Hemp - Herse


University of Wolverhampton



Nancy Cox and Karin Dannehl

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'Hemp - Herse', Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820 (2007). URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=58791 Date accessed: 17 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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Hemp and HEMPEN were often used elliptically for the products of hemp such as HEMPEN CLOTH, HEMPEN YARN and HEMPSEED. Usually the context allows one to deduce which was intended. In these cases details have been entered under both headwords.

Hemp is an annual herbaceous plant, Cannabis sativa, a native of central and western Asia, but readily grown in this country. It was cultivated for its valuable fibre and for its narcotic properties. It is a dioecious plant of which the female is more robust and longer lived than the male, for which reason the sexes were popularly reversed, and the female called carl hemp, STEEL HEMP or winter hemp, and the male, barren hemp, FIMBLE or summer hemp, so-called because it was harvested in the summer whereas the true female hemp was left to grow on till autumn to set HEMPSEED. To add to the confusion, as late as the middle of the nineteenth century Tomlinson defined fimble as the one that had flowers and carl as the one with fruits, as if the fruits could somehow develop on a plant that had not previously flowered, even if inconspicuously.

The narcotic properties of Cannabis sativa mean that today it is widely (and illegally) imported to be smoked in this country. According to Wilhemsen, it was for this purpose that hemp had been first been valued in its native home, being introduced to Europe by the Goths. In its spread westward, it appears that its narcotic properties became weakened so that hemp was not smoked widely when grown in this country, though it was used in human and veterinary medicine to some degree. Instead, the plant was valued for its fibres, used as today for making ROPE and CORDAGE, and SAIL CLOTH. In consequence, hemp was an important component of NAVAL STORES. Houghton suggested, with more than a little nuance of doubt that 'Some with the coals of the thickest roots make gunpowder' [Houghton].

Wilhelmsen argues that initially making rope was virtually the sole use made of the plant, and that its appearance as a TEXTILE was relatively late. Even then it was chiefly used to make CANVAS and coarse HOMESPUN. This is an opinion that the OED seems to share, as do those experimenting today with growing hemp for its fibres, but it is incorrect. The Dictionary Archive shows that the early-modern hemp industry was far more versatile than has been supposed and was capable of producing not only ropes and canvas, but also HEMPEN CLOTH, some of which could rival all but the finest FLAXEN CLOTH; for example hemp LAWN is listed among the stock of some late seventeenth-century shops. The misconception may have been re-enforced because too narrow a meaning has become attached to CANVAS since the early-modern period. In the first half of the period, canvas was the usual label for any fabric woven from hemp.

The cultivation of hemp fitted in well with the forest/pastoral type of agriculture, as it needed little attention during the summer months, the busiest time for the dairy farmers. It could also be grown on the same plot year after year with little or no deterioration in its yield. Such plots often acquired the name 'hempland', which sometimes stuck even when the plot was no longer used for growing hemp, for example [Inventories (1680)] records a 'hempland' with a crop of beans growing on it. The difference in structure of the male and the female plant was only one influence on the thickness of the fibre and hence what could be produced from it. Soil type and cultivation also played their part. Evans shows that when grown in the damp valley bottoms of East Anglia on well-manured ground, the crop grew tall, lush and coarse, while on thinner and less well-manured land the crop was less vigorous and the fibres finer. Probably most of those small-scale farmers, who grew only enough hemp to satisfy household needs, could not have afforded to manure this crop, an omission that would have encouraged the production of the finer fibres needed for the household linen and clothing. Because its production fitted so well into the economy of small-scale farming, hemp seems to have been extensively grown in countless small plots even if the necessary characteristics for the production of rope and SAIL CLOTH did not match imported hemp [Trinder and Cox (1980)]; [Evans (1985)].

