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Hope Historical Society


Number 26 - Kitchenware


We have no information about the layout of Hope Valley houses in the period 1547-1650, although in all but the wealthiest we can be sure that there were no separate kitchens.  In other words, people had to use their fires for their cooking needs.


Pots (22) and pans (20) were often of brass, carefully enumerated and presumably used mostly for cooking, as were frying pans (10), skellets (skillets) (11) and chafing dishes (5) for keeping food warm.  Frying pans often had very long handles, maybe as much as three feet long and others had hoop handles so that they could be suspended over the fire.  Skillets, the equivalent of saucepans today, were pans on three short legs with handles.  The legs, which enabled the vessel to sit over the embers of a fire, were either integral with the bronze bowl or made of iron and welded to the vessel.  The handle was sometimes decorated or inscribed with the maker’s or owner’s name.


A total of 37 different items can be identified as containers and care was taken to list a large range, from kimnels (12), loomes (20), barrels (4) tubs (6) and vats (6) at the top end of sizes, through kitts (9) to piggins (7).  A kimnel was a large wooden tub with a variety of uses such as salting meat or brewing, and a loome any large open vessel.  Some, such as vats and churns (11), had a specific use for brewing and butter making respectively, and dacions (dashens) (7) were used for the preparation of oatmeal.  Kimnels had a variety of uses but Gervase Markham in 1623 identified them as good for the storage of cheese.


Vessels for milk could be wooden, which were best for keeping milk in a cold vault, “earthen vessels principal for long keeping and the leaden vessels for yielding of much cream”.  Kitts (kits) were wooden milk pails with a capacity of around 6 gallons .  As this was more than could be carried easily by hand, a yoke was often used to carry them in pairs.  Churns were either for storing milk, with a capacity of around 10 gallons, or for butter making.  


In 2 inventories, Ticknall ware was mentioned.  This was a coarse earthenware pottery, often with slip decoration, made in and around Ticknall in Derbyshire, where a pottery had been established by at least the sixteenth century. 

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Number 25 - Lighting

Lighting is generally reckoned to have been poor at the time of the Wills and Inventories (1547-1650) from Hope and Castleton.  In impoverished households either there was no artificial light or light from the fire was exploited.  Rush lights were used, as well as tallow candles, but the light from both was weak and lasted poorly, and the latter smelly.  Beeswax candles were expensive.  Here, candlesticks were listed in only 7 inventories and cressets in three.  Candles themselves were listed in one inventory, that of Thomas Godderd (1649 Castleton), who had 3 dozen and was probably a shop-keeper.


Rush lights were made from the common rush.  It was dipped in grease, preferably from pork, but any fat would do and, if there was a little beeswax available to add to the fat, it would burn more cleanly.  Gilbert White, in 1775, estimated that a rush with a length “two feet four inches and a half” would burn with a “good clear light” for 57 minutes.   He reckoned that a modest house’s annual use was a pound and a half, or 2,400 rushes.  They were held in a rushnip, an iron hinged stand.  The very poor often were not able to afford rushlights.  This was not because of their intrinsic cost but because the impoverished had a diet poor in fat.  Any surplus fat would have been eaten.


Candles were made from tallow or beeswax or a mixture of the two.  They were made by dipping or basting the melted fat or wax down a wick, probably at this time made of flax.  Superior tallow candles could be moulded but wax candles could not be shaped in a mould.  Any rendered animal fat could be used for tallow candles.  Sheep fat was less offensive than beef, and pig was the worst of all.  Goat fat made the best looking, glossiest and smoothest candle.  They had to be stored in air-tight conditions as they tended to rot.


The candle holder with a socket appeared in the fifteenth century.  Brass candlesticks, like many listed here, were originally Flemish imports.  They had a socketed stem with a circular base tray and often a flange halfway down the stem to catch the melted wax.


The cresset, an oil filled cup suspended on a pole, usually included two chambers or pans for oil, one with a wick and the other a reservoir, all made from iron.


