Checker - Chypre

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

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Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl, 'Checker - Chypre', Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007), British History Online [accessed 20 June 2024].

Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl. "Checker - Chypre", in Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007) . British History Online, accessed June 20, 2024,

Cox, Nancy. Dannehl, Karin. "Checker - Chypre", Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007). . British History Online. Web. 20 June 2024,

In this section


[checard; ceckar]

A TEXTILE term found both as a substantive and as a descriptor, and possibly identical in meaning with CHECK. However, it may be that the one, probably checker, defined a pattern like a chess board using only two colours, while the other defined a pattern comparable with that of a PLAID or TARTAN. Montgomery deals only with check and her illustrated examples all fit the definition for that fabric. Checker was not uncommon before 1700 but thereafter becomes rare, the reverse being true of check. This suggests that as more complex designs became possible with improved technology, so the term 'check' became more common. Checker was probably a LINEN CLOTH unless it was used to define STUFF. Checker was also used to describe HABBERDASHERY like RIBBON and GALLOON.

Found in units of GROSS, PIECE, YARD

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

Cheese tub

[cheese-tub; cheese tubb]

John Houghton, in his account of making CHEESE, wrote that the cheese tub was used in the field to collect the strained milk before adding the RENNET to it [Houghton]. Since tubs were common and used for a multitude of purposes, some may have been used in the way he described, and even designated as cheese tubs. However, Randle Holme portrayed it differently. According to him the cheese tub was placed beneath the CHEESE FAT, which rested on a CHEESE LADDER placed across the lower vessel. Into the vat went the curds. These were then squeezed to remove the WHEY, which fell into the cheese tub [Holme (2000)]. Since cheese tubs have been noted associated with cheese fats as in 'a cheese tubb, three cheese fatts' [Inventories (1666)], or with a cheese ladder as in 'one seigh and Cheese Ladder one Cheese Tub' [Inventories (1721)], it seems that in many cases Holme's description is probably the right one.

OED online earliest date of use: 1629 under Cheese

See also CHEESE FAT.
Sources: Houghton, Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Holme (2000).

Chelelot plaster

Apparently a medicinal PLASTER since the only reference to it in the Dictionary Archive [Tradecards (1740s)] recorded it in rolls with other similar preparations.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Tradecards.



A cheap Indian COTTON - TEXTILE with coloured stripes patterned in the loom, or CHECKED, used for making TROUSERS for slaves [Montgomery (1984)]. According to Milburn, chellos were formerly imported from Bombay and Surat and he included them in his lists of INDIAN -PIECE GOODS [Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996)]. Their importation was seen as a threat to British manufacture and they were therefore banned for home use, though importation continued for re-export to Africa [Acts (1766)]. Like many imports from India, chello seems to have been a name deemed unacceptable to the buying public, so that if and when it was offered for sale in the shops during the seventeenth century it was probably under a generic term like CALICO.

OED earliest date of use: 1712

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

Cheltenham waters

Medicinal SPA WATER from Cheltenham in Gloucestershire

Found described as TRUE
As bottles: Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Newspapers.

Chemical oil

[ol. menthae chym; ol lavendul' chym; ol cinnamon chym.; chymicke oyle; chymicall spiritts & oyle; chymicall oyle; chymicall oyl; chymical oil; chimicall oyle; chimicale oyle]

This is a term not used in modern Chemistry except in the petroleum industry, when it is the name for the first distillate taken in the distillation of crude oil. It is uncertain what the term meant precisely in the early-modern period.

References to chemical oils in the Dictionary Archive and other early-modern sources are contradictory. For example, Berrington gave a recipe for the 'Chimicall Oyle of Wormwoode' [Recipes (Berington)], yet Pemberton in his section on 'Distilled Oils' included OIL OF WORMWOOD under the sub-heading ESSENTIAL OIL [Pemberton (1746)]. The most likely explanation is that some products lent themselves to a variety of methods of extracting oil. This supposition is strengthened by Houghton, who described two types of oil extracted from the NUTMEG. The one was called 'oil of mace, which is express'd from nutmegs', and which is 'thicker than butter'. The other, he claimed, was a chemical oil, 'which is very thin' [Houghton]. Houghton referred to several other substances that yielded chemical oils, including JASMINE, CLOVE bark, CINNAMON, and JAMAICA PEPPER [Houghton]; [Houghton]; [Houghton]. He observed that the chemical oils of both Jamaica pepper and cloves sink beneath water [Houghton], but this should not be taken to mean that this was a characteristic of all such oils.

