Coach harness - Cods 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, 'Coach harness - Cods head', Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007), British History Online [accessed 12 June 2024].

Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl. "Coach harness - Cods head", in Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007) . British History Online, accessed June 12, 2024,

Cox, Nancy. Dannehl, Karin. "Coach harness - Cods head", Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007). . British History Online. Web. 12 June 2024,

In this section

Coach harness

[coach harnish]

The GEARS or HARNESS required for a horse pulling a COACH or CARRIAGE. An entry in the Books of Rates suggests that the term did not always include the BRIDLE, as 'Coach harness the pair, with bridles' [Rates (1660)]. In most cases found in the Dictionary Archive, the word 'coach' is widely separated from 'harness', as in a Coach 2 old horses & harnesse [Inventories (1671)] and 'ix good able Coach Geldings, with compleat Harness' [Newspapers (1743)]. In essence, coach harness was similar to CART HARNESS, but more decorative.

OED earliest date of use: 1703

Found rated by the PAIR

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

Coach trumpet


The Index of Patents, the only document in which this term has been noted, gives no detail for the coach trumpet or the CARRIAGE TRUMPET [Patents (1789)]. It was probably a form of SPEAKING TRUMPET that allowed the passenger to speak to the driver or attendants.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Patents.

Coal scuttle

A receptacle for holding a supply of COAL for a fire; also known as a coal-box, or a coal-scoop. They do not appear until the late-eighteenth century, when they were probably preferred in rooms of display to the leass attractive COAL TUB. Coal scuttles were therefore sometimes, but not always, decorative, hence '1 Copper Coal scuttle, 1 Iron Do' [Inventories (1780)], and even miniature ones were on offer [Tradecards (1794)].

OED earliest date of use: 1771 under Coal scuttle

Found made of COPPER, IRON

Sources: Inventories (late), Tradecards.

Coal trough

[coletrouhe; cole troughe; cole trough]

A TROUGH in which to keep COAL, a practice according to the Dictionary Archive confined to metal workers.

OED online earliest date of use: 1594 under Coal

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (late).

Coal tub

[tubb coales; coal-tub; coal tubb]

The only references to coal tubs in the OED indicate that they were used in the nineteenth century to transport COAL at the mine. This was not how the term is found used in the Dictionary Archive. Here a coal TUB seems to have been an alternative name for a COAL SCUTTLE in domestic quarters, where it has been noted only [Inventories (1723)], or in a brew house [Inventories (1712)].

Not found in the OED in this sense

Found described as IRON hooped

Sources: Inventories (late), Tradecards.


One of the chemical elements, a metal of a greyish colour inclining to red, brittle, slightly magnetic and in many respects resembling nickle, it is not found native but is extracted from various ores, most of them contaminated with ARSENIC and SULPHUR. Much of the European ores were mined in SAXONY. The presence of arsenic made their working dangerous and gave rise to legends about the goblins who supposedly inhabited the mines [Harley (1970)]. Cobalt blue, the blue pigment prepared from this mineral was not used as such in this period, but roasted cobalt called zaffre, (i.e. impure coblat arsenate) was fused with SAND and POTASH, or better PEARL ASH, to give a beautiful blue GLASS called SMALT. This blue, at first believed to be due to the ARSENIC, was shown by Brandt in 1735 to come from a new metal. Like many other metals, Cobalt was believed to have medicinal value [Acts (1781)]. A solution of cobalt chloride gives an almost invisible INK, introduced in 1705, which becomes blue on warming, but disappears on standing in moist air [Partington (1953)].

OED earliest date of use: 1683

Sources: Acts.
References: Harley (1970), Partington (1953).

Cobweb lawn


A TEXTILE in the form of a very fine transparent LAWN. In [Inventories (1643)], the inventory of a mercer in Worcester, cobweb lawn was listed under HABERDASHERY, rather than under LINEN DRAPERY as other lawns were. [Kerridge (1985)] refers to cobweb lawn made of SILK, the manufacture of which was introduced to this country in 1618. Possibly this offers an explanation for its positioning. Cobweb lawn was used largely for making up small items of APPAREL such as HANDKERCHIEFs and CUFFs.

