Colchester bays - Compound waters

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

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Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl, 'Colchester bays - Compound waters', Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007), British History Online [accessed 23 June 2024].

Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl. "Colchester bays - Compound waters", in Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007) . British History Online, accessed June 23, 2024,

Cox, Nancy. Dannehl, Karin. "Colchester bays - Compound waters", Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007). . British History Online. Web. 23 June 2024,

In this section

Colchester bays

[colchester bayze]

The making of fine quality BAYS was apparently introduced to Colchester in Essex by Dutch makers from Sandwich in Kent in about 1565. They were joined in the town by other immigrants who made a cloth of lower quality. Thus two distinctive fabrics with the same designation were made in the same town, as was the case with BARNSTABLE BAYS. A feature of the bays of the Sandwich type were that they dyed well in the piece and their manufacture was strictly regulated, with all pieces marked, unlike the coarser varieties, which remained unregulated [Acts (1660)]. Eric Kerridge gives a good account of bays making in Colchester, and the complicated nomenclature used in the trade [Kerridge (1985)], for instance, they were also known as 'short BAYS'.

OED earliest date of use: 1667

Found used to make CLOAK
Found in units of YARD

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Inventories (late).
References: Kerridge (1985).

Colchester oysters


The Essex town of Colchester has long been famous for its OYSTERs sometimes called Colchesters for short, or Colchester natives. Their production round Colchester and on the other side of the estuary at Whitstable, had long been well organized and regulated. For example, the Colchester fishery was granted a charter in 1189 while the 'Company of Free Fishers and Dredgers', an association of oyster fishermen from Whitstable, has a history stretching back into the middle ages [Mason and Brown (1999)]. John Houghton gave a detailed account of how the oysters were produced [Houghton]; [Houghton]. He added that 'a great many scores of vessels go yearly to the Isle of Wight, to fetch oysters to lay near Colchester' [Houghton].

The difficulties of transport are constantly emphasized by historians, yet the mechanisms of trade were sufficiently developed to allow OYSTERS that were grown and harvested around Colchester to be traded widely, and usually via the London market of Billingsgate in much of England. They were widely known and bought in large numbers by some; for example both Samuel Pepys and Elizabeth Purefoy ordered them by the BARREL [Diaries (Pepys)]; [Eland (1931)]. Foreign visitors like Saussure and Lichtenburg commented on their quality; the former in 1727 calling them 'delicious, and appreciated even as far as Paris, to which town numbers are exported' [Diaries (Saussure)], while the latter in 1770 wrote their 'shell is thin and scarcely half as large as those which we know at home; but the oyster fills up the whole of it and is larger than the common oyster' [Diaries (Lichtenberg)].

Colchester oysters were advertised in the late-eighteenth century, usually by dealers based in London. For example, Richard Ryder, who claimed not to buy through Billingsgate, but presumably direct from the fisheries, offered to deliver free within a mile of his business in Cheapside, as well as 'Country Orders duly executed.' He also branded his name, Ryder, 'on the Top of each Barrel' [Newspapers (1780)]. John Sayers of Covent Garden also delivered barreled oysters to any 'Part of Town or Country in the Highest Perfection' [Tradecards (1791)]. More detail comes from the advertisement of George Frank of Leicester who advertised in the Leicester and Nottingham Journal in 1760 that he 'sold, Right Colchester Oysters, fresh from London every Tuesday and Thursday evenings' [Newspapers (1760)].

OED earliest date of use: 1625 as Colchesters

Found in unit of BARREL

Sources: Diaries, Newspapers, Tradecards.
References: Mason and Brown (1999).


[colcoth vitriol]

The brownish red peroxide of IRON, which remains in the retort after the distillation of OIL OF VITRIOL from GREEN VITRIOL. It was used in medicine and, in a finely powdered form, by jewellers, under the name of ROUGE; also called CROCUS MARTIS.

OED earliest date of use: 1605

Sources: Tradecards.


