Deadhead - Dew ball

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

This free content was born digital. All rights reserved.


Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl, 'Deadhead - Dew ball', Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007), British History Online [accessed 12 June 2024].

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

Cox, Nancy. Dannehl, Karin. "Deadhead - Dew ball", Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007). . British History Online. Web. 12 June 2024,

In this section


The English name of CAPUT MORTUUM. Since it is a ferric oxide residue left after the distillation of VITRIOL, it will have produced a RED colour. Rosamund Harley suggests it may have been used in painting in the seventeenth century, and certainly was in the eighteenth [Harley (1970)]. It was also apparently used as a colorant in making GILT WIRE, though this was prohibited in 1742 [Acts (1742)].

OED earliest date of use: 1576

Sources: Acts.
References: Harley (1970).


[deale; dale; daile]

Usually in the plural as deals, this is a longitudinal slice sawn from a log of TIMBER, invariably PINE or FIR, of variable dimensions, but more than 7 INCH in width (nowadays the accepted width is 9 inch), at least 3 Inch thick, and 6 FOOT long. However Valentine Enys averred the most popular SWEDISH Deals were 11 FOOT by 11 INCH but only 1.5 INCH THICK [Enys (1997)]. For AMERICAN deals, the dimensions were specified in the 1760s as 10 FOOT long, 10 INCH broad in [Acts (1765)]. If less in length, they were a DEAL END, if less thick a PLANK or BOARD, if less wide a BATTEN. Deals were apparently traded in units of 120. By the nineteenth century 50 cubic feet was regarded as a LOAD.

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1402

Deal was also the name given to the kind of TIMBER, namely the wood of PINE or FIR, from which deals were made; hence terms like deal BALK, deal BOARD, DEAL BOX, DEAL CHEST, deal PLANK, and deal SPAR. Deal was an important component of the Baltic trade, and later of America.

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1601

Found classified among 'Wood and Timber, and of the goods commonly called Lumber' [ACTS 1220/C012] Found imported from DANTZIG, Spain, Sweden

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates, Recipes.
References: Enys (1997), Lloyd (1895).

Deal end

[ends of deal; do ends]

A short PLANK of DEAL and, according to the OED, under 6 FOOT in length, but in the Book of Rates of 1784, the length was given as under 8 feet, its width as above 7 INCH and its thickness as 3¼ INCH [Rates (1784)].

OED earliest date of use: 1812

Found described as DOUBLE, SINGLE
Found in units of HUNDRED Found rated by the 120

See also DEAL.
Sources: Inventories (late), Rates.

Deal lath

One of the three types of LATH available in the early modern period described by their wood, and therefore incidentally, the use to which they were put; the others being HEART LATH and SAP LATH. DEAL lath or FIR lath as it wa sometimes called, was lath made from DEAL. According to John Houghton deal laths were specifically used for fixing into ceiling, because compared to the other types of LATH they were 'streight and even' [Houghton]. Although deal lath barely appears in the Dictionary Archive, there are two entries for 'Fir lath'; one for '26 load & 29 Bundles of firr lath' [Inventories (1675)], and the other for '24 bundles of firr Laths' [Inventories (1693)].

OED earliest date of use: 1659

Sources: Houghton.


[delph; delfe]

Delf or Delft is a town in HOLLAND situated eight miles from the seaport of Rotterdam. Originally famous for its BEER, by 1650 Delf had become one of the most important European pottery centres for the production of an EARTHENWARE called DELF WARE. This was coated with an opaque white, decorated with cobalt blue, and finished with a transparent lead glaze. During the seventeenth century Delf had at least thirty-five master potters, each working from his own pottery. There were as many more in the eighteenth century [Oldandsold (online)].

OED earliest date of use: 1714


Sources: Inventories (late).
References: Oldandsold (online).

Delf ware

[delph-ware; delf-ware; delfware; delft ware; delfeware; delf and earthen ware; delf & whit mettle wair]

Delf ware consisted of TIN-enamelled EARTHENWARE with an opaque white finish resulting from a coating of TIN oxide before firing. It had been made in England from the mid-sixteenth century, first at Norwich and then at Lambeth and Southwark in London, and then, from the mid-seventeenth to the mid-eighteenth century, at Bristol, Wincanton and Liverpool. The technique had probably been introduced by Dutch or Flemish immigrants. It did not acquire the name of delf ware until well into the seventeenth century, by which time the town of DELF in Holland was a famous pottery centre.

The name was particularly applied to such pieces of tin-enamelled earthenware as were decorated with processed COBALT called ZAFFRE, and finished with a transparent LEAD glaze. Chinese blue and white porcelain gave the Delf potters the incentive to improve their technology, which resulted in more careful preparation of the clay and and better quality glazes, making delf ware distinctive from other similar earthen wares like maiolica [Singer et al. (1958)]. Artists did the painting, often copying their designs from Chinese BLUE AND WHITE - PORCELAIN. A dusting with lead oxide for the transparent surface glaze and a second firing completed the process. This was different to the Chinese method in which the painting was done on the object before even an initial firing.

Delf ware has not been noted under this name in the Dictionary Archive before 1700, but references become frequent thereafter. For example, Richard RICKARDS of Ludlow, (1735), had delf ware in variety with BASINs, COFFEE DISHes, MUGs and PLATEs, listed in an exceptionally detailed inventory [Inventories (1735)]. It seems likely that his possessions were fairly typical of many other people of the middling sort, but it is only the rare inventory that fully itemises them. Most delf ware was to be found where its decorative qualities were displayed. One person even had 'a Delf Case' with the 'delph ware' in it [Inventories (1743)].

