Bar skin - Barronet

Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820. Originally published by University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, 2007.

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Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl, 'Bar skin - Barronet', Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007), British History Online [accessed 23 June 2024].

Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl. "Bar skin - Barronet", in Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007) . British History Online, accessed June 23, 2024,

Cox, Nancy. Dannehl, Karin. "Bar skin - Barronet", Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007). . British History Online. Web. 23 June 2024,

In this section

Bar skin

A term found only in the Gloucester Coastal Port Books, and there only once, possibly as a clerical error for BEAR SKINS, though see BARHIDE. It may have been a form of TANNED LEATHER.

Not found in the OED

References: Gloucester Coastal Port Books (1998).


[barbatus; barbadus; barbados; barbad; barb]

The OED prefers the now official spelling of 'Barbados', but 'Barbadoes' was more common in the early-modern period. The term is occasionally use elliptically as in 'four hundred of Barbadus at 35s' [Inventories (1705)]. In this instance the context indicates that SUGAR was intended, but this might not always be the case.

When Europeans arrived in the New World, they found that Barbadoes was 'a virtually empty island the size of the Isle of Wight' with a 'relatively favourable climate, no native quadrupeds, an abundance of water and masses of timber'. By 1660, Barbadoes was one of the most densely populated agricultural regions in the world, with a population of about 40,000 of whom two-thirds were white. For about a decade in the 1660s this island was the greatest producer of sugar in the trade, but the decimation of the timber trees, extensive overgrazing by imported cattle to feed the population, led to the emigration of the first settlers, and the establishment of the typical Caribbean pattern of a sugar monoculture, petty capitalism and slavery. It is for this reason that most other products introduced into the island, like INDIGO have been noted only in the 1660s. Untypically, compared with other Caribbean islands, Barbadoes remained in British hands from first to last [Hobhouse (1985)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1655 under Barbados

Found describing GOODS, INDIGO, MOLASSES, RUM, SUGAR Found in the OED as describing CHERRY, NUTS, WATER

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Recipes.
References: Hobhouse (1985).

Barbadoes ginger

[barbados gingir; barbadoes and jamaica white ginger; barba: ginger]

The island of BARBADOES was one of the earliest WEST INDIAn islands settled by the British. Although its main crop was SUGAR, Barbadoes proved ideal for the production of GINGER. This saved the British from obtaining this valuable spice from EAST INDIA, much of which trade was in the control of the Dutch. Barbadoes ginger was already finding its way into the shops by the mid-seventeenth century, for example [Inventories (1673)]. It could have been in the form of either BLACK GINGER or WHITE GINGER.

Not found in the OED

Found in the form of BLACK GINGER, WHITE GINGER
Found in units of LB

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Newspapers.

Barbadoes sugar

[barbados sugar; barbados sug; barbadoes clay sugar; bar: suge; bar sugar]

SUGAR from BARBADOES, an island in the WEST INDIES. After the first flush of production in the 1660s, the small estates on the Caribbean island of BARBADOES produced only MOLASSES and one grade of sugar. The shortage of timber gave little incentive for producing a REFINED SUGAR. One can assume, therefore, that any Barbadoes sugar recorded in the Dictionary Archive was MUSCOVADO, unless something different was actually listed as 'two hundred Barbadoes clay sugar att £2 12 p c' [Inventories (1719)].

Not found in the OED

Found described as BEST Found in units of BUTT, HOGSHEAD, HUNDRED, POUND, QUARTER

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

Barbadoes tar


A kind of greenish petroleum, used medicinally

OED earliest date of use: 1747

Found among DRUGS rated by the POUND

Sources: Rates.

Barbadoes tobacco

This term may refer to ROLL TOBACCO of a particular thickness; not necessarily from BARBADOES, although the only example in the Dictionary Archive [Rates (1660)] suggests it merely means from that island.

Not found in the OED online

Found rated by the POUND

Sources: Rates.



Not to be confused with BARBERRY, the term refers to the Saracen countries along the north African coast. The term was used to denote goods imported from that region.

OED earliest date of use: 1596


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

Barbary almond

[barbary almond; barb' almond]

A type of SWEET ALMOND probably cultivated in, or attributed to, the Saracen countries along the north coast of Africa. John Houghton claimed that Barbary almonds, and another type of sweet almond called VALENCIA ALMOND, were used mainly for the expression of OIL OF ALMONDS [Houghton].

Not found in the OED

Simone Clarke

Found in units of C, LB, QU Found imported by C Found rated by the LB

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

Barbary sugar

[barbarie suger; barbaree sugar]

Abbreviated forms like 'bar sugar' could lead to mis-identifying it as BARBADOES SUGAR, but the date should help to distinguish the early Barbary sugar from the later imports from the New World. Barbary SUGAR was a speciality of Bruges that came from the Berber country of North Africa [Toussaint-Samat (1987)]. Like most of the sugars from the Old World it ceased to be of importance once SUGAR CANE was established in the New World.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of POUND

Sources: Inventories (early).
References: Toussaint-Samat (1987).