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Number 24 - Storage furniture


In the wills and inventories from 1547 to 1650, furniture for storage was given priority, even among the poorer households.


Arks were found in 54 estates. Arks, named after their shape were made originally by arkwrights. They were chests with lids and hinges or which could be lifted off, and came in different sizes, as is evident from the frequent references to great and little arks. Typically the lid was domed or with canted sides and where it could be lifted off, turned upside down and fitted with poles, it could be used for carrying. The ark’s principal use was for storing grain or meal.


Chests and coffers were also common, numbering 16 and 34 respectively. Here, the terms appeared interchangeable as in no case did both occur. However, strictly a coffer was a box covered in leather, although the case was often made from cheap wood such as pine or beech. They were often elaborately decorated with gilding or nail work.


Early chests were either made of five nailed planks with a hinged lid, or of a clamped-front construction, the earliest form of joined work. In the latter, the boards of the long side of the chest were joined with tongue and groove joints and clamped between vertical boards or stiles at each end. More commonly in the second half of this study period, the chest front had vertical panels between stiles, or muntins. After 1660 these panels were sometimes chamfered. The panels, rails and muntins were often decorated.


Less common were aumbries (in 3), presses (1) and cupboards (11) probably also signifying the same thing in this context as, again, the terms did not overlap in inventories. Properly, an aumbry was a cupboard either wholly or partly enclosed by a door and often pierced, used for food storage. It was sometimes also called a dole cupboard, particularly when found in a church. Other food cupboards were hutches that often had doors made from turned spindles, also known as livery cupboards. A press was a cupboard enclosed by a varying arrangement of doors for storage of clothes, cloth and other textiles. The cupboard itself was a generic term used for a range of storage furniture, although originally simply a stand or shelf for plates and cups.


Crockery and valuables were stored, or sometimes shown off, on shelves (4) and dishboards (12). 




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Number 23 - Chairs, stools and benches


In the inventories from 1547 to 1650, chairs were listed in 32 (with one back-stool in 1635), stools in 27 and forms (benches) in 20 inventories, frequently occurring together. In all, half of the households listed some form of seating.


Stools and forms were essentially of the same construction. Early stools were of a boarded type, simply made by a carpenter out of five planks of wood and held together with pegs or nails. They were superseded by joined stools in the middle of the sixteenth century and, by the next century, together with chests, were the most common items of furniture. There were often found in sets of six, although not in these documents, and together with forms and chairs were placed around a table.


Nowhere in these papers is there any description of the type of chair used. Chairs or back-stools are ancient forms of furniture but early survivors are rare, giving rise to the mistaken belief that they appeared for the first time in 1600. Early chairs were as tall as stools, to suit the height of contemporary tables, with a low front stretcher. Non-upholstered chairs appeared after 1630. The earliest mention of chairs in this series of inventories was from 1627.   In the seventeenth century chairs became lower to fit under the table and often took a regional form. The Yorkshire-Derbyshire type had an open arcaded back and, in South Yorkshire, the back had crescent shaped cross splats. These types first appeared in around 1620. Cromwellian chairs were plain with an unstuffed leather cover to the seat and turned stretchers or legs; later the pattern persisted but with stuffed seats.


No great chairs or armchairs were mentioned, presumably as these were grand and expensive items of furniture, often lavishly decorated with carving. Examples can be dated to the sixteenth century.


Stools were probably always used with cushions (“cussions, cushens, cushings ” etc.). Found in 29 inventories, they were high status items. They were made of luxurious materials such as leather or woven fabric, stuffed with feathers or hair and perhaps embroidered. They were carefully listed and counted in many cases, and sometimes valued separately. The number of cushions varied with the wealth of the inventory. John Hall who died in Castleton in 1604 and whose net worth was £199.19.7 had 28, the most of any of these inventories.