OED earliest date of use: 1714

Sources: Diaries, Inventories (late), Newspapers.
References: Oldandsold (online), Singer et al. (1958).



A region in British Guyana on the eastern coast of South America, now most notable for giving its name to a form of SUGAR in which the crystals are large and a bright yellow or straw colour. Although originally from this area, the term is now applied to sugar of this type from any of the West Indian islands, and improperly to any sugar that resembles the true Demerara [Simmonds (1906)]. This type of sugar is only recorded by the OED from the mid-nineteenth century; in the eighteenth century COTTON was grown there.

OED earliest date of use (in the Supplement): 1848

Found describing COTTON, COTTON WOOL

Sources: Newspapers.
References: Simmonds (1906).


[demy; demie; dem']

From the French, HALF or half size as in 'demi or half pieces' [Acts (1759)].

OED earliest date of use: 1418

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



A TEXTILE found only once in the Dictionary Archive where it was associated with WORSTED in an otherwise unhelpful entry [Inventories (1669)]. It is neither in the OED nor in any of the authorities on textiles.

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).


[demy-caster; demi-castor]

An inferior CASTOR or HAT made of BEAVER WOOL mixed with the FUR of the RACOON or other WOOL [Kerridge (1985)].

OED earliest date of use: 1637

Found described as of ENGLISH making, shaggy
Found rated by the DOZEN

See also BEAVER.
Sources: Diaries, Rates.
References: Kerridge (1985).



A lance with a short shaft, used in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It was sometimes regarded as part of a man's defensive armour; hence 'Harnesse called demilances' [Rates (1582)].

OED earliest date of use: c1489

Found rated by the PIECE

Sources: Rates.

Demy paper

The name of a certain size of PAPER. An act of 1784 set out in some detail the dimensions of demy paper for 'Writing or Copper Plate, Printing' at 15½ by 20 INCH [Acts (1784)]. There were other dimensions for other varieties.

OED earliest date of use: 1546

Found described as BLUE, DOUBLE, FINE, GENOA, GERMAN, inferior, printing, second, SHORT, SINGLE, SUGAR, TISSUE
Found imported by the REAM Found rated by the REAM

Sources: Acts, Houghton, Rates.

Denia raisins

RAISINS from the district of Denia in southern Spain. The grapes were dried off the vine in a process completed in a few days. This allowed the raisins of the new season to arrive in this country ahead of the superior MALAGA RAISINS which were dried on the vine [Simmonds (1906)].

Not found as such in the OED online, though Denia grapes and Denia wine both have a nineteenth century earliest date of use under Denia

Found in units of BASKET Found rated at CWT of 112 LB, HUNDREDWEIGHT

Sources: Acts, Newspapers, Rates.
References: Simmonds (1906).


A northern European country that controlled the entrance to the Baltic Sea. Potentially it was a source of TIMBER but John Houghton explained 'that under pretence of wanting for himself ... [the king of Denmark will], permit no masts to come forth of his country, that are more than 22 inches diameter, altho' if larger be a little squared, they may come under the denomination of timber' [Houghton].

The OED suggests that DANSK was a variant of Danish or Denmark. Although this may well have been so in some cases, it has not certainly been found in the Dictionary Archive with that meaning in which it was invariably an alternative of DANTZIG.

Sources: Houghton.

Denmark satin

[denmark sattin]

A stout ENGLISH - WORSTED - SATIN dyed black and finished with a high lustre is the discription given by Harmuth in 1915 [Harmuth (1915), quoted by Montgomery (1984)]. He suggests it was used to make SLIPPERs. Although it may well have been used for that purpose, in the only example in the Dictionary Archive it was used to make a SUIT [Newspapers (1780)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Newspapers.
References: Montgomery (1984).

Devonshire dozens

[devon dozens]

An alternative name for DEVONSHIRE KERSEY, used because these fabrics were commonly made up into lengths of about 12 YARD. Its manufacture was regulated by [Acts (1593)] so that a PIECE weighed 15 LB and was 15-6 YARD long. The London Drapers estimated in 1551 that Devonshire dozens had formerly been 'solde by the clothmen' for £26 the PACK, but the price was now £50 [Tawney and Power (1924-8)]. The term has not been found in the shops.

OED earliest date of use: 1552

Sources: Acts, Rates.
References: Tawney and Power (1924-8).

Devonshire kersey

[devonshire kersie]

The manufacture of KERSEY in the West Country began early in the sixteenth century using the newly improved wools of the area. Called Devonshire kersey, although not all were made in that county, it was sufficiently distinctive to have been regarded as a separate commodity, and one that surpassed in quality kersies produced, for example, in Hampshire or Reading. It was regulated by [Acts (1593)] to weigh 15 LB and to be 15-6 YARD long.

Sources: Acts, Inventories (early), Inventories (late).
References: Kerridge (1985), 25.

Devonshire sauce

A proprietary PREPARED SAUCE found in fashionable eighteenth-century shops. It seems to have been similar to a KETCHUP and has been noted listed among RICH SAUCEs, most of which are known to have been highly flavoured [Tradecards (19c.)], and intended for use with savoury dishes. Today the label is given to a sauce associated with dessert dishes, in particular fresh fruit.

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Tradecards.

Dew ball

Found only as a product name in advertising material for shoe proofing. Probably a brand name for a BLACKING BALL. The advertisement, some of which is in the form of a poem, plays on the usual meaning of 'dew' that would indubitably wet the SHOES unless they are protected by the use of a dew ball [Tradecards (1795)]. Dew balls were made by the same firm as made 'Young's BLACKING BALLs'.

Sources: Tradecards.