Samuel Atcherley’s true and perfect inventory (Part 3)

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The conclusion of our ‘guided tour’ of Samuel Atcherley’s house, aided by the “true and perfect Inventory” of his possessions taken in 1731. As in parts 1 and 2, to save space the items listed below are not set out in the same format as in the inventory, but they follow the same order and all original spellings remain unchanged, including the use of ‘ff’ to represent an upper case F.

In the Serv’t Maids Room: One Old Bed (£1).

A lack of punctuation leaves me wondering if this was the servant maid’s room or the servant maids’ room. The presence of just one bed does not necessarily mean there was only one servant maid occupying the room at night – sharing may have been required.

In the Cheese Chamber: Cheese (£13); Cheese Boards (5s); One winnow sheet & ½ a strike (4s).

From Barrie Trinder in A History of Shropshire we learn that cheese in Shropshire inventories from the late 1600s to the early 1700s was valued at £20 per ton. Hence my earlier estimation that Samuel had over half a ton of cheese in this room. In addition to the cheese and cheese boards, there was a ‘winnow sheet’ (a large sheet which would have been used to winnow corn) and half a strike (of corn), a measure equating to four pecks or one bushel (a peck being 2 gallons or 16 dry pints).

In the Corn Chamber: Corn (£1); Malt (£1); One old Packell and Pillion (2s).

‘Corn’ was a generic term used for any native grain and even peas (see “Corn on the Ground” below), but (according to the Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820) “the term was often applied locally to the grain most commonly grown in that district so that in much of England it indicated wheat.” Later in Samuel’s inventory, we will find oats, wheat, rye and barley all named, so what was the grain in the corn chamber? The presence of malt (used in brewing) suggests that it may have been barley, as this was the cereal most often used to make malt.

As with many of the other rooms in Samuel’s home, the corn chamber has objects within it which seem not to belong. The pillion was a pad, cushion or seat which would have been placed behind the saddle on a horse for a second rider. A likely definition for the ‘packell’ can be found in the Shropshire Parish Register Society’s abstract of the register of St Mary’s, Shrewsbury:

The Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820 concurs, suggesting that a packel head, a term found in inventories, was “the front part of a pack saddle”.

In the Serv’t Mans Room: Bacon (5s); One old Bed (£1 5s); One Hopper & Cutting Knife (1s 6d); Sives & Baggs (£1 1s); Old Iron (8s).

In contrast to the servant maid’s (or maids’) room, the room for the servant man (or men?) contained more than just a bed. But not a great deal more. The hopper, cutting knife, sieves and bags all appear to be things that would be used in the course of the servant’s (or servants’) work. The ‘old iron’ remains something of a mystery (valued at 8 shillings, it clearly wasn’t junk). And the “Why is that in here?” object for this room is, for me, the five shillings’ worth of bacon.

In the Chamber over ye Kitchen: One Bed &ca. (£2 10s); Four old Leather Chairs (4s); One Old table & 1 Coffer (4s); Linnen (£7 10s); Oates (7s).

The first of three rooms which may have been used as a bedroom by Samuel’s son John Atcherley, by house-guests, or possibly (despite other rooms being designated for them) by servants. Most of the items found in this room need no explanation (‘coffer’ has already been defined, see the Green Room in Part 2). The term ‘Linnen’ (linen) may have referred to clothes (most likely shirts and undergarments), bed sheets, or tablecloths and napkins. Although oats were sometimes fed to horses, and added in small quantities when making malt for a strong beer with good keeping properties, the oats in this room were most likely used in the kitchen below to make porridge or pottage.

In the Blew Chamber: One Bed &ca. (£3 10s); One Hanging Press (14s); One Little Table (1s); Six Old Chairs (1s 6d).

The ‘hanging press’ in this room was not some strange variant of the cheese presses found in the cheese chamber, but a large cupboard which would have been used for storing linen.

In the Parlour Chamber: One Bed &ca. (£4); One Table (2s); One old Chest of Drawers (10s); One Chest (16s); Eight old Chairs (2s); Window Curtains (1s); Books (10s).

This room contained the most expensive bed in Samuel’s home. It was also the only room with books and window curtains. Attached to the parlour, it may perhaps have been a guest bedroom. The eight old chairs in the parlour chamber brought the total number of chairs around the house to more than 30, in addition to the joyn stools and forms – I cannot help but wonder what proportion of them were actually sat upon!