OED earliest date of use: 1603

Found in units of YARD Found rated by the YARD

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

Cocculus indicus

[coculus indiae]

The commercial name of the dried berries of Anamirta (formerly Menispermium) cocculus, a climbing plant found in Malabar and Ceylon. The berry is a violent poison. It has been used to stupefy fish and to increase the intoxicating power of BEER and PORTER. Also known as Natsjatam and Battavalli, though not in the Dictionary Archive. It is likely that 'cocculus orientalis' [Inventories (1665)] is a synonym, and likewise the various versions of 'Oculus indi'.

OED earliest date of use: 1591

Found in units of LB, OZ Found among the DRUGS, rated by the POUND

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


[cochinele; cochineel; cocheneli; cocheneel; cocheneale; cocheneal; cochaneale; chocheneale]

Cochineal was the name given to the dried bodies of a the female insect Coccus cacti, found among particular cactus plants of the prickly pear or Opuntia family. Cochineal was found among DYERS GOODS, owing to the colouring quality of the active ingredient, carminic acid. When mordanted with TIN, it produced a brilliant SCARLET, but was also used to produce other IN GRAIN colours like purple.

Found during the age of discovery and brought over to Europe from the New World, cochineal soon superseded ALKERMES asthe most important red dye, used for example, in the preparation of WOOL, LINEN and CALICO. The appeal of cochineal was long standing compared with other natural dyes. It was used well after the manufacture of synthetic dyes, since they could not produce quite the brilliance of cochineal. For this reason it was used for dyeing TEXTILEs well into the nineteenth century. What also set cochineal apart was that it was the least harmful when ingested. It was therefore, widely used as a food colourant; for example, it was listed in a recipe for DAFFYS ELIXIR and was used to make cosmetics and TOILETRY. Although the climate of most of Europe was not suitable for the cactus, demand for cochineal encouraged cultivation in suitable areas such as the Canary Islands.

OED earliest date of use: 1586

Simone Clarke

Found described as FOREIGN
Found among unrated DRUGS in 1704 as a DYESTUFF Found rated by the POUND, SERON

Sources: Acts, Houghton, Inventories (mid-period), Newspapers, Rates, Recipes.
References: Ponting (1980), 42-5.

Cockle shell

Specifically the shells of the COCKLE, but in the early-modern period probably sea shells generally. They were burnt and used as a fertilizer as shell LIME, and according to Houghton to sprinkle over a protective layer of PITCH or TAR, used to cover buildings vulnerable to exposure. [Patents (1744)] proposed using them crushed in a recipe for making lime stucco, presumably for a similar purpose. Cockle shells were seen as decorative, particularly in the garden. The nursery rhyme 'Mary, Mary' refers to a garden with 'Silver bells and cockle shells, and pretty maids all in a row' indicating how they may have been used.

OED earliest date of use: c1420 without reference to their usage, 1793 as Shell lime

Found described as POWDERED

Sources: Houghton, Patents.

Cocoa tea

[coker tea]

Not a conventional TEA, since one example in the Dictionary Archive was valued at a mere 8d per LB, and another priced at only 10d. It was possibly a product that could be used to make the cocoa tea that is now a local speciality in the WEST INDIES based on COCOA. This suggestion is supported by an entry where cocoa tea followed CHOCOLATE priced at 3s 6d [Newspapers (1750)]. A more likely possibility is suggested by a quotation dated 1855 in the OED describing a drink prepared from the husks of the cocoa bean. This would account for the low price noted in the Dictionary Archive.

OED earliest date of use: 1855 under Cocoa

Found in units of POUND

Sources: Inventories (late), Newspapers.



Well known sea FISH, Gadus morrhua and other related species, generally inhabiting the north Atlantic though some species occur in the Mediterranean. When found in trade and not otherwise described, probably preserved in BRINE rather than dried or dry SALTED, but an act in 1760 shows that it was also sold fresh, and 'half fresh', though it is not clear what this means [Acts (1760)]. Cod was generally marketed by the HUNDRED or BARREL. However, the writer and colonial traveller John Josselyn (1673), in a discussion of provisions, noted that fish, particularly cod and HABERDINE, were sold by the Kental (QUINTAL), a weight equal to 112 POUND [Diaries (Josselyn)]. Imported cod and LING under the terms of one act in the 1560s were only accepted if packaged 'IN BULK or by the tale', to prevent 'much deceitfull Packing' [Acts (1562)].

