Head nail - Headlake

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

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Head nail

[nails head; hed naile]

A type of NAIL, presumably one with a head. Randle Holme included in his list of nails 'with heads', hobnails, ships nails, stone nails, SPIKEs and TACK NAILs [Holme (2000)].

Not found in the OED

Found described alternatively as Great nails
Found imported by the BARREL Found rated by the BARREL, HALF BARREL

Sources: Houghton, Rates.
References: Holme (2000).

Head piece

[hedpeesle; hedpeece; hede pece; hed peece; head-piece; headpeece; head peece; head peec; head pece]

Of the various meanings given to this term in the OED, the one most commonly found in the Dictionary Archive is for a piece of ARMOUR for the head; a helmet. Randle Holme went to some lengths to describe a headpiece writing that 'some [are] with eares, others without eares, some with crests all over the head, others have the crest but halfe through' [Holme (2000)].

The term has also been noted applied to a BED HEAD as in a 'vallance and head piece' [Inventories (1699)] and 'tester & head peece' [Inventories (1675)].

OED earliest date of use: 1535

Found described as graven, PLAIN
Found rated by the PIECE

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

Head powder

Possibly HAIR POWDER, but more probably a medicinal product for treating an infestation of lice, as in 'Little's Vegetable Head Powder, very necessary' [Tradecards (1794)]. The fact that this proprietary product was given the descriptor VEGETABLE suggests that other powders for this purpose may have contained more noxious substances like ARSENIC; good for killing bugs, but harmful to humans as well.

Not found in the OED

Found described as 'Littles vegetable'

Sources: Tradecards.

Head pump

The OED defines a head pump as a small PUMP, fitted at the head of a ship communicating with the sea and used for washing the decks, with an earliest date of use being 1840. The term as found (only once) in the Dictionary Archive is considerably earlier, but could have been a pump for the same purpose. It appears in a patent for a 'Hydrostatic pump' among other things 'useful in ships as a head pump' [Patents (1774)]. On the other hand, this may have been the form of pump Randle Holme described as one 'made of Cane or Latin, which Sea men put down into the Caske, to pump up the drink; for they use no Spickets' [SPIGOT] [Holme (2000)].

OED earliest date of use: 1840

Sources: Patents.
References: Holme (2000).

Head roll

[rolls for heads; hed rowle; hed rol; headen rowle; head rowle; head rowe; head role]

The OED gives several shades of meaning to 'roll' that relate in some way to the various entries concerning 'head rolls' in the Dictionary Archive. One is that a head roll was a round cushion or pad of hair or other material, forming part of a woman's HEAD DRESS, which the OED has noted from 1538 onwards [under Roll]. It is probable that the '23 head Roles' noted in one shop valued at about 1d apiece were of this type [Inventories (1613)]. Although the '4 doz of Callico head rowles at 9d p doz' were probably similar, the '2 doz & 3 bla silke head Rowes' at 1s 4d the dozen found in the same shop were clearly intended to be part of the display rather than having a supporting role in the full head dress [Inventories (1668)]. Randle Holme in his definition of Head rolls played up the decorative nature of these articles of APPAREL calling them 'Hoods made of either Gaues, Alamode, Lutestring, Sarsenet, Ducape, Vinian Sarsnet, Persia, Lindia Silk, or Gaues and Birds Eye flowered' [Holme (2000)]. By the 1790s a form of TURBAN had become fashionable for women as shown in the portrait of the Lambton family dated 1797 [Ribiero (1983)]. Possibly this was sometimes called a head roll.

OED earliest date of use in these contexts: 1538 under Roll, no pertinent definition under Head roll

Found made of CALICO, SILK
Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Holme (2000), Ribiero (1983).

Head rubber

[head ruber]

The OED defines a rubber as a hard BRUSH, a cloth, or the like, used for rubbing in order to make clean. Presumably a head rubber was for use on the head.

OED online earliest date of use: 1536 for Rubber only

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Head saw

The head saw was one of the SURGEONS INSTRUMENTS. It was used, as Randle Holme put it 'sometyme to give vent throw the Cranium, whereby the use of the Trepan is happily forborn. And some time a small rugged peece of the skull may so hang, that this instrument may be used to saw it away' [Holme (2000)]. Elsewhere he gave more detail: it was a saw, 'which Surgeons use to cut away the distances between the holes made in the Skull with the Trepan. And also to abolish Rafts like haires that do not penetrate, and to scrape away the rottedness of the Cranium. This is also called a streight Hand Saw, and is sometyme set in an iron frame after the maner of a Dismembering Saw' [Holme (2000)]. He included three illustrations. Against one he wrote that 'it resembles a double edged Axe or Hatchet, one fixed to the head of the other, and set in a round handle, save the edges are toothed like a Saw. Its use is to cut the Skull in case of Fractures, and for divers other Operations where small Saws are to be used' [Holme (2000)]. Holme's attention to instruments used to cope with broken skulls show how common such injuries were, and how relatively advanced this type of surgery had become.