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Number 22 - Tables


In the inventories from 1547to 1650, tables were surprisingly rarely listed, occurring in only 12 cases, but boards, supported by trestles, were commoner (26). Tables themselves tended to be listed in the wealthier households, although this was far from consistent, and the earliest was from 1613. It should be noted that either tables, boards or both were listed in a minority of households (35 of 72), less than items used for storage.


The trestle table was the usual type in the sixteenth century and before. The top, or board, was made from large planks held together with cross-battens underneath or made with tongue and groove joints. The trestles, or dormants, were either separate or joined by a cross rail, and usually plain, the whole construction theoretically being able to be dismantled.


It was the practice earlier for people to sit on only one side of the table, with their backs to a wall, and served from the front. The tables were often correspondingly narrow and this also explains why stools and forms were acceptable seating as people could lean against the wall. Only later, as the table moved to the centre of the room, was it necessary to provide back-stools or chairs .


The joined table started to appear around 1550, with a top that was usually fixed to the underlying frame and supported by legs that were sometimes turned and carved. In the seventeenth century, smaller tables were developed with folding leaves that took up less space when not in use. There is no hint in these inventories of any distinction between types of joined tables.


One joined table from around 1600 - 1650 has been found in Castleton. It is a side table, higher than a conventional dining table, with 33 small roundels carved in the rail along one side and confirming that it was designed to stand against a wall. It is known as an apostle table from its similarity to depictions of the table in paintings of the Last Supper, and may have been an altar, although it is too large, at 7 feet long, to have fitted into Castleton church.


Tables were sometimes covered by a boardcloth (13) or even a table carpet (1), in the latter case in one of the most luxurious homes in this series, that of Roger Harrison from Castleton, who died in 1614.




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Number 21 - Beds


Fifty seven of the inventories from 1547 to 1650 listed some form of bed or bedding, ranging from featherbeds to chaff beds, together with bedstocks or bed frames. There was one flock bed, whose mattress was made of pieces of wool. Elaborate beds were not listed in Hope and Castleton although Thomas Eyre of Highlow Hall (died 1633) had “in the whyte chamber one hye bed, & one lowe bed wth furniture thereunto belonging” and “a trindle bed wth furniture thereunto belonging in the nether parlor.” It is likely that some had no beds and they slept on the floor, and presumably this was also the fate of many of those who were too poor to have inventories.


A bedstock was a simple wooden frame with a row of holes through which a mesh of rope could be strung. Over this was laid a canvas sheet and then a mattress or rush mat. On top of this was laid the feather, flock or chaff bed. The incumbent was supported by pillows or a bolster and covered by sheets, blankets and quilts.


16 had featherbeds and, not surprisingly, these were owned by the wealthier people. Roger Harrison of Castleton (1614), whose net worth was £300.15.2, had four. Featherbeds were estimated at £1.0.0 to £1.13.4 but were often listed with mattresses, bolsters and blankets, making valuation difficult.


Chaff beds were made of waste material, or possibly straw, and were listed in 12 estates, but, of these, only 3 were listed as the only form of bed. In all the rest, other beds, sometimes only bedstocks, were also listed. Of these three there were two relatively small estates but a third belonged to Elizabeth Saunderson (1636 Hope), one of the wealthiest of all. Chaff beds also were rarely listed separately but were of low value, varying between 8 pence to 2s 8d.  


There was a change in bedding with time. In 1577 William Harrison described the old ways: “… for (said they) our fathers (yea and we our selves also) have lien full oft upon straw pallets, (on rough mats) covered onlie with a sheet, under coverlets made of dagswain or hopharlots (I use their own termes), and a good round log under their heads in steed of a bolster (or a pillow)”.   Dagswain was a coarse fabric or carpet made from wool refuse, and hopharlot a coarse coverlet.



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Number 20 -  Furniture


The wills and inventories of 1547-1650, particularly in the second half of that period, included a good deal of information about the furniture in people’s houses.


