Penide - Pewter ash

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

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A term that is, according to the OED, derived rather circuitously from the same middle-eastern root as ALFANY and PENNET, of which it is probably only a variant. It denotes a piece or stick of barley-SUGAR, or of a similar preparation of SUGAR, used as a remedy for colds, apparently identical with PENNET.

OED earliest date of use: 1390



[pennistone; pennestone; peniston]

Kind of coarse WOOLLEN CLOTH, according to Kerridge the best of a poor set of TEXTILEs produced in YORKSHIRE and elsewhere north of the River Trent in the sixteenth century, although the best were made of sorted wool and were good enough to be frizzed into FRIZADO [Kerridge (1985)]. Penistones were used for APPAREL, linings, etc. According to the 1660 Book of Rates a PIECE seems generally to have been 12-15 YARD long.

OED earliest date of use: 1551/2

Found described as ORDINARY, RED, SORTING
Found in units of PIECE, YARD

Sources: Acts, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Rates.
References: Kerridge (1984), Montgomery (1985).



A term that is derived, according to the OED, rather circuitously from the same middle-eastern root as ALFANY and PENNIDE. Like pennide, pennet has only been noted in the earliest part of the period, usually in the plural as 'pennets'. It denoted a piece or stick or barley-sugar or some similar article of CONFECTIONERY, apparently identical with PENIDE.

OED earliest date of use: 1470

Found rated by the POUND

Sources: Inventories (early), Rates.

Penny comb

[jd combe]

A COMB that would be sold for one PENNY, and would often have been found among CHAPMANS WARE or PENNY WAREs. At this price the combs would almost certainly have been WOOD COMBs, the cheapest sort available. The mark-up from WHOLESALE to RETAIL seems to have been considerable, as penny combs have been noted in the shops valued at 6d-9d the DOZEN.

Not found in the OED online

Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Inventories (early).

Penny ware band

[j d ware bandes]

PENNY WARE bands were articles of HABERDASHERY in the form of cheap READY MADE - BANDs that would be sold at 1d each by chapmen and the like.

Not found in the OED online

Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Inventories (early).

Penny ware comb

[ware come; jd ware combe]

A COMB that would be sold at 1d each by chapmen and the like. In one inventory, the entry 'jd ware Combes on gross ixs' was succeeded by two recording 'Ware Comes' [Inventories (1551)]. The two valuations were very similar, and suggest no more than a shortening of the full name. At this price such a comb would almost certainly have been a WOOD COMB, the cheapest sort available.

Not found in the OED online

Found in units of DOZEN, GROSS

Sources: Inventories (early).


[piony; piony; pionie; peoniae; peonae; paeonia]

Also commonly found as 'paeony' and 'piony'. Both Gerard and Culpeper wrote of the male and the female peony, a difference that has not been found in the Dictionary Archive. Woodward, in his notes on Gerard, suggests that the male peony was Pæonia mascula (also known as Paeonia corallina), while the female was Pæonia officinalis [Gerard (1597, 1985 ed.)]. They are quite similar, the male being rather larger in foliage but with slightly smaller flowers. Like those on the female plant, these are typically red. Both are native to continental Europe, but grow easily in gardens in Britain [Synge (1951, new ed.1956)].

Most parts of the peony were considered efficacious in medicine, though Pechey deemed PEONY ROOT and PEONY SEED the most important. Unusually for his Herbal, he included a recipe for a compounded PEONY WATER made from peony flowers, roots and seeds, and a great number of other ingredients besides [Pechey (1694a)]. Culpeper claimed that 'physicians say male peony roots are best; but male peony is best for men and female peony for women'. However, since the 'male is so scarce', the female was commonly used for all purposes. He recommended both the roots and the seeds, which he believed were good against the falling sickness (epilepsy) and against bad dreams, and a water or SYRUP made from the flowers, although these acted 'more weakly' [Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.)].