OED online earliest date of use: 1612, but no definition

Sources: Inventories (late).
References: Holme (2000).

Head sheet

The OED suggests with a question mark that a head sheet was SHEET put at the head of a BED. It is possible that head sheets were a flat cloth intended to put over or round a PILLOW. In which case, they may have been similar, or identical with a PILLOW BERE, rather than a PILLOW CASE.

OED online earliest date of use: 1423

Sources: Inventories (early).

Head stall

[hedstall; hedd stayle; hed sull; headstall; headstal; head staul; head stal]

That part of a BRIDLE or HALTER that fits round a HORSE's head. The addition of at least a BIT and REINs was necessary to form the complete bridle, hence entries like 'hedd stayles w'th ther Raynes' [Inventories (1564)], and '5 Head Stalls with Snaffles'

[Inventories (1769)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1480

Found described by BRIDLE Found describing BUCKET, BUCKLE, SET
Found in units of DOZEN

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

Head wire

[wires for heads; hed wyer; headwire]

A WIRE, probably one covered with TAPE or the like, use to stiffen and shape some types of HEAD DRESS.

Not found in the OED online

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

Head wool


Probably the WOOL shorn from the head of a sheep, which will be much shorter than that from the body. Eric Kerridge notes it among the stock of a clothier or yarn master of Cirencester, who was providing YARN for the local SERGE makers, while BLANKET makers in Witney used the head wool for the heaviest of their wares [Kerridge (1985)].

Not found in the OED online

Found in units of PACK

Sources: Inventories (late).
References: Kerridge (1985).


Although this term may be found with other meanings elsewhere, in the Dictionary Archive it is found only as an article of APPAREL; a band worn round the head, a FILLET.

OED online earliest date of use: 1535

Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Inventories (early).



The usual meaning of the term in the Dictionary Archive is the piece of WOOD shaped to make the head or the foot of a BARREL, HOGSHEAD, PIPE, etc. It was often included in such general terms as COOPERY and TIMBER STUFF.

OED earliest date of use: 1682

There are, however, two other uses of the term noted in the Dictionary Archive that are not found in the dictionaries. The first as in '1 m hedings' [Inventories (1665)] appears in a list of varieties of NAIL. A heading in this sense was presumably a nail with a head, probably of a particular type. The second, as in 'one greene heading for a bedsted' [Inventories (1685)], was probably a label for a BED HEAD, but possibly a piece of decorative TEXTIL hung on the wall behind the bed.

As the head of a barrel etc: Found made from WHITE OAK Found in units of HUNDRED of 6 SCORE
As nails: Found in units of M
As a bed head: Found described as GREEN

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

Heading chisel

[heading chissell]

The OED only gives a very late definition. The term may denote a CHISEL used for cutting the mortise or grove in a BARREL, into which a HEADING could then be fitted.

OED online earliest date of use: 1875

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Heading knife

Randle Holme defined the heading knife, 'or Wine Coopers Heading Knife', as 'a crooked Instrument with two Handles, one standing inward to the edge, and the other streight along, answerable to the back of the Knife' [Holme (2000)]. It was presumably for preparing the HEADING or the BARREL so that the two could be fitted together.

Not found in the OED online

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

Heading stave

[heading stave]

STAVE was the term normally applied to a piece of shaped WOOD that, fitted with others, formed the side of a BARREL and the like. It was not normally used for the HEADING. In the single example of heading staves noted in the Dictionary Archive [Rates (1784)], the term seems to have been applied to the pieces of wood used to make the HEAD and the foot, more briefly a HEADING.

Sources: Rates.

Heading treadle

[heading treddle]

Heading treadle has not been noted in the dictionaries and only once in the Dictionary Archive among a PIN maker's equipment as 'In the heading shop an heading treddle' [Inventories (1707)]. It was probably a form of STAMP, similar to the one Randle Holme described as 'the engine by which the heads of pins are made fast vpon the shank of it, which is done at a Blow, by raising with the foot, an Iron weight and lett it fall on the pin head laid on a small Stiddy or Stake' [Holme (2000)].

Sources: Inventories (late).
References: Holme (2000).


[hedlake; hedlack; heade lake]

An imported LINEN CLOTH. According to Leif Wilhelmsen, lake was a medieval fine linen, though the term was obselete by 1603 [Wilhelmsen (1943)]. She does not refer to headlake, but the few, valued examples in the Dictionary Archive, as 'ij peases of headlake viijs' [Inventories (1544)], do not suggest high quality, particularly as the Books of Rates suggest the pieces were long.

OED earliest date of use: 1618

Found in units of ELL, PIECE, SIDE Found rated by HUNDRED - ELL of 120 ELL

Sources: Inventories (early), Rates.
References: Wilhelmsen (1943).