In the Back House: One Malt Mill (15s); One Hair Cloth (2s 6d); One Old Table (1s).

The term ‘back house’ seems to cover a variety of utility rooms situated at the rear of farm houses which were used for storage of produce or equipment, for brewing, or for other functions. Samuel’s back house seems to have been used for part of his brewing operations, containing a malt mill for crushing (but not grinding into a powder) barley, and a hair cloth which was most likely used in the process of drying the barley.

Cattle: Twelve Cows & one Bull (£38); ffive Horses (£24 12s); Nine Sheep & 2 Lambs (£1 17s 6d); Three Swine (£5); ffour Geese (3s).

Our tour of Samuel’s house has ended and we are now outside assessing his agricultural operations, starting with his livestock (the term ‘cattle’ in wills and inventories evidently being a generic one covering all farm animals). The twelve cows were of course the source of the milk from which Samuel made his cheese (and possibly butter, although no equipment specifically designed for butter-making is included in the inventory). The bull ensured the continuation of the herd; any male calves sired were presumably reared for their meat.

Samuel’s horses had a value, per animal, which was even greater than that of his cattle (a little under £5 each for the former compared with just under £3 each for the latter). They were Samuel’s beasts of burden, essential for pulling ploughs and harrows (and probably also a roller) across the fields, hauling carts around the farm, carrying passengers and packsaddles, and pulling waggons laden with provisions to and from market.

I am not sure whether nine sheep would have yielded much wool; I suspect they were reared primarily for meat (they would also have helped to fertilize the fields with their droppings). The pigs would also, of course, have been sources of meat (including, presumably, the bacon in the “servant mans room”), as would the geese (they would have provided eggs too).

Implements of Husbandry: One old Waggon (£2 10s); One Cart & 2 Tumbrells (£5); Two Plows & 2 Harrows (£1); One Rowler & 1 Wheelbarrow (4s); Rakes & Pikells (3s); Mall & Wedges (4s); One Iron Crow (4s 6d); Three Saddles 3 Packells (12s); Two Shovells & 1 Mattock (4s 6d); Two Yelves & 1 Dunghook (2s); One Ladder & 1 ffann (14s 6d).

Many old wills include ‘implements of husbandry’ which were typically bequeathed to the eldest son, but in my own rather limited experience those implements are rarely identified. Samuel’s inventory provides a wonderful exception to the rule. The ‘tools of his trade’ were a waggon, a cart, two tumbrels (dung carts), two ploughs, two harrows (used to break up the surface of the soil before sowing), a ‘rowler’ (almost certainly a roller), a wheelbarrow, rakes, ‘pickells’ (probably small pikes or pike-forks – pitchforks), a mall and wedges (for splitting wood), an ‘iron crow’ (crowbar), three saddles, three ‘packells’ (probably pack saddles, see In the Corn Chamber in Part 2), two shovels, a mattock (a hand tool used for both digging and chopping), two yelves (forks used to carry dung), a dunghook (probably a rake used for unloading dung from the tumbrel; yelves have also been defined as dunghooks), a ladder, and finally a fan (probably a winnowing fan).

In the Barn: Wheat & Rie (£10); Hay (£5).

The contents of the barn, taken in conjunction with the “corn on the ground” below and the contents of a number of the rooms of his house, show that Samuel grew wheat, rye, barley, peas, oats, flax and hemp, as well as maintaining one or more hay meadows to provide winter fodder for his livestock.

Corn on the Ground: Barley (£5 5s); Pease (£5); ffor things forgott (5s).

Samuel Atcherley was my seventh great grandfather. Thanks to his will, and the true and perfect inventory drawn up to help fulfil his last wishes, I have learned a lot about his way of life. A few of his possessions may have been “things forgot” – but I hope that with the help of this series of articles, Samuel himself will be remembered.


Picture credits. Packel-maker definition from the Shropshire Parish Register Society’s Register of St Mary’s, Shrewsbury (out of copyright). Malt mill text and diagrams from Noel Chomel, Richard Bradley (1725), Dictionaire oeconomique (out of copyright). Drawing of plough from John Mortimer (1708), The  whole art of husbandry (out of copyright).


