Crab - Crest tile

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

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

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

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

In this section


[crabbe; crabb]

A term that had a variety of meanings that do not all appear to be closely connected. It was most commonly applied to what is now more usually called the crab apple, Malus pumila, which is the parent species of the cultivated APPLE. It is a variable species with at least two varieties, the northern Malus sylvestris and the southern European Malus mitis, and produces plentiful fertile seed. Selection was therefore easy [Masefield et al (1969)]. Crab apples are sour, harsh, tart, and astringent. They were mainly used to make CRAB VERJUICE and CRAB VINEGAR, while the tree itself served as the stock on which to graft cultivated varieties. Crab trees do not seem to have been grown for their decorative qualities during the early-modern period.

OED earliest date of use in this sense: c420

Crab was also the common name for various decapod crustaceous species, many of which are found in British waters. Most are usually edible. Since crabs survive out of water for longish periods, they are found for sale well inland. For example, one Birmingham fishmonger advertised 'all Sorts of Fresh Water and Sea Fish, Lobsters, Crabs and all Sorts of Oysters' [Newspapers (1770)], while a Shrewsbury up-market retailer selling mainly grocer was selling crabs and lobsters in 1750 [Tradecards (1750)]. An act of 1761, that regulated the units allowed at Billingsgate, the London FISH market, laid down that crabs were sold in lots of ten if large, and 20 if small [Acts (1761)]. Some parts of the crab were also used medicinally as CRABS CLAW and CRABS EYE.

OED earliest date of use in this sense: c1000

The crab as a mechanical device was less common in the Dictionary Archive, but a patent dated 1797 was for a 'Cog-wheel, crab, or capstan, with gear to work ships' pumps, engines' [Patents (1797)].

OED earliest date of use broadly in this sense: 1627

A final use of the term in the Dictionary Archive, popular in the North, is to describe an iron TRIVET to set over a fire, probably attached to a GRATE, as in 'an Iron grate a Crabbe two fyre shovells' [Inventories (1635)].

As crab apple: Found used to make CRAB VERJUICE

Sources: Diaries, Inventories (early), Newspapers, Patents, Tradecards.
References: Masefield et al. (1969).

Crab mill

[crabmyll; crabe myll]

A MILL in which CRABs were crushed in order to make CRAB VERJUICE [Wright (1898-1905)]. Crabs were subsequently squeezed in a PRESS to release the juice [Yaxley (2003)], hence entries in which there were listed both a crab press and a crab mill [Inventories (1557)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (early).
References: Yaxley (2003).

Crab verjuice

[crab vergeus]

In England CRAB - APPLES were the usual base for making VERJUICE, since they were common and of sufficient acidity. However, according to John Bradley, it was less satisfactory for some purposes [Recipes (Bradley, R.)].

OED earliest date of use: 1747

Found in units of BOTTLE

Sources: Diaries, Newspapers, Tradecards.

Crab vinegar

An alternative name for CIDEREGAR, although presumably one made out of CRAB apples rather than CIDER apples. According to Charles Tomlinson much FRENCH VINEGAR was in fact a CRAB VINEGAR and not a WINE VINEGAR [Tomlinson (1854)].

Not found in the OED

Found described as FINE, four years old Found in units of HOGSHEAD

Sources: Newspapers.
References: Tomlinson (1854).

Crabs claw

[crabs-claw; crabs clawe; crabs clau; chelae cancorum; chel care]

The claw of a CRAB, formerly used in medicine for the same purposes as CRABS EYE. A recipe for GASCOIGN POWDER suggests that it was just the tips that contained no flesh that were used [Recipes (Ketilby)].

OED earliest date of use: 1664

Found used to make GASCOIGN POWDER
Found in units of OUNCE, OZ Found rated by the POUND

See also CRABS EYE.
Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Rates, Recipes.

Crabs eye

[ocul cane; crabs-eye; crabs ey; crabbs eyes; crabbe's eyes; cancri oculus]

A round concretion, found in the stomach of the crayfish and some other crustacea, consisting mainly of carbonate of lime; it has been used, finely powdered, as an absorbent and antacid. In the mid-eighteenth century Materia Medica, it was labelled 'Crabs eyes, so called' in Latin 'Cancrorum occuli dicti' [Pemberton (1746)]. The term may also have been applied to finely powdered carbonate of lime from other sources.