According to the seventeenth-century antiquarian and herald, Randle Holme, 'The Sowing and Dressing of Hemp and Flax is a Branch of Huswifery: and is generally performed by Good Houswives at home, though other make a Trade of it abroad,' [Holme (2000)]. The growing of hemp was described by the sixteenth-century East-Anglian farmer, Thomas Tusser, in his 'Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry'. He recommended sowing the seed in May, after which little attention was needed until July, when the fimble, now fading to a yellowish or whitish colour, could easily be distinguished and culled from the carl, which could be left to grow on until September. A small-scale experiment to grow hemp for fibre legally in Shropshire in the 1970s, gave a harvest of 3 fimble plants to 21 carl [Trinder and Cox (1980)]. However, whether the ratio was typical is not known, and according to Tomlinson the proportion of one to the other was fairly equal [Tomlinson (1854)].

Once pulled and the seed harvested the stems needed to be soaked in water to rot or ret the viscous, fleshy parts (a vile smelling process), which ideally left the hemp 'water-rotted bright and clean [Acts (1720)]. An alternative method was to lay it out on the grass and let the dew cause the rotting, but this was deemed less satisfactory and more prone to attracting mould. The hemp then needed to be dried rather like hay. Though there were attempts to expedite the process by using a kiln or stove, [Patents (1638)] describes one such attempt, drying artificially does not seem to have been adopted in this country to any great extent, although Randle Holme in describing the processing of hemp and flax, 'Gigging', he wrote 'is to dry the Hemp or Flax over a Fire, made in a hole of the ground, which is called the Gigg or Gigg hole; and so laid upon a Flake, after the manner of a Kilne' [Holme (2000)].

The next process was pilling, and hence the terms PILLINGS, 'pilled hemp' and 'unpilled hemp' found in some probate inventories. This involved peeling off the outer skin from the inner core. The work was laborious, and for most small farmers must have been done by hand, though the process could be speeded and made less back-breaking by the use of a brake, and hence terms like 'braked' or 'braking' hemp. Next the fibres needed to be scutched with 'tewtaws' to remove the rubbish, beaten yet again, a process that was also mechanized for some by the eighteenth century, and finally combed out or heckled to separate the coarser TOW or HARDS from the finer, and the long, more desirable fibres from the short. INVEARLY MN1643CWCT distinguishes the three most common grades produced by this process, listing hards at 3d LB, short hemp (sometimes though not here called SHORTS) at 3½d, and long hemp at 9d. Only then was hemp ready for spinning [Trinder & Cox (1980); Evans (1985)]. The processing of hemp was ideally suited to a time when labour was plentiful and when dairy farming had a slack period during the winter. Even if partially mechanized, the work was labour intensive and was exploited to occupy the wretched inhabitants of prison or workhouse [Evans (1985)].

Although hemp growing and processing remained a viable, indeed an essential, part of the annual cycle of husbandry and housewifery for many small farmers who could use their own families to do the work, hemp was doubtfully profitable for those who had to employ labour. Both Nicholas Blundell, the early eighteenth-century gentleman of Lancashire, and the seventeenth-century clergyman, Giles Moore of Sussex, broke down the costs of producing hemp. While the former made no comment on his profits, the latter came to the conclusion 'that there is not gotten, all things considered, one penny by the growing of hempe' [Diaries (Blundell), Diaries (Moore)]. It might be supposed that this would be materially altered when power was applied to some of the labour-intensive parts of processing such as braking and scutching [Evans (1985)], but Tomlinson concluded as Moore had done a century and a half before that growing hemp was not profitable in this country except in a few areas [Tomlinson (1854)].

Nevertheless, in their drive towards the ideal of self-sufficiency in essential goods, Tudor governments encouraged the growth of hemp on a larger scale than heretofore, by requiring all farmers with 60 acres or more of land for tillage to sow at least ¼ acre with 'Linseed, otherwise called Flax or Hemp-seed' [Acts (1532)]. By so doing they hoped to establish a home LINEN industry, with the added bonus of increasing the home production of OIL extracted from crushed HEMPSEED. It is difficult to establish how successful this act was or any of the other government measures issued with like purpose, in view of the experiences of Giles Moore quoted above. What is clear is that much hemp continued to be imported.