References

[1] Will of Samuel Atcherley of Sowbath, Gent. Proved 28 Apr 1732. Copy from Lichfield Record Office, reference B/C/11. Indexed at Staffordshire Name Indexes.
[2]
Michael Russell (2014), Dorchester & Fordington Glossary, at Rootsweb (website, accessed 29 Jun 2014).
[3] Barrie Trinder (1998), A History of Shropshire. Second edition. Pages 68-9.
[4] Francis Grose, Samuel Pegge (1839), A Glossary of Provincial and Local Words Used in England, pages 41, 156 and 170. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[5] Peck, at Wikipedia (website, accessed 13 July 2014).
[6] Nancy Cox, Karin Dannehl (2007), Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820: Corn; packel head; linen; oats. Electronic version viewed at British History Online.
[7] Pillion, at Wikipedia (website, accessed 29 June 2014).
[8] B S Sharples (2011), Inventory Terms, at Ledbury Local History (website, accessed 29 Jun 2014).
[9] Shropshire Parish Register Society (1911), Shropshire Parish Registers, Diocese of Lichfield, volume XII, page vii, viewed at Mocavo, the Internet Archive and at the melockie website.
[10] R W Brunskill (2000), Houses and Cottages of Britain, pages 201-2. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[11] Noel Chomel, Richard Bradley (1725), Dictionaire oeconomique. Volume I. “Done into English from the Second Edition, lately printed at Paris”. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[12] John Mortimer (1708), The whole art of husbandry. Pages 143 and 269. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[13] Tumbrel, at Wikipedia (website, accessed 13 July 2014).
[14] Samuel Johnson (1766), A Dictionary of the English Language. Third edition. Volume 2. Tumbrel; Pickerel; Pike; Maul. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[15] Virgil, John Dryden, William Benson (1725), Virgil’s Husbandry: Or An Essay on the Georgics. Page 18. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[16] Chris Emms (2012), Wills and Inventories of Wolstanton Parish 1600-1650 at Probate Inventories for research (website, accessed 13 July 2014).
[17] John Cullum (1784), The history and antiquities of Hawsted. Page 190. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[18] Splitting maul, at Wikipedia (website, accessed 13 July 2014).
[19] Crowbar (tool), at Wikipedia (website, accessed 13 Jul 2014).
[20] Daniel Defoe (1791),The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. 17th edition. Volume I. Page 82. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[21] Mattock, at Wikipedia (website, accessed 13 July 2014).
[22]Yelve, at Wiktionary (website, accessed 13 July 2014).
[23] Roger Wilbraham (1826), An Attempt at a Glossary of Some Words Used in Cheshire. Page 92. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[24] Nathan Baily, John Worlidge (eds) (1726),Dictionarium Rusticum, Urbanicum & Botanicum. Volume I. Fan. Copy viewed at Google Books.


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Samuel Atcherley’s true and perfect inventory (Part 2)

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Our ‘guided tour’ of Samuel Atcherley’s house, aided by the “true and perfect Inventory” of his possessions taken in 1731, continues. Once again, to save space the items listed below are not set out in the same format as in the inventory, but they follow the same order and all original spellings remain unchanged, including the use of ‘ff’ to represent an upper case F.

In the Parlour: Two Tables and 12 Chairs (£1 13s); 12 old Pickters (4s); Toys on the Mantlepiece (1s 6d).

A parlour, according to the 1854 publication Exercises on Etymology by William Graham, is “literally, a room for conversation; from parler (French), to speak …”. The earlier Universal Etymological English Dictionary (by Nathan Bailey, published 1773) describes it as “a low Room to receive company in.” With two tables and a dozen chairs, Samuel Atcherley’s parlour was equipped a to receive a good number of guests. We can only speculate as to how often (and how many) guests were accommodated therein, what the subjects of the “old Pickters” (pictures) on the walls were, and what toys Samuel had upon his mantelpiece.

