Wad - Warp

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.


In this section


Notice that wad and wadd are sometimes used as variants of WOAD.

In the Dictionary Archive this term is found primarily as a name for BLACK LEAD, also known as plumbago or BLACK CAWK and sometimes as 'black wad'.

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1614

The term was also applied to a BUNDLE of goods such as HAY, STRAW, PEAS, BEANS or VETCHes, made at the time of cutting or reaping, and as a proportion of a sheaf of cereal plants or reeds.

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1573

In a further extension of meaning, it could be a synonym of WADDING or be applied to the material used in a GUN to fit the projectile firmly in the barrel. In the form 'wadded' it was popular in the sixteenth century at a time when it was fashionable to stuff garments like BREECHES into a favoured shape, hence 'Wadded Puke' [Inventories (1587)].

Found described as BLACK, SILK
Found in units of PIECE, YARD

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



Any loose fibrous materials such as WOOL, HORSEHAIR or COTTON WOOL for use as padding, stuffing, QUILTING, etc., particularly in UPHOLSTERY. Wadding of this sort was sold like any other TEXTILE in the PIECE or YARD, being valued at 3d-5d the YARD. More particularly, the term was applied to any soft, pliable material suitable for making the WAD that rammed the SHOT up against the GUNPOWDER in a GUN.

OED earliest date of use: 1627

Found in units of PIECE, YARD

Sources: Acts, Inventories (late), Patents, Tradecards.

Waggoners frock

[waggoner's frock]

A coarse over-garment worn by agricultural labourers and probably identical with, or similar to, the ROUND FROCK and the SMOCK FROCK.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Newspapers.

Wagon bolster

[wagon bolstor]

The transverse bar, in section 4 or 5 INCH square made of BEECH, ASH or OAK, and placed over the fore axle of a WAGON. On it rests the 'pillow', which is attached to the base of the body. The body of the wagon, the pillow and the bolster are attached to each other with a central hole bored through all three and the coupling pole or WAGON POLE. Through this hole passes the king pin, which thus provides the link, not only of the body to the undercarriage, but also the fore carriage and the rear carriage [Jenkins (1961, new ed. 1972)]. The only example of bolster in this sense is found in association with wagon poles [Inventories (1720)].

OED earliest date of use: 1686 under Bolster

Sources: Inventories (late).
References: Jenkins (1961, new ed. 1972).


[wynscote; winscoate; weynscott; weynescote; wenscote; wenscoat; wenecoatin; weneceoating; wencecoating; waynscott; waynscote; waynscoate; waynescott; wanscott; wanscoted; wanscoate; wanscoat; waniscote; wanes; wainsescotte; wainscotted; wainscott; wainscoting; wainscote; wainescot]

A term possibly taken from the Dutch 'wagenschot' meaning a wagon shaft, describing OAK quarter cut. Although applied specifically to high-quality wood, it was commonly used to refer to imported oak TIMBER imported from RUSSIA, GERMANY and HOLLAND. This was better fitted to make FURNITURE and the like than the homegrown oak, which was heavier and more suited to construction [Edwards (2000)]. In the sixteenth century much was imported from the Low Countries, already made up into panels or leaves [Tawney and Power (1924-8)], but by the end of the eighteenth century, wainscot was imported either as LOG, defined in the Book of Rates for 1784 as 'being 8 Inches Square or upwards', or as BOARDS '12 feet in Length, and 1 Inch in Thickness' [Rates (1784)].

For most of the period, wainscot meant oak and the term was used to describe any piece of FURNITURE of solid wood construction, especially in rural England [Gloag (1952, revised 1991)]. Entries in probate inventories like a 'standing bedsted corded with a wainscote head' [Inventories (1594)], 'waynscote presses in the shope xxxs' [Inventories (1604)], 'one wanscoted painted box' valued at 1s [Inventories (1682)], and '2 wainscoat chaires & bench' worth 2s [Inventories (1701)] are commonplace, though they become less common as the period progresses.

During the seventeenth century the meaning of the term was extended to include panelling, and wainscot was extensively used to panel rooms before WALLPAPER provided an attractive alternative. However, examples of this are unusual in the Dictionary Archive, largely because most of the sources cover moveable and tradable goods, while wainscotting was to some extent fixed to the freehold. This is highlighted by an inventory produced for a purpose other than probate (probably at the beginning of a lease), which included among the 'Things fixt to the ffreehold' 2 wainscote window Leaves in the pantre' [Inventories (1675)]. Entries in probate inventories, like 'the waincoate Rownd the hall' [Inventories (1675)], are rare exceptions. Other informative examples of wainscot include the advertisement for the sale of some 'well built brick Houses ... most of the rooms are papered or wainscotted' [Newspapers (1770)], and an entry in the diary of Nicholas Blundell, where he recorded a payment of £4 in 1723 for 'Wenecoating the Norsey at 8d per yard & meat' [Diaries (Blundell)].

Wainscot required maintenance to retain a good appearance hence ancillary equipment like wainscot brushes [Newspapers (1763)], and 'a fine, white, hard, transparent Varnish for Oak Wainscot, whereby the Beauty and Colour of the Wood is preserved' [Newspapers (1751)].

OED earliest date of use: 1352 as the TIMBER; 1548 already made up

Found in units of BOARD, LOG, PIECE, YARD Found rated as BOARD, HUNDRED, LOAD of 50 cubic FOOT, LOG

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Rates.
References: Edwards (2000), Gloag (1952, revised 1991), Tawney and Power (1924-8).