Most merchants and retailers found it unnecessary to differentiate between different types of hemp, so that unhelpful entries like 'Hemp and Flax' remain the most common. However, steel hemp was sometimes given a separate entry from unspecified hemp, suggesting that the latter was being used to refer to fimble; unfortunately the reverse is also found. Others differentiated by the purpose for which the hemp was grown and prepared; hence corvisers hemp, ROPE HEMP, etc. As the demand for hemp grew, and imports increased, it became more common to differentiate stock by place of origin; hence EGYPT HEMP, RIGA HEMP, HOLLAND hemp, PETERBOROUGH HEMP, etc. It is difficult to compare the quality and characteristics of these against each other as there are too few informative entries. However the different grades of Riga hemp and Peterborough hemp were well known, and are set out under their several headings.Between them they probably constituted the major part of commercial hemp available in this country, most of it going to make ROPE and CORDAGE.

Wilhemsen believes that the foreign workers were encouraged to immigrate during the sixteenth century, bu that they failed to establish an industry. What hemp manufacture there was, she argued, had largely disappeared by the 1620s in favour of imports. This is not entirely correct. Evans has shown that there was a flourishing linen industry in East Anglia in the sixteenth century, with hemp as an important component. This continued to develop subsequently. However, she finds it almost impossible to differentiate between the manufacture and distribution of HEMPEN YARN and HEMPEN CLOTH from that of FLAXEN YARN and FLAXEN CLOTH, a difficulty we have also found. They are therefore dealt with under the general headings of LINEN YARN and LINEN CLOTH under which they were frequently subsumed.

Today one of the main uses to which hemp is put is in the production of PAPER. [Patents (1682)] and [Patents (1800)] show that the possibilities were already being explored in the early-modern period.

OED earliest date of use: 1000

There are several descriptors applied to hemp the meanings of which are obscure. Below is a list of them and our best guess, if any, as to what they may mean:

Blue hemp - the context shows that hemp was being used elliptically for HEMPEN CLOTH

Hemp for grinders - no suggestions, unless the hemp was intended for paper-making

Pund hemp - no suggestions and the context does not help. 'Pund' could be a variant of 'pond' or of 'pound'. Although each offers a possible meaning for the term 'pund hemp', neither is entirely convincing. See WELL HEMP.

Quinton hemp - There are several entries variously spelt. It may be what Randle Holme called 'Quinsborough, three Bands in a bunch, forty two pounds' [Holme (2000)], although it would seem that Quinton as a variant of Queensborough was not used.

St Thomas hemp - INVEARLY CN1639MRGG valued it at 5½d LB and is apparently referring to hempseed. This does not explain the descriptor.

Shot hemp and hemp shot - found only in two early eighteenth-century probate inventories of Sussex. Halliwell (1850) gives shot as a dialect word from Kent meaning 'a handful of hemp'. This does not seem to fit quite what is found in the inventories.

Found described as blue, COARSE, corvisors, CULLEN, ENGLISH, for grinders, GREEN, HEAD, HOUSEWIFE, Long, pilled, Quinton, RAW, RIPE, ROUGH, shoemakers, SHORT, St Thomas.STRICKEN, Suffolk, summer, undressed, 'undressed and not watered', unwatered, WATERED, well, winter, YARD WIDE Found describing clearings, HALTER, HARDS, HUCKABACK, LAWN, LINE, NAPKIN, PILLOW BERE, SHEET, SOCK, STOCKING, TABLECLOTH, TOWEL, WEIGHT, WRAPPER Found used to make ROPE Found imported from DANTZIG, Germany, Holland, Russia and Sweden
Found measured by BUNDLE, DOZEN, Knitch, LB, PACK, SLIPPING, YARD Found rated by the CWT, TON
The STONE of Hemp was fixed in ACTS 1529/C012 at 20 LB

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Patents, Rates, Tradecards.
References: Evans (1985), 12-39, Holme (2000), Tomlinson (1854), II/14, Trinder & Cox (1980), Tusser (1580), 28, 102, Wilhemsen (1943), 17-8, 98-9.