Both the seed and the roots have been noted in the shops, usually expressed in Latin, respectively as SEMEN and RADIX denoting their medicinal use. A variety of preparations were also listed, including CONSERVEs, SYRUPs, and WATERs (in Latin AQUA). In whatever form peony was offered, it was not costly, the seeds often valued at 1d OZ and even the waters either cheaper than or comparable with many of the QUACK MEDICINEs. Pemberton included peony in his Materia Medica, but not in his Pharmacopoeia [Pemberton (1746)], matching the decline in the shops that had become apparent by the middle of the eighteenth century. As the peony as a medicinal plant fell out of favour, it was one of many garden plants that became increasingly popular in the eighteenth century when several new species were introduced to British gardens [Synge (1951, new ed.1956)] and [Tradecards (n.d.)].

In the seventeenth century both the seed and the root were rated, suggesting they were imported rather than produced at home [Rates (1657)]; [Rates (1660)], but by 1784 only the seed still appeared among the DRUGS [Rates (1784)], reflecting either a diminution in use or a substitution with home-grown plants.

Found usd to make AQUA, CONSERVE, SYRUP Found in the form of ROOT, SEED

Sources: Acts, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates, Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Culpeper ( 1653, new ed. n.d.), Gerard (1597, new ed. 1985), Pechey (1694a), Pemberton (1746), Synge (1951, new ed.1956).

Peony flower

[pionie fflower; perke]

Most apothecaries had some CONSERVEs among their stock, but their appraisers rarely itemised them. A conserve of peonies has only been noted once, but it may have been present more frequently [Inventories (1625)]. Culpeper claimed that a DISTILLED WATER or a SYRUP made of peony flowers would act in the same way as PEONY ROOT or PEONY SEED, but 'more weakly' [Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.)].

Not found in the OED

Found used to make CONSERVE

Sources: Inventories (early).
References: Culpeper ( 1653, new ed. n.d.).

Peony root

[radix peoniae; radix peonae; rad peonii; piony root; pionirote]

The root of the PEONY have long been used in medicine. Gerard quoted at length the myths that had been perpetuated since Classical times, including the belief the root could only be collected in the dark or else the gatherer would be 'in danger to lose his eies', although that he dismisses as 'vaine and frivolous' [Gerard (1597, 1985 ed.)]. Culpeper and Pechey both specify the use of the male Peony, Paeonia mascula, also known as Paeonia corallina, which, they said, commonly grew in English gardens [Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.)]; [Pechey (1694a)]. However, the inclusion of peony roots in the Books of Rates suggest that much was imported [Rates (1657)]; [Rates (1660)]. Given its use in medicine, peony root appears often in a Latin form such as 'RADIX Peone'. According to Pechey they were 'hanged round the neck, to cure the falling-sickness' [Pechey (1694a)].

OED earliest date of use: 1558

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Recipes.
References: Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.), Gerard (1597, 1985 ed.), Pechey (1694a).

Peony seed

[sempeon; sem: peonii; sem' pionia; sem peon; s' pione]

Gerard included a useful description of the seeds of the PEONY. They are formed in 'three or four great cods or husks, which do open when they are ripe; the inner part of which cods is of a faire red colour, wherein is contained blacke shining and polished seeds, as big as a Pease, and between each blacke seed is couched a red or crimson seed, which is barren and empty' [Gerard (1597, 1985 ed.)].

Seeds were available in at least one eighteenth-century garden shop listed among the 'Perennial flower SEEDS' [Tradecards (n.d.)], but they are more commonly found among the DRUGs in the stock of apothecaries. Pechey included them in his recipe for a COMPOUND - PEONY WATER [Pechey (1694a)]. Like most apothecarial seeds they were valued low, at about 2d OZ or less. Although they were apparently less common in the shops after 1700, they were rated and listed among DRUGs from 1657 to the end of the period [Rates (1657)]; [Rates (1660)] and [Rates (1784)], indicating that they were probably often imported, although they could have been gathered from home-grown plants. It was from Peony seeds that OIL OF PEONY was probably extracted.

Not found in the OED

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

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Gerard (1597, 1985 ed.), Pechey (1694a).