A large, bony European fresh water FISH, Barbus vulgaris, of the Carp family, that feeds on animal and vegetable matter, deriving its name from the fleshy filaments hanging from its mouth [Davidson (1999)]; [Greenwood (1975 ed.)]. Although this fish appears infrequently in the recipe books of the period, it is mentioned in two recipes published by Charles Carter. He suggest that like SALMON and MULLET, barbel could be barbecued and served with SPICEs, HERBs, ANCHOVY, ONION, OYSTER and LEMON, or stuffed with anchovy, pickled MUSHROOM, MOREL, NUTMEG, THYME, PARSLEY, GINGER, and onion and then stewed [Carter (1730, facs. 1984)].

OED online earliest date of use: c1380 under Barbel

Simone Clarke

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Carter (1730, facs. 1984), Davidson (1999), Greenwood (1975 ed.).



A man who shaved or trimmed the beards and cut and dressed the hair of customers, whether the hair was natural or on a WIG. Formerly barbers practised surgery and dentistry. The Company of Barber-surgeons was incorporated by Edward IV in 1461, but under Henry VIII the title was altered to the 'Company of Barbers and Surgeons,' and barbers were restricted to the practice of dentistry. In 1745 they were divided into two distinct corporations [OED, Barber]. Given that many barbers involved themselves with two, if not three different professions, that of the barber proper, dentistry and surgery, their equipment was quite extensive. Typically this included a CHAIR, BARBERS APRON, BARBERS BASIN, a BARBERS CASE of INSTRUMENTs, BARBERS COMBs, BARBERS POT, as well as the distinctive 'Barbers Pole' [Inventories (1685)], and 'A Barbers Branch' [Inventories (1733)], presumably a BRANCHED CANDLESTICK to give a good light. Other items included were 'balls as in 'ii doszen of barbers balles' [Inventories (1622)], which can be identified with Randle Holme's 'Wash Balls, and Sweet Balls'. Surprisingly few barbers in the Dictionary Archive have been noted with the essential SCISSORS, though Randle Holme included in his list 'A Set of Cisers, for the cutting of the Hair and Beard'. RAZORs were also rarely mentioned, though one had '1 new, & 2 pittiful old Cases for Razors' MY1685SHRJ], and another 'a Razor & Case with 12 Razors' [Inventories (1712)]. An extensive list of 'Instruments of a Barber' given by Randle Holme suggests that a well equipped barber's shop involved both a heavy outlay and upkeep [Holme (2000)].

OED online earliest date of use: c1320 under Barber

Found describing BALL, CHAIR, POLE

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


[berbeye; barbry; barboris; barberries; barberis; barberies; barberes; barbare; baberye]

Not to be confused with BARBARY, it is the common English name for Berberis, especially Berberis vulgaris, an ornamental shrub found native in Europe and America, with red, oblong, sharply acid berries. These were particular popular during Tudor and Stuart times as an ingredient for CONSERVE, and by the seventeenth century they were used to make PICKLE and also SWEETMEATs of various sorts, as is still a culinary practice in France today. Barberry was also used to season meat and to prepare PICKLEd SALADs [Wilson (1973)]. According to eighteenth century fashions, barberries were also used to make CANDY, SYRUP and JELLY [Nott (1726, facs. 1980)]. Medicinally, the leaves and berries were regarded as cold, and on a par with LETTUCE and ENDIVE. Gerard claimed that it treated 'hot burning and cholerick agues' and could be administered in the form of a conserve [Hess (1981)]. Both the bark and the yellow wood were used to treat jaundice. Its bark yields a bright yellow DYESTUFF, and the wood of some species is hard, heavy, and yellow wood, and has been used for inlaying since the seventeenth century [Gloag (1952, revised 1991)].

OED online earliest date of use: c1420 under Barberry

Simone Clarke

Found described as OLD, PRESERVED Found used to make CONSERVE, PICKLE, PRESERVE, SYRUP
Found in units of LB, OZ, POT

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Gloag (1991), Hess (1981), Nott (1726, facs. 1980), Wilson 1973).

