Chain - Chandelier

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

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Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl, 'Chain - Chandelier', Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007), British History Online [accessed 21 June 2024].

Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl. "Chain - Chandelier", in Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007) . British History Online, accessed June 21, 2024,

Cox, Nancy. Dannehl, Karin. "Chain - Chandelier", Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007). . British History Online. Web. 21 June 2024,

In this section


[cheyne; cheanes; cheane; chayne; chane; chaine]

Throughout this period heavy-weight IRON CHAIN for use as CABLE CHAIN and for many other purposes was hand made by shaping short pieces of ROD IRON into links and then by shutting them by HAMMER welding, linking one into the next [Trinder (1992)]. Chain was also decorative and was then made with other metals.

By contrast, much light chain was made of small links soldered together, its purpose largely decorative, though it was also used to attach small items such as a KEY, a PURSE or a WHISTLE to the person; hence also SCISSORS CHAIN, SQUIRREL CHAIN and WATCH CHAIN. This type of chain was often in the form of STEEL CHAIN if it was designed to withstand violent attempts at theft, but other metals were used including GOLD and SILVER and, for those that preferred something cheaper, BRASS and COPPER.

In between chain, largely made in the same way as the heavier qualities (though see JACK TRAIN), were used for a variety of purposes; to fasten doors [Inventories (1809)], or boats [Diaries (Josselyn)], and for securing loads; hence 'portmantue chaines' [Inventories (1685)], 'Cloakbagg Chaine' [Inventories (1737)] and 'binding chain' [Inventories (1809)]. This use was seen as sufficiently important to inspire the invention of a 'Chain-belt for securing trunks to carriages, and which is fastened with a lock that cannot be picked' [Patents (1778)]. Chains were used also in some HARNESS, hence 'chaines for Harniss' [Inventories (1679)] as a means for attaching the draught animal to the CART or PLOUGH, and used in HORSE HARNESS and PLOUGH HARNESS.

One further use for chain has been noted with some frequency; to avoid the rotting action of water on HEMP or LEATHER, a chain was used instead, with a BUCKET for drawing water from a well. Judging by entries like 'the Buckett rope Chaine and turne for the well' [Inventories (1635)], the chain was immediately attached to the bucket where it would get wet every time the bucket was lowered, while the ROPE was more conveniently and cheaply used higher up and round the 'turne', where it remained dry. This system of using chain in conjunction with rope (or leather strap) was also used in watering horses with a WATER CHAIN attached to the WATERING BIT,and in the form of CABLE CHAIN for mooring vessels.

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1300

The term was also used in relation to TEXTILEs, sometimes in ways that are not well understood. A 'chain' consisted of the longitudinal THREADs in a woven fabric; the WARP; hence 'a cheane for to make a Clothe' [Inventories (1563)], and 'In the yarne Chamber ... more in Chaynes warped' [Inventories (1637)].

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1721

Other meanings in this area are more difficult to disentangle and are not found in the dictionaries. They mostly seem to revolve round the use of chain stitch; hence 'eight peare of stockings cheaned with silke at iis a peare' [Inventories (1623)], in other words they were embroidered. Much chain has been noted among HABERDASHERY, and here it was probably an abbreviation for CHAIN LACE, as in 'Gold and Silver thred; w'th Silver Chains and galloome' [Inventories (1679)] and 'fifty three ounces of silver & golde Lace Chaine & Twist at Two shillings Nynepence p ounce' [Inventories (1672)].

'Chain' was the name given to a type of BUTTON, though its shape or form is not clear. Some were made of SILK and/or SILVER, probably short for SILK THREAD and SILVER THREAD some valued for as little as 2s GROSS [Inventories (1639)]. Probably it was a stitched button. A possible interpretation of one text is that it was describing an early form of cuff links, with 'com'on Sleeve Buttons' followed by '8 pair Do Chain Links' [Inventories (1737)]. In an advertisement by a button maker, 'com'on Sleeve Buttons' were followed by 'gilt Mens Chains' [Newspapers (1780)], supports this hyopthesis.

