Weights and Measures

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Weights & Measures

Purpose of this page

This page provides a glossary of weights and measures taken from early and mid-C17th High Court of Admiralty and other legal and commercial documents from the same period.

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Quantities of wines and prices by the tonn, High Court of Admiralty schedule, 1655


Bags (= bagges) (e.g. pepper) (1. "to be laded aboard her for the said companies use and account, containing fiftie foure baggs of pepper which weighed 3896 pounds net English weight" (HCA 13/73); 2. "whatsoever bills of ladeing are in the bagges"[1]
Baggs (1. "having already received and laden aboard her one hundred baggs of wool and 400 baggs and upwards of gaulls"[2]; 2. "Ciprus cotton woolls are usually and ordinarily putt in very great baggs, which cannot be stowed without very great paines and difficulty")[3]
Bahaire ("this deponent went in the Bantam ffrigots boate ashore, and there caused about a bahaire of pepper to be put on board the said boate"[4]; "this deponent had sent out the foresaid 672 bahaires of pepper on board the Bantam ffrigot[5]) COMMENTARY: Paula Marmor: in 1752, Wyndham Beawes noted "BAHAR, BAHAIRE, or BARRE, a weight used in Ternate, Mocha, in the Moluccas, and several places in the East Indies. It is of two kinds, the greater and the less. The greater is used for weighing pepper, cloves, ginger, nutmegs, &c., and is equal to 524lb. 9oz. avoirdupoise." PRIMARY SOURCES: Wyndham Beawes, Lex mercatoria rediviva: or, The merchant's directory. Being a compleat guide to all men in business, etc., 1752[6]
Bales "three bales of linnen marked as farr as this deponent can now remember with an R. or some such like marke, which three bales the sayd Claviel told this deponent then standing upon the Strand" (HCA 13/79 no f.))
Barrs ("severall parcells of silver in barrs)[7]
Barrells (= barrels; barrills) (e.g. raisins; 1. "17 barrells of starch"; 2. "some barrell of sugar carryed from the howses of the producent towards the waterside to be so laden")
Barrill (= barrell; barrel) ("one barrill of beaver and other skinnes marked at the margent")[8]
Baskets (e.g. raisins; "two basketts of druggs" (HCA 13/73))
Bayons weight
Boards (e.g. timber; "860 four foot boards)
Brasse weights
Bundles (e.g. hemp; "68 bundles of hemp"; "bundles of rough hemp" (HCA 15/6 Box Two))
Busts ("eighteene busts of rubarbe")[9]
Butts (e.g. sherrie sack; "the true and lawfull owner of the said seaven and fortie butts of sack")
By measure


C weight (= hundredweight, from Latin centum)
Caske (alt. Cask) (= a barrel) ("28 caske of allom"[10])
Casks ("had out of the sayd shipp from betwixt the middle deckes thereof two small Casks of oyle"[11])
Caskes ("there were saved out of the said shipp and were driven ashoare severall Caskes of butter, beefe, and porke belonging to the said Owners"[12])
Cedar chests (= chests made of cedar wood) ("Eight and twenty Cedar Chests, which contained and were filled (as this deponent verily beleeveth) with Tobaccoe"[13])
Chalder (= a Scots dry measure) (in England alt. Chaldren, Chaldron) COMMENTARY: Paula Marmor: Chalder is an obsolete dry measure for grain: "in Scotland 16 bolls or 64 firlots of corn, making nearly 12 quarters Winchester measure" (OED 'Chalder', sense 1). It was also used to measure coal and lime, varying "from 32 to 64 imperial bushels" in Scotland. In London, it had the variants 'Chaldren' and 'Chaldron', and was "32 to 40 bushels, according as the measure was stroked or heaped" (OED, 'Chalder', sense 2; see also 'Chaldron', senses 2 and 3). SECONDARY SOURCES: 'Chaldron', Wikipedia entry.[14]
Chaldren (see Chalder) ("how many chaldren of the said coales did hee burne at Tangier, and how many chaldren did hee carry away in the said shipp from thence, and why did hee carry away the said coales, was it not bee cause hee wanted wood or other fowell for the said shipps use" (HCA 23/19, no f.))
Chaldron (see Chalder) ("whilest the said ship was at Newcastle aforesaid there were Laden aboard her 80 Chaldron of Coales, five and twenty Chaldron of Grindstones"[15])
Chests (sugar; "chests of indico and druggs" (HCA 13/73 Part Two))
Coyle ("thirty coyles of rope" (HCA 13/73 Part Two))


d = pence
Dartmouth measure
Deal A type of timber with a customary size. Contrasting with balks, planks, logs, and other forms of timber.
Dutch miles