[cole seed]

A VEGETABLE, originally the name of any plant of the CABBAGE kind, genus Brassica, of which the varieties were less distinct than they are now. The term was applied later especially to those varieties that do not heart like BORECOLE and to cabbages before they have hearted. The seed of at least three varieties was available in the eighteenth century, Common colewort, Scotch colewort (probably a form of Kale), and Sea colewort 'an alternative name for seakale' [Tradecards (n.d.)].

OED earliest date of use: c1380

As seed: Found described as common, Scotch, sea
Found rated by the QUARTER

See also COLESEED.
Sources: Diaries, Rates, Tradecards.



The dark or amber-coloured ROSIN obtained by distilling TURPENTINE with water. Its Latin form 'colophonia' indicates its use in medicine, for example by Paracelsus as an ingredient of OPOLDELDOC. It was sometimes known as Greek pitch (Pix graeca).

OED earliest date of use: 1398

Found in the 1784 Rate Book, rated by the HUNDREDWEIGHT

Sources: Houghton, Rates.


[coultfoot; coltsfoote; colts-foot; colts fot; colts foote; colts foot; coltes foote; coltes foot]

The common name of Tussilago farfara, a common weed of waste ground used medicinally in an ESSENCE or a SYRUP. It name 'Tussilago' from the Latin term 'tussis' for a cough indicates its main use, for complaints of the lungs, a use in sympathetic medicine supported by a slight similarity between the shape of its leaf and of a lung [Mabey (1996)]. Its leaves were sometimes smoked for the same purpose, a practice recommended by Gerard who wrote 'Being taken in manner as they take Tobacco, it mightily prevaileth against ... those that are troubled with the shortnesse of breath' [Gerard (1597, 1985 ed.)]. It remained a popular remedy throughout the period being found in seventeenth-century probate inventories as well as eighteenth-century advertisements such as the one for 'Pectoral Essence of Coltsfoot' 'For Coughs, Consumption &c' [Newspapers (1790)].

OED earliest date of use: 1552

Found as an ingredient in SNAIL WATER
Found in units of BOTTLE, LB, OZ

Sources: Diaries, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Newspapers, Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Gerard (1597, modern ed. 1985), Mabey (1996).

Coltsfoot water

[coltes foote water]

A DISTILLED water made from the leaves of COLTSFOOT, 'simply or with elder flowers and night shade', it was believed by Nicholas Culpeper to be 'a singular good remedy against all hot agues' [Culpeper (1792)]. Like either forms in which coltsfoot was applied, this water was also probably used to relieve coughs. An OED quotation dated 1625 suggests that it was also a pleasurable alcoholic drink, 'Our moderne Kick Which has been mightily in use of late Since our young men drank Coltsfoot'.

Not found in the OED online as such but see the quotation dated 1625

Sources: Inventories (early).
References: Culpeper (1792).


[coombe; coomb; come; combe]

The comb was a TOOL that played a role in three important areas of human activity and culture; hair dressing, the care of the horse, and the preparation of WOOL for spinning with a WOOL COMB, not to mention several minor meanings such a HONEY COMB and the vessel and measure of capacity usually spelt COOMB. Context will almost invariably indicate what type of comb is being referred to.

As a tool designed to order a head of hair or to act as an ornament therein, the comb had an iconic status that is reflected in the number of types available in the early modern period, and their widespread availability both in the shops and in the packs of travelling sales people. There are almost 30 varieties of comb concerned with personal adornment in the Dictionary Archive, while Randle Holme described at least another six; the 'Wiske combe', which has 'teeth one side, and are wide and slender'; the 'Back tooth comb, hauing teeth but on one side'; the 'Beard comb', which was 'a small sort of comb, almost 4 square', the 'Merkin comb', the 'Peruwick comb, haueing round open and strong teeth', and the 'Cocus combs, made of cocus wood' [Holme (2000)]; [Holme (2000)]. Very likely there were others more.