Cod was a staple food during the early modern period [Davidson (1980)]. It was often stewed with other ingredients, such as OYSTER, WHITE WINE and seasoned with MACE, SALT and PEPPER [Smith (1758, facs. 1994)] and [Glasse (1747, facs. 1983)], boiled in salt water 'To Crimp' [Glasse (1747, facs. 1983)] or used to make a RAGOUT [Nott (1726, facs. 1980)]. None of the fish was wasted. There are numerous recipes for the preparation of CODS HEAD, cods SOUND and cod tails. The cookery writer, John Nott, for instance, devoted two recipes to cod tail: fried and served with PEPPER, ORANGE juice and cod meat, or dressed and stuffed with fish meat or HERBs, BREAD crumbs and BUTTER, served with a ragout [Nott (1726, facs. 1980)].

The fish market generally, and in particular the cod fishery, had grown as a result of prohibitions made by the Medieval Catholic Church on the consumption of MEAT during fast days. For nearly half of the year when meat was forbidden, fish was an acceptable alternative [Cell (1969)]. Cod was so important to the Christian diet that it became a religious symbol of 'Christian observance' [Kurlansky (1999)]. Cod was the preferred fish because it kept longer and tasted better than other salted or dried fish [Kurlansky (1999)]. More importantly, on the supply side, it was relatively easy to catch as it inhabits shallow waters, and during the spawning season it migrates to even shallower coastal waters [Kurlansky (1999)].

Iceland was an important British fishery until the end of the fifteenth century when fierce competition emerged and when Finland introduced restrictions. From the 1570s alternative fishing grounds were sought and identified off the north American coast in Newfoundland [Cell (1969)]. The Newfoundland cod trade was largely responsible for the development of ports in the West Country such as Bristol and Plymouth. Newfoundland cod were re-shipped to European markets and to inland supply centres. As Cell notes: 'Bristol and Barnstaple regularly despatched small quantities to Gloucester, Wales and Chester, while the ports on the south coast supplied Sussex, Kent and London. Plymouth and Dartmouth appear to have been most active in this coasting trade, as befitted their predominant position in the industry as a whole, and London was their main market' [Cell (1969)].

Large amounts of GREEN FISH as well as STOCKFISH were caught during the winter months, but the supply of British-caught cod during the summer months was hampered by a shortage of SALT for preservation. Whilst cod that were cleaned and salted were sold as WET FISH, alternative curing techniques were being introduced to economise on salt, including PICKLING in brine. STOCK FISH and dried and lightly salted cod were popular, particular in Mediterranean and Caribbean markets [Kurlansky (1999)], but drying in the open air could take up to three months [Cell (1969)]. To supplement the British fishery other summer dried cod from the 'Great Banks' were marketed such as POOR JOHN and HABERDINE.

The relatively plentiful supplies of salt enjoyed by competitors such as the French, Spanish and Portuguese, disadvantaged British fisheries throughout the period. So important was the cod trade and the necessary supply of salt that the dislocation in the supply of Portuguese salt to British fisheries by Spanish intervention in 1581, resulted in the hostilities between Spain and Britain in 1585 [Kurlansky (1999)]. Competition for fishing grounds in Newfoundland and for supplies of salt were a continual challenge throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and were addressed in a series of legislative measures introduced by the British government. For example, it was noted in one act that 'Fishing for Cod in the North Seas, and at Iseland, gives great employment.' For this reason it was decided to suspend export duties on SALT needed by British fishermen to preserve the cod for transportation to markets. Under this act, imports of British cod had their tails cropped to identify them from fish imported by foreign competitors [Acts (1713)]. The problem of foreign imports flooding the market was well established. Writing in 1702, John Houghton noted the large amounts of cod sold in British markets by foreign suppliers. For example, he documented the importation in 1694-5 of 100,000 from Lapland, 5,000 from Holland, and 26,900 fish from Russia. This was 'nothing to what in times of peace we import', he wrote, 'besides what we catch in our own seas, and upon the bank, and some places nearer Newfoundland; which we carry directly to Portugual, Spain, and several other places in the Streights or Mediterranean' [Houghton]. Anxieties deepened in the 1710s with the treat of foreign fishermen pilfering British fisheries to supply British consumers, hence the enactment 'for the better preventing fresh Fish taken by Foreigners being imported' [Acts (1714)]. The home market was enhanced by an act that lowered the cost of British fish to provide 'a cheap and wholesome Article of Food for the Support of the Poor', by suspending duties on 'HERRING, Cod, LING and SALMON, or other White Fish' caught and cured by British subjects for home consumption' [Acts (1786)].

