Brigandine - Brushing board

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

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

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

Cox, Nancy. Dannehl, Karin. "Brigandine - Brushing board", Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007). . British History Online. Web. 16 June 2024,

In this section


According to the OED, a brigandine was a form of body ARMOUR composed of small iron rings or plates, sewn onto CANVAS, LINEN or LEATHER, and covered over with similar material. However, Randle Holme, who may well have seen it only in heraldic examples, described it as 'the back and brest plates', and suggests it was synonymous with a cuirass or CURAT [Holme (2000)].

The brigadine seems to have gone out of favour by the early modern period and replaced by other forms of body armour, particularly the ALMAIN RIVETS. Brigandines were included among HARNESS in the Book of Rates of 1582 [Rates (1582)].

OED earliest date of use: c1456

Found rated by the PIECE

Sources: Rates.
References: Holme (2000).

Bright tobacco

Possibly a type of TOBACCO that has been processed to give it a pale colour, although there may have been a technical meaning to this term now unknown.

Not found in the OED

Found measured for sale in BOX

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).


[brymstone; brymston; brimston; brimsistone; brimsiston; brims; brimpstone; brimmston; bremstone; bremston]

The common vernacular name for SULPHUR, and more or less interchangeable with it; hence the synonyms FLOWERS OF BRIMSTONE and FLOWERS OF SULPHUR, and ROLL BRIMSTONE and roll sulphur. This last is found in other sources, but does not appear in the Dictionary Archive. Although the names were interchangeable, brimstone is found in the Dictionary Archive used in places where sulphur was not, though it could easily have been. For example, brimstone is specifically mentioned as a component of GUNPOWDER [see for example, Acts (1640)]. It was apparently used as an adulterant of WINE, a practice prohibited in 1660 [Acts (1660)], and it was used domestically (and probably in the trade) to fumigate casks and barrels [Diaries (Blundell); Recipes (Ketilby)], and to treat skin conditions in animals as well as humans. For example, Sarah Fell treated some horses suffering from scab with brimstone and QUICKSILVER [Diaries (Fell)]. Nowadays it survives in old-fashioned prescriptions, as 'brimstone and treacle'.

The term was also used to denote a greenish yellow, the colour of brimstone as in '18 yds of brimstone col' tamit at 17d' [Inventories (1665)].

Given brimstone's inflammable character, it appears in expressions like 'fire and brimstone' for example in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah [Genesis xix:23-4].

OED earliest date of use: 1300

As an alternative name for Sulphur: Found described as 'used and consumed in making OIL OF VITRIOL' Found in units of BOX, C, CHEST, CWT, HUNDRED, HUNDREDWEIGHT, LB, OZ, POT, POUND, QUARTER, TON Found rated by the C of 112 LB, HUNDREDWEIGHT of 112 POUND
As a colour: Found describing CAMLET, COAT, KERSEY, TAMMY, YARN

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

Brine cheese

In the single entry in the Dictionary Archive Nicholas Blundell, a Lancashire gentleman, recorded sending 'some Brine Cheeses of our own making to Leverpoole to sell' [Diaries (Blundell)]. Except to reveal that there was a market for Brine cheese, the context is of no help. Possibly the cheeses were soaked in brine, or otherwise salted to help them keep.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Diaries.

Bristol red

[bristow red]

OED suggests that BRISTOL red was DYESTUFF, justifying it by a reference in a 1551 will to a 'kyrtyll' of 'bristowe read which were her mothers'. However this could just as well refer to the TEXTILE from which the garment was made. The re-interpretation is supported by two references to Bristol red in the Dictionary Archive both in the same document, which clearly refer to some sort of reasonably good quality cloth since one was valued at 6s 6d YARD, the other at 4s [Inventories (1587)]. The only other fabric designated as of Bristol at about this time was BRISTOL FRIEZE, although this was valued at 18d or less. The main good-quality textiles woven around Bristol in the sixteenth century seem to have been KERSEYs using the newly improved West Country CARDED - WOOL that was often dyed [Kerridge (1985)]. Probably Bristol reds were one of these.

OED earliest date of use: 1551

Found in units of YARD

Sources: Inventories (early).
References: Kerridge (1985).

Bristol waters

A SPA WATER abstracted from the hot-well waters near the town of Bristol

Sources: Newspapers, Tradecards.

British oil

When Charles Hatchett visited Coalbrookdale in 1796, he was interested not only in the coal and iron works of the district, but also in the famous Tar Tunnel opened some ten years before, in which 'Petroleum' dripped down the sides to be collected and sold at a handsome price. Some, he claimed, was 'rectified on the spot to make British Oil' [Hatchett (1967)]. This was not the first time a mineral oil called British Oil had been manufactured in the area. It had been made from bituminous rocks nearby as early as 1767 [Trinder (1981)].

