Voider - Voyage iron


University of Wolverhampton



Nancy Cox and Karin Dannehl

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'Voider - Voyage iron', Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820 (2007). URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=58908 Date accessed: 25 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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[voyd'r; voyder]

A TRAY, BASKET or vessel in which dirty dishes and utensils, or the table scraps, were collected and carried from the table; alternatively a container for holding the dirty LINEN - what would be called today a Linen basket or a CLOTHES BASKET. Many, if not all, the voiders found in the Dictionary Archive were of these types. Many too, as might be expected, were made of WICKER, for example [Inventories (1662)], or (which seems not to have been quite the same thing) were called a VOIDER BASKET, for example [Inventories (1666)].

The sense was broadened to include 'A Voider to put Knives in' [Inventories (1735)], 'A voider or fram to set bottles in' [Inventories (1674)], and a 'Voider & a Brush' [Inventories (1709)]. Although not found in the Dictionary Archive, the meaning was further extended to cover a dish, usually decorated with an ornamental design, for holding and carrying SWEETMEATs, and as an alternative name for a TRAY [Ince and Mayhew (1762, facs. 1960)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1466 in the first sense; 1676 for Sweetmeats; as a Tea tray not found

Margaret Ponsonby

Found described as BASKET, LITTLE, TWIGGEN Found describing BASKET Found made of Twig, WAINSCOT, WOOD

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Ince and Mayhew (1762, facs. 1960).

Voider basket

[voyder baskett; void'r basket; basked voider]

Randle Holme described such a BASKET as 'made of prepared straw, or Owsier Twiggs made white'. He added 'they are very neately made with a round foote and 3 or 4 eares or handles, some on the sides, others on the tope; they are not very deepe, but in the sides flang, or fall outwards from the bottome. They are much used by nurses, and waiting women, to put either childrens, or their mistrises night, and day cloaths in' [Holme (2000)]. Holme suggested that an alternative name for it was a 'Night basket' [Inventories (1700)]. The term, though probably not the receptacle, went out of use after 1700.

OED earliest date of use: 1688

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period).
References: Holme (2000).

Voyage iron

A form of BAR IRON used as a trade good in Africa: '_voyage-iron, as called in London, is the only sort and size used throughout all Nigritia, Guinea, and West-Æthiopia, in the way of trade' [Barbot (1746)]. The export of standardised bars to Africa began in the early seventeenth century. Their manufacture was common across northern Europe. Sweden was the leading maker, but English slave traders also re-exported voyage iron from the Liège district and the Rhineland.

Because it was intended as a form of currency in slave marts, voyage iron had to be made to exact dimensions. 'The correct length of voyage iron or Guinea iron', it was said in the 1660s, 'is about 11 feet, and of such weight that 18, 19 or 20 bars of it make 5 cwt', that is, 72 to 80 bars to the ton [Iron and Steel (1982)]. There was, however, a tendency for the bars to shrink in size between the mid seventeenth and mid eighteenth century. A Bristol merchant stipulated in 1731 that the bars being made for him in Sweden should 'run neare about 92 to ye ton', and be '10 foott 6 Inch or 10 foott 8 long' [Prankard (mss), Graffin Prankard to Francis Jennings, 1 December 1731]. Voyage iron would be cut down into more manageable lengths by African smiths, although the foot-long bars recovered from the wreck of the English slave ship Henrietta Marie, lost off Florida in 1700, indicate that this might be done in Europe [Henrietta Marie (online)]. Bars might also be 'bent double two or four times, so that in foreign places [they] can be carried on a donkey' [Rinman (1788-89)].

Chris Evans

Sources: Newspapers.
References: Alpern (1995), Barbot (1746), Henrietta Marie (online), Iron and Steel (1982), Prankard (mss), Rinman (1788-89), .

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