Ells (1. "said taffata's contained 34 ells and a quarter, another the like quantitie number of ells, and the third 29 ells and quarter"[16]; 2. "one box of lace containing 724 dutch ells, at 8 stivers the ell"[17]) COMMENTARY: Paula Marmor: A measure for cloth or other textiles, varying from place to place. An English ell is generally a yard and a quarter (45 inches), or 1.143 meters. SECONDARY SOURCES: 'Ell', Wikipedia entry.[18]
English aver dupois weight
English miles
English weight


Fardle (= a bundle or pack) (alt. fardell) ("one fardell or pack of white hundscot sayes"[19]; "one fardell or pack of this third marke No: 5. with 25 peeces of black hunscot sayes"[20]
Fathom (= six feet or 1.8288 meters) (1. [HAMBURG] "the owners aforesaid did lade and putt on board ... the said shipp the fortune then lying within the city of Hamburgh two hundred and thirteene dozen of deale boards, twelve lasts of tarre and eighteen fathom of wood for their owne account"[21]; 2. "the sayd vessell the Successe being then in about 11 fathom water", 1654[22])
Ferkins (see firkin) (1. "two smale ferkins of beafe"[23]; 2. "seaven ferkins of butter belonging to this deponent and company")[24])
Firkin (alt. ferkin) (= small cask, originally a quarter of a barrel) ("three hundred firkins of butter" (HCA 13/69 no f.))
Fraile (= basket made of rushes for carrying raisins, figs, etc., or the weight of fruit that fits in a frail) ("six basketts or frailes of figgs")[25]
French measure or longe measure


Gallipoli measure
Gallipoly measure
Gallons ("hee beleeveth that hee hath drunke about five gallons of the Godliffs wine")[26]
Genoa weight
Great trunks ("thirty quoyles of rope two great trunks, severall quarter caskes with [?XXXX] and oyle, and barrells of pitch and tarre, and some other things which were for the said Woods owne private trade and account" (HCA 13/73 Part Two))


Halfe a dozen
Halfe a load
Hogsheads abbr. hhds (e.g. wines)
Hundred measure
Hundred weight ("two hogsheads of Barbadas sugars doe ordinarils containe nine hundred weight of sugar")[27]
Hydes ("at the time arlate the boatswaine of the Little Lewis did being did (sic), being demanded what hydes were received aboard the said ship reply and say three hundred and thirty or thereaboutes but that since hee haveing perursed his booke doth find that there were laden aboard the sayd shipp in all but three hundred twenty one some where of were whole dryed hydes in hayre, and some were sydes of leather tann'd which hee reckoned and accompted as hydes severally though in truth they were but half hydes" (HCA 13/19))


Kintall (= quintall) ("one hundred and twenty kintalls of ffish" (HCA 13/73))


Last ("he beleeveth that every last of the sayd salmon conteined 12: barrels" (HCA 13/129))
li = pound (sterling)
Ligorne pounds
Ligorne weight
Load (Shipped from Dover to London; Richard and Susan of Dover, Christopher Dawson Master: "Henry Winter md j load of browne paper one load of houshold goods")[28]
London measure
Longe measure


Matt pl. mattes ("12 ?mattes of flaxe")
Measure by hoopes and staves
Measure of ffrance


Neat weight
Neate Turkish weight
Newcastle measure
Norway miles


Ordinary measure
Ounces aver du pois English weight
Ounces ligorne
Ounces of English weight


Pack ("five packs of linnen marked and numbred as in the margin" (HCA 13/68))
Parcell (= parcel; prcell; pcell) ("a parcell of flax to be brought unto Roscoe"; a parcell of tarre brought to this port of London in a shippe called the ffortune (HCA 13/125))
Peeces (usage: of fruit, of ordinance)
Per yard
Piggs ("piggs of silver") (HCA 23/19: the Mayfflower) ("piggs of lead")
Pipes (of wine, e.g. Canary) ("10 pipes of sugar")) A pipe is half a ton.
Potacoes ("some few polacoes of tobacco") (HCA 13/68)
Pounds (e.g. cocheneal)
Puncheon (a container for e.g. wine or tobacco"; "fifteene punchions of pruans")[29]


Quarter caskes ("severall quarter caskes of wine and oyle" (HCA 13/73 Part Two))
Quarters ("quarters of wheat")
Quintalls (= kintalls) ("200 quintalls of Brazill wood" (HCA 13/73))
Quoyle ("thirty quoyles of rope two great trunks, severall quarter caskes with XXX and oyle, and barrells of pitch and tarre, and some other things which were for the said Woods owne private trade and account" (HCA 13/73 Part Two))


