Sugar loaf - Surfeit water

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

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Nancy Cox, Karin Dannehl, 'Sugar loaf - Surfeit water', in Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820( Wolverhampton, 2007), British History Online [accessed 20 July 2024].

Nancy Cox, Karin Dannehl, 'Sugar loaf - Surfeit water', in Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820( Wolverhampton, 2007), British History Online, accessed July 20, 2024,

Nancy Cox, Karin Dannehl. "Sugar loaf - Surfeit water". Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820. (Wolverhampton, 2007), , British History Online. Web. 20 July 2024.

In this section

Sugar loaf

[sug'r loafe; sugger loafe; suggar loaves; suger lofe; sugar love; sugar loave; sugar loaues; sugar loafe; sugar in the loaf; shuger loves; loves of sugar; louef of sugger; lofe of sugar; loaves sugar; loafes of sugar]

A moulded conical mass of hard SUGAR made by passing SYRUP through already REFINED SUGAR in a SUGAR POT. Loaves varied in size; one, for example, weighed only 4 LB [Diaries (Moore)], while the '9 sugar loaves' recorded elsewhere weighed over 12 LB [Inventories (1634)]. If bought in this form the sugar would have been broken up using SUGAR NIPPERS.

OED earliest date of use: 1422

Found described as HARD, REFINED Found in units of C, LB, POUND Found exported by C Found rated by the CWT

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

Sugar nippers

[sugar-nippers; sugar snippers; sugar knippers]

An IMPLEMENT for cutting LOAF SUGAR into lumps; or a pair of SUGAR TONGS. Only in one inventory are the two found in the same document [Inventories (1799)]; in other records only the context may suggest which meaning was intended.

OED earliest date of use: 1790

Found in units of PAIR

Sources: Inventories (late), Tradecards.

Sugar of lead


In Latin Saccharum Saturni, LEAD acetate, called 'sugar of lead' on account of its sweet taste, is, like all lead compounds, poisonous [Partington (1953)]. The method given is not dissimilar to the one in the eighteenth-century Pharmacopoeia. According to the instructions there, this was made by boiling CERUSE in DISTILLED VINEGAR in a leaden vessel, until it was 'sufficiently sweet'. The liquor was then filtered and evaporated and then set by 'that the salt may shoot' [Pemberton (1746)]. It was probably used externally only. A patent was issued in 1800 to protect another method designed to produce 'Lead-saccharum, for the use of calico printers, and for other useful purposes' [Patents (1800)].

OED earliest date of use: 1661 under Sugar

Sources: Newspapers, Patents.
References: Partington (1953), Pemberton (1746).

Sugar of roses

[sug'r roses; sugger of roses]

According to the eighteenth-century Pharmacopoeia, sugar of roses was made of RED ROSE buds amd DOUBLE REFINED SUGAR reduced to a powder separately and then combined, mixed with a little water, and formed into lozenges before drying. This method differed from former usage by which the roses were mixed with 'sugar melted over the fire' [Pemberton (1746)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1686 under Rose

Found in units of LB

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Pemberton (1746).

Sugar pan

The PAN used for boiling and evaporating SUGAR.

OED online earliest date of use: 1844 under Sugar

Found made of BRASS

Sources: Inventories (late).

Sugar paper

[sugr pap; sugger paper; suggar pap']

A coarse PAPER such as that used for making a SUGAR - BAG. It was also the term used for the BLUE PAPER used by sugar bakers. One recipe instructs the cook to 'Put them [RATAFIA cakes] on sugar papers and sift a little fine sugar over them just as you are putting them into a slow oven' [Recipes (Raffald)]. A significant increase in the importation of blue paper in the first half of the eighteenth century may have reflected a growth in SUGAR refining. The need for the paper is also reflected in a patent of 1666 for 'Making blue paper used by sugar-bakers and others' [Patents (1666)].

OED earliest date of use: 1926 in the first sense

Found described as BLUE, WHITE
Found in units of REAM, QUIRE Found rated by the REAM

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Recipes.

Sugar plum

[sugar-plumb; sugar plumb]

A small round or oval shape made of boiled SUGAR and variously flavoured; a COMFIT or LOZENGE. From various recipes for QUACK MEDICINE, it emerges that sugar plums were designed to be 'dissolve gradually in the mouth' [Newspapers (1761)], rather than to be chewed. One quack actually labelled his 'Worm-destroying Cake' alternatively as a sugar plum [Newspapers (1760)] while another claimed that his were so 'agreeable to the Palate, Children will eat them like a common Sugar Plumb' [Tradecards (1797)].

Special containers were made to hold sugar plums like the 'Clear Horn Boxes for sugar plumbs' [Tradecards (1794)].

OED earliest date of use: a1668

Found in units of LB
Found described as FINE

Sources: Inventories (late), Newspapers, Tradecards.