Hemp oil

Also found as 'Oil of hempseed', hemp oil is extracted from HEMPSEED. When fresh the expressed oil is a light green to greenish yellow, becoming brownish yellow on keeping. It may be identified by its high iodine absorption, though this was probably unknown in the early-modern period [Lewkowitsch (1909)].

Under Elizabeth I, when interest in replacing imports by home production was at its height, several reports to the government were made on the relative potential of various seeds for the production of oil, including HEMPSEED. The costs and profits from sowing the hempseed to pressing out the oil were laid out. Four BUSHEL of seed was needed to sow one ACRE, and an expected harvest in August or September from one acre would be four QUARTER, that is an eightfold yield. The price of one quarter was given as 40s in 1578. 20 quarter could be expected to yield one TON of oil worth £24 and would, according to the report be of use to clothiers and soapmakers. There was also the profit of £3 11s an acre from the HEMP besides the profit made on the seed and several mills appear to have been in operation before the end of the sixteenth century [BL Lansdowne MSS, 26/47].

Hempseed was a less productive source of OIL than either RAPESEED or FLAX SEED, consisting of 16% oil compared with about the 20% in flax seed and over 25% in rapeseed [Thirsk (1978)]. This suggests that weeds may have been a serious problem. A more modern authority gives the much higher yield for hempseed of 30%. However, this is reduced to 16% for seed harvested in Manchuria because it is always contaminated with wild seeds [Lewkowitsch (1909)]. [Inventories (1722)] gives the relative value of some of the major OILS used in the eighteenth century with hemp oil valued at £22 TON, TRAIN OIL at £14, RAPE OIL at £19 but OLIVE OIL at £33.

The use of oil made from hempseed, or any other seeds proved more intractacable than anticipated by Elizabethan projectors. SOAP boilers were apparently unenthusiastic and continued to prefer TRAIN OIL despite government action to ban it [BL Lansdowne MS 26/55]. By the nineteenth century at least, hemp oil was used for making SOFT SOAP, for painting and in LAMPs.

OED earliest date of use: 1721

Sources: Inventories (late), Rates.
References: BL Lansdowne MSS, 26/47, BL Lansdowne MSS, 26/55, Lewkowitsch (1909), II/76, Thirsk (1978), 72, for a full account of the production of oils from seed 67-70.

Hemp weight

The STONE of hemp was supposedly fixed in 1529 at 20 LB [Acts (1529)], but this does not seem to have been made to stick. Zupko believed the hemp stone was generally 16 lb, but occasionally 20lb or even 32 lb, although his reference for this last one is dated 1820 [Zupko (1968)]. Probably the hemp weight found in one inventory [Inventories (1668)] was for weighing hemp and would itself have weighed whatever was the norm for a stone of hemp in Sussex.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).
References: Zupko (1968).


HEMP and hempen were often used elliptically for the products of hemp such as HEMPEN CLOTH, HEMPEN YARN and HEMPSEED. Usually the context allows one to deduce which was intended. It could denote something made of or pertaining to HEMP. For example, 'HEMPEN homespun' was a hempen cloth woven either in the home or by a local weaver. For the relative valuations of various LINEN products, see [Inventories (1587)]: FLAXEN sheets 8s, hempen 5s the pair; flaxen TABLECLOTH 3s, hempen 2s each; flaxen NAPKIN 5s, hempen 4s, DIAPER 3s the dozen; flaxen TOWEL 1s 8d, hempen 8d, NOGGIN 3d each; similarly [Inventories (1716)] in which nine fine flaxen sheets, 12 fine hempen sheets and 20 COARSE hempen sheets were each valued at £3; and finally [Inventories (1735)] in which a hurden sheet was valued at 18d, a hempen one at2s 6d, and a flaxen at 3s 6d.

