Brack hemp - Bridle head

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

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Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl, 'Brack hemp - Bridle head', Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007), British History Online [accessed 16 June 2024].

Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl. "Brack hemp - Bridle head", in Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007) . British History Online, accessed June 16, 2024,

Cox, Nancy. Dannehl, Karin. "Brack hemp - Bridle head", Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007). . British History Online. Web. 16 June 2024,

In this section

Brack hemp

[braack hemp]

From the German Bracken - to sort or inspect goods - and found in the Dictionary Archive under the variant 'braach' or 'braak', it is HEMP already sorted. According to [Anon (1794)] braach appears to have been one of the best qualities of PETERBOROUGH HEMP, above OUTSHOT and apparently synonymous with CLEAN. In [Acts (1736)], it was permitted to make BOLT for SAIL CLOTH only out of braach or LONG HEMP or ITALIAN HEMP, which were presumably of similar quality.

OED earliest date of use: 1848 as brack hemp, but 1794 under OUTSHOT as braak

Sources: Acts, Newspapers.
References: Anon (1794).

Braid comb

[ditto braid; combes braid; braid ditto]

Cox described a braid comb as a long-toothed COMB intended to secure hair in a head dress [Cox (1966, pb 1969)]. This fits the context of entries in the Dictionary Archive [Inventories (1661)]; [Tradecards (1794)].

Definition but no citation in the OED online

Found described by BOX
Found in units of GROSS

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Cox (1966, pb1989).



Trimmed with BRAID, as in a 'braided COAT' [OED, Braided] or 'braided SHOES' [OED, Braided]. A possible alternative meaning is EMBROIDERED.

OED earliest date of use: 1494


Sources: Diaries, Inventories (mid-period).

Braken flax

[broken flax]

FLAX that had been beaten with a brake to make the fibres more flexible. The term was probably synonymous with DRESSED FLAX, which was more common, although braking was by no means the final stage in preparing flax for spinning.

Not found in the OED as such, though the term 'brake' appears as early as 1440

See also BRACK HEMP.
Sources: Inventories (early).

Bran tub

In the only example in the Dictionary Archive '2 bran tubs' were listed among a miscellany of equipment in a pantry [Inventories (1677)]. The context is not, therefore, helpful. Common sense suggests a bran tub was a TUB for keeping BRAN, but it seems improbable that any one would have had two.

Not found in the OED online in this sense

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Branched velvet

[branchd velvet]


Not in the OED as such

Found defined as OLD
Found in units of END, YARD

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

Brass hearth

The meaning of this term is not clear. 'Hearth' was an uncommon alternative to GRATE, but grates were normally made of IRON, a metal that withstood the heat better and that was much cheaper. Entries like 'A Brass hearth Shovell and Tongs' [Inventories (1697)], and 'Brass hearths with Dogs' [Inventories (1716)] suggest a grate heavily ornamented with BRASS as the most likely meaning.

Not found in the OED

Found described as with DOGs, FURNITURE

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

Brass nail

[brasse naile; brass nayle; brass naile; brass headed nail; bras nayle; bras naile]

A NAIL made of BRASS and largely for decorative use such as to edge UPHOLSTERY; most NAILs were of IRON. Randle Holme wrote of 'Brass neyles, to adorne the Rime' of a DRUM [Holme (2000)], while a patent of the 1790s included a method of 'ornamenting the surfaces of metal for making ornaments for the exterior and interior decoration of houses and furniture, also for coaches, and for other purposes where brass-nails, carved-work, and stucco-work have been commonly used' [Patents (1783)]. The ornamental value of brass nails is further emphasized by an advertisement for 'a Cock Maker, a Brass Nail Maker, and a Dresser of Coach-work' [Newspapers (1780)].

Not found in the OED

Found described as SMALL, SORTED
Found in units of LB, POUND, THOUSAND

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



A TEXTILE in the form of a COTTON CLOTH, characteristically STRIPED blue and white, brawls were formerly imported from Bombay and Surat in India and were included by Milburn in his list of INDIAN - PIECE GOODS [Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996)]. According to Florence Montgomery, brawls were already being manufactured in England by the end of the seventeenth century [Montgomery (1984)]. They have not been noted in the shops in the Dictionary Archive under this name, and so were probably sold during the seventeenth century under some more familiar term such as STRIPED COTTON or CALICO. Their importation was seen as a threat to British manufacture and they were banned for home use, though their importation was allowed to continue for re-export to Africa [Acts (1766)].