The making of combs was highly skilled, involving a number of stages, which are described briefly under HORN COMB. It also required specialist TOOLs. According to the 'old method' described by Tomlinson in the 1850s, the comb-maker started with a so-called plate like the HORN PLATE or the BOX PIECE, and used a double SAW called a 'stadda' to create the gaps between the teeth. The first saw cut the full depth, while the second made little more than a notch to position the next gap. The saw was then moved to deepen the second gap and begin the third. The two saws were kept apart by a strip of metal called a 'languid' of the thickness required. By this relatively simple method, combs could be sawed with as many as 45 teeth to the INCH. The gaps were then filed out with a tin wedge-shaped FILE called a 'float', of which there were several sizes and shapes, each with its own name; 'graille', 'found', 'carlet', and 'topper'. A type of coarse rasp was also used called a 'quannet', which was placed on the knee as a support. Most of the terms are corruptions from the French since the art of comb-cutting was 'almost entirely derived from the French' [Tomlinson (1854)]. The amount of labour notwithstanding, the process could produce a WOODEN COMB that could sell for less than one penny. It is hardly surprising that inventors applied themselves to mechanizing the process, and some took out patents, for example [Patents (1799)].

A comb was often protected by a COMB CASE. The Books of Rates record an extensive scale of rates for them, for example [Rates (1660)], and they are found often offered for sale together, for example [Tradecards (1794)]. Combs, whether cased or not, made attractive FAVOURs at prices to suit all purses. In the 1660s, for example, Samuel Pepys bought two combs for his wife to give to servants [Diaries (Pepys)].

OED earliest date of use in this sense: -700

The correct management of the appearance of the HORSE, was almost as important to early-modern society as that of the human head, and a comb in its various manifestations was the vital tool. Six types have been noted in the Dictionary Archive of which the most important were the CURRY COMB and the MANE COMB. The former had its own methods of construction, but the latter was made in the same way as one for dressing human hair and was made from some of the same materials like BOX.

Found described by BIRMINGHAM GOODS, COMMON, FRENCH, LARGE, LITTLE, long teethed, 'of horne for Barbers', OLD, ORDINARY, SMALL

Sources: Diaries, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Rates, Tradecards.
References: Holme (2000), Tomlinson (1854).

Comb box

[combox; combe boxe; combe box; comb boxe; boxes for combes]

A BOX for keeping COMBs in with other items of TOILETRY. One of the few references to comb boxes was to some made of OLIVE wood [Inventories (1671)], which suggests an alternative name may have been a NAVERN BOX, from Navarre where olive trees grow. Another reference, to '1 Chest of Drawers 2 glasses 1 Comb box' [Inventories (1694)], suggests that it was both big enough and decorative enough for display, and that it was probably similar in function and design to a TOILET BOX.

OED online earliest date of use: 1677 as combox under Comb

Found described as EMPTY

See also COMB CASE.
Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).

Comb brush

[combrushe; combrush; combe bruss; combe brushe; combe brush; comb brush; comb and tooth brushes; comb and lathering brushes; comb and hair brushes]

This term was applied to a HAIR BRUSH with bristles of irregular length. These were able to penetrate the hair more completely than one where all the bristles were the same [Cox (1966, pb 1969)]. According to Randle Holme comb brushes were made of 'bristles and horse haire' [Holme (2000)], in which the soft and the hard would have produced much the same effect as different length bristles, while the Book of Rates of 1660 included 'Brushes ... of Haire vocat. combrushes' [Rates (1660)]. To add to the uncertainty, the term was also applied to a brush designed to clean COMBs and it may be difficult to decide which was intended in a given case.

OED earliest date of use: 1611

Found described by BONE, of HAIR, HARD WOOD, IVORY, SILVER
Found in units of DOZEN Found rated by the GROSS of 12 DOZEN

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Rates, Tradecards.
References: Cox (1966, pb 1989), Holme (2000).