Not found in the OED in these senses

As metal chain of high value: Found described as FINE, for KEY, for PURSE, SILVER, SMALL, WOMEN Found made of BRASS, COPPER, GOLD, SILVER Found in units of LB Found rated by the CHAIN, DOZEN, GROSS
As a button: Found described as BIG, SMALL Found made of SILK, SILVER Found in units of DOZEN, GROSS

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Patents, Rates, Tradecards.
References: Trinder (1992).

Chain lace

[cheyne lase; cheyne lace; chaine lase; chaine lace]

The OED tentatively suggests LACE made with chain stitch, using a supporting quotation dated 1598: 'little chaines, chaine-lace, or chaine stitch'. Chain lace has only been noted in the Dictionary Archive in the early part of the period, with none after 1620, it is thus only tentatively identifiable with later forms of lace that use chain stitch like a variety of Russian lace described by Mincoff and Marriage and called in German 'Kettellschlag' [Mincoff and Marriage (1987)]. A more likely possibility is something similar to 'Chain Boulee', which is described as 'A short rough cord made in macrame lace (made of knotted thread) with two threads' [Caulfeild and Saward (1885, facs.1989)].

OED earliest date of use: 1578 under CHAIN

Found described as BLACK Found made of CREWEL, GOLD, SILK
Found in units of DOZEN, LB, OZ, YARD

Sources: Inventories (early).
References: Caulfield & Saward (1885, facs.1989), Mincoff and Marriage (1987).

Chain pump

A machine for raising water by means of an endless CHAIN; usually the chain passes in its upward course through a tube, and raises the water by means of disks or valves which fit the tube, but sometimes the chain has a number of buckets or cups, by which the water is lifted to the top and there emptied out. In a quotation dated 1618 in the OED, the writer claimed this type of PUMP took up 'twice as much water as the ordinary did'. Two patents [Patents (1695)] and [Patents (1768)] claimed improvements and showed they were used for pumping out vessels.

OED online earliest date of use: a1618

Sources: Patents.

Chain scales

A term not found in the dictionaries and only twice in the Dictionary Archive. One of these examples listing 'Scales Chains Beam &c' [Inventories (1801)], suggest nothing more than a conventional set of SCALES with two pans suspended from either side of the beam by chain rather than stiff rods.

Not found in the OED online

Found described as MIDDLING
Found in units of PAIR

Sources: Inventories (late).

Chain shot

A kind of shot formed of two balls, or half-balls, connected by a chain, chiefly used in naval warfare to destroy masts, rigging, and sails.

OED online earliest date of use: 1581

Sources: Patents.

Chain trunk

[vyall; violl]

A term not found in the dictionaries and noted only once in the Dictionary Archive as '6 Chain Trunk & Furniture' valued at £2 [Inventories (1729)]. Possibly a chain TRUNK was one fitted with CHAIN to attach it at the back of a carriage and so discourage theft. A 'Chain-belt for securing trunks to carriages, and which is fastened with a lock that cannot be picked' was patented in the 1770s, and would have been intended to serve the same purpose [Patents (1778)].

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Inventories (late).

Chair leather

LEATHER suitable for upholstering CHAIRs, particularly RUSSIA LEATHER

Not found in the OED

Chair nail

[cheyer nayle; chair-nail; chaire naile]

A BRASS NAIL used to fix UPHOLSTERY to a CHAIR FRAME, which was intended to be decorative as well as functional. Brass nails were associated in a list of 1640 with other decorative nails, including COPPER NAIL, ROSE NAIL and SADDLE NAIL.

OED earliest date of use: 1640 under Rose nail

Found described as SMALL
Found in units of C, M Found rated by the THOUSAND

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


The herbaceous plant Ajuga chamaepitys, more commonly called GROUND PINE, apparently because of its resinous smell.

OED earliest date of use: 1578

Found under DRUGS, rated by the POUND

Sources: Rates.


A room, usually, but not invariably upstairs, most often set apart as a bed chamber. Contemporary perceptions of what was required in the chamber, meant that the term became a descriptor for many articles appropriate for that category of place; hence CHAMBER BELLOWS, CHAMBER GRATE, CHAMBER POT, etc., not to mention the '3 Chamber brass knob locks' [Inventories (1747)].

