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).
 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.
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