely because they were useful in making VENICE TREACLE [Recipes (Pemberton)], but also because 'the baking into troches [of SQUILL] with flower [FLOUR] seems the most convenient way of drying them'. The recipe included nothing but squills and WHEATEN FLOUR as 'being most at hand, and as fit for the purpose as any other' [Pemberton (1746)].
Troches of terra sigillata
The only TROCHEs including a medicinal 'earth' found in the Pharmacopoeia were 'Trochisci e terra japonica' or in English 'Troches of terra japonica' [Pemberton (1746)]. TERRA JAPONICA was in fact not an earth at all, but it may be that a provincial apothecary [Inventories (1665)], accepting the commonly beheld belief that it was and being without any in his shop, used TERRA SIGILLATA as a substitute. On the other hand, terra sigillata would have had mildly calming effects in tummy upsets and even in poisoning.
Troches of vipers
The VIPER was a well used medicinal ingredient in the early part of the period, and perhaps, as in TROCHES OF SQUILLS, the TROCHE of vipers was a convenient way of importing and storing an awkward product until it could be used, for example, to make the official VIPER BROTH.
A medicinal product found in the Pharmacopoeia as 'Trochisci bechici albi' or 'White pectoral troches' [Pemberton (1746)]. This title and its active ingredients of LIQUORICE and FLORENTINE ORRIS also indicate its use for complaints of the chest. Of the three examples noted in the Dictionary Archive, two have an additional element to the title, suggesting other important ingredients, but 'Troch Al hand' is unintelligible [Inventories (1693)], and the other, 'Trochisc alb. Rhas', possibly contained medicinal RHUBARB [Inventories (1665)].
Trochisci e carabe
Trochisci e Carabe was the erstwhile name of what by the mid-eighteenth century was known as Pulvis e succino compositus or compound powder of AMBER. It was composed of, among other ingredients, amber GUM ARABIC and OPIUM [Pemberton (1746)]. It is not clear why it formerly included 'Carabe' in its name, but the term was not in any way connected with 'carob'.
A narrow box-like open vessel, sometimes of V shaped or curved section, usually made of STONE (hence STONE TROUGH) or of a water-resistant WOOD like ALDER or ELM; in use virtually interchangeable with TUB. Troughs were often fixtures and therefore not recorded in probate inventories, but enough have been recorded to give a good idea how they were used. They were common both inside and outside the house; to contain the domestic water supply [Inventories (1541)] or to be a conduit for it, as in 'a Trough to Cary water ' [Inventories (1617)]. They were essential pieces of equipment for many farmers with life stock to provide animals with food or drinking water (hence SWINE TROUGH), as well as entries like 'Trowfe for Calves' [Inventories (1583)]. Indoors they were used in storage, hence entries like 'a wooden Oatmeale Trough' [Inventories (1685)], cooking, as in KNEADING TROUGH, MINGING TROUGH and 'mouldinge troughe' [Inventories (1605)], and washing, as in 'lather troughe' [Inventories (1608)], and 'Scouring trow' [Inventories (1716)].
Troughs had industrial functions, too, for instance in making SOAP [Acts (1711)], STARCH [Acts (1711)], PAPER [Houghton]; [Houghton], BRICK [Houghton], BASKETs [Inventories (1689)]; [Inventories (1700)], and doubtless many others.