Roche alum - Roset

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

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Roche alum

[rock allom; roche allam; roch allum; roch allome; roch allom; roack allom; roach-allum; roach allum; roach allome; roach & common allum; alumen roch; allum ronisli or rock; allom, romish or roach]

Also known as Rock alum or Roman alum, it was ALUM prepared from the alum-stone in Italy.

OED earliest date of use: 1436 under Alum and under Roche alum

Found in units of C, LB, POUND, QU Found among the DRUGS, rated by the HUNDREDWEIGHT

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

Rock sugar


The OED suggests the term was applied to a hard confection of candied SUGAR, variously flavoured, but elsewhere it was simply an alternative name for LOAF SUGAR [Toussaint-Samat (1987)]. The only reference to rock sugar in the Dictionary Archive suggests the former [Recipes (Eales)].

OED earliest date of use: 1736

Sources: Recipes.
References: Toussaint-Samat (1987).

Rocking horse

A WOODEN HORSE mounted on rockers for children to ride upon with a rocking motion. Although not found in the Dictionary Archive, other types of TOY horse are, indicating the importance of the HORSE in early-modern life.

OED earliest date of use: 1724


[rood; rode; rodde; rodd]

Any straight stake, wand or shoot, much longer than it is broad and roughly circular in section. A few have been noted singly and intended for a specific purpose, like the 'on longe Rodde for a Plumpe xijd' [Inventories (1604)]. Most, however, are found in the BUNCH or BUNDLE or in units of weight. In the Dictionary Archive, rod has been noted used elliptically for BASKET ROD, for example [Inventories (1689)], for ROD IRON, for example [Newspapers (1778)], for CANDLE ROD, for example [Inventories (1690)], and most frequently of all for CURTAIN ROD, for example [Inventories (1699)]. Indeed, any of the many specificied rods in the Dictionary Archive could well be found in this way. A list of them includes:



Braziers rods [Inventories (1799)]



Copper rod [Rates (1784)]




Gun rod [Inventories (1750)]



Prichell rod [Inventories (1660)] of a bit maker

Quill rod [Inventories (1671)] in connection with the handle of a KNIFE




Window rod - rod for a WINDOW CURTAIN

OED earliest date of use: 1150

Elliptically for BASKET ROD: Found described as GREAT, SMALL Found in units of BUNDLE
Elliptically for ROD IRON: Found in units of LB

See also CANE, ROD IRON.
Sources: Acts, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Patents, Rates, Tradecards.

Rod iron

[rodd iron; iron slit or hammered into rods; iron rod]

It is occasionally found shortened to ROD. The slitting of malleable BAR IRON into thin rods was a preliminary step in the manufacture of NAILS. In the mid-sixteenth century this was a laborious process in which sheets of iron were split with a hammer and chisel. In the seventeenth century, however, the water-powered slitting mill, which had been introduced from the Netherlands in about 1590, became the dominant technology. By the end of the eighteenth century there were 48 such mills at work in the British Isles.

The steel-edged rotating cutters of the slitting mill could be adjusted to produce rods of varying gauge, suitable for nails of different types. At Sir Ambrose Crowley's mill at Winlaton in county Durham thirteen gauges were made in the early eighteenth century, ranging from 3/16 of an INCH to 1 inch in thickness [Crowley (mss)]. Most nails were made from the brittle 'cold short' iron that was the standard product of English forges, although as the demand for nails shifted upwards in the eighteenth century RUSSIAN IRON, which was often 'cold short' in character', was increasingly used. Some nails, however, were made using the more expensive 'tough' brands of iron. HORSESHOE nails and rivets fell into this category: they were often hammered out from rods of SWEDISH IRON.

Before the advent of mechanised nail cutting in the nineteenth century, nail making was a largely domestic trade, especially in the major nail-producing districts of south Staffordshire and south Yorkshire. Rod iron was put out to individual nailers by chapmen. Rods were issued in 60 LB bundles. It was usual, a visitor to Stourbridge claimed in the 1750s, for a nailer to 'work up two bundles of slit iron per week, with a total weight of 1 cwt which gives him an income of 1s 6d [per diem]' [Angerstein (2001)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1690 under Rod

Chris Evans

Found described as of Ireland, of MSUCOVY, of RUSSIA
Found in units of BUNDLE Found rated by HUNDREDWEIGHT

Sources: Acts, Inventories (mid-period), Patents, Rates.
References: Angerstein (2001), Crowley (mss), Rowlands (1975).