Barbers apron

[barbours aproninge; barbero apperning; barbees appern']

Either an APRON appropriate for a barber, presumably sufficiently distinctive, or the fabric from which such aprons were made. The latter seems to have been more common.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of YARD Found rated by the PIECE not above 10 YARD

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

Barbers basin

[barbers bason]

A shallow BASIN, usually in this period made of PEWTER or LATTEN, with a semi-circular piece cut out of part of the flat rim. It was used by the barber for the soap suds etc. in shaving, and by the surgeon to catch the blood when bleeding a patient. Randle Holme added that it also had 'a place like a litle Dish to put the Ball after Lathering' [Holme (2000)]. Cox suggests that these basins were made in large numbers of EARTHENWARE at DELF in Holland and at Bristol and London in this country, but none have been noted in the Dictionary Archive [Cox (1966, pb 1969)]. According to Cox this basin was used in France as the barbers sign, and hanged on the barber's pole. Ambrose Heal makes no mention of this [Heal (1957, new ed. 1988)], but the entry 'Six Night pewter Basons to hang on ye pole & 2 porringers' is suggestive [Inventories (1694)]. The '2: trimming Basons' valued at 1s were probably similar in both shape and use [Inventories (1720)].

OED earliest date of use: 1755 under Barber

Found described as MIDDLE, SMALL Found made of LEAD, PEWTER
Found in units of C, DOZEN, LB, QU

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Cox (1966, pb 1989), Heal (1957, new ed. 1988), Holme (2000).

Barbers case

[case of barbers instruments; barber case]

A CASE appropriate for containing a set of barbers' INSTRUMENTs. The valuation may indicate whether those were included, but this was rarely stated. One exception has been noted [Inventories (1694)], but here no valuation was given. In what Randle Holme called 'The Instrument Case', he claimed were 'placed these following things in their several divisions' The extensive list of equipment included 'The Glass or seeing Glass', the BARBERS COMBs, 'A Row of Razers', 'A pair of Tweesers, or Twitchers: with a Ear pick at the other end of it', 'A Rasp or File, to file a point of a tooth that stands out', 'A Set of Cisers, for the cutting of the Hair and Beard', 'A Curling Iron, or Beard Iron, called the Forceps', as well as various pots and bottles to hold scented waters and oils. His illustrations of the case, both closed and open, show a case that is as tall as it is wide, with six sides, narrower at the front than the back, with the bottles inside standing upright, and the handle on the lid [Holme (2000)], a feature that would facilitate its being carried on visits to customers.

Not found in the OED online

Found in units of PIECE

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

Barbers comb

[combes of horne for barbers; barb'rs coome]

Randle Holme described it as a 'Wide tooth Comb, or an Horn Comb with single teeth, or toothed on one side, this is for the combing and readying of long thick and strong heads of hair, and such like Perriwigs.' [Holme (2000)]. It was therefore similar if not identical to the LASH COMB. However, Holme also showed that barbers had a wide range of COMBs among their equipment, any of which might in some circumstances be called 'barbers combs' [Holme (2000)].

Not found in the OED online

Found made of BOX, HORN Found in units of BOX, DOZEN Found rated by DOZEN

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

Barbers pot

[potte for a barbor; barbers pewter pott; barber pott; barbars pot; barbars pott]

A POT, presumably the same as Randle Holme's 'Chaffer to heat Water in', or 'Small Chaffer to carry Water in, with a hanging or falling handle to hold it by' [Holme (2000)]. Several barbers in the Dictionary Archive had barber's pot, but only in one case, 'A brass water pott', is the use clearly identified [Inventories (1694)].

Not found in the OED

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

Barcelona snuff

The term was sometimes shortened to Barcelona and, though not in the Dictionary Archive, was called 'Myrtle snuff'. It referred to a scented SNUFF, presumably first made in Barcelona in Spain, available commercially, but also made at home if the recipe given in Richard Bradley's recipe book is anything to go by [Bradley (1736, facs. 1980)]. It was produced by layering 'Seville Snuff ' and tops of MYRTLE in a dry CASK and pressing the mixture down with weights. After 24 hours the snuff was sifted out, and the process repeated with fresh myrtle three times more before adding one part ORANGERY SNUFF to every ten of the Barcelona snuff.

OED earliest date of use: 1711 under Havana

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Bradley (1736, facs. 1980).


OED suggests, with a question mark, that a 'barehide' or barhide' was a HIDE with the hair removed, or one UNDRESSED. This does not fit very well with the clause in [Acts (1552)] decreeing that 'all Sadlers, Girdlers, Cordwainers and all other Artificers, such as make Males, Bougets [BUDGET], LEATHER POTs, TANKARDs, Barhides or any other Wares of Leather' who were permitted to buy TANNED LEATHER for their needs. This indicates that a barhide was an article made of tanned leather and that it was probably some type of BAG or receptacle like the other items listed. One quotation in the OED, for 1611 under the spelling 'bearehide', defined it as 'a great hide to couer cartes', while a rather later one included barhides among trunks, chests and hampers. It seems therefore that barhides had been processed beyond the hide itself, and made up into some leather product, even though its exact nature remains unclear.

OED online earliest date of use: c1450

See also BAR SKIN.
Sources: Acts.