OED earliest date of use: 1375

Found rated by the ELL Found imported from DANTZIG

Sources: Diaries, Houghton.

Hempen cloth

HEMP and hempen were often used elliptically for the products of hemp such as hempen cloth, HEMPEN YARN and HEMPSEED. Usually the context allows one to deduce which was intended, but the manufacture and distribution of hempen cloth is difficult to differentiate from that of FLAXEN CLOTH, and both have therefore been included in the general entry on LINEN CLOTH, a term that was frequently used to denote either of them.

A TEXTILE, hempen cloth is frequently found in retail shops and occasionally it is possible to compare valuations with other LINENs; for example, in the stock of one retailer, HOLLAND was valued at 16d the ELL, FLAXEN CLOTH between 12d and 16d, hempen cloth between 10d and 14d, and CANVAS at a mere 7d the ELL [Inventories (1694)]. English HEMP was ideally suited for making a good quality hempen cloth, some of which came near to rivalling the finest IRISH LINEN. Much of this was made up into HEMPEN SHIRTs that were hard wearing and wore whiter with age, whereas the reverse is true of any other LINEN. [Diaries (Fell)] is not the only occasion when the seventeenth-century Quaker housewife, Sarah Fells uses TEAR OF HEMP to make SHIRTs for members of the family. Such entries confirm that hempen cloth was not merely being used to make coarse goods like 'servants sheets' as in [Diaries (Blundell)]. Hempen cloth was valued at 9d - 12d the ELL, but RUSSIA hemp at only 2½d the YARD.

OED earliest date of use: 1776

Found described as Suffolk, WHITED, at whitening, YARD WIDE
Found for sale measured by ELL, SLIPPING

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers.
References: Tomlinson (1854), II/14-5.

Hempen roll

A strong, coarse HEMPEN CLOTH, always imported BROWN. When whitened, it was 'very good for Sheets for Poor People, and is often bought by the Poor People for SHIFTs, and although not very thick, it wears admirable strong, there is much of it used brown for ordinary painting' [Anon (1696)]. John Houghton shows that in 1694, most came from DANTZIG [Houghton]. Valuations range from 4d the ELL to 5d the YARD.

OED earliest date of use: 1696, with no further definition than is given above

Found described as BROWN, COARSE, ELL WIDE, WHITE
Found imported by the ELL

Sources: Houghton, Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates.
References: Anon (1696).

Hempen shirt

English HEMP was ideally suited for making a good quality HEMPEN CLOTH, some of which came near to rivalling the finest IRISH LINEN. Much of this was made up into hempen shirts that were hard wearing and wore whiter with age, whereas the reverse is true of LINEN. For example, on more than one occasion Sarah Fell used TEAR OF HEMP to make shirts [Diaries (Fell)]; [Diaries (Fell)]. Hempen shirts were worn both by labouring men and by the gentry. The frequency with which hempen shirts were reported stolen confirms their desirability; for example, in one advertisement, Thomas Whitmore Esq. publicized the theft of a number of articles of APPAREL including a hempen SHIRT [Newspapers (1742)], while another proclaimed the loss of no less than twelve [Newspapers (1780)].

OED earliest date of use: 1483 under Lockram

Sources: Diaries, Inventories (mid-period), Newspapers.
References: Tomlinson (1854), II/14-5.

Hempen ware

[hemp ware]

The term refers generally to goods made of HEMP. These could be typically coarse products like CANVAS or CORDAGE, but the term also included LINEN, THREAD and YARN, some of it of a fine quality. Occasional entries indicate the main component, as in [Inventories (1666)] who had 'hempen ware as cords and tresses [i.e. traces]'. A similar meaning may be implied in the entry 'hemp weare at 3½d a lb' [Inventories (1718)].