Comb pot

The comb pot was part of the equipment of a wool comber, whose job it was to comb out the raw WOOL to produce COMBED WOOL. Before this could be done, the wool needed to be oiled and the WOOL COMBs gently heated in the comb pot. According to the OED, this was a small CHARCOAL-fired STOVE rather than a conventional pot; a definition supported by the entry in Randle Holme's list of 'Terms used by a Jersey-Comber', in which he included 'Ordering the Fire, is to make a Fire of Charcoal to heat the Combs teeth' and 'Heating the Combs Teeth, is to put a gentle heat into the teeth' [Holme (2000)].

An advertisement of the stock in trade of a wool comber in the 1790 included OIL JARs, OIL KETTLEs and comb pots [Newspapers (1790)]. As the processes of wool manufacture were increasingly mechanized, the use of the wool pot also attracted inventors, for instance with a proposed 'circular revolving comb-pot to heat the combs used in the combing of wool' [Patents (1797)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1888

Sources: Newspapers, Patents.
References: Holme (2000).

Combed wool

[wool comb'd; combd wooll]

Long WOOL otherwise known as COMBING WOOL, prepared by combing for spinning into JERSEY and WORSTED YARN. Once combed it was, according to Randle Holme, weighed out into pounds or half pounds and rolled up into hanks or balls [Holme (2000)]. In order to encourage the manufacture of worsteds and similar TEXTILES, IRISH - COMBED WOOL was allowed to enter free of rates [Rates (1660)].

Not found in the OED

Found described by IRISH, WHITE Found in units of LB

Sources: Acts, Inventories (mid-period), Rates.
References: Holme (2000).

Combing wool

[comb wooll]

Long WOOL suitable for combing and spinning into WORSTED, it is possibly at times the same as COMBED WOOL.

OED earliest date of use: 1757

Found in units of PACK

See also COMBINGS.
Sources: Acts, Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).


Mixed and matted HAIR combed from the head when women's hair was worn long. It had to be disentangled and cleaned before using in hair work; hence entries like, 'Grey hair and Combings' [Inventories (1750)]. Women often collected their own combings for the wig maker to make a personalized hair piece; other sold them to hair dressers who cleaned them up and sold them on to wig makers [Cox (1966, pb 1969)]. Combings have also been noted of WOOL, as in '7 stone ½ of Coomings of wool at 11 06 p stone' [Inventories (1685)]. Probably this was an alternative phrase denoting either COMBED WOOL or COMBING WOOL.

OED online earliest date of use: 1656 under Combing

Found in units of STONE

Sources: Inventories (late).
References: Cox (1966, pb 1989).


This TEXTILE has not been noted in the dictionaries, nor in the authorities on textiles, and the term was not included in the list of INDIAN - PIECE GOODS compiled by Milburn in 1813 [Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996)]. The only record of it found in the Dictionary Archive is an act of 1700, in which it was defined as MUSLIN [Acts (1700)].

Not found in the OED

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


[cowmfect; confet; comphit; comfort; comfitt; comffitte; comffett; comfette; comfett; comfet; co'fet]

A small SWEETMEAT consisting of hard core made from some FRUIT, ROOT, SEED, etc., typically a CARAWAY SEED or an ALMOND, surrounded and preserved by a coating of SUGAR. The mode of manufacture employed in the late nineteenth century was to place the core material in a heated container with a good SUGAR - SYRUP. The mixture was constantly agitated or revolved while the syrup dried, leaving the cores coated with sugar. The comfits were then fully dried off [Simmonds (1906)]. In principle, if not in scale, the methods employed in the early-modern period were probably similar for at least some types of comfit. According to Randle Holme 'Comfits, are round, long or square pellets of Sugar made by the Art of a Confectioner' [Holme (2000)]. Elsewhere under 'Medical terms', he noted that 'Confecta, Comfectures, Comfits' were 'Seeds covered over or crusted with dry Sugar' [Holme (2000)]. CARAWAY seeds were especially popular [Hess (1981)].

In the Dictionary Archive comfits are mostly to be found among other medicinal products. One retailer had five sorts, including 'muske comffetts' and 'colliandor comfetts' [Inventories (1573)], another had no less than 56 LB of 'Comfetts sundry sorts' [Inventories (1624)].