OED earliest date of use: 1725

Sources: Acts, Rates.
References: Montgomery (1984), Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996).

Bread corn

[bread corne]

In literal terms the meaning is clear; bread corn is CORN suitable for making BREAD. However, analysis of references to it in the Dictionary Archive indicate that the term was commonly used with greater precision. In one example, RYE and BARLEY were described as a BREAD CORN, whereas WHEAT and MALT were listed separately [Inventories (1635)]. From this, it may be inferred that wheat did not need further describing, as it was commonly used to make bread anyway, whereas rye and barley were sometimes used in other ways so that in this instance their intended purpose needed further explanation. In one example 'bread corn' was contrasted with MALT CORN, indicating the main uses to which grain was put in this period [Inventories (1664)].

A second meaning given in the OED is for 'Corn to be ground into bread-meal, not to be used for finer purposes', which suggests that it was not deemed desirable or suitable for making cake or pastry.

OED online earliest date of use: 1362

Found measured by BUSHEL, STRIKE

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

Breakfast tea

Breakfast tea is an interesting example - and the only one noted in the Dictionary Archive - of a TEA defined by use, rather than by its generic type as in BLACK TEA and GREEN TEA. In the modern sense it would be a robust, blended tea, designed to be drunk in the morning as opposed to the more refined types supposedly preferred later in the day. Whether this distinction applied in the eighteenth century is not known. The only example of tea being drunk at breakfast in the Dictionary Archive comes from the Diary of Thomas Turner, and his resolution in February 1756 for his 'breakfast to be always tea or coffee and never to exceed 4 dishes' [Diaries (Turner)]. Although he did not say it here, elsewhere he vowed to drink only green tea [Diaries (Turner)]. Notice, however, that SWEDES TEA, which was not a tea at all in the conventional sense, was recommended 'for Breakfasting, and a cheap, pleasant and wholesome succedaneum for the foreign Teas' [Newspapers (1770)].

Not found in the OED online

Found described as FINE

Sources: Newspapers.

Breast pin

A pin worn on the breast to fasten the dress, or for ornament; also a SCARF pin [Lloyd (1895)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1825

Found described as FANCY, FINE Found in units of CARD

Sources: Newspapers.
References: Lloyd (1895).

Breech band


Also known as a 'breeching' or 'britchen', the term refers to an item of HARNESS for use with any shafted HORSE-drawn vehicle. It denoted a strong LEATHER strap passing beneath the tail and round the back of a horse, being attached to the shafts on each side at a point under the saddle, enabling the horse to push backwards, and also to restrain the vehicle from running down onto the horse when going down hill.

OED earliest date of use: 1515-24 under Breeching

Found in units of DOZEN

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

Breech clasp

[clasps for breeches; brich clasp; breeches claspe]

A CLASP to fasten BREECHES, sometimes with a keeper, sometimes listed in pairs as '33 pares of mens clasps for breeches' [Inventories (1668)]. Occasionally the fastening was by a BUTTON instead, hence the entry 'breech buttons' [Inventories (1659)]. Breech clasps were not invariably the same as a BREECH HOOK AND EYE; though the 'j grosse & a halfe of breech clasps' valued in 1634 at a mere 20d may well have been [Inventories (1634)].

Not found in the OED

Found described as MEN
Found in units of GROSS, PAIR, PAPER

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

Breech hook and eye

[hookes & eyes, and buttons for breeches; breech hooks & eis; breech hookes & eyes; breech hooke; brech hook; brech hoocks & eyes]

A form of HOOK AND EYE used for fastening BREECHES. Whether it was always used at the waist in place of a BREECH CLASP, or whether it was used elsewhere on the garment, is uncertain. The clasps tended to be in smaller units and rather more highly valued, but the differences are slight. Neither the breech hook and eye nor the breech clasp have been noted in the shops under these names after 1700, though BREECHES remained a popular article of APPAREL.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of GROSS

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


[britches; briches; brich; breechis; breech; brechis; breches; breaches]