An unrelated meaning for the word cod is the inguinal sac (formerly believed to be the scrotum) of the BEAVER, the source of CASTOREUM. Beaver Cods are found among the DRUGS in the Books of Rate, rated by the POUND.

Simone Clarke

Found described as BARREL, DRIED, great, large, SALTED, stewed Found describing sounds, OIL Found used to make RAGOUT

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Rates.
References: Cell (1969), Davidson (1980), Glasse (1747, 1983 ed.), Kurlansky (1999), Nott (1726, 1980 ed.), Smith (1758, 1994 ed.), Toussaint-Samat (1987), 321.

Cod fish

[cod-fish; codfish]


Found described as DRIED, FRESH, large, North Sea, SALTED, WET
Found rated by the BARREL, HUNDRED, LAST

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Newspapers, Rates.


[quodling; codlin]

A young or small fish. In early cookery books it often treated as a distinct FISH, perhaps denoting a species of a smaller size than COD. Later this term appears to have been used to describe a young cod. For instance, the seventeenth-century writer, Randle Holme, noted 'How several sorts of Fish are named, according to their Age or Growth ... A Codd, first a WHITING, then a Codling, then a Codd' [Holme (1688)]. Similarly a statute of 1714 [Acts (1714)] defined codlings according to size, when it outlawed their sale under the length of 12 INCH. They were boiled and served with an EGG SAUCE in one recipe by Elizabeth Raffald [Raffald (1769, new ed. 1977)].

The term also refers to a variety of hard, green APPLE, popularly used as an ingredient for TARTs and PIEs. There is some controversy concerning the origins of codlings and the related etymology as to whether the term derived from the Middle English word meaning 'hard', or from the Norman French word 'caudler', meaning to heat gently. The latter term was absorbed into the English language as 'coddling', meaning to boil gently. Given that this variety of apple was not suitable for eating raw and therefore required cooking prior to consumption, the term codling came to be used as a generic label for 'immature or windfall apples' [Washington (1749-99, 1981 ed.)].

OED earliest date of use: 1314 as a FISH; c1440 as an APPLE

Simone Clarke

As an APPLE Found describing TART Found in units of HUNDRED
As a FISH Found in units of LB

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Recipes.
References: Raffald (1769, 1997 ed.), Washington (1749-99, 1981 ed.).

Cods head

[codshed; cods-head]

The head of a COD. Since the cod caught in the early modern period, was larger than those of today, the head made a substantial dish. According to Mark Kurlansky, the head is 'more flavourful than the body, especially the throat, called a tongue, and the small disks of flesh on either side, called cheeks' [Kurlansky (1999)]. Cods heads were used more extensively in cookery in the past than is common now. As well as being used in soup, they were also baked, boiled and roasted. In 1702 John Houghton wrote an article on cod and noted that cods heads had become a fashionable delicacy. With an air of condescension he wrote that: 'A cod's-head is a celebrated dish amongst our greatest gluttons, and an ornament at the tables of our greatest men, altho' they were more valued when they were much dearer than now' [Houghton]. By the time John Nott's culinary writings were published in 1726, they were being elaborately prepared by hanging, then boiling in WATER with PEPPER, MACE, HERBS and ONION. After cooking the head was pricked to release any juices This was then served with either horseradish or with a sauce made from WHITE WINE, ANCHOVY, pepper, mace, NUTMEG, onion, lemon, CODs liver, LOBSTER, OSYER and SHRIMP [Nott (1726, facs. 1980)].

OED earliest date of use: 1607

Simone Clarke

Found rated by the BARREL, LAST of 12 BARREL

Sources: Houghton, Rates.
References: Kurlansky (1999), Nott (1726, facs. 1980).