It might have been hoped that these documents, as elsewhere in the country, would inform us about their houses themselves. However, here this is not the case. Even so, some suggestion as to the sizes of their houses can be extrapolated from the amount of furniture they owned. For instance, the wealthy Roger Harrison from Castleton, who died in 1614, owned 4 featherbeds as well as 6 pairs of bedstocks (bed frames), 7 coffers, 3 tables and numerous other large items. Presumably his house had not less than 4 bedrooms, at least one parlour and a dining room, probably more. John Bockinge of Hope, who died in 1630, had 2 featherbeds and furniture for at least 2 living rooms. At the other end of the scale, although she was well-off financially, Elizabeth Saunderson of Hope, who died in 1636, had a chaff bed, a coffer and a dishboard, probably in just one or two rooms.


This period saw many changes in the construction of furniture. The craft of joinery started in the late mediaeval period, whereby furniture was no longer put together with nails but with pegged mortice-and-tenon joints. Carpenters, who made the early simple furniture, were excluded from making joined furniture from 1632 onwards.  Joiners had the exclusive use of glue and the right to make dovetail joints.


Turners also were separately identified through their livery company in 1604. The range of turned articles extended from treen tableware to limited varieties of furniture, especially chairs. They would have used either a treadle or a pole lathe and their work overlapped with that of wheelwrights.


Cabinet makers were joiners who constructed large pieces of box-shaped furniture, such as chests, from dovetailed boards without a jointed frame. Such work, initially introduced by immigrant craftsmen, was often lavishly decorated with veneers and marquetry.


In 1577, William Harrison noted that hitherto expensive furniture “now it is descended yet lower, even unto the inferiour artificers and manie farmers, who (by virtue of their old and not of their new leases) have (for the most part) learned also to garnish their cupboards with plate, their (ioined) beds with tapistrie and silke hangings, and their tables with (carpets &) fine naperie …”


Future articles will discuss different categories of furniture.


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Number 19 - Lead mining


At the time of the wills and inventories from 1547-1650, North West Derbyshire was heavily industrialised and, despite the evidence here of an agrarian community, lead mining has been described as the only employment for many poor people. It is, therefore, one of the most striking facts to emerge from the study of these papers that documentary evidence of lead mining was rare.


Five left quantities of lead and the owners probably dealt in lead, or were directly concerned with mining. Only John Bramall, who died in Castleton in 1640, was identified as a miner. Thomas Bocking, who died in 1615, also from Castleton, had an estate that was owed a fooder of lead (also foother or 19½ cwt) as well as 2 debts of “dishes” of “owre”. A dish was about 65 lb. of lead ore. All the others owned, owed or were owed pieces, piggs (ingots, usually 1/8 of a foother) and spiggets of lead.


John Needham, from Castleton and dying in1615, had these items consecutively in his inventory: “One grove & meare of ground, one washinge sieve wth other toules, thertaine owre.” A grove was a lead mine and a meer was an ancient unit of length for mining a lead vein, locally 32 yards long. It could be of any width or depth. The sieve, in this context, was for sieving ore before washing or buddling. Sieving for this purpose is said to have been introduced in 1565 and was also used for scavenging small quantities of ore from spoil heaps. Needham also owned: “three kyne, one heyffer & ii Calves, three horses & mares & one fole, xxv sheepe.” The dearth of inventory items associated with mining and the almost invariable inclusion of livestock suggests that in this segment of society most led an agrarian lifestyle with only a suggestion that it was combined with mining.   Documented disputes arose between miners and farmers and there is no doubt that mining coexisted with, and went on beneath, the farmers’ fields.


Local Justices did not have to make provision under the Poor Laws for those employed in lead mining. These documents reflect the economy only of a relatively well-off segment of society and their number is small. The bulk of those that died, as identified in the Parish Registers, did not leave wills and inventories, and these certainly included many impoverished miners.