Not found in the OED

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

Hempen yarn

[hempen yorne; hempen earne; hemp yarn]

Often found shortened to HEMP or HEMPEN, the term refers to a YARN made out of hemp, and in many sources subsumed with FLAXEN YARN under the generic heading of LINEN YARN.

Much yarn was spun at home. For example, the eighteenth-century Lancashire gentleman, Nicholas Blundell, was growing hemp on a big enough scale to keep his wife and her helpers busy with no less than five SPINNING WHEELs working for several days to spin hempen yarn [Diaries (Blundell)]. Although much hempen yarn prepared at home was probably quite coarse like that recorded by Nicholas Blunell as 'for servants sheets' [Diaries (Blundell)], some was fine and could be woven into a HEMPEN CLOTH that matched all but the best FLAXEN CLOTH. Probably the yarn for this purpose was spun using a distaff and spindle as it coped better with the long fibres of hemp [Evans (1985)], but some was certainly spun on the wheel. Both Trinder and Cox, and Evans find spinning wheels were frequently listed, only rarely were they defined to differentiate between the short or little wheel suitable for hemp or flax, and the long for wool [Trinder and Cox (1980)]; [Evans (1985)].

OED earliest date of use: 1681 as Hemp yarn, 1867 as Hempen yarn

Found described as corvisors, FINE, HOLLAND, HOUSEWIFE
Found measured for sale by DOZEN, LB

Sources: Diaries, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Evans (1985), 28-30, Trinder and Cox (1980), 61-3.


[hempseede; hemp-seed; hempseed; hempe seede; hemp seed]

Often abbreviated to HEMP, the term refers to the seed of the hemp plant. Its quality was judged by its colour and solidity; the best was the brightest, which would not break when rubbed. The seed was traded not just for growing hemp (both as a crop and 'to improve land'), but also as food for FOWL and for use in horse medicine. John Houghton claimed that 'Hempseed is good to make hens lay often in the depths of winter' [Houghton]. Although the importance of a crop of seed lay chiefly in providing future crops of hemp, rather than in the intrinsic value of the seed itself, there was an increasing interest from Tudor times onwards in the production of HEMP OIL. For example, an enquiry in the 1570s reported that four BUSHEL will sow one acre 'of grownd', which 'will carry iiij qu'ers of h'psed' while 20 QUARTER 'of he'psed or ly'sed will make a ton of yt oyle' [Lansdowne (mss), 26/47].

Hempseed apparently required storage in a bag designed for the purpose, presumably because the small seed would escape from the relatively loosely woven sacks used for grain; hence hempseed bags at 2s each in [Inventories (1730)]. The habit of appraisers and others to include hempseed under the generic term of LINSEED, a practice made plain in one act [Acts (1532)], makes it difficult to estimate the importance of hempseed in trade. It may only have been listed separately when its distinctive properties were the reason why it was stocked, as for example by apothecaries or seedsmen. Hence, in [Newspapers (1782)] hempseed was listed among the 'Garden and Tree Seeds', while in [Newspapers (1749)] it was listed among the grains priced at 20-22s QUARTER at Bear Quay. Costs and valuations of hempseed average 5d - 5½d. In one probate inventory St Thomas hemp was valued at 5½d LB and apparently referred to hempseed. This was within the expected range of valuation, but it does not provide further clues as to the descriptor [Inventories (1639)].

OED earliest date of use: c1325

Found described as bought in LONDON, HOLLAND, St Thomas Found describing OIL
Found for sale measured by BUSHEL, HOOP, LB, STONE, STRIKE Found rated by the QUARTER containing 8 BUSHEL; measured by the CASK Found imported from Holland

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Patents, Rates, Tradecards.
References: Imperial Dictionary, Lansdowne (mss), Ogilvie (1845).