Sugar pot

[sugar pott]

These were inverted conical pots made of EARTHENWARE, with a hole in the bottom used in the process of refining SUGAR. Randle Holme described the pots, which he called moulds, in some detail. In his illustration he showed 'a Larg mould, or a great Sugar loaf Mould: this is a thing made of Clay and burnt, round and hollow, with a welt, or ring, or Gard about the Brim of it, growing taper towards the top and then rounded off, at which place is fixed a round Bobb, or Button with an hole through it and the bottom of the Mould; when they are out of use then they are turned thus vpside down, when in use they haue the mouth vpwards ... These Moulds are made of seuerall bignesses: but of three chiefly, as this which for it shape is more round and fuller at the drip hole then any of the rest. The midleing sort is called a Lumping Mould, it is not so round but more taper and make a loafe of a middle size. The lesser sort is the little Mould, and it is more taper and shorter then the other with a sharp pointed end' [Holme (2000)].

MUSCOVADO, having been reconverted into SYRUP, clarified and further evaporated, is poured into the pot or hole, the hole at the base having been stopped with LINEN rag. Once in the pot, the sugar must be stirred to prevent it from crystallising against the sides. At the next stage, the uncrystallized material is encouraged to drain through the hole. The sugar inside the pot will have solidified and can be removed. John Houghton explains this part of the process: 'In refining the sugar, the first degree of pure-ness is effected only by permitting the molosses to drein away through a hole at the bottom of the sugar-pots; the pots being all the time open at the top. The second degree is procured by covering the pots at the top with clay' [Houghton]. At this point the sugar, when it is withdrawn, was called LOAF SUGAR. Pots of various sizes were use depending on the degree of refinement required, and the quality of the initial syrup.

OED earliest date of use: 1681 under Sugar

Found described as FINE, OLD, STONE
Found in units of DOZEN

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

Sugar spirit


Apparently SPIRITS prepared from the waste products of SUGAR refining. In the only example in the Dictionary Archive, it may mean simply RUM [Recipes (Nott)].

OED earliest date of use: 1731

Sources: Recipes.

Sugar tongs

A metal IMPLEMENT for taking hold of a piece of LUMP SUGAR and transferring into a beverage, particularly TEA. Usually the two ends were spoon-shaped with claws to facilitate the operation. Although often made of SILVER, the handles could well be made of contrasting materials as is the case in an entry for 'Sugar Tongs in Tortoishell, Pearl, Ivory and Bone; Small Ivory Sugar Tongs, for Children' [Tradecards (1794)]. Making them was a specialised trade, hence 'Sugar Tong maker' [Inventories (1794)]. As with most items made with precious metals, cheaper substitutes were available, as in the advertisement for 'Sugar Tongs, ... & other Articles in Imitation of Silver [Tradecards (1782)].

OED earliest date of use: 1708 under Sugar

Found in units of PAIR

Sources: Inventories (late), Newspapers, Tradecards.

Sugar water

Sugar water has not been located in the Dictionary Archive. It appears to have had culinary uses, as the fifteenth-century quotations in the OED show. Given that a sweetened water seems so easy to make domestically, it would seem unlikely that there had ever been a retail market for it. On the other hand, the OED included a quotation from the Supplement of Chambers Cyclopedia dated 1753 in which Sugar water was described as 'no other than the water in which the aprons, moulds, and other utensils, employed in the refining of sugar, are washed'. It may be that it was in this form that sugar water was carried up the River Severn on six occasions between 1679 and 1727 [Gloucester Coastal Port Books (1988)]. Presumably it had some commercial use, though quite what that may have been is not clear.

OED earliest date of use: c1430

References: Gloucester Coastal Port Books (1998).



A BOARD, variously used by depending on the occupation. It was used in making CHEESE apparently in the CHEESE PRESS, hence 'chesfatts ij shuters' [Inventories (1590)], and it was also found used in making CIDER (see the quotations in the OED). In both these cases it was presumably designed to spread the load of the press uniformly on the cheese curds and on the crushed apple respectively. In the Gloucester Coastal Port Books a 'bakers suiter' was listed in one cargo. There does not seem to be any process in baking that requires pressing, so the function of the suiter in this trade remains obscure.

OED earliest date of use: 1586

Sources: Inventories (early).

Suiters thread

Found only in one entry, among the imports to London during the 1680s. There is no other clue to its meaning; it does not seem to bear any relation to SUITER.

Not found in the OED

Found imported and rated by the LB

See also SUITER.
Sources: Houghton.


[sulphuris; sulph'r; sulpher; sulph; sulfer]

A greenish-yellow, non-metallic substance, found abundantly in volcanic regions, and occurring free in nature as a brittle crystalline solid. It is also widely distributed in combination with metals and other substances, particularly COPPER in this country. In popular and commercial language sulphur was otherwise known as BRIMSTONE. It is highly inflammable in many forms, but not as sulphuric acid. Sulphur was an increasingly important, raw material of industry and was used in the manufacture of matches, GUNPOWDER, and sulphuric acid [OIL OF VITRIOL], in bleaching, and as a disinfectant. In a refined state, for example, as FLOWERS OF SULPHUR it was used medicinally, especially for skin diseases. In popular belief sulphur has been associated with the fires of hell, with devils, and with thunder and lightning.