Samuel had no young children of his own in 1731; his only child, John, was then in his late teens. He did however have nephews and nieces, the children of his “Dearly Beloved Brother Roger Atcherley” and it is possible that Roger took them on trips from Shrewsbury to Sowbath from time to time to see their uncle Samuel. The ‘toys’ on Samuel’s mantelpiece may not have been children’s playthings however. The term was quite possibly used to described ornamental or decorative trinkets intended for the delight of adults. A list of commodities in a pamphlet dated 1738 includes “Tin, Lead, Leather, Toys of Gold and Silver, hard Wares of all sorts …” while another publication from 1719 refers to “Hatbands, Feathers, Fans, Girdles, Hoods, Masks, Looking-Glasses, Watches, Pictures, medals, Cabinets, Cases, Bracelets, Tablets, and other Toys”.

The mantelpiece, of course, indicates the presence of a fireplace – but the lack of a grate, fender or fire plate (all of which were present in the kitchen) suggests the absence of a fire, at least when there were no visitors.

In the Pantery: One Cupboard (1s 6d); Four Wheels (4s); Hops (£2).

The presence of a cupboard here is not a surprise. The hops, one of many indications that brewing took place in Samuel Atcherley’s home, well, why not keep them in the pantry. But the wheels? I find myself imagining Samuel’s wife tutting loudly, if they had been stored in the pantry before she passed away!

In the Celler: Ten Barrells (£2 10s); Three Stillages (2s 6d); Three Doz’n of Glass Bottles (3s 0d).

More evidence of brewing is found in the cellar, in the form of barrels, stillages (racks for supporting the barrels, or casks of ale) and bottles. There was no shortage of guidance in print for those wishing to make their own beer. One such publication was A Guide to Gentlemen, Farmers, and House-keepers, for Brewing the Finest Malt-Liquors (written by “a Country Gentleman” and published 1727 in Dublin). According to the preface to this tome: “middling ALE, Brew’d of the best Malt, Boil’d, Fermented, and Depurated, according to Art; [...] such Liquor is the most comfortable, and to be coveted Drink, the World perhaps ever yet found out [...] Thus it quencheth that most insuperable Passion of Thirst, refresheth the Bowels, relieveth the Spirits and proveth a true Cordial in most outrageous scalding Fevers.”

Brewing required water, malt (which we will find later in the Corn Chamber), and hops (which, as we have already seen, were stored in the pantry). The ‘Country Gentleman’ of Dublin recommended that “Hops must be bright, well-scented, will dry’d, cur’d, and bagg’d; and, generally speaking, are best about a Year old.”

In the dairy: Two Cheese presses (£1 1s); Wooden ware (£1 16s); 3 Scarches (1s 6d); Scales and weights (3s).

Lack of cold storage, particularly in the warmer months when production was at its peak, meant that in Samuel’s day (and for more than a century after) milk could not be transported over great distances, nor kept for any great length of time after its production for later consumption locally. Butter and cheese on the other hand could be safely stored for longer periods, making such dairy products more marketable commodities.

The parish of Stanton on Hine Heath, where Samuel had his home at Sowbath, fell within the southern part of the area of Cheshire cheese production. Shropshire historian Barrie Trinder has noted that inventories dating from the late 1600s and early 1700s, from nearby Shropshire parishes, “describe well-equipped dairy farms, with relatively large milking herds, producing cheese as a cash product within a mixed farming economy.” Samuel, who (as we will see later in his inventory) owned 12 cows, was far from being a large dairy farmer (other inventories mentioned by Trinder detailed dairy herds ranging in size from 13 to 137). Yet he was, I am certain, producing cheese commercially as it appears that he had over half a ton of it in his cheese chamber.

The cheese presses in Samuel’s dairy had a self-explanatory use (photos showing what they might have looked like can be found on the website of the University of Reading, see objects 51/1246 and 58/69). The ‘wooden ware’ found there was perhaps also associated with cheese manufacture, and the scales and weights were no doubt used to quantify the output before it was sold. But what were ‘scarches’? While they may have been items otherwise known as sarches (items made of bristles, probably for scrubbing) I suspect that they were actually sieves or strainers (more often referred to as serces or searces) through which the milk used for cheese-making was first run.

In the Dairy Chamber: Hurds (15s).