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Number 18 - Working tools


The Wills and Inventories from 1547 to 1650 listed a wide range of tools although the numbers were often surprisingly small, considering that almost every testator was involved in agriculture in one way or another. There were 31 types of tool, mostly agricultural implements but some may have been for lead mining, notably augers, sieves and pickaxes.


The commonest tools for cultivation were spades (7), pitchforks (5), shovels (5), scythes (4), and mattocks (3), along with sickles, pickaxes, crowbars, wimbles, hoes, forks and rakes. Slightly more common were axes which were listed 7 times, with 2 hatchets. A wimble was probably a tool for twisting corn into a coarse rope for tying corn sheaves. The lack of tools for turf or peat cutting is consistent with the infrequency of peat and sleds in the inventories.


Spades came in many varieties with different functions, from a straightforward delving spade to turf and peat spades. The function of a pricking spade is obscure, but possibly was used for pricking out seedlings. Spade handles were usually made from ash and the blade from iron or wood with an iron sleeve. There was considerable regional variation as to their precise form.


Tools that were used by women, particularly those used for harvesting, such as rakes, were often lightly built. They were usually made from softwood and lightened further by bevelling or rounding the wood, even though iron tines might have been used to make the tool hard-wearing. Early pitchforks were also wooden, with the end of a pole split and held open with a wedge, before being superseded by iron.


The scarcity of scythes and sickles may have reflected their low value, but it is possible that their rarity reflected a shift away from arable to pastoral farming.


Also often listed were hand tools, the commonest of which was a nogar (auger) (6), but also hammers, mallets, chisels, saws and adzes. There were four inventories with ladders and one with a wheelbarrow.


Fitzherbert in 1534 was dogmatic as to the tools a husbandman should possess: “Also an husbande must have an axe, a hatchet, a hedgyngebyll, a pyn-awgur, a rest-awgur, a flayle, a spade and a shovell.” He acknowledged that these tools might have different names around the country. He also recognised the cost of buying tools and that the husbandman should “learn to make his yokes, oxe-bowes, stooles, and all maner of plough-geare”.            


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Number 17 - Carts and wagons


Listed in Hope and Castleton inventories from 1547-1650, there were 31 with carts that had 2 wheels, and 6 wains, that probably had four. The wain was a wagon, although there is some doubt as to the difference. Some inventories indicated that carts could have differing functions: dung carts or peat carts for instance. 


In 1534, Fitzherbert emphasised the husbandman’s need for a “wayne”, made of oak, to “lode his corne”.   He also described carts which were made of ash “bycause it is lyghte”. Wains and carts might have had “carte-ladders bothe behynde and before”. The carrying capacity of a cart or wagon could be increased by the use of side boards and, starting in the mediaeval period, ladders that extended in front of and behind the body of the vehicle. At first carts had a simple pole for pulling, probably by oxen. Later, they had a pair of shafts as horses became the draught animals of choice.   The top was wider than the bottom to accommodate bigger loads and the back wider than the front to make unloading easier. Some were designed to tip. Their carrying capacity was up to around one ton .


The wagon developed in England in response to the change in agricultural practice away from subsistence farming to growing for the market.   The number of vehicles on the roads increased, as did the distance travelled and the need for heavy wagons. By the end of the seventeenth century they could carry up to eight tons, requiring as many as 12 draught horses. The development in the seventeenth century of lighter vehicles that had a moveable fore-carriage or pivoted front axle, and which was therefore more manoeuvrable, allowed the use of wagons on the farm.


Wheels were listed in 30 inventories. Wheels, by this date, were spoked for lightness and strength.   Fitzherbert noted: “If they be yren bounden, they are moche the better, and thoughe they be the derer at first, yet at length they be better cheape …”, although he recommended wooden tyred wheels on “marreis ground and soft ground” as they were wider.


All carts and wagons caused deep ruts in the trackways and because of this the vehicles were purposely designed with a standard width between the lower point of each wheel, usually 4ft 8½in, probably not coincidentally the same width adopted when the railways were built.