A garment worn by men covering the lower part of the body. A version of the word was in use from c1000, to indicate the item of men's clothing which covered the loins and thighs, probably worn together with HOSE, which were individual coverings for the legs. From about the mid sixteenth century, breeches covering the area from waist to knee and worn with separate STOCKINGS became the more popular style of mens' nether wear. Breeches were fastened at the waist by a BREECH CLASP or some other similar system, hence a listing of one shop stock consisting of 'Claspes & keeperes, hookes & eyes, and buttons for breeches' [Inventories (1667)]. A great variety of materials were used to make breeches since they were worn by all levels of society. Towards the top end were those like the 'one paier of breeches wth' 7 gould laces downe' valued at 20s [Inventories (1621)]. Some came with matching upper garments as in 'one Satten pare of Breeches and Doblett' together valued at 40s [Inventories (1612)]. But many were much more mundane. LEATHER BREECHES were probably the most long-lasting of all types and the most prone to becoming dirty as ordinary washing was not satisfactory. One advertisement indicates all to vividly what many pairs must have looked like; 'Breeches cleaned on an entire new plan, where there is not the least dust remaining. Likewise takes out the spots of ink, tea, red wine, and the stain of the saddle' [Newspapers (1790)].

OED earliest date of use: 1481


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


The nature of breene is not understood, but it was used sometimes as an alternative to OIL, moisture, dust or SAND in weaving, the use of all of which was regulated by [Acts (1514)].

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Acts.

Brewing loom

[bruing loome; brewing loome; brewing lome]

A vessel of COOPERY; a LOOM used for brewing BEER.

Not found in the OED

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

Brewing tub

[bruing tub; brueing tubb; brewyng tubbe; brewinge tubb; brewing tubb; breweing tubb]

A number of different containers were used for brewing BEER, and each area had its own vocabulary of brewing. A brewing TUB seems to have been a generic term for any one of these containers, although the context will sometimes indicate how it was used in that household.

OED online earliest date of use: 1766 under Brewing

Found described as big, LARGE, SMALL

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

Brick earth

An EARTH or CLAY suitable for making BRICK and in Geology a clayey brownish earth lying below the surface soil in the London basin. The clay was dug in the autumn and left to the action of frost over winter, being frequently turned to assist the process. In spring, the crumbled clay was cast into shallow pits where it was watered and soaked, and then kneaded under the feet of humans or oxen, or in a horsemill [Tomlinson (1854)]; [Houghton]. Usually the clay was mixed with other materials and hence the reference to the use of SEA COAL ASHES 'to be mixed with Brick Earth in the making of Bricks' [Acts (1770)].

OED earliest date of use: 1667 under Brick-earth

See also BRICK CLAY.
Sources: Acts.
References: Tomlinson (1854).

Bridges pins

[bridges best pins]

Probably PINS made in BRUGES, also known as 'bridges' in this country. Judging by valuations they were of good quality. They have not been noted after 1700, by which time English pins could rival the best from the continental mainland.

Not found in the OED

Found described as BEST, MIDDLE, SHORT
Found sized in number 12 Found in units of DOZEN, LB, THOUSAND

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).


[bridgwaters; bridgwater; bridgwat'; bridgewaters]

A low-priced, light-weight WOOLLEN CLOTH named after the place of its manufacture, bridgewater was suitable for LININGs, and was often FRIEZEd or cottoned (see COTTONS). It was usually sold as DOZENS, though a few KERSEYs were made. Some bridgwaters were dyed red by the clothiers. They were similar to TAUNTON CLOTH, CHARD CLOTH [Kerridge (1985)]. Their manufacture was regularizeed in the mid-sixteenth century [Acts (1555)]. According to the Book of Rates for 1660, it would seem that they generally weighed less than 64 LB a PIECE [Rates (1660)].

OED earliest date of use: 1552-3

Found described by RED Found describing PLAIN
Found in units of YARD

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

Bridle head

Bridle head is a term not found in the dictionaries, and only once in the Dictionary Archive. The context of the single example [Inventories (1743)] indicates that it was a HEAD STALL for use with a BRIDLE.

Not found in the OED

Found describing STALL (in the variant 'steels')

Sources: Inventories (late).