Hot waters - Housing


University of Wolverhampton



Nancy Cox and Karin Dannehl

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'Hot waters - Housing', Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820 (2007). URL: Date accessed: 17 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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Hot waters

[hottwater; hott water]

A term applied any ardent SPIRITS or spirituous liquor, but particularly to COMPOUND WATERS. It should not be confused with HOTWELL WATERS, which are not alcoholic.

Apparently in the early part of the eighteenth century, when the demand for SPIRITS was at its height and the authorities desperate to control abuse, some distillers had been wont to distil hot waters using 'any Wines [that] shall prove corrupt and unmerchantable, and fit for nothing' except for this purpose. In 1719 the practice was forbidden [Acts (1719)], though it is doubtful whether it stopped as the so-called GIN craze continued for several decades [Dillon (2002, pb 2003)].

OED earliest date of use: 1643

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period).
References: Dillon (2002, pb 2003).


The most common meaning of 'house' in the Dictionary Archive was of a room or a separate building contained within a building or set of buildings designed to provide living space of one family unit, also often called 'the house'. Frequently, the house as part of the whole was further described by what it contained as 'Meal house', 'Fish house', or by the work that went on inside as 'Candle house', 'Dye house', 'Soap house', 'Wash house' etc. The possibilities are numerous. Two of the most common combinations of terms was the 'house place' applied to the core room in a house, where most activity took place, and the 'Warehouse'.

'House' was also used quite commonly as a descriptor for something used in the house, as 'House BELL', 'House BRUSH' and 'House LOCK'. An extension of meaning in this sense was the application of 'house' to indicate the most important or the only one in the house, as 'House BIBLE' [Newspapers (1760)], 'House CLOCK', for example [Inventories (1670)], and 'House GRATE', for example [Inventories (1724)]. A single example in the Dictionary Archive is for 'a parcell of Houseprettys curtain rings gartering quality bindings and Caddis's' [Inventories (1726)], possibly denoting ornaments for the house, or else attractive HABERDASHERY for use with soft furnishings in the house.

The OED's earliest reference for the house as a place of human habitation is to Beowulf, the earliest definite date is c1000. As the main room in the dwelling, house is only noted much later in 1674. The OED deals with distinct units that had a particular function under separate headings, for example, Bakehouse (1300), Brewhouse (1373) and Workhouse (a1100).


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


[howshold; houshold; househould; housall]

The term was used in a similar way to HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, HOUSEHOLD GOODS or HOUSEHOLD STUFF, to apply to the contents or APPURTENANCEs of a house collectively.

It was also used adjectively to describe almost any article that could be found in the house, or that was seen particularly to have been associated with the household as a place where the housewife held sway rather than in its function as a place of work, hence 'housall Table Cloathes' [Inventories (1663)], 'housold Napkines' [Inventories (1665)] and 'household utensils' [Diaries (Schopenhauer)].

OED earliest date of use: 1382 in the first sense; 1577 in the second, both under Household


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

Household bread

[houshold loaf; househould bread]

BREAD for the ordinary HOUSEHOLD use. It is elusive in sources like the Dictionary Archive because it was rarely advertised by retailers, and as a consumable it did not appear in probate inventories even though most household must have had a loaf or two in stock. An unexplained exception was one Ironmonger who had in the house 'six loaves of househould bread' valued at 5s - suggesting a very large size for such a generally cheap product [Inventories (1660)]. John Houghton described three types of bread 'white penny, wheaten penny and household penny' [Houghton], indicating household as the lowest grade. Since bakers were closely regulated both at a national and a local level, various ACTS give more detail than Houghton and are more informative about grades. One shows that household bread, not surprisingly was a BROWN BREAD [Acts (1758)]. In London, and where ever the Assize of BREAD was enforced, household loaves were marked with 'H' to distinguish them from WHEATEN BREAD, which was marked with 'W' [Acts (1758)].

OED earliest date of use: 1577 under Household

Found described as Assize, PENNY
Found in units of LOAF of various sizes

Sources: Acts, Houghton, Inventories (mid-period), Recipes.

Household furniture

[furniture for houses]

This is a term that defies precise definition as do the similar terms HOUSEHOLD GOODS and HOUSEHOLD STUFF, though its meaning is broadly clear. During the eighteenth century it became popular with advertisers, and sometimes seems to have been interchangeable with HOUSEHOLD GOODS, replacing in like manner HOUSEHOLD STUFF. In this sense it was a convenient and inclusive term covering all moveable and durable goods within the house. However, it seems at other times to have been applied only to FURNITURE in the common modern sense restricting it to BEDs, TABLEs and CHAIRs and the like, but excluding HOUSEHOLD - LINEN and IMPLEMENTS OF HOUSEHOLD.

By the end of the eighteenth century if not earlier there was a market for toy household furniture. Samuel Bettison had a huge stock of TOYs, both for adults and for CHILDREN, including 'Boxes of Household Furniture of various Sorts' [Tradecards (1794)].

OED earliest date of use: 1613, no definition


Sources: Inventories (late), Newspapers, Patents, Tradecards.

Household goods

[howsold goods; housould goods; houshould goods; houshold goods; householde goods; household goodes; household and other goods; house hould goods; house hold goods; house goods; housall goods; hous hold goods; goods moveable and houshold]

This is a rather nebulous generic term that defies exact definition. It seems to have replaced HOUSEHOLD STUFF to a large extent after 1700, and along with HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE was a favoured phrase of advertisers, as the list of descriptors shows. The term commonly seems to have covered all the moveable and durable objects within the house, as in the phrase 'Household Goods vizt' Plate, Pewter Brass & Iron utensils & wood vessell' [Inventories (1695)]. However, it is apparent that its meaning could be, and often was, constrained by additional categories of objects, as in phrases like 'Household Goods and Furniture' and 'Aparrell and household Goods'. The position of PLATE seems particularly to have caused confusion, sometimes being listed separately, at other times being included. At face value, the general drift of its meaning is plain, but doubts must remain as to whether it always meant the same to all people.