Probate inventories confirm that the term was well understood in early-modern trade, and chemical oils have been noted extracted from MINT, LAVENDER and CINNAMON [Inventories (1730)], and from ABSINTH (or WORMWOOD) and ANTHOS [Inventories (1665)]. Both a chemical oil and an expressed oil have also been noted to have been taken from nutmegs [Inventories (1665)]; [Inventories (1690)]. Inventories also show that chemical oils were stored in chemical oil bottles or glasses [Inventories (1779)]; [Inventories (1686)]. No clue emerges as to why this was necessary, but the most likely explanation is that chemical oils were particularly volatile.

A tentative definition of the term brings all the strands of evidence together. Given that in the modern petroleum industry, chemical oil is the name given to the first distillate, which would be thin and highly volatile, it seems probable that chemical oils in the early-modern period had similar characteristics. We suggest that they were those in which the material was macerated and mixed with water before distillation using an 'ALEMBIC and large refrigeratory'. The oil comes over with the water and then 'either swims on the top, or sinks to the bottom, according as it is heavier or lighter' [Pemberton (1746)].

OED earliest date of use: 1661

In the 1784 Rate Book found among the DRUGS as 'Oil, viz. Chemical Oils; not otherwise enumerated'

Sources: Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates, Recipes.
References: Pemberton (1746).

Cherokee sauce

A keeping SAUCE sold by several of the late-eighteenth century LONDON retailers of luxury foods. It was apparently sufficiently well known to need no description, unlike some of the other PREPARED SAUCES offered. It was included in a list of RICH SAUCEs by one retailer [Tradecards (19c.)], most of which are known to have been highly flavoured and it is likely, therefore, that cherokee sauce was spiced in a similar way. There are no clues to its specific ingredients or why it was so called, but an intriguing quotation for 1793 may runs 'Poor Southey will either be cooked for a Cherokee, or *oysterised by a tiger..' [OED, Oyster], suggesting that perhaps the main ingredient of Cherokee sauce was the OYSTER.

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Tradecards.


[cherrye; cherries]

A well-known stone FRUIT obtained from various species of the genus Prunus, long cultivated in this country in favoured areas, particularly Kent. Prunus cerasus gives sour cherries, of which the best known is MORELLO, while cultivated varieties arising for the Gean, Prunus avium, give the sweet cherries [Masefield et al (1969)]. It became fashionable to have ones own tree in the seventeenth century, and stock and SEED were readily available from nurserymen.

During the seventeenth century, cherries were preserved as JELLY, MARMALADE or DRIED, and they were used to make CANDY, MARCHPANE, PIE, TART, PASTE, PRESERVE, BRANDY, CORDIAL and WINE. The cherry was also one of the so-called 'BRANDY fruits', along with PEACH, NECTARINE, APRICOT and GRAPE, popular by the middle of the eighteenth century, which were stored in brandy and SUGAR in JARs [Wilson (1973)].

According to the sixteenth-century medical writer, John Gerard, cherries had medicinal qualities as black cherries 'do strengthen the stomacke, are wholesomer, than the redde cherries, the which being dried do stop the laske' [Hess (1981)].

OED earliest date of use: c1000

Simone Clarke

Found rated by the HUNDREDWEIGHT, LB, OZ

Sources: Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Rates, Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Hess (1981), Masefield et al. (1969), Wilson (1973).

Chian turpentine

[turpentine of venice, scio or cyprus; chio turpentine]

The semi-fluid resin of the TEREBINTH tree (Pistacia terebinthus) and the earliest known form of TURPENTINE. It was so named because it came originally from the island of Chios. It was an ingredient in MITHRIDATE and VENICE TREACLE.

OED earliest date of use: 1631 for Chian, but no reference to Chian turpentine

Found among the DRUGS in the Rate Books, rated by the POUND

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

Childbed basket

[childs baskett; childes baskett; childbed and other baskets; basketts for childbed linnen]

A BASKET, often QUILTED and lined with a fabric such as SATIN, in which to put equipment needed for looking after a baby. The basket seems to have had no definitive name and has been noted both as 'Child-bed-Baskets' [Tradecards (1750)] and as 'Childs Baskett' [Inventories (1712)]. QUILTED baskets listed with CHILDBED LINEN [Tradecards (18c.)] were evidently intended for the same purpose.