Rames ("theise goods laden are as followeth eight pipes of Oporto wynes whereof, two are white, one ?eager, A bale cont 32: rames of white writing paper a packett 20. peeces of pintados which here sell at 50: li two chests of fine earthen ware a parcell of course earthen ware a parcell of salt" (HCA 13/128 no fol. no. recto, Allegation: Edmund & James Cowse: Answer: Daniell ?Jiggles: Date: 1st November 1655))
Roll (e.g. tobacco)
Rotuloes neate weight
Rotuloes Smirna


s = shilling
Salmes ("one thousand one hundred salmes of oyles of Galipoly measure")[30]
Sea miles
Short weight
Skinne baggs ("at Honduras tooke in and received aboard indigo and druggs (as they were said to be) in chests and ?skinne baggs" (HCA 13/73 Part Two))
Small barrell ("143 small barrells. of brandy att 11: li 19: s per barrell and to in sterling mony. 10: s ?6: d. per barrell" (HCA 13/128)
Spanish yardes
Sticks ("whither hee doth not know beleeve or hath heard that the said fower tonnes and ten sticks of logwood were sold by the said Jeremiah Sweetman or some other of the said English that arrived in the said shippe unto some of the inhabitants of Barnstaple Biddeford or ?Northam before the same were arrested by authority of this Court" (HCA 23/19 no fol. no.))
Sydes ("some were sydes of leather tann'd which hee reckoned and accompted as hydes severally though in truth they were but half hydes" (HCA 13/129, no fol. no., Case: XXXX: Answer: XXXX: Date: XXXX))


Take not weight
Thousand weight
Tonn (alt. Tonne, Tunn) ("7½ Tonns of Rochell wines att 60: li the tonn french mony and in English mony 4: li. 3: s. 4: d per tonn"[31] COMMENTARY: Paula Marmor: A tun is a cask or barrel, especially for wine or beer. It is also a specific measure, equal to "2 pipes or 4 hogsheads, containing 252 old wine-gallons" (OED, 'Tun', sense 2a.)
Tonne ("the sayd 13 thousand livre was for and towards satisfaction and payment for the 221 tonnes of wynne arlate" (HCA 13/69 no f.))
Tunn ("the said tonns of tallow were worth the summe of 34: li the tonn and noe more" (HCA 13/125)
Trunks ("thirty quoyles of rope two great trunks, severall quarter caskes with [?XXXX] and oyle, and barrells of pitch and tarre, and some other things which were for the said Woods owne private trade & account" (HCA 13/73 Part Two))
Trunckes ("two trunckes" (HCA 13/73 Part Two))
Trusse ("a trusse or small bale of merchandizes")[32]
Turkish weight
Turkish weight neate


Virginia hogshead


Weighing neate
Winchester measure ("pay unto Mr. Edward Cowes, Giles Silvester, and William Maskeline, or their assignes, at New London in New England, aboard such ship or vessell as the said Edmund, Giles and William shal order to receave the same, two thousand bushels, Winchester measure, of good and well-conditioned wheat, at three shillings and six-pence per bushell, and twelve hundred bushells of pease, at two shillings and sixpence per bushell, all which amount vnto five hundred pounds sterling")[33]



Yards ("one peece of fine cloth conteyning thirtie and one yards" (HCA 13/69 no f.))
  1. HCA 13/64 f.6v
  2. HCA 13/71 f.19r
  3. HCA 13/71 f.19r
  4. HCA 13/73 Part Two
  5. HCA 13/73 f.274r
  6. Wyndham Beawes, Lex mercatoria rediviva: or, The merchant's directory. Being a compleat guide to all men in business, etc., 1752
  7. HCA 13/71 f.372v
  8. HCA 13/71 f.43v
  9. HCA 13/73 f.625r
  10. MRP: HCA 13/68 Part Two, Case: Clayme of Didier ffauqualt of London ... 1653
  11. HCA 13/68 f.7r
  12. HCA 13/70 f.248r
  13. HCA 13/73 f.34r
  14. 'Chaldron', Wikipedia entry, accesses 3 April 2017
  15. HCA 13/72 f.165r
  16. HCA 13/71 f.211v
  17. HCA 13/70 f.647v
  18. 'Ell', Wikipedia entry, accessed 20/03/2018
  19. HCA 13/72 f.8v
  20. HCA 13/72 f.9r
  21. HCA 13/68 f.120v
  22. HCA 13/70 f.45r
  23. HCA 13/71 f.639v
  24. HCA 13/70 f.46r
  25. HCA 13/72 f.279r
  26. HCA 13/76 f.25v
  27. HCA 13/64 f.24v
  28. E 190/46/2 f.1v
  29. HCA 13/71 f.237v
  30. HCA 13/68 f.329r
  31. HCA 13/128
  32. HCA 13/72 f.20v
  33. Connecticut Historical Society, A letter from Gov. John Winthrop, respecting the payment of expenses for obtaining the Connecticut charter (Hartford, CT, 1860), pp. 53-55, viewed 03/04/2018