OED earliest date of use: 1605

Found used to make GASCOIGN POWDER
Found in units of OZ Found among the DRUGS rated by the POUND

See also CRABS CLAW.
Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Rates, Recipes.
References: Pemberton (1746).

Cradle quilt

A QUILT made of a size to fit a CRADLE. They became fashionable after the Restoration and appear sometimes to have been made to match a full size quilt on the main bed as in '1 Quilt & a Cradle Quilt all of gold Colo' Sarsnett' [Inventories (1670)]. In other examples the cradle seems to have been draped in matching hangings as 'a Cradle & quilt' [Inventories (1701)]. The portrait by William Hogarth of Gerard Anne Edwards Hamilton depicts just such a matching set [Kevill-Davies (1991)].

Not found in the OED

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



The FRUIT of a dwarf shrub, Vaccinium oxycoccos, growing in turfy bogs in Britain, northern Europe and northern America. The fruit is highly acid and was mostly used in tarts and PRESERVES. Cranberry appears in the Dictionary Archive in the promotional literature, advertised among SWEETMEATs and FRUITs, presumably in the sense of preserved fruits.

OED earliest date of use: 1672

Simone Clarke

Found described as NEW
Found in units of BARREL Found imported by the BARREL

Sources: Houghton, Tradecards.

Cream of tartar

[tartar cream; cremortatan; cremor tartar; cremer tarter; crem tart'r; crem of tartar; creem of tarter; creame of tartar; cream of tarter; cream of tartare]

Dried WINE LEES, purified and crystallized acid potassium tartrate. It was sold either as hard crystalline crystals, hence CRYSTAL - TARTAR, or as POWDER [Pemberton (1746)]. Cream of tartar was widely used particularly in medicine and in dyeing. Pemberton, for example gave recipes for the preparation of various forms of tartar as well as for 'emetic tartar' [Pemberton (1746)].

As a DYESTUFF, it was an assistant in the mordanting bath used with ALUM or TIN [Ponting (1980, pb 1981)]. It was included among unrated DRUGS in [Acts (1662)].

OED earliest date of use: 1662

Found described by FOREIGN Found as an ingredient in TOOTH POWDER Found in units of OZ Found rated by the HUNDREDWEIGHT, LB Found imported by the TON

Sources: Acts, Houghton, Inventories (mid-period), Rates, Recipes.
References: Pemberton (1746), Ponting (1980, pb 1981).

Creasing iron

[cresting iron]

This is a term not found in the dictionaries and it only appears once in the Dictionary Archive in a list of saddlers, BRIDLE MAKERS and HARNESS MAKERS TOOLS that could be exported. Presumably it was considered that export would be unlikely to affect British industry, in which case it may be deduced that each implement was probably a simple and well-established TOOL [Acts (1786)].

Randle Holme included the creasing iron among the tools of a TIN man as well as another implement, the STAG, serving the same purpose [Holme (2000)]. 'Cresting irons' have been noted among the tools of a PEWTER worker [Inventories (1673)].He did include 'a Cressa, or Veining stick' among the saddlers tools, which seems to have also been used for ornamenting the saddle and its accoutrements. This, he wrote 'hath one end round with a nick therein, one side of the wood being broader then the other; the contrary end hath it round on one end, and sharp at the other: the name of this Tool tell you the use of it, viz. to Vein and Score Leather, to adorn it for the sight of the Eye' [Holme (2000)]. Some of Holme's descriptions match those of Salaman, who gives a long list of creasing tools, all of which served the same purpose of imprinting lines on LEATHER, either for decoration, or as a guide or shallow channel for sewing [Salaman (1986)].

Ornamenting the SADDLE was an important part of the saddler's art, as this and many other comments by Holme makes clear.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Acts.
References: Holme (2000), Salaman (1986).


A term not found in the dictionaries in this sense and only once in the Dictionary Archive. An act of Edward VI forbidding the export of BELL METAL and other alloys of COPPER, found that a previous act was being evaded by 'divers covetous and greedy Persons ... conveying thereof in small Creeks, Sugar Chests, Hogsheads or otherwise' [Acts (1548)]. This suggests that in this sense, a creek was a container used for transportation, but like the 'Sugar chests' mentioned normally used for quite a different commodity.