Not found in the OED

Found lined with DIMITY, SATIN

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

Childrens toy

[toyes for children; childrens toye; childen toy]

An object for children to play with, sometimes for mere amusement or possibly for exercise such as 'humming topps and other toyes' [Inventories (1671)], but more often with an educative purpose as 'Pleasing Toys for Infant Lectures [Tradecards (1794)]; [Kevill-Davies (1991)]. Others provided miniature examples of articles intended for adult use as '200 Toy porrengers att vs iiijd, 8 doz: & half toy sawcers att iiijs iijd [Inventories (1699)]. Given the prominent place of TEA drinking in adult social and cultural life, it is not surprising to find the accoutrement of this available in miniature form as '4 Doz'n Toy Cups & Saucers' [Inventories (1790)], and the toy TEA POTS, 'Yellow Tea Sets' and 'Blue and White ditto' advertised for sale in one retail shop [Tradecards (1794)].

One shop seems to have been the toy centre of the country, belying some people's idea that eighteenth-century children were bereft of the sort of amusements available to their modern counterparts. In a catalogue running to over a dozen pages S. Bettison listed a cornucopia of toys including play and baby houses, and the furniture for dolls houses; forms of miniature transport like carriages, carts, chaises, whiskeys etc.; tops, shows and kites; 'Noisy toys' like cuckoos, rattles and guns, and a range of board games [Tradecards (1794)]. Like many other retailers he also stocked dolls in variety, though they were usually called 'babies' and are discussed more fully under BABY.

Not found in the OED as such, but the concept goes back to a1586, see under Toy

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates, Tradecards.
References: Kevill-Davies (1991).

Chilli vinegar

[chilly vinegar]

A hot spiced VINEGAR. Burgess claimed that its alternative name was 'Cayenne Vinegar' [Tradecards (18c.)], but another London retailer listed both as if they were distinct [Tradecards (19c.)]. Given that both were made by packing vinegar with a variety of hot CAPSICUM pods, it was unlikely there was much difference.

OED earliest date of use: 1818

Found in units of BOTTLE, CASE

Sources: Tradecards.

Chimney toy

[toyes upon the chimney; chimney peice toyes; chimey peice and toyes]

The term has not been noted as such in the Dictionary Archive, nor has it been found in the OED, but the idea of TOYs on the chimney piece or mantlepiece was commonplace from the late-seventeenth century onwards. By this time the change over from a central down hearth to a chimneyed fireplace against or set into a wall was virtually complete, and the fire became at least as important a feature of a room as the DRESSER. The visual impact of the hearth was enhanced not only by decorative surrounds, but also by a CHIMNEY GLASS or CHIMNEY PIECE above and by ornaments on the mantleshelf, often arranged to produce a symmetrically pleasing effect [Thornton (1979)]. Illustrations and other sources suggest that typical chimney toys would have been a pair of CANDLESTICKs or SCONCEs, or CERAMIC ornaments such as those made of DELF WARE or (at the very top end of the market) Josiah Wedgwood's copies of the 'Portland Vase' [Wedgwood (1952)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Thornton (1979), Wedgwood (1952).

China mixture

Although this could at times refer to TEA from China, a more likely meaning is for a drink made from CHINA ROOT, the thick fleshy root of the shrubby climbing plant, Smilax china, akin to SARSPARILLA. It was supposed to possess great medicinal virtues.

OED earliest date of use: 1563

Sources: Diaries.

China oranges

[china lisbon and st michael oranges]

The sweet ORANGE of commerce, Citrus sinensis, originally brought from China. They were for sale in the eighteenth century, not only in London, but also in provincial towns like BIRMINGHAM, where competition was fierce to announce the earliest imports and the cheapest prices, for example [Newspapers (1743)]. A China orange was frequently taken as a typical object of trifling value, as they were sold in the streets individually for a penny or two, though they were also something offered as refreshment by the 'smart set'; for example, in 1666 Samuel Pepys made some guests 'welcome with wine and China oranges, now a great rarity since the war, none to be had' [Diaries (Pepys)]. The same quotation shows how the import of such products was affected by the international situation.

OED earliest date of use: 1665-6

Sources: Diaries, Newspapers.


[chints; chint; chink]

Originally chints, the term is the plural of chint, from a Hindi word stemming from terms meaning 'variegated'. Over time, the plural, being more frequent in commercial use, came to be mistaken for a singular and thus to be written chince, chinse, and at length chintz (the same process is evident in words like Coblentz and quartz). This error was not established before the third quarter of the eighteenth century, but editors and press-readers have intruduced it into re-editions of earlier works (Cf. the similar baize for bays).