The powdered leaves of the Mediterranean shrub, Lawsonia inermis or CYPRE, it has a long tradition of use in the Middle East both as a hair and a body colorant. Muslims who had made their pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca were wont to dye their beards with it following the example of their founder, the prophet Mohammed [Cox (1966, pb 1969)]. It seems to have been less used in the West, where traditionally red hair was regarded as an ill omen, perhaps because Judas Iscariot was supposedly red-haired [Cox (1966, pb 1969)]. Whether or not Queen Elizabeth's undoubted popularity (and red hair) made this colour desirable while she was alive, it appears to have become unfashionable by the eighteenth century, and hair dyes, often called HAIR WATER, were invented specifically to deal with it. For example Mrs Gibson's 'Innocent Liquid' would change 'red or grey Hair to a Beautiful Brown or Black' [Newspapers (1780)]. The reverse effect of dyeing hair red seems not to have been considered so it should not be surprising to find that Henna has not been located in the Dictionary Archive, although Cox writes that it was available in the eighteenth century [Cox (1966, pb 1969)].

OED earliest date of use: 1600

References: Cox (1966, pb 1969).

Herb sauce

[sauce des herbes; herb-sauce]

It is also found as a proprietary PREPARED SAUCE, sometimes given the FRENCH name of 'La Sauce des Herbes' [Newspapers (1790)]. In the same advertisement it was suggested it was 'for Fish, Ragouts etc'. It was presumably a form of GREEN SAUCE.

Not found in the OED online

Found in units of PINT

Sources: Newspapers.

Herba longee

Found as 'Herba loonghees' in other sources, this is a TEXTILE; a form of Grass-cloth made from the inner bark of the nettle-like Chinese plant, Boehmeria nivea. According to Milburn, it was imported from Bengal, and he included them in his list of INDIAN - PIECE GOODS [Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996)]. It was one of the imported fabrics banned from use in APPAREL in 1700 [Acts (1700)]. They were imported in quite large numbers during the 1680s, but mostly for re-export [Houghton]. The term has not been noted in the English shops, though it may have entered the market under a different name.

OED earliest date of use: 1692

Found imported by the PARCEL

See also LONGHEE.
Sources: Acts, Houghton.
References: Montgomery (1984), 282 under Lungi, Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996).

Herba taffata

[taffeties herba; herba taffetie]

A TEXTILE; a form of grass-cloth made from the inner bark of the nettle-like Chinese plant Boehmeria nivea. According to Milburn it was imported from Bengal and he included it in his list of INDIAN - PIECE GOODS [Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996)]. It was one of the imported fabrics banned from use in APPAREL by [Acts (1700)]. It has not been noted under this name in the English shops although TAFFETA described as GRASS was listed in one probate inventory [Inventories (1667)].

OED earliest date of use: a1692

Sources: Acts, Houghton.
References: Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996).


The meaning is unknown but it was something used in making SHOES.

Not found in the OED

Found described as shoemakers
Found contained in BOX

Sources: Inventories (early).


[herforde; hartford; harford; handford]

A form of LINEN CLOTH, probably a CANVAS of FLEMISH origin, introduced in the sixteenth century [Kerridge (1985)]. In 1578 one Gloucester mercer had 'Inprimis in canvasse dowles lockeram ozenbrickes herfordes enderlinges and flaxen clothe' [Inventories (1587)]. Thereafter there are occasional references but it was uncommon, at least under that name. The anonymous author of the pamphlet called 'Plain Dealing' mentioned it only briefly saying it was finer than the cloth he called 'Hammils', but 'doth not wear near so well' [Anon (1696)].

Not found in the OED

Found described as NARROW
Found in units of ELL, PIECE Found rated by hundred ELL of 120 ells

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Rates.
References: Anon (1696), Kerridge (1985).


Houghton suggested this was another name for ROSIN. It has not been noted in the Dictionary Archive and appears not to be in the OED.

Found imported from America
Found measured by the TON

Sources: Houghton.