Even this was not the beginning. In 1694 Martin Eele had patented a method of extracting 'great quantities of pitch, tarr, and oyle out of a sort of stone', (that is, a shale lying over a bed of coal in the Severn Gorge) [Patents (1694)]. The process was further developed some twenty years later by Talbot Edwards [Patents (1716)]. Part of the process produced 'Oil of Petre' or mineral TURPENTINE, which was subsequently marketed as British Oil [Singer et al. (1957)]. An advertisement placed in Aris's Birmingham Gazette in its first year of issue, 1743, claimed that Edmund Darby, Samuel Borden and Levy Perry continued 'to sell the British Oil (as we have for several Years) at our Warehouse in Coalbrook-dale' [Newspapers (1743)]. Edmund Darby must have been the younger brother of the much more famous Abraham Darby II and a shareholder in the Coalbrookdale Company, as was Levy Perry. As well as travelling for the Company, Edmund had his own business selling grocery and it was presumably these two networks of distribution that allowed him to market the British Oil successfully [Raistrick (1953, new imp. 1970), 9, 81-2]. The oil appears to have been widely sold only in the Midlands and Wales, the main focus of the Coalbrookdale Company's distribution network. By 1750 it appears that British Oil had achieved the success of spawning imitation, since the so-called' 'Original British Oil' was being sold through the network of outlets organized by the proprietor of Aris's Birmingham Gazette, possibly because Edmund Darby and his confreres had disposed of their interests in the oil [Newspapers (1750)]. Its listing here and in subsequent advertisements among a range of QUACK MEDICINEs indicates its primary use was medicinal.

Some time after Edmund's death in 1756, the production of the 'Only True British Oil' seems to have been taken over by one Betton, while the marketing came into the hands of one of the big London distributors of quack medicines, Dicey and Co, who claimed to have 'one or more Venders in every Market Town in the kingdom' [Newspapers (1790)]. He advertised more widely than Darby, from Manchester in the North down to Lewes in the South [for example NEWSPAPERS NY1757MNM010; NEWSPAPERS SY1790SWA072]. It is from his advertisements that the detailed medicinal (and veterinary) uses of the oil become apparent [Newspapers (1790)].

The British oil recorded in the Gloucester Coastal Port Books in 1708-9 was coming up-river, and was almost certainly a shortened version of what elsewhere in that souce was designated 'Oil British taken and made'. This was almost certainly either TRAIN OIL or PILCHARD OIL.

Not found in the OED

Found described as Betton's, ORIGINAL, REFINED, 'true and genuine' Found in units of BOTTLE

Sources: Newspapers.
References: Hatchett (1967), Singer et al. (1957), Trinder (1981).

British smalt

An alternative patented name for a version of POWDER BLUE [Patents (1782)].

Sources: Patents.

Broad axe

[brode axe; broad ax]

An AXE with a broad head, used for hewing TIMBER, and formerly for war. A list drawn up in the 1670s of equipment needed by a group of emigrants to America included five broad axes priced at 3s 8d a piece [Diaries (Josselyn)], which gives some indication of their importance as a wood-working TOOL.

OED earliest date of use: 1352

Found described as NEW

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

Broad blue

[brod blew; broade blue; broad blew; brade blue]

A form of LINEN CLOTH woven on a broad loom and dyed BLUE. Judging from the valuations noted, which ranged from 5d to 12d YARD, it was for workaday use. The YARD rather than the ELL was the usual unit of measure, which suggests that it was generally made in England. Although not noted in the Dictionary Archive as such, the term could also have been applied to BLUE CLOTH, the usual name of a high-quality WOOLLEN CLOTH made in the Worcester area and often dyed blue.

Found among LINEN CLOTH Found described as COARSE
Found in units of PIECE, YARD

See also BLUE LINEN.
Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).

Broad loom

[brode lome; broade loome]

A LOOM on which BROADCLOTH could be woven of two YARD or more in width. It was simply a double version of the NARROW LOOM operated by two weavers each with their own set of treadles, pulleys and HEDDLE - HARNESSes, though manipulating together a single SHUTTLE. It increased both the production and the quality of the most prestigious British TEXTILE, but it was still a very time-consuming process. In its report, a Parliamentary Commission in the 1780s calculated that two men and a boy using 70 POUND of WOOL would take 364 man hours or 14.5 days to weave a superfine BROADCLOTH of 34 YARD, not to mention another 888 man hours spent in wool preparation, spinning, reeling and warping [Munro (1994)]. For this reason the invention of the Flying or Fly Shuttle was so important, because it enabled one man to operate the broad loom.