A decorative INDIAN -TEXTILE made of COTTON and usually glazed, it is characterized by its pattern of flowing flowers and foliage. According to Milburn, chintzes were imported from Bombay and Surat in India and he included them in his list of INDIAN -PIECE GOODS [Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996)]. Originally it was a name for the PAINTED or STAINED - CALICO; hence the name PINTADO more commonly used for it in the seventeenth century. By the mid-seventeenth century, English manufacturers were successfully imitating the Indian method of printing the outline of the pattern using wooden blocks and then painting in the colours. Today the term is applied to COTTON CLOTH fast-printed with designs of flowers, etc. in a number of colours, generally not less than five, and usually glazed. The earlier chintzes had a dark red ground, but by the 1650s the East India Company ordered them with a white one which was more popular, even though shops were still offering chintz with dark or light grounds into the next century.

The East India Company led the way in shaping fashion; by 1662 they were sending out floral patterns suitable for gowns, and by 1669 branched designs for furnishings. In the 1680s they were ordering ready cut WAISTCOATs and COUNTERPANEs. The fashionable quality of chintz is reflected in the advertisements in which phrases like 'from London the best chintz patterns' and 'of the newest fashion' were used. Despite their fashionablity, chintzes were cheap; already by the 1670 they were being valued at as little as 14d per yard and probably cost no more than 18d or 20d.

The English manufacture of chintz expanded rapidly, particularly after the use of Indian chintzes was banned, first for apparel in 1700 and then for furnishings twenty years later. By the 1750s John Holker, the industrial spy, was reporting back to France that about a thousand bolts of chintz were sent to London by the Blackburn manufacturers each week for dying in the capital.

Chintzes required considerable maintenance and skilled workers offered their services for this purpose. One Midland firm, which claimed to have moved from London, offered to clean and calendar chintz gowns without first taking them to pieces [Newspapers (1790)]. More commonly cleaning and glazing were offered or changing the colour of the ground. For example, the new dyestuff NANKEEN was being advertised for this purpose in the 1790s [Newspapers (1790)].

The term 'chintz' has also been noted in one advertisement applied to EMBOSSED - PAPER HANGINGS [Newspapers (1760)].

OED earliest date of use: 1614

Found described as FLOWERED, GOTHIC, of newest fashion, INDIAN, NARROW, PRINTED, STRIPED Found describing CALICO Found used to make CURTAIN, FURNITURE, GOWN, HANGINGS, patch, QUILT, SHAWL

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Rates, Tradecards.
References: Kerridge (1985), 125, Lemire (1991), 13-4, 15, 84-5, Montgomery (1984), 200, Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996).


[chizel; chiswell; chistle; chissle; chissell; chissel; chisell]

A cutting tool of IRON or STEEL rather resembling a screw driver in appearance, but with a with the cutting edge at the working end at right angles to the axis. The blade is usually bevelled on one or both sides. Chisels are used for cutting WOOD, METAL, or STONE, and worked either by pressure or by blows from a MALLET or a HAMMER.

Apart from those given separate entries under their own headword, several sorts of chisel were listed occasionally. These include basting chisel [Inventories (1744)] and turning chisel, this second possibly for use with a LATHE, hence 'A Lathe 12d ffour turning Chisells 8d' [Inventories (1721)].

OED earliest date of use: 1382

Found described as BROAD, 'for joyners', SMALL Found made of IRON
Found in units of DOZEN Found rated by the DOZEN

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



BRAN (called in some localities 'sharps'); sometimes also applied to the coarsest FLOUR in which some of the BRAN is left; whole meal.

OED earliest date of use: 1607 under Chissel/chisel

Sources: Houghton.

Chitterling shirt

A SHIRT with a ruffled frill down the front, supposedly so called because this resembled chitterlings.

OED earliest date of use: 1568

Sources: Newspapers.


[joculet; jocolatte; chocoleta; chocolet; chocolatte; chocolat; chocalett; chocalet]

Chocolate was usually found in this period in the form of a paste or cake, which was made by roasting and grinding the seeds of the CACAO fruit (known also as COCOA NUT) together with sweeteners and other flavourings, particularly VANILLA (hence contemporary references to vanilla chocolate) or ALMOND. The cacao tree is native to the Amazon and Orinoco, and cacao beans were used to a make a prestigious (cold) drink for male social leaders. This was first commented on by Spanish explorers in Mexico around 1520. A later writer, John Chilton, noted that the native Americans 'grinde this grain to a powder, and mingle it with water, and so is made both bread and drink unto man, which is a provision of great profit and good strength', while John Houghton suggested that it was a prized as a medicine by inhabitants of the West Indies; mixed either with ANISEED, CHILLI, or INDIAN PEPPER, it was used to treat digestive disorders [Houghton].