Having found wheels in Samuel’s pantry, perhaps we should not be surprised that his dairy chamber contained nothing related to dairying. Hurds, or hards, were the coarser part of hemp or flax, separated from the finer elements. Barrie Trinder has written: “Inventories show that in almost every part of Shropshire flax and hemp were grown [...] The Crops were retted, scutched with tewtaws, combed with heckles, and spun into yard in the homes of the growers, after which the yarn was taken to professional weavers to be made into cloth for use as bed or table linen.” From the hurds, hurden sheets could be made.

In the Green Room: One Bed and 2 Bedsteads (£2 5s); One dresser one Coffer one Close stool One Box 1 Joyn Stool (7s 6d); Dress’d Hemp & fflax (£1); Wearing apparell (£8).

The Green Room appears to have been Samuel’s bedroom. Here we find a bed, two bedsteads, a dresser, a coffer (a wooden chest or box in which clothes and other valuables were stored), another box, a joyn stool (see the list of items found in Samuel’s kitchen), and the dressed flax and hemp from which the hurds in the dairy chamber had probably been removed. We also find the possessions which, I think, mark this room as Samuel’s own. First, his clothes or ‘wearing apparell’. And second, his ‘close stool’.

Catherine Simpson provides a good description of the close stool in her contribution to a series of blog posts, Shakespeare’s World in 100 Objects: “Also referred to as a ‘night’ stool, ‘necessary’ stool, or ‘stool of ease’, these objects were actually toilets in disguise. At first glance their primary function may have been overlooked when entering a room. However, the piece of furniture contained a hinged top that opened to reveal a large circular hole, within which a chamber pot [...] was placed. For comfort during the more prolonged occupations of the stool a cushion could be fitted around the hole.” The photo above is of a close stool at Plas Mawr in Wales, which has a lid over the hole above the enclosed chamber pot.

This seems a good point at which to bring Part 2 of our tour of Samuel Atcherfley’s home to a close. You may continue to Part 3 at your own convenience.

> Forward to Samuel Atcherley’s true and perfect inventory (Part 3)


Picture credits. “Directions for Brewing” from A Guide to Gentlemen, Farmers, and House-keepers, for Brewing the Finest Malt-Liquors. Copyright expired. Close stool at Plas Mawr, adapted from a photo taken from Wikimedia Commons by Hchc2009 (both the original image and my adaptation are available for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence.


References

[1] Will of Samuel Atcherley of Sowbath, Gent. Proved 28 Apr 1732. Copy from Lichfield Record Office, reference B/C/11. Indexed at Staffordshire Name Indexes.
[2] William Graham (1854), Exercises on Etymology. Page 39. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[3] Nathan Bailey (1773), Universal Etymological English Dictionary. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[4] T Cooper (1738), Reflections and Considerations Occasioned by the Petition Presented to the Honourable House of Commons, for Taking Off the Drawback on Foreign Linens, &c. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[5] John Chamberlayne (1719), Magnae Britanniae Notitia. Page 36. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[6] ‘A Country Gentleman’ (1727), A Guide to Gentlemen, Farmers, and House-keepers, for Brewing the Finest Malt-Liquors. Page iii. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[7] Andrea S. Wiley (2014), Cultures of Milk. Page 27.
[8] Barrie Trinder (1998), A History of Shropshire. Second edition. Pages 68-9.
[9] Matthew Nathan (1957), The Annals of West Coker. Page 352. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[10] Samuel Johnson (1766), A Dictionary of the English Language. Third edition. Volume 2. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[11] Michael Russell (2014), Dorchester & Fordington Glossary. Rootsweb (website, accessed 29 Jun 2014).
[12] John Baxter (1830), The library of agricultural and horticultural knowledge. Page 165. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[13] Arnold J Cooley, J C Brough (1864), Cooley’s Cyclopaedia. Page 408. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[14] Temple Henry Croker, Thomas Williams, Samuel Clarke (1765), The Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. Volume II. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[15] Nathan Baily, John Worlidge (eds) (1726),Dictionarium Rusticum, Urbanicum & Botanicum. Volume I. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[16] Thomas Hale (1758), A Compleat Body Of Husbandry. Page 138. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[17] B S Sharples (2011), Inventory Terms. Ledbury Local History (website, accessed 29 Jun 2014).
[18] Catherine Simpson (2014), Shakespeare’s World in 100 Objects: Number 96, a Close Stool. Finding Shakespeare (website, accessed 6 Jul 2014).


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