It was manufactured in this country largely from native sulphides of COPPER and IRON. The COPPER ORE extracted from the huge open-cast mine at Mynydd Parys in Anglesey was high in sulphur. Initially the sulphur was seen as a waste product. Heaps of ore were burnt in the open and the sulphurous gases blown out to sea. Increased demand for sulphuric acid and GUNPOWDER encouraged changes in the technology so that the sulphur could be recovered profitably. After Matthew Boulton had visited the site in 1787 he described one of the methods then in use. The ore was burnt or calcined in conical kilns built of brick. As the heat increased, the sulphur rose to the top, and was 'condensed in the form of Flowers Of Brimstone in the Condenser which is a big empty space built with brick in the ground'. The 'flowers' were then put into a 'Cast Iron Cylindrical vessel and melted by a gentle heat' and poured into moulds. In this form the brimstone was 'sold for the purpose of making oil of Vitriol [sulphuric acid] of which Anglesey make 3000 tons per year' [Amlwchdata (online)].

The process used at Parys was only one of several. Innovators throughout the eighteenth century were quick to protect new methods of obtaining this valuable material, from Samuel Hutchins's new way of 'Extracting and preserving sulphur contained in mundic' [Patents (1730)] to Matthew Sanderson's for 'Extracting alum, sulphur, and white and green vitriols, from lead-glitter, blue-stone, and iron-ores [Patents (1780)]. Probably only one or two offered anything genuinely new, but the number of those who tried reflects the importance of sulphur at the time and the need to produce it cheaply.

Sulphur and sulphur products appear in many forms in the Dictionary Archive, including ALUM, FLOWERS OF SULPHUR, SUPHURUM VIVUM, and the various forms of VITRIOL. Confusion is further increased by the use of BRIMSTONE virtually interchangeably with sulphur; flowers of sulphur is the same as FLOWERS OF BRIMSTONE, for example, and 'Roll sulphur' (which does not appear in the Dictionary Archive) as ROLL BRIMSTONE.

OED earliest date of use: 13--


Sources: Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Patents, Rates, Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Amlwchdata (online).

Sulphur lozenges

SULPHUR was probably offered for medicinal use in the form of lozenges, since the SUGAR may have gone some way to hide the unpleasant taste. The lozenges could have been intended as a laxative or sudorific, but a quotation in the OED, dated 1844, said they were used in the treatment of asthma and haemorrhoids. It is unlikely they were intended for any but medicinal use.

OED earliest date of use: 1844

Found in units of small BOX

See also LOZENGE.
Sources: Tradecards.

Sulphur stone

An uncommon name for IRON - PYRITES, also known as BRASSes. The term appears only once in the Dictionary Archive in a patent for making GUNPOWDER [Patents (1766)], though under other names it was more frequently referred to.

Not found in the OED online

Found described as 'found in coal-mines'

Sources: Patents.

Sulphurum vivum

[sulphuru' viuu'; sulphur vivum; sulphur viv'm; sulphur vive; sulphur viv'; sulphire vive; sulph vivu'; sulph viv]

A LATIN term meaning literally 'living sulphur'. It was usually applied to native or virgin SULPHUR, as it came from the mine, but also applied to sulphur in a fused, partly purified form. It was sometimes known, though not in the Dictionary Archive, as 'Sulphur of Ivy'.

OED earliest date of use: 1651

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

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

Sumpter trunk

[sumpter & portmanteau trunks]

A form of TRUNK designed for carriage on a SUMPTER or pack HORSE. Probably by the eighteenth century, when it has been noted among the promotional literature of a trunk maker [Tradecards (18c.)], it was type of trunk distinguished from others by its shape, rather than of its original function.

OED online earliest date of use: 1653 under Sumpter

Sources: Tradecards.


A long strap, usually made of GIRTH WEB or LEATHER. It was used to go under the belly of a HORSE and over any load, be that a pack or a CLOAK BAG.

OED earliest use: 1390


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

Surfeit water

A medicinal WATER designed, as its name suggests, to alleviate the effects of overindulgence in eating or drinking. Recipes for these WATERs abound, many of them given the imprimatur of a famous name, such as 'King Charles II's Surfeit Water' [Recipes (Smith)]. The essential ingredients seem to have been alcohol in the form of BRANDY or AQUA VITAE, dried fruits and POPPY flowers, such as the RED POPPY used by John Pechey [Pechey (1694a)].

OED earliest date of use: 1633

Found in unit of GALLON

Sources: Inventories (late), Recipes.
References: Pechey (1694a).