While appreciating the nutritional value of chocolate, the beverage had to be modified to European taste; served hot with the addition of SUGAR, oriental SPICES, as well as vanilla or almonds [Brown (1995)]. By the middle of the seventeenth century this beverage was widely available in shops and drinking establishments, often specifically selling this beverage and known as chocolate houses. Chocolate was also available in COFFEE houses. Unlike TEA and coffee, chocolate escaped criticism about any harmful side-effects, and it was cheaper: in York in 1733, for instance, a DISH of Chocolate cost 3d, compared with 18d or 12d for a POT of tea or coffee, respectively [Brown (1995)].

The cost of chocolate in the late seventeenth century was lower in England than in some other European countries. Prices generally fell after Spain lost its monopoly on cacao as French, English and Dutch producers began cultivating it in their colonies. Two quite separate developments resulted from this increased availability. First, other uses were found for chocolate, as it was utilized as an ingredient of various CONFECTIONERY and COMFITs, for mainly wealthy consumers [Brown (1995)]. Secondly, it was subjected to stringent government control, partly to maximize the amount of revenue raised by Customs and Excise and partly to protect British chocolate makers from foreign rivals. In 1723 the importation of 'Chocolate ready made' was prohibited. Revenue was raised by the introduction of an inland duty of 1s. 6d. per LB of chocolate, compared to 2s. and 4s. per LB of duties for coffee and tea respectively, instituted by the same act [Acts (1723)]. The administration of this new taxation meant that 'every Druggist, Grocer, Chandler, Coffeehouse-keeper, Chocolatehouse-keeper, and all _ other Persons _ who _ shall become a Seller or Sellers, Dealer or Dealers in Coffee, Tea, Cocoa Nuts or Chocolate, either Wholesale or Retail, or Maker of Chocolate' were required to register the whereabouts of these aforementioned products. The market for prepared chocolate in particular was enhanced with the introduction of regulations on home-made chocolate. The amount of cacoa nuts in chocolate for private use was determined by this statute, at ½ CWT [Acts (1723)]. Therefore, after 1723 chocolate was legally imported in the form of a 'cake' made of cacao beans. This did not represent a distinct break with previous trading practices, as prepared chocolate was difficult to transport, being both liable to attract worms and succeptible to becoming tainted by ambient odours [Brown (1995)].

OED earliest date of use: 1604 as a beverage; 1659 as a paste or cake

Simone Clarke

Found described as good, MILK, NUT, SPANISH, VANILLA
Found rated by the CWT, LB

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (late), Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Brown (1995), .



Probably a variant of CHALK; given that the similar variant 'chawke' appears in the OED. It has been noted only once in the Dictionary Archive, where it was listed among other SALTERY goods.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (early).

Christmas box


The term 'Christmas box' is found in the Dictionary Archive with two different meanings. The first relates to the custom apparently prevalent in the Midlands in the eighteenth century of tradespeople giving gifts to their customers at Christmas, presumably as a gesture of goodwill and hopefully of cementing loyalty. In 1760 a series of advertisements announced the cessation of the custom of giving Christmas boxes by grocers and tea dealers to their customers in quite a wide area, for example [Newspapers (1760)]. Not only do the advertisements provide evidence of a well established custom, they also show that retailers were able and willing to combine together when it suited them. The second meaning is found in a single advertisement for 'Painted Christmas Boxes' [Tradecards (1794)]. This suggests that some goods were produced especially for the Christmas trade.

Not found in the OED in either sense precisely, not even for the first meaning, since usually the gifts were going the other way - from customer/master to tradesperson/servant

In the second sense: Found described as PAINTED

Sources: Newspapers, Tradecards.


A heavy perfume based on sandalwood, perhaps originally from Cyprus. It has been noted in the Dictionary Archive under the headings of PERFUMED WATERS, although the context indicates PERFUMED WATERS and perfumed POWDER [Tradecards (1790s)]. An OED quotation from a history of perfumery and dated 1975 refers to 'Poudre de Chypre', in which the main ingredients were a species of lichen called oakmoss, ROSE WATER, MUSK, CIVET and 'a little sandalwood' [OED, Oak moss].

OED online earliest date of use: 1898

Sources: Tradecards.