Peony water

[aq. peoniae comp't]

John Pechey claimed that the 'compounded Peony-water' was much in use, as was the SYRUP, Atypically for his 'English Herbal', he included a recipe for making such a water. The recipe was certainly compound, including nearly 20 ingredients as well as PEONY FLOWERs, PEONY ROOT and PEONY SEED [Pechey (1694a)]. This is not dissimilar to a recipe for PLAGUE WATER that contained peony roots along with a great many other ingredients [Recipes (Smith)]. Both recipes suggest that they had been handed down from a time when long lists of ingredients were deemed necessary to address fearsome and intractable afflictions such as the Plague.

Martha Bradley, in her 'British Housewife' gave a similarly complicated recipe for 'Piony Water', adding that while 'it is not so disagreeable as to disgust the Stomach, it is not so pleasant as to tempt any to make a Custom of drinking it: This is no more than plain Truth, with Respect to the Qualities of this Water, and it is a Reason why every Family should keep it in their House. It must be distilled at home, for as said before, what is sold at the Apothecaries has little Virtue' [Bradley (1756 facs.1996-8)].

Not found in the OED

Found described as COMPOUND
Found in units of LB, OZ

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).
References: Bradley (1756, facs. 1996-8), Pechey (1694a).

Pepper box

[pepper-boxe; pepper-box; pepperbox; pepper do; pepper boxe; peper box; peper and flower box]

A small box with a perforated lid, used for sprinkling ground PEPPER onto food, although the '16 Pepper Boxes nailed' may have been a wooden BOX of simple structure nailed together for keeping PEPPER corns [Inventories (1717)].

OED earliest date of use: 1546

Found made of BRASS, PEWTER, WOOD
Found in units of DOZEN Found rated by the GROSS

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

Pepper vinegar

According to Rober May, pepper VINEGAR was made by steeping 'whole pepper', by which he probably meant pepper corns rather than any species of CAPSICUM, in vinegar and then straining the liquid [May (1685, facs. 1994)]. John Nott has a similar recipe [Nott (1726, facs. 1980)]. Although his recipe was for making at home, pepper vinegar was also available in some London shops, for example [Tradecards (19c.)].

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Tradecards.
References: May (1685, facs. 1994), Nott (1726, facs. 1980).

Peppermint lozenges

PEPPERMINT lozenges have been noted offered for sale only once in circumstances that leave it unclear whether they were intended for medicinal purposes or merely as a SWEETMEAT. Possibly this was intentional. Although peppermint was known to help the digestion, it also has a pleasant taste [Tradecards (1800)].

Not found in the OED online

Found in units of small BOX

See also LOZENGE.
Sources: Tradecards.


A commodity imported in the 1680s into London, about which nothing else is known [Houghton]. Its form suggests a Latin term, and therefore a use in medicine. It seems unlikely that percilium was a mis-spelling of either PURSLANE or PARSLEY, although 'persilium' was a variant spelling of the latter's name in Latin, 'petroselinium' or 'petrosilium'. Although parsley was grown in this country, and seed would have been available, it is possible that as with HEMPSEED, parsley SEED may have been imported to enhance native stock, or because the imported varieties were hardier and produced better results. Alternatively, it may have been MACEDONIAN PARSLEY, the seed of which was in the eighteenth-century Materia Medica [Pemberton (1746)]. Whatever the reason, nearly 4000 LB were imported in January 1682/3, a very substantial quantity for a medicinal seed [Houghton]. None came in during the following month , and there is nothing identifiable with it in the Book of Rates for 1660. The nearest is PERROSIN, rated by the CWT. This was an alternative name either for FRANKINCENSE or for COLOPHONY, neither of which appear elsewhere in Houghton's list, though the former was rated in 1657-60 [Rates (1657)].

Not found as such in the OED

Found imported by the LB

Sources: Houghton.
References: Pemberton (1746).