[waytte; waytt; waite]

A common variant of WEIGHT, but used specifically, according to John Houghton as a measurement of weight found in Dorchester, Exeter and Taunton comprising 30 LB [Houghton].

Not found in the OED

As a variant of WEIGHT: Found described as BIG, GOLD, GREAT, SMALL, TROY Found made of BRASS, IRON, LEAD
Found in units of PILE

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


A SALVER or a small serving tray without handles, used for handing round drinks. They were usually made in SILVER or SILVER PLATE (they were some of the first objects made in SHEFFIELD PLATE), and many had pie crust or gadroon raised edges. Philippa Glanville says that during the eighteenth century there was an increase in objects connected with wine and this included waiters although they were not a new invention [Glanville (1987)].

OED earliest date of use: 1738

Margaret Ponsonby

Found described as JAPAN, JAPANNED, Pontypool, SMALL Found covered with LEATHER

Sources: Inventories (late), Newspapers, Patents, Tradecards.
References: Glanville (1987).

Walking stick

[walking and common sticks]

A STICK or short staff carried in the hand when walking. As with a CANE, the bottom end of a walking stick was sometimes protected with a FERRULE, while the handle end may well have been made of a different and more decorative material.

OED earliest date of use: 1580

Found made of GROUND OAK

Sources: Houghton, Inventories (late), Newspapers, Tradecards.

Walnut plums

[wallnutt plomes]

Possibly there was a variety of PLUM called a 'walnut plum', but it was not included in the list of plums drawn up, probably by John Tradescant, in about 1620 [Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 1461], and has not been noted elsewhere, except in a more or less contemporary list of plums in a Cheshire retailers shop [Inventories (1624)]. An alternative is a SWEET MEAT made of green WALNUTs as described in the anonymous 'True Way of Preserving and Candying' [Anon (1695, facs. 1994)]. If this is correct then 'Plum' was being used elliptically for SUGAR PLUM.

Found in units of LB, OZ

Sources: Inventories (early).
References: Anon (1695, facs. 1994), Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 1461.

War engine

[engines of war; engine of war]

The term refers to a MACHINE or INSTRUMENT used in warfare. It was formerly applied to all offensive weapons, but chiefly, and now exclusively, to those of a large size and having some mechanism, like a battering ram or catapult, or to large ORDNANCE. An act in the 1540s referred to 'Metals not to be meet for making of Guns, and other Engines of War' suggests how the term was understood at that time [Acts (1541)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1656 under Testudineous

Sources: Acts.



In weaving, the threads that are extended lengthwise in the LOOM, usually twisted harder than the WEFT or woof, with which these threads are crossed to form the web or piece. Arranging the warp in the loom, or warping as it is called, is a complicated process in two stages. One method of conducting this operation is described by John Munro. The warp threads were first wound on warping board pegs (possibly elsewhere called a WARPING PIN), measured and rewound into SKEINs. These were sized in a liquor made of boiled flour or animal skins in order to protect the threads during the stresses of weaving. The sized skeins were mounted on some device like a RICE or SWIFT and wound onto the bar that fitted in position at the back of the loom. The threads could now be individually threaded through the loops of the HEDDLE, then through the teeth of the REED and finally be attached to the cloth beam at the front of the loom [Munro (1994)].

The vocabulary used both to label each part of the process and each item of equipment differed from region to region and technological progress meant that new implements came into use. Later methods are described under WARPING BAR and WARPING MILL.

Entries like 'the warpe & the Cloth' show both the warp in the loom and the partly made piece of cloth, which would have added value to the warp on its own [Inventories (1602)]. Many entries illustrate how the warp once prepared could have been described. The '5 warpes of yearne 40s a warp' [Inventories (1602)] almost suggests that warp as used a unit of measure. Given that a known length of warp would have been prepared for any particular type of cloth, it is understandable the appraisers wrote of it in this way. The entry 'more in Chaynes warped' [Inventories (1637)], shows the warp after it had been taken off the pegs in a method described under WARPING PIN. Often the warp already in the loom was described by the cloth that was in the making, hence '3 Monkes warpe & striking' and 'for Rug warpe' [Inventories (1674)], 'Warp and stricking for five peces Callamancos' [Inventories (1692)], and '1 li 8 oz bla Ribbon warpe 28s' [Inventories (1676)].

OED online earliest date of use: c725

A warp was also a unit of measure of which the only one noted in the dictionaries and in Zupko's Dictionary of English Weights and Measures' is a for TALE FISH. It consisted of four, occasionally three or a couple. Warp was not been noted in this sense in the Dictionary Archive, but in the Gloucester Coastal Port Books, it seems to have been a measure of incoming EARTHENWARE, usually of MUGs or JUGs; like the warp of fish it may have consisted of four, and it may have been synonymous with STRING.

One example in the Dictionary Archive recording 'iij bordey and ix warpe of stele' [Inventories (1544)], suggests that the warp consisted of part of a BURDEN of STEEL. Possibly it was the equivalent of a GAD or of a SHEAF, the two common units.

OED online earliest date of use: 1436 of a warp as a unit of measure for FISH; for earthenware or steel it has not been found

Found in units of DOZEN, LB, OZ

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Patents.
References: Munro (1994), Zupko (1968).