OED online earliest date of use: 1595 under Auction


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

Household stuff

[howsould stufe; howshould stuffe; howshold stuffe; howsehold stuffe; houshould stuffe; housholdstuffe; houshold stuffe; houshold stuffe; househoulde stuffe; househould stuff; householdstuff; householdstuff; household stuffe; household stufe]

This is a term that was widely used in probate inventories before 1660, but thereafter died out, slowly being replaced by HOUSEHOLD GOODS, which appears to have meant the same. Both terms were applied to UTENSILs, VESSELs, etc. belonging to a household. Sometimes it was contrasted with IMPLEMENTS OF HOUSEHOLD as in the phrase 'howshold stuffe and ymlyments of houshold stuffe' [Inventories (1632)] and at others it probably did include them. It probably rarely, if ever, included PLATE or READY MONEY, which were apparently seen as distinct, as in phrases like 'Utensiles Housesholde stuffe Plate and Reddye Money' [Inventories (1612)]. APPAREL also seems to have been excluded as in 'howshould stuffe apparell and other goods' [Inventories (1620)]. Sometimes the phrase 'of sundry sorts' was added to entries about household stuff, suggesting that it was accepted the term had a number of slightly different meanings.

A late example of the term '3 boxes household stuff ffor Children' [Inventories (1733)] is a reminder that miniature examples of articles common to everyday life were made for children.

OED earliest date of use: c1511 under Household stuff

Found described as CHILDRENS, of IRON, OLD, TIN, WOODEN

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


[howswyff; house wife]

A POCKET - CASE used to hold NEEDLES, PINS, SCISSORS etc. In this sense it was similar to an ETWEE, but seen as distinct as one retailer stocked both [Tradecards (1794)].

A second distinct meaning relates to some piece of equipment found in the kitchen fireplace, as in 'one frying pann & Housewife' [Inventories (1668)]. This suggests a devise of some sort to hold a FRYING PAN or other cooking vessel over the fire. The other examples in the Dictionary Archive are not helpful contextually, except for the association with the fire as in 'Jack and Weights two spits a House wife' [Inventories (1700)].

The term was also used to describe several articles used by, or of the quality made by, the housewife, that is mainly in the home rather than by an artisan, as '5 peer of houswiffe Cards' [Inventories (1631)], '2 stone of green housewifes hemp 6s' [Inventories (1728)]. Several types of LINEN CLOTH described in this way are dealt with under HOUSEWIFES CLOTH.

OED earliest date of use: 1749; the second meaning is not found in the OED

In the first sense: Found described by POCKET
In the second sense: Found described as GOOD

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

Housewifes cloth

[howswyffs clothe]

Florence Montgomery quotes a definition of housewifes CLOTH as 'A middle sort of linnen cloth between fine and coarse, for family uses' [Montgomery (1984)], but one quotation in the OED suggests it could as easily be a WOOLLEN CLOTH as a LINEN CLOTH. No example of a woollen cloth so described has been noted in the Dictionary Archive; all examples are of a linen of some sort. One newspaper advertisement announced that a Norwich weaver 'makes and sells Linnen and Housewifes Cloth for 3 Quarters to an Ell wide and has low priced middle and fine sorts', which makes it clear that it was not a TEXTILE produced by housewives in the home [Newspapers (1709)]. Another for 'Housewives Flaxens, ditto Sheeting, Checks, Housewives Flaxens strip'd for Gowns' [Newspapers (1750)], indicates the descriptor 'HOUSEWIFE' was applied to a variety of fabrics, as does the record for 'howswyffs canvas 39 ells 3 qr xxxs' [Inventories (1583)].

OED earliest date of use: 1571

Found described as ELL WIDE, FINE, WHITE
Found in units of ELL

Sources: Inventories (early), Newspapers.
References: Montgomery (1984).


[howsing; howseinge; housin; housen; houseing]

A term with various meanings that mostly relate to HORSE HARNESS. For instance, it was applied, often in the form 'Housing CLOTH', to piece of fabric placed on the horse's back beneath the SADDLE, as in '4 howseinge Cloathes and one dozen & 3 sadlecloathes' [Inventories (1685)]. If for use where appearance mattered, these housings could be ornamented as in 'Two paire of fine Imbrodrd housing & bag' valued at £6 [Inventories (1708)]. Some were probably for use on a riding HORSE, as in '1 saddle and bridle and housing' valued at 20s [Inventories (1705)], others were for a CART HORSE as the '2 housings for a Cart Saddle' worth only 20d [Inventories (1769)]. A housing was also a piece of LEATHER attached to a horse's COLLAR, that could be rolled out over its back to protect it, and the harness, from the wet. This type, however, has not been identified with any degree of certainty in the Dictionary Archive. The function of the housing mentioned in a patent dated 1727, for 'Stirrup-leathers, stirrups, and housens' [Patents (1727)] is not clear.

One meaning unrelated to the horse was a maritime term for a small LINE of three strands used for seizings, in other words, for attaching two ropes together. In this sense it was also called a house line. Only one example has been noted in the Dictionary Archive, which appear as '... and marlines howsing white' [Inventories (1671)].

OED earliest date of use: 1607 in the various meaning relating to the horse under Housing; 1769 as a form of LINE for House line under House; 1867 as Housing under Housing

In the second sense: Found described by for CART SADDLE, EMBROIDERED, FINE Found describing CLOTH

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