Roll brimstone

[roll brimston; role brimstone; brimsiston rol]

Also known as 'Roll SULPHUR', though not in the Dictionary Archive. Roll BRIMSTONE is a fairly purified form of SULPHUR made by collecting the molten sulphur and running it into a mould. In one process used in the late-eighteenth century, the roll was produced by remelting FLOWERS OF SULPHUR in an iron container, but in another processes it was made in the same furnace as the flowers; the latter being collected form the walls of the chimney, the latter by allowing the flowers to remelt, run down and be run off from the foot. Roll brimstone was probably the most common form found in the shops, where it was sometimes recorded with the powder, as in 'Flower and Roll Brimstone' [Newspapers (1750)]. In another example, the flowers were apparently listed simply as 'sulphur' along with roll brimstone [Tradecards (19c.)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1764 under Roll

Found in units of C, CWT, LB, POUND, QUARTER, TON

Sources: Inventories (late), Newspapers, Tradecards.

Rolled band

[rowled band; roll band; rold band; ro. band]

Judging by the contexts of the several examples found in the Dictionary Archive, a rolled BAND was a form of HATBAND; possibly one in which the fabric was folded over similar to the 'treble bandes of silke syprese' [Inventories (1605)] described elsewhere.

Not found in the OED online

Found described as COLOURED
Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Inventories (early).

Roman vitriol

[vittriol roman; vitriolum romanum; vitriol roman; romane vitriole; roman vittrell; roman vittrall; roman vitrioll; roman vitriall; roman vitrall; roman & white vitriol; rom vitrioll]

An alternative and more common name for BLUE VITRIOL, that is COPPER sulphate. It has been noted as an ingredient of INK [Recipes (Save Wealth)], and mixed with the patient's blood as a remedy for 'Tooth-aick' [Diaries (Blundell)]. One manufacturer in the 1790s advertised himself as 'Maker of Oil of Vitriol, Roman Vitriol' [Newspapers (1790)].

OED earliest date of use: 1425 under Vitriol

Found described as POWDER
Found in units of LB, OZ, POUND Found among the DRUGS in the Rate Books, rated by the POUND

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

Roman wormwood

A species of WORMWOOD, Artemisia pontica, that is native of the warmer parts of Europe but grown in English gardens by the sixteenth century. As Culpeper wrote, it was 'usually nursed up in gardens for the use of the apothecaries in London'. According to him ''it is altogether like the common wormwood, save only that it is smaller, not so bitter, and of a sweeter smell' [Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.)].

OED earliest date of use: 1548 as wormwood pontike, 1551 as wormwode romane

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

Room hangings

[hangings round the room; hangings of the room; hangings for rooms]

HANGINGS was a general term that could apply to either CURTAINs or to WINDOW CURTAINs. It is relatively rare for this more specific term to be used. It may have subsumed terms used elsewhere like PAINTED CLOTH, ARRAS, TAPESTRY. Some retailers offered assistance in fitting or advertised their fabric for sale 'in Lengths or in Sheets' [Tradecards (1702)].

So long as room hangings were used as wall decoration, there was the possibility of using different sets for different circumstances, such as in the summer and winter. Some retailers also offered hangings appropriate when there was a death in the house; for example Robert Green of Southwark who both sold and let them along with VELVET PALLs [Tradecards (1752)].

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Inventories (late), Tradecards.

Rope hemp

Presumably HEMP of a suitable nature to be made into ROPE. According to Rees, this meant only the longest, strongest fibres, like the ones taken from plants grown in southern Russia. Russian hemp came to England through the northern ports, and hence the names PETERBOROUGH HEMP and RIGA HEMP. Probably rope hemp was home produced, however, and was no more than a synonym for STEEL HEMP. The term died out of use once superior imports were available for the purpose. In one probate inventory, rope hemp was valued at a mere 3s the STONE, while HOLLAND hemp was worth 5s the stone [Inventories (1660)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period).
References: Rees (1820), IV/332.