The term itself, 'broad loom', is rarely found unless it was necessary to contrast it with a NARROW LOOM as in 'broade loome & ij narrow loomes [Inventories (1578)]. In most context either the area, or the cloth listed as on the loom indicates whether this or another type of loom was referred to. For example, most WORCESTERs were broadcloth and therefore would have been woven on a broad loom. On the other hand KERSEY was a NARROW CLOTH most cheaply woven on a narrow loom.

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Inventories (early).
References: Munro (1994).

Broad red

[brod red; broade redd; broad cloth red]

BROADCLOTH dyed red. Certain areas specialized in the production of high quality red cloth, particularly Stroudwater in Gloucestershire.

Found in units of YARD

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


[broad-cloath; broad cloth]

The classic English TEXTILE and WOOLLEN CLOTH made from carded WOOL in plain weave and fulled after weaving. It was distinguished in 1 RIC3 C8 (1483/4) from STREITS as being two YARD between the list as opposed to one. Broadcloth was heavy; the Books of Rates referred to one of c25 YARD in length weighing c43 LB. Even in the early modern period the term was also used to imply quality.

Given the importance of broadcloth, it might seem surprising that it was not that common in the Dictionary Archive. The reason is that it often went under other names as several acts make clear. For example, [Acts (1533)] in regulating the manufacture of cloth in Worcestershire, referred to 'every such Broad Cloth' defined as 'Woollen Cloths, called Long Cloths, Short Cloths and other Cloths, a well as Whites, Blues and Brown-blues', while [Acts (1707)] referred to 'white woollen cloth commonly called Broad Cloth'. The same terminology is used in the Books of Rates.

To describe all the different cloths and the areas of especial importance would exceed the parameters of this article. Many broadcloths were made in the South West, where most cloths were produced as WHITES, undressed and undyed, and for export. Some, like those made round Castle Combe and round Stroudwater were of fine quality and often dyed red in the piece, whereas round Bristol and Chew, many cloths were made of wool already dyed blue, though they were sometimes dyed a second time in the piece. A different area of production roughly covering Hampshire and Berkshire and centred on Reading and several other towns produced mainly MEDLEYs under such names as READINGs and Guildfords. A third area, Kent, produced a rather coarse, heavy variety dyed in the wool by the clothiers themselves in almost every possible colour or medley of colours.

Given its weight and durability, broadcloth was used chiefly for MEN's garments, for which purpose it was frequently dyed BLACK. It was found in the shops in a wide range of qualities and consequently prices, but invariably above what could be afforded by most people. The lowest price noted in the Dictionary Archive was still above 3s the yard, the highest running towards £1. Presumably, because it was bought by the better off, particular attention was paid to definition. For example, one 'Manufacturer from the West of England' was offering for sale in Birmingham, qualities he called superfine, best and second. A shearman in 1660 had broadcloth in sad mouse, mouse colour, clay colour, white grey, blue grey, iron grey, grey, light grey and sad grey. All these would have been appropriate for quiet styles of dress, but almost every one required its own dye, and the SAD colouring a separate process after dyeing.

OED earliest date of use: 1420

Found described as BLACK, BLUE, BROWN, CINNAMON coloured, COARSE, COLOURED, in common colours, of diverse colours, DRAB, FINE, FRIEZE, GREEN, GREY, IN GRAIN, LEAD coloured, MINION colour, MIXED, RED, SAD, STROUDWATER [red], VIOLET, Western, WHITE, Wiltshire, YELLOW Found used to make BREECHES, COAT, SUIT, WAISTCOAT Found in the shops measured by PIECE, PILE, YARD Found rated by the PIECE

Sources: Acts, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Rates, Tradecards.
References: Kerridge (1985), 14-16 and many other extensive and useful references, Montgomery (1984), 177-9 and many other extensive and useful references.

Broom head

The functioning head of a BROOM as opposed to the STALE or handle. Broom head is a term not found as such in the dictionaries, and only once in the Dictionary Archive among the stock of a BRUSH maker [Inventories (1772)]. He had BROOM heads ranging in value from 5s to 14s the DOZEN, depending presumably on what the heads were made of. In the Dictionary Archive, brooms have been noted made of BIRCH twigs, the leaves of the FLAG iris, and of HAIR, of which this brush maker had only a few. He also had '6 Gross of Broom Stales', the handles needed to make up a full broom. Apparently he made and sold the broom heads and the stales separately, given that he appears not to have had any made up brooms among his stock.

In a broom head made of twigs or flags, these were bound together tightly near one end, and the stale thrust down the centre. If made of hair, the process was more complex, and this type of broom would have been made in the same way as a BRUSH.

Not found in the OED online

Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Inventories (late).