Barley corn

Apart from the obvious senses relating to GRAIN, for example in [Inventories (1637)], Barley corn was the name given to any TEXTILE woven with a small figure resembling a BARLEY kernel. According to Florence Montgomery it was particularly applied in the eighteenth century to fine WORSTED dress materials [Montgomery (1984)]. The four examples in the Dictionary Archive suggest it had become the name of a fabric in its own right and was not used as a descriptor, though the valuations ranging from 11d to 2s the YARD do suggest a light STUFF.

Not found in the OED as a fabric

Found described as BLACK, BLUE
Found in units of PIECE, YARD

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

Barley sugar

[barly sugar; barley sug'r]

An article of CONFECTIONERY, barley sugar was usually made in the form of twisted sticks. It owes it name to the method of making it by boiling down the sugar in a decoction of PEARL BARLEY. It was probably this that gave rise to the idea that barley sugar had some slight medicinal virtue.

OED earliest date of use: 1712

Found in units of LB

Sources: Inventories (late), Newspapers, Tradecards.

Barley water

[aqua hordeata]

A drink made by boiling PEARL BARLEY in water, used as a demulcent. It was frequently prescribed for the sick by physicians, but was often made at home, as the 'Remark' to AQUA HORDEATA shows in Pemberton's Dispensatory [Pemberton (1746)].

OED earliest date of use: c1320

Sources: Recipes.
References: Pemberton (1746).



The froth that forms on the top of fermenting MALT liquors, which was used to leaven BREAD and to cause fermentation in other liquors. It was used as a substitute for YEAST, but is also found as a synonym of that term.

OED earliest date of use: 1000

See also MALT, YEAST.
Sources: Acts, Houghton, Recipes.


[p'melion; bermillion; bermilion; bermelion; barmillian; barmilion; barmilian]

A kind of FUSTIAN, originally imported from HOLLAND, but later made in the MANCHESTER area, especially during the second half of the seventeenth century. Due to their similarity, the name of barmillion has become confused with that of VERMILION, which seems an improbable name for a TEXTILE that is most commonly found defined as WHITE. barmillions were valued between 9d and 18d the YARD, and at 10s to 15s the PIECE.

Not found in the OED online, though VERMILION as a TEXTILE is found

Found described as BLACK, STRIPED, WHITE Found describing DIMITY
Found in units of END, PIECE, YARD Found rated under FUSTIAN by the PIECE of two HALF PIECE

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates.
References: Montgomery (1984).

Barnstaple bays

The manufacture of BAYS started in that town in about 1576. Like COLCHESTER BAYS, those made in Barnstable were of two types; the old unregulated and coarser English types and the more recently introduced finer Dutch types, which were regulated from the start. Much of the former was apparently exported as they were rated in 1660 as one of the cheapest sorts.

Not found in the OED

Found described as COARSE, FINE

Sources: Rates.
References: Kerridge (1985), 96, 103-4.

Barr flax

[four bared flax]

[Acts (1736)] seems to have equated barr flax with SHORT FLAX, which was deemed inferior to LONG FLAX if used for making SAIL CLOTH. However, this does not make sense of the entry 'four bared flax', which sounds as if bared may have been an alternative for HEADed. In which case bared flax and bar flax may be different in more ways than just in the spelling.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of STONE

Sources: Acts, Inventories (late).

Barrel head

[barrell head; barell heding]

The rounded piece of wood that formed the top or the bottom of a BARREL, sometimes shortened to HEAD, though the context should make the meaning clear. The head was fixed into the main body of the barrel in a groove made by an instrument called by Randle Holme a 'drawing board' [Holme (2000)].

OED date of earliest use: 1390-1 under Head

Found in units of DOZEN

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

Barrel pitch

The context of the only example in the Dictionary Archive, where it is contrasted with STONE PITCH [Inventories (1634)], suggests that it was an uncommon variant name for PITCH in its semi-viscous state.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of LB

Sources: Inventories (early).

Barrel screw

[barrell scrue]

A form of SCREW that has not been found in the dictionaries and in the Dictionary Archive the contexts of both example are unhelpful. In the one they were valued at 2d apiece and appeared with many other small items of iron and brass ware [Inventories (1733)], in the other a single barrel screw was coupled with a FLESH FORK, the two together valued at 4d [Inventories (1748)]. It was possibly a form of Draw TAP, screwed into a BARREL or the like from which the contents could be drawn.

Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Inventories (late).


An uncommon and probably only briefly fashionable TEXTILE; a STUFF found only once in the Dictionary Archive with a weaver in Norwich [Inventories (1681)]. He had two PIECEs in his warehouse valued together at £4 8s, and a LOOM on which were two more in SILK valued together with the loom at £5 4s. There is no reason to suppose that barronet was invariably made of silk.

Not found in the OED

Found made of SILK Found in the shops measured by YARD

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).
References: Kerridge (1985), 85, 188.