OED earliest date of use: 1334/5

Simone Clarke

Found in units of BOX, LB, OZ, POUND
As CONFECTIONERY: Found rated by the POUND

Sources: Diaries, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates, Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Hess (1981), Holme (2000), Simmonds (1906).

Common bole

An English synonym for BOLUS COMMUNIS and BOLE ARMENIAC

Not found in the OED

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

Common mustard

[common ditto]

The precise meaning of this term is not clear, but it probably referred either to BROWN MUSTARD on its own, which Vilmorin-Andrieux called 'the mustard of commerce, or grocer's mustard' [Vilmorin-Andrieux (1885 Eng. ed.)], or a mixture of the brown with WHITE MUSTARD as commonly used, which produced a better product.

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Vilmorin-Andrieux (1885 Eng. ed.).

Common sulphur

[sulphur com; sulph com]

Both examples found in the shops in the Dictionary Archive were probably what was called elsewhere ROLL BRIMSTONE. Today this is usually referred to as roll sulphur. However, a recipe to make VERMILION started with the instruction to 'Take 4 ounces of common Sulphur in pouder' [Recipes (Save Wealth)]. This could not have been roll sulphur, which was not a powder, and must have meant either FLOWERS OF SULPHUR, the more probable type here, or SULPHURUM VIVUM.

Not found in the OED

Found used to make VERMILLION
Found in units of LB, OZ

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

Common turpentine

[com'en turpentine]

According to Quincy, common turpentine was extracted from the LARCH [Quincy (1718)], and so may well have been a synonym for VENICE TURPENTINE although the rather later Davies stated that it came from Pinus sylvestris (Scotch pine) [Davies (1831)].

Not found in the OED

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

Sources: Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Recipes.
References: Davies (1831), Quincy (1718).

Common vinegar

[common do]

In most circumstances 'common vinegar' probably referred to a VINEGAR made from MALT, the most common raw material. The term did, however, have other meanings. According to John Farley, common VINEGAR was made from SUGAR (he used coarsest LISBON SUGAR) made to work by placing it in boiled water with a slice of bread spread with YEAST [Farley (1792)]. He seems to have lifted this recipe without acknowledgement, from Hannah Glasse, though she did not use the descriptor 'Common' [Glasse (1747, facs. 1983)].

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Farley (1792), Glasse (1747, facs. 1983).

Compound powder

[compounde powders]

A powder used medicinally or for TOILETRY, made of more than one ingredient

Not found in the OED

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

Compound waters

[waters both simple & comp:; co'pound waters; compounded waters; compound and simple waters; comp'd wat'rs; comp waters]

Distilled alcoholic liquors, including AQUA VITAE and GIN, as well as those like RUM distilled from MOLASSES or SUGAR. It was these compound or doubly distilled waters that were immensely popular in the eighteenth century, leading to such advertisements as that of a distiller, who moved 'from Bristol' to the Shropshire town of Bridgnorth to sell compound waters 'as good and cheap as in London or Bristoll.' [Newspapers (1742)]. The wave of over-consumption also led to outcries and claims that Britain was experiencing what was called by one 'the highest calamity there are before a nation', as quoted in [Dillon (2002, pb 2003)].

In medicine the term was used to refer to those WATERS (in Latin called AQUA COMPOSITA, in the plural aquae compositae) that had a large number of ingredients. In the mid-eighteenth century, when there were still over 50 compound waters in the Pharmacopoeia, a committee of the College of Physicians recommended a substantial reduction, retaining only those that could act as 'vehicles to more efficacious medicines' and which were 'as agreeable as possible'. With this in mind they recommended only simple versions of CINNAMON WATER, CARAWAY WATER, CARDAMON WATER and one based on NUTMEG, with no extra ingredients [Pemberton (1746)].

OED earliest date of use: 1689

Found described by BRITISH, ENGLISH Found in units of GALLON, LB, QUART

Sources: Acts, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers.
References: Dillon (2002, pb 2003), Pemberton (1746).