Not found in the OED in this sense

Sources: Acts.


The most common meaning of 'creel' is a BASKET made of WICKER. Creels do not appear in the Dictionary Archive in this sense, unless that was what was intended by the 'two Stoeks & creels' found among the stock of a smallwareman [Inventories (1716)]. The other two examples each occur among weaving equipment as '24 Shuttle Loom and Creels' valued together at £4 [Inventories (1757)], and 'Two Twisting wheeles ffoure paire of Dutch Looms Dressing frame Creeles and other materialls' at £11 5s [Inventories (1706)]. These examples, while giving context, give little indication of function. The OED has 'creel' associated with spinning, but not with weaving.

Sources: Inventories (late).


[creper; crep'; creep's]

A term with several distinct meanings, three of which have been noted in the Dictionary Archive. The first, and the most common, was a small metal DOG, of which a PAIR was placed on a hearth between the ANDIRONs. They were quite common throughout the period. Only once was the metal used declared, as in 'a pare of brass Creepers' [Inventories (1670)]. This suggests that they were probably normally made of Iron, which was considered to need no comment. In this sense the OED earliest date of use is 1556.

A second meaning of the term is contentious. A creeper (in the singular) was also quite common particularly after 1660. This may have been used to label a small FRYING PAN with three legs. The OED considers this to be American and late, so it should not have appeared in the Dictionary Archive. However, creepers in the singular, as for example 'a paire of Tonges A Crep' and a Racke' [Inventories (1577)], appear fairly frequently, always associated with the fireside equipment. These may merely be examples of scribal carelessness, but it seems unlikely that all were. Another possibility for the singular creeper was that it was a STOOL. However, the contexts and the fact some were said to be of iron, as in 'one Iron Creper' [Inventories (1673)], militates against this.

A third meaning is for a sort of GALOSH between a PATTEN and a CLOG worn by women. These have been noted only once in the Dictionary Archive as 'ffoure dozen of Creepers' valued at £1, followed by 'One dozen 3 pear of Cloqes' all at 5s [Inventories (1717)]. Notice that, although the clogs were sold in pairs, the creepers wer not, suggesting that they were not right and left footed.

As fireside equipment: Found described as OLD Found made of BRASS, IRON, LATTEN Found in units of PAIR Found rated by the PAIR, POUND
As footwear: Found in units of DOZEN

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

Creme de bergamote

[creme de bergamotte]

A LIQUEUR or similar alcoholic drink, probably made from the rind and juice of the BERGAMOT fruit infused in BRANDY with SUGAR in a similar way to the ORANGE liqueur described in Larousse Gastronomique [Froud and Turgeon (1961)].

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Froud and Turgeon (1961).


A thick juice obtained by steeping, pressure, decoction, such as a broth or pap. Cremor was also used as in 'cremor tartar' by Houghton as a variant of CREAM OF TARTAR. He wrote that it was made from the berries of the vine, that is from GRAPEs [Houghton].

OED earliest date of use: 1657

Found imported from the Straits Found in units of HUNDREDWEIGHT

Sources: Houghton.



The OED suggests a CAUL or NET usually made of GOLD THREAD, SILVER THREAD, SILK, LACE etc. for the hair, formerly worn by ladies, with an earliest date of use in this sense as c1532. The 'Crippins with silk the dosen' and the 'Crippins with golde the dosen' [Rates (1582)] fit this definition very well. However, in the same section of that Book of Rates, 'Crippin' appears as a descriptor for sleeves and partlets, both items of APPAREL, but not worn on the head. Probably 'Crepine' was a form of highly decorative and very expensive net or gauze ornamented with or made of gold or silver thread, and silk, which was use either to make these garments or as a covering over a more solid foundation. The rate charged was very high, suggesting imports of the most luxurious quality, a trade that the government wanted to discourage.

The OED gives as variants, among others, 'Crespine' and 'Crippin'

Found described as with GOLD, with SILK, of SILVER Found describing PARTLET, SLEEVE
Found rated by the DOZEN, PAIR

Sources: Rates.