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Number 16 - Fuel


It would be surprising if we saw listings of wood and coal in a modern inventory. However, at the time of the Wills and Inventories from 1547 to 1650, keeping warm and cooking were high priority challenges. Nine inventories listed fuel, rarely by itself and often combined with peat and manure in the valuation, suggesting that peat was not the only fuel and wood played an important role as well.


The recommended month to lay in wood was May.  In 1534, Fitzherbert observed: “For than the waye is lyke to be fayre and drye, and the days longe, and that tyme the husbande hath leeste to doo in husbandry”. However he also suggested that trees should be lopped in winter so that “thy beastes maye eat the brouse, and the mosse of the bowes”.


Two listed coal. Coal was collected where it was found on the surface; just beyond the Hope Valley it was plentiful. At this time, primitive chimneys meant that coal burned poorly, producing dangerous fumes.


Peat was an essential fuel at this period of intense cold and was extracted and burned in huge quantities. In the fourteenth century, 34 million cubic metres were cut in the South Pennines. The amount burned by a household was between 5,000 and 12,000 turves per year and a peat stack could be as big as the cottage that would consume it. The calorific value of peat was one sixth of that of coal. Peat cutting was undertaken in a farm’s enclosed area, or hey, on the moorland above the cultivated part of the farmstead and pastures, or, for some farms, in unenclosed areas. The peat cuts and sledways are still visible in the landscape.


For an area that traditionally used peat for fuel, therefore, it is surprising that only 4 had it listed in their inventories. However, there were a further 4 with peat spades and 2 with peat carts. Only one sled was mentioned.


Porter, in 1923, wrote about the ‘Crookstone Peat and Stone Pits’ charity in Hope. Founded in 1691, it was based on land bounded by Henry Balguy’s: “The part of Crooksden is 160 statute acres besides 8 acres for slate and 40 acres for free stone and peats.” In 1711, “the tenants and freeholders of Hope aforesaid have liberty to dig get and carry away peats to burn in their houses in Hope aforesaid.”


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Number 15 - Manure


It may seem strange to relate that manure, or “meaner” as it was usually called, was important enough to be recorded in inventories from 1547-1650. Although it was not was not valuable in monetary terms, 12 appraisers saw fit to list it. The range of values was only 12 pence to 10 shillings, presumably dependent on quantity, which was never specified.


The science of fertilisers was unknown at this time but it was recognised that additives improved soil fertility and productivity. The number of bushels per acre of corn increased by around 100% between the 13th and the 16th centuries.


Barnaby Googe graded manure in 1614: “The first of Poultry, the next of Men, the third of Cattell”. Human waste had to be mixed with household rubbish, otherwise it was “too hot, and burnes the ground.” Urine was kept for six months before being used on vines and apple trees when it “bringeth great fruitfulness to the trees, and giveth a pleasant taste to the fruit.”  In 1534, Fitzherbert preferred cow dung to that of horses whilst noting that doves’ dung was the best “but it must be layde upon the grounde verye thynne.” Others agreed that “Pigion or Pullen-dung”, but specifically excluding goose dung, “… is the best of all other”.


Googe noted that “the dung that hath line a yeere, is best for Corne, for it both is of sufficient strength, and breedeth lesse weeds”.


It is possible that the term “manure” included other soil conditioners such as wood ash, lime and marl, which is a mudstone containing lime. In 1613, Gervase Markham noted that “if you finde this soile to be subiect to extraordinary wet and coldnesse, you shall then know that the ashes eyther of wood, coale, or straw, is a very good manure for it”. Further, “if then you take Lime and sow it upon your land … and then sow your corne after it, you shall finde great profit to come thereon.”   Importantly, he also said “…pulses, which both bring forth commoditie, and also out of their owne natures doe manure and inrich your ground, making it more apt and fit to receive much better Seede”. The importance of nitrogen fixing legumes such as clover in crop rotations was not fully recognised until after 1650, although clover had been imported from the Low Countries as early as 1620.


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