Rosa solis

[ros solis]

The Latin for ROSE of the SUN. An alternative popular name given to the herb sundew or Drosera rotundifolia, most commonly found in wet and boggy regions. The seventeenth-century agricultural writer John Houghton singled out this plant as being 'harmful to sheep, for it burns their lungs, and stirs up a deadly cough, which is called the ret rot.' [Houghton]. In humans, however, rosa solis was believed to offer medicinal benefits. The juice was applied to treat warts and corns, and more commonly was also an ingredient in CORDIALs and LIQUEURs, a distinct classification of which was given the generic label rosa solis [Nott (1726, facs. 1980)]. This became something of a panacea, described by Gerard as being able to 'strengtheneth and nourisheth the body' [Hess (1981)]. By the eighteenth century rosa solis was usually made from SPIRITs, particularly BRANDY, various ESSENCEs, as well as SUGAR and SPICEs such as CINNAMON, MACE, GINGER, CLOVE and NUTMEG. In 1784 rosa solis was subject to the same high rate of duty of 2s 10d per GALLON as the similar consumer product HUNGARY WATER.

OED earliest date of use: 1598

Simone Clarke

Found in units of GLASS, stone POT

Sources: Houghton, Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates, Recipes.
References: Hess (1981), Nott (1726, facs. 1980).


Rosat was sometimes no more than a variant of ROSET, but it was also a term in its own right meaning OIL OF ROSES. It is probably in this sense that it has been noted as 'Sp. Aromat. Rosat' [Inventories (1665)], and 'Aromaticu' Rosaru' was almost certainly the same product [Inventories (1625)].

OED earliest date of use: 1579

Found described as AROMATIC
Found in units of DRACHM

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

Rose leaves

[rose-leaves; leaves of roses]

ROSE petals

OED earliest date of use: 1366

Found described as DRIED, RED
Found in units of OZ Found imported by LB Found among the DRUGS, rated by the POUND

Sources: Houghton, Rates, Recipes.

Rose nail


Apparently a decorative NAIL with a head cut into triangular facets. They were almost certainly made of BRASS or similar alloy. One craftsman who had rose nails also had CHAIR NAILs, which have something of the same function [Inventories (1583)]. The COPPER NAIL and SADDLERS NAIL were joined with the rose nail in the 1660 Book of Rates, again confirming it was used largely for decoration like them [Rates (1660)], but also that they could not have been overly elaborate as they were rated by the SUM of 10,000.

OED earliest date of use: 1640

Found in units of THOUSAND Found rated by the SUM

Sources: Inventories (early), Rates.

Rose vinegar

VINEGAR in which ROSE petals have been steeped and left for several days before straining [Froud and Turgeon (1961)]. The quotations in OED online show that it had many uses; in TOILETRY, cooking, for dissipating unpleasant smells and as an external application to relieve headaches.

OED online earliest date of use: 1603

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

Rose water

[rose-water; rosewater; rose, or clear water; rose watter; rose or orange-flower water; roase water]

This is a water either distilled from ROSEs, and either the RED ROSE or the WHITE were used, or impregnated with ESSENCE of roses. It was used primarily as a PERFUME etc., but was also used as a delicate flavouring in medicine, for example CONFECTIO ALKERMES [Recipes (Culpeper)], in cooking, for example BLANCMANGE [Recipes (Eales)], and in TOILETRY, for example POMANDER [Recipes (Queens)]. Although roses grow well in Britain, much rose water was imported, at least in the early part of the period, and therefore rated [Rates (1582)].

OED earliest date of use: 1398

Found described as BEST, RED, WHITE, scented Found listed as a SIMPLE WATER, SWEET WATER
Found in units of GALLON, GLASS, HOGSHEAD, PINT, QUART, SPOON Found rated by the GLASS

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

Rose water still

[rose still]

OED suggests that it was simply a STILL for making ROSE WATER. The quotation given in support is dated 1663, and describes it as COMMON, the same term used by Randle Holme to describe the simplest of his stills. Holme adds that it is 'fixed upon it's Bottom' and used for 'drawing of Waters from Floweres, Leaves, and Herbs, by heat of Fire' [Holme (2000)] and it seems therefore likely that the two still were of the same type.

OED earliest date of use: 1663 under Rose water

Sources: Recipes.
References: Holme (2000).


[russet; rosset]

A term with several different meanings in the early-modern period. It appears only a few times in the Dictionary Archive, and in none of them is the meaning unambiguous. In TRADECARDS it may have referred to a rose-coloured PIGMENT, apparently made from scraped BRAZIL, and this seems its most probable meaning in the early inventories and in some of the entries in the Books of Rates.

OED earliest date of use: 1485

However, the OED also indicates that it was a synonym for ROSIN and a common variant spelling for RUSSET.

OED earliest date of use: 1501, though the first quotation in the OED under the previous meaning could just as easily have been used in this sense

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

Sources: Inventories (early), Rates, Tradecards.