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.
OED has two entries, which almost certainly refer to the same product, Weed ashes (under Weed), and Woad ashes. Under the former, the meaning is given as '? soda-ash (which is made from sea-weed)'. David Ramsay, discussing the bleaching of LINEN YARN, was more definite. He wrote 'The hard Wee-ashes that are burnt of Sea ware ...' [Ramsay (1750)]. ASHES made from plants that grow in or adjacent to salt water will pick up more sodium than potassium, and so give a source of ALKALI with different qualities from that derived from inland plants richer in potassium like WOOD ASH and FERN ASH. Early writers were less clear about the distinction. The anonymous author of 'The Art of Dyeing', translated from the German and published in English in 1705, added an Appendix 'informing what Pot and Waydashes are'. He saw the two as distinct, the former being a product of WOOD ASH, and the latter being prepared from 'the Ashes of burnt Wayd, that is Willow.' This would probably have had a higher content of sodium that the usual wood ash, but would have had less than that derived from 'Sea ware' But he added that the French frequently used WINE LEE dried and burnt [Anon (1705)], which would have been rich in potassium. From his point of view the difference in origin was unimportant, as he found 'no real difference in all these Lixivial Salts, ... but one is really as good as the other' for the purposes of dyeing cloth.
However the soda ashes, weed ash, KELP, which is an alternative name, and BARILLA were vital for making good-quality GLASS and for some types of SOAP. Until the adoption of the Le Blanc process these ashes provided the main source of soda-rich alkali.
A TOOL for removing deep-rooted weeds, found only once in the Dictionary Archive as 'ij dogges to weede w'th' [Inventories (1589)]. Randle Holme called it 'a Gardiners Weeding Dog. It is made with a Taper fork, and a Cross bar of Iron, some six or eight Inches above, and then hath a strong Socket, into which it is fixed a Staff with a Spade Head, as thick or thicker then the Spade shank: The cross is for the Foot of the Workman to force it into the Earth, on each side a strong Weed Root, and so having hold of it, draws it out of the Ground, as an Hammer draws out a Nail by the Head' [Holme (2000)].
A BUCKET used to draw water from a well by means of a rope and pulley or windlass. They were sometimes used in pairs, one on each end of the rope, so arranged that the empty bucket descended while the filled one was raised.
There are a sprinkling of examples of well hemp in the Dictionary Archive, and while the contexts indicate hemp as such, rather than HEMPSEED, HEMPEN CLOTH or HEMPEN YARN, there are no further clues to its meaning. The term possibly referred to hemp retted in a pool that could be refreshed with water from a well, making for a better product. However, [Inventories (1590)] with well hemp at 4½d LB and long hemp at 8d, suggests that the quality of well hemp was not high.
West Indian pickle
A fashionable form of PICKLE sold by up-market suppliers in the eighteenth century, that has not survived. No product is for sale under this name today. Several products suitable for pickling came from the WEST INDIES, including members of the CAPSICUM family. It is possible that the name of West Indian pickle was applied to one, or several, of these, including CAYENNE pickle, which Martha Bradley said was one of the major foreign pickles available in this country [Bradley (1756 facs.1996)].