Brown bill

[browne bill; broune bill; brou'ebill]

A WEAPON in the form of a kind of BILL or HALBERD, painted brown, used by foot soldiers and watchmen.

OED earliest date of use: 1589

See also BLACK BILL.
Sources: Inventories (early).

Brown blue

[browne blew; brown-blue]

A TEXTILE in the form of a WOOLLEN CLOTH produced in the WORCESTER region, and perhaps elsewhere. It was probably a BROWN CLOTH (i.e. unbleached) dyed blue, a process that would have given a rather muddy colour. This is in contrast with, for example, BLUES, in which the already whitened WOOLLEN YARN was usually dyed before weaving. Brown blue was surprisingly expensive, valuations of 6s 8d - 9s 6d the YARD have been noted. This is comparable with much BROADCLOTH.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of YARD

Sources: Acts, Inventories (early).

Brown george

A BROWN - EARTHENWARE or a vessel made of it, its colour coming from the red CLAY used and not from a glaze. The OED's quotations on the other hand, all nineteenth century, suggest it was by then used as the name of various large, coarse vessels, rather than a CLAY. These were therefore analogous with the GORGEs found in the Dictionary Archive. Most gorges, a term that seems only to have been a variant of George, were made either of STONEWARE or of WHITE - EARTHENWARE.

OED earliest date of use: 1861

Found used to make MUG

Sources: Inventories (late).

Brown mustard

In the early-modern period, brown MUSTARD was one name given to what is more correctly called BLACK mustard or Brassica nigra. This is a tall European plant with dark brown seeds that are smaller and hotter than those of WHITE MUSTARD. Nowadays the term brown mustard is reserved for a native of southern and eastern Asia, Brassica juncea, which has large pods containing brown seeds and which has today largely replaced black mustard for the commercial production of mustard.

Brown mustard is not a term commonly found in the Dictionary Archive, where the types of mustard are not differentiated except in the shops selling SEED, for example [Tradecards (n.d.)]. According to Marshall, as quoted in the OED 'the white is the garden sort, the black being cultivated in fields for its seeds to make flour of'.

Sources: Tradecards.

Brown scotch snuff

A distinct variety of SCOTCH SNUFF made from it by increased liquoring [Dodd (1845)]

OED earliest date of use: 1844

Sources: Acts.
References: Dodd (1845).

Brunswick carpet

[brunswicke carpet; brunswick and gentish carpets]

A form of CARPET found only under this label in the Books of Rates of 1657 and 1660. In the former they were associated with GHENTISH CARPETs and similarly described and rated. A distinctive feature seems to have been that some, though not all, were STRIPED [Rates (1657)].

Not found in the OED

Found described as STRIPED, unstriped
Found rated by the PIECE

Sources: Rates.

Brunswick dress

According to Ribeiro, a 'Brunswick' was a SACK or GOWN with a tight-fitting bodice buttoned up, and a sewn in false front [Ribiero (1983)].

When the portrait of Mrs Pelham by Sir Joshua Reynolds was shown at the Royal Academy in 1774, the Public Advertiser described her costume as 'a flowered muslin Brunswick dress' [Ribiero (1983)]. In the same year one retailer proclaimed that he was able to make up such garments [Tradecards (1774)].

Not found in the OED online

Found described as LADIES

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Ribiero (1983).

Brunswick mum

A kind of BEER originally brewed in BRUNSWICK. It has been suggested that it was named after a brewer of Brunswick named Christian Mumme in the 1480s, but this is now discredited and it is more probable that the term derived from the Italian 'mommo', a child's word for drink.

Brunswick MUM was apparently made wholly or partly from malted WHEAT. According to Yarrington it was a medicine and 'very nauseous', being made good only by being long at sea [Yarranton (1677)]. It was extensively imported into England during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Found in units of BOTTLE

Sources: Newspapers.
References: Yarranton (1677).

Brunswick sausage

A form of GERMAN SAUSAGE, fashionable in the eighteenth century and found advertised by big dealers in preserved food. Possibly what was then called 'Brunswick sausage' is the modern [..], a cured sausage traditionally made from pork liver and pork hearts, and smoked after cooking, hence the 'braun' in the name [Schmidling (online)]. 'Brunswicker' would be a direct anglicisation of 'Braunschweiger'.

Not found in the OED

Found described as with GARLIC, without GARLIC, IMPORTED, TRUE

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Schmidling (online).

Brushing board

[brushinge bourde; brushing table]

The three examples in the Dictionary Archive, and the 'brushing table' all occurred in what were largely lumber rooms, which offers no contextual clues on use.

Not found in the OED, though it includes the similar term 'brushing table' without defining it conclusively; the two terms are presumably synonymous

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