A term not found in the dictionaries, and only in one document in the Dictionary Archive. Although the tradesman concerned was called a mercer, he seems to have worked with STONE, having 'one hatchet one hande sawe and other his carvinge tooles' in his 'working chamber' and various 'stone pottes', some with covers. It is in this context his crepottes appear as 'xxiij Crepottes' valued at 15d in all and 'two farthing potts and one Crepotte with covers' in the shop [Inventories (1597)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (early).


The term was quite often used in the plural as 'cresses' and it is the common name of various cruciferous plants, having mostly edible leaves with a pungent flavour. The two most common are garden cress, Lepidium sativum, and water cress, Nasturtium officinale. Three varieties were available as seed; Broad leav'd cress Curl'd cress and Garden cress [Tradecards (19c.)].

OED earliest date of use: a700

As SEED: Found defined as broad leaved, curled, garden

Sources: Tradecards.


[kresset; creste; cressette; cressett]

A vessel of IRON or the like, made to hold GREASE or OIL, or an iron basket to hold the pitched ROPE, WOOD or COAL, to be burnt for light, in the Dictionary Archive usually found inside. All but one example occurred before 1660.

OED earliest date of use: 1370

Found described as dripping Found made of IRON

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


The term had a variety of meanings. In the Dictionary Archive it was used most often elliptically to refer to CREST CLOTH or CREST TILE. However it was also the label for an erect plume or tuft of FEATHERs, HORSEHAIR, or the like, fixed on the top of a HELMET or head-dress; any ornament or device used as a badge or cognizance, hence CREST BUTTON.

OED earliest date of use: c1380

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

Crest button

A BUTTON on which a CREST has been engraved or stamped. In the only example found in the Dictionary Archive, they were associated with naval and military buttons [Tradecards (19c.)]. The eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries saw considerable progress in creating this type of ornamentation, hence the worker who offered 'Engraving of all kinds Viz Coats of Arms Crests, Cyphers &c on Silver or Copper' [Tradecards (19c.)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Tradecards.

Crest cloth

[grest; creste; crestcloth; cressen; crease]

The correct form of this TEXTILE term is by no means certain. The OED suggests Crest or Cress; Wilhelmsen Crest, Cress or Crees cloth. The latter suggests the term is of French origin. While it has proved impossible to link it with any French word or place name, crest cloth is often found associated with other LINEN CLOTH from Brittany [Wilhelmsen (1943)]. The OED also considers that it was a linen cloth, and in one quotation (1436) associates it with CANVAS. An alternative interpretation is offered for 'Crest' by the OED who suggests that the crest is the line of the centre fold in a piece of BROADCLOTH, but does not attempt to associate this meaning with the name of a fabric.

Analysis of the Dictionary Archive shows that both suggestions offered by the OED were in use in the first part of the early modern period, but distribution was strongly regional. Crest, or Crest cloth is found only in the Southwest and is clearly a LINEN CLOTH valued at 10d-11d the YARD. One probate inventory from the South West listed two pair of 'cressen SHEETs' as well as two of CANVAS [Inventories (1606)]. Unfortunately they are not separately valued. The presence of crest cloth in the Southwest and nowhere else supports Wilhelmsen's observation that crests are often found with other linens from Brittany, since trade between these two parts of the Celtic fringe was well developed.

In the Midlands the term 'crested SERGE' has been noted twice, suggesting a fabric that has been folded down the middle. The term in this sense is used in an act of 1468 [Acts (1468)]. The Book of Rates of 1660 listed 'grest and narrow or common dowlasse' [Rates (1660)] which again suggests 'crest' in the sense of folded down the middle and therefore broader than usual.

OED earliest date of use: c1430 under Crest subs 3

Found in units of HALF PIECE, PIECE, YARD Found rated by the PIECE of 6 YARD

Sources: Acts, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Rates.
References: Wilhelmsen (1943).

Crest tile

[cres-tile; creste; crest]

An angled TILE placed along the ridge of a building, the size of which was regulated by an act of Edward IV to be 13 INCH long and ¾ inch thick [Acts (1477)]. It was often called simply a CREST, which is the invariable form found in the Dictionary Archive.

OED earliest date of use: 1477

Found made of STONE Found described as for houses, unburnt Found in units of DOZEN

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