The term also had wide technical applications and was used to label enclosed spaces of various sorts. In this sense it has been noted in the Dictionary Archive only in the patents in phrases like 'Construction of piston-cylinders, suction chambers and valves' [Patents (1796)], and 'Double-chambered lock with cylinders, to which pins are affixed instead of wards' [Patents (1799)]. Other uses of the term in this sense, though not noted in the Dictionary Archive are, for instance, the part of the bore of a GUN in which the charge is placed and a piece of ordnace, especially one without a carriage, used in firing salutes.

OED earliest date of use: a1300

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

Chamber bell

This term has not been noted in the dictionaries and the contexts of the two examples found in the Dictionary Archive are unhelpful. The most likely guess is that the chamber bell was a small hand BELL suitable for summoning servants who would not be present in private rooms unless summoned. The entry in one probate inventory of 'Chamber Belle Irons' [Inventories (1697)], could suggest something more complex, such as a bell fixed to a wall bracket.

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Tradecards.

Chamber bellows

Small BELLOWS suitable for use in a CHAMBER GRATE. Probably they were distinguished from other types of bellows, like the KITCHEN BELLOWS, not only by their size, but also by a decorative finish. This might have consisted of decorative carving on the BELLOWS BOARDs, BRASS NAILs to attach the boards to the leather, or an edging of BRAID. The nozzle would probably be of brass too rather than iron.

Not found in the OED

Found described as FINE, ORDINARY
Found in units of PAIR

Sources: Inventories (late), Tradecards.

Chamber buffet

[chamber beaufet]

A chamber buffet could be either a sideboard or CUPBOARD or a BUFFET or low STOOL, in either case appropriate for a CHAMBER rather than for a living room. The one example in the Dictionary Archive, which reads, 'All sorts of Iron-mongers Wares, as Brass Chamber Beaufet ... [Tradecards (1760)], fits rather uneasily with either of these definitions. Gloag quotes Celia Fiennes' reference to 'neat boffett furnish'd with glasses and china for the table, a cistern below into which water is turn'd from a cock, and a hole at the bottom to let it out at pleasure' [Gloag (1952, revised 1991)]. This suggests an article placed on a table or the like, and something of the sort suitably modified might find a place in a chamber rather than in a living room.

Not found in the OED

Found described as BRASS

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Gloag (1952, revised 1991).

Chamber fender

A FENDER suitable for use with a CHAMBER GRATE, and therefore probably smaller and more decorative than those intended for utility rooms like the kitchen.

Found described as BRASS, ROUND, SMALL

Sources: Inventories (late).

Chamber grate

A chamber grate was a GRATE suitable for a CHAMBER, and so probably with some decoration to make it attractive to the eye. It was probably also narrower, being designed for the smaller fireplaces usually found upstairs. Chamber grates were often associated with suitable FIRE IRONs; hence entries like 'a little chamber grate and fender and fire shovell and tongs' [Inventories (1700)]. These implements were sometimes listed separately as in '1 pair of Chamber Shovel & Tongs' [Inventories (1748)] and '1 Chamber Shovill & Tongs' [Inventories (1764)].

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

Chamber pot

[chamb'rpot; chambr' pott; chamb'r pott; chamb'r pot; chambr poot; chambpott; chamberpott; chamber-pot; chamberpot; chamber pott; chamber pote; chamber poot; chamber]

In the crockery trade they were sometimes euphemized as a 'chamber'. The term refers to a vessel with a single handle attached to the underside of the rim. It was used in the bed chamber or elsewhere for urine and slops. In the early part of the period it was usually made of PEWTER, hence CHAMBER POT PEWTER, although other metals were used. EARTHENWARE chamber pots have been noted dating from the early fifteenth century, but became common only in the later part of the early modern period after their production by the Staffordshire potteries was developed in the mid-seventeenth century. Those made of DELF WARE first appeared at about the same time. Chamber pots thereafter became so cheap and so common that their presence may be under-estimated using probate inventories as a source.