Perfumed water

[waters perfumed]

The collective name of a multitude of waters using plant material distilled mostly in alcohol, but occasionally in water that were characterized by their sweet scent; a toilet water. Some of the most popular were BERGAMOT WATER, HUNGARY WATER, JESSAMY WATER, LAVENDER WATER and ROSE WATER. Good lists of perfumed waters are found in newspaper advertisements, for example [Newspapers (1785)], and in promotional material like trade cards, for example [Tradecards (18c.)] and [Tradecards (18c.)].

OED earliest date of use: 1813 as perfumed distilled water

Found described as FOREIGN
Found imported by GALLON

Sources: Houghton, Newspapers, Tradecards.

Periwig box

[perriwigg boxe; perriwigg box]

A BOX in which to keep a PERIWIG. Although not labelled as such, the 'pasteboard box' in which Stapley returned his 'perriwigge' to its maker in 1700 was obviously a box designed for the purpose [Diaries (Stapley)]. Other sources suggest they were made of LEATHER by a TRUNK maker [Tradecards (1762)]. PERUKE boxes have also been noted [Tradecards (18c.)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Tradecards.

Persh rod

A flexible ROD, probably of WILLOW, and probably for making a BASKET. Although the term does not appear in the Dictionary Archive, it was not uncommon in other sources, for example several consignments were recorded going down the river Severn between 1747 and 1764, in units of the BUNDLE [Gloucester Coastal Port Books (1988)].

OED earliest date of use: 1398 as Persh only

References: Gloucester Coastal Port Books (1998).

Peterborough flax

The term refers to FLAX exported from Russia through the Baltic port of St Petersburg (later Leningrad), then often anglicised as Peterborough. Like so many other terms for flax, Peterborough flax came to be used as a label for a particular way of packaging, and indicated the number of HEADs tied up together. For Peterborough flax this was in bunches each containing either nine or twelve heads. Randle Holme describes the methods and labelling of flax in some detail, though his explanations are not overly lucid. Calculating from the details he gave, nine head of Peterborough flax would probably have weighed between four and five POUND [Holme (2000)].

Found described as 9 headed, 12 headed
Found in units of TON

Sources: Newspapers.
References: Holme (2000).

Peterborough hemp

HEMP imported through the north Russian port of 'Peterborough', but probably grown in the south where conditions are better suited to producing a robust plant with strong, long fibres. According to Tomlinson, it was brought by water to Peterborough mainly in the spring and summer. There it was sorted by sworn agents called brackers who made it up into bundles, each of which was tagged with its place of origin, the date and the name of the sorter [Tomlinson (1854)].

The several grades of Peterborough hemp were called respectively: CLEAN hemp or first, the next OUTSHOT or 'seconds', then HALF CLEAN or 'thirds', and finally CODILLA. BRACK HEMP appears to have been an alternative name for the top grade [Tomlinson (1854)]. Whatever the name, Peterborough's top grade was regarded as second only in quality to RHINE, the top grade of RIGA HEMP. Peterborough hemp of the best quality was used particularly for making ROPE for which purpose the top grade was required.

Not found in the OED

Found described as CLEAN
Found for sale measured by TON

Sources: Acts, Newspapers.
References: Tomlinson (1854).

Petty ginger

[pettie ginger]

Almost certainly a synonym of SMALL GINGER. Although not found together, it was contrasted with GROSS GINGER or LARGE GINGER.

Found in units of LB

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

Pewter ash

It has not been noted in the Dictionary Archive and appears only once in the [Gloucester Coastal Port Books (1988)]. Pewter ash as such is not in the dictionaries. It was probably so named by analogy with LITHARGE OF LEAD, which was also called LEAD ASH. If so, it will have been an alternative name for PUTTY or PEWTER (in one of its meanings), and have been applied to a stannic oxide (oxide of TIN) made by heating TIN in air [Partington (1953)], or by calcination. It came as a very fine powder and was used to polish metal and GLASS, and other materials requiring a good finish.

OED earliest date of use: 1875 as Pewter in this sense; 1663 as Putty

References: Gloucester Coastal Port Books (1998), Partington (1953).