Although mostly with little ornamentation, some were elaborately decorated in BLUE AND WHITE after the Chinese manner, and as decorated chamberpots became more common during the eighteenth century, they were popularly decorated with a portrait of the king. Many chamber pots were used on their own, but they were also sometimes used in conjunction with the CLOSE STOOL [ (online)].

OED earliest date of use: 1570

Found in units of CWT, DOZEN, POUND, QUARTER

Sources: Diaries, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Recipes.
References: (online).

Chamber pot pewter

Except for those intended for the very top end of the market, a metal CHAMBER POT would have been made of LAY PEWTER. Presumably chamber pot pewter was of this type, perhaps with a higher proportion of TIN to make the vessel fashioned from it more robust.

Found in units of LB

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).


Montgomery suggests it was type of GINGHAM, plain in colour and weave, often having a coloured warp and a contrasting weft [Montgomery (1984)]. This is possibly the same as the 'Chamberry MUSLINs' made up for Barbara Johnson in the early nineteenth century, severally coloured BROWN and WHITE, GREEN and PURPLE, and BLACK [Johnson (1987)], although the editor, Nathalie Rothstein, believes it may be a synonym for Canterbury muslin, fashionable in that city in the last decade of the eighteenth century [Johnson (1987)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (late).
References: Johnson (1987), Montgomery (1984).



A TEXTILE in the form of a CHANGEABLE 'twistered' SAY with contrasting colours in both WEFT and WOOF. The latter had the two contrasting yarns twisted together before weaving, whereas that for the former was doubled, but not twisted. WORSTED chameleons were first recorded in the 1630s, and were made for at least forty years. It was largely due to the manufacture of these fabrics that the specialist occupation of 'twisterer' arose in eastern Norfolk [Kerridge (1985)].

Not found in the OED

Found in units of YARD

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

Chamois skin


More commonly known as SHAMMY, this was originally a LEATHER prepared from the SKIN of the only European antelope, but the term was later applied to any soft pliable leather prepared from SHEEPSKIN, GOATSKIN, CALF SKIN, etc. or from the split skins sometimes used for GLOVES. The skins were prepared using COD OIL. In the Dictionary Archive it has only been noted as used for making the gloves handed out to mourners at funerals, as for example in [Diaries (Turner)]. Chamois skins were also used for making BREECHES for horsemen, but its use by European cavalries was superseded by quicker drying WOOLLEN CLOTH.

OED earliest date of use: 1575

Found used to make GLOVES

See also SHAMMY.
Sources: Diaries.


A name applied originally (as in French) to any fungi, or MUSHROOMs generally, but in the eighteenth century specifically to edible mushrooms. By then it seems to have gone up-market, and has been noted in the Dictionary Archive only in the context of luxury foods. In one example it was listed under 'Sauces etc' [Tradecards (19c.)], and in the other under 'Groceries of all kinds' [Tradecards (1800)]. In the first example, the champignons had probably been preserved as a PICKLE or SAUCE, in the second, perhaps in the same way, or perhaps DRIED.

OED earliest date of use: 1578

Sources: Tradecards.


A hanging CANDELABRA, in the form of an ornamental branched support or frame to hold a number of CANDLEs, usually hung from the roof or ceiling. Originally chandeliers were made of brass with branching arms with sockets for candles. By the early-eighteenth century references to GLASS chandeliers appear on trade cards. For example one firm calling themselves 'Manufacturers of Plain & Cut Glass' advertised also 'Chandeliers, Girandoles and Candlesticks' [Tradecards (18c.)]. These glass chandeliers seem to have been modelled on the brass ones with rigid S shaped arms made in glass, attached to a metal frame, with glass candle sockets and grease pans. Gradually more decoration was added by cutting facets in the glass arms and pans, and adding glass drops. By the later eighteenth century the structure was hung with strings of faceted lustres. These elaborate and costly chandeliers were probably only lit on special occasions [Chesterton (1984)].

OED earliest date of use: 1736

Margaret Ponsonby

Found made of GLASS

Sources: Patents, Tradecards.
References: Chesterton (1984).