The following table provides brief definitions of the weights and measures employed in the Exeter accounts. It is an expanded version of “Appendix 3: Glossary of Weights and Measures,” in M. Kowaleski, ed., *Local Customs Accounts of the Port of Exeter 1266-1321*, Devon and Cornwall Record Society n.s. 36 (Exeter, 1993). pp 216-20; page references are to this edition. The most common spelling of these weights and measures (usually written in Latin but occasionally in English or French), are given here in italics, within square brackets. Weights and measures for which there is no known English equivalent have been left in italics.

The local port customs accounts of Exeter also provide unusually early equivalents for some weights and measures, although it is not clear whether they were meant to offer standard equivalents used at Exeter or to mark deviations from the norm. Those recorded in the Exeter accounts are noted here and referenced by the date of the port customs account (PCA) in which they occurred. The Latin wording is given for those not included in the print edition of the early accounts. Otherwise only the most common and oldest known equivalents have been listed here since many such references date from after the fifteenth century.

Cite this page as: M. Kowaleski, “Glossary of Weights and Measures,” *Medieval England Maritime Project* (Bronx, NY: Fordham University), https://memp.ace.fordham.edu/glossary-of-weights-and-measures/, accessed* month, day, year* [fill in date since this Glossary is being updated].

The main glossaries employed here are as follows.

- Du Cange, Charles Du Fresne.
*Glossarium mediae et infimae latinitatis,*10 vols in 11. Paris, new edition, 1937-38. - Hall, Hubert and F. J. Nichols, eds., ‘Select Tracts and Table Books relating to English Weights and Measures’,
*Camden Miscellany XV,*Camden 3rd series, xli (1929). - Touchard, Henri. “Les douanes municipales d’Exeter (Devon). Publication des roles de 1381 à 1433. Thèse complémentaire pour le Doctorat ès lettres. Université de Paris, 1967
- Zupko, R.E.
*A Dictionary of Weights and Measures for the British Isles: the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century*. Philadelphia, 1985. - Zupko, R.E.
*French Weights and Measures before the Revolution,*Bloomington IN, 1979

Term | Definition |
---|---|

astr’ | Indeterminate measure. Used for pitch. |

bale [bala, bale] | A measure of quantity or capacity which varied by commodity. It usually denoted a large bundle that was wrapped in canvas and tightly bound. At Exeter, 1 bale of wool yarn weighed 1.5 C (MCR 1298/9, m. 28d, above, p 61), and 1 bale of madder and alum contained 2.5 C (PCA 1360/1: 3 bales madder unde quibus ii C di’; 3 bales alum unde quibus bale ii C di‘). Four bales of almonds contained 8 C (PCA 1320/1, p 195 above). |

barrel [barrellus, baril] | A measure of capacity, generally a cylindrical wooden vessel. For herring, the barrel contained about 30 gallons. At Exeter, 1 barrel of oil could contain 7 gallons (PCA 1397/8: ii baril’ que continent’ xiv gal’ olei) or 13 gallons (PCA 1398/9: ii bar’ que cont’ xxvi galon’ olei). One entry (PCA 1315/16, p 139 above) implies that a barrel of woad was equivalent to one quarter. |

bushel [bussellus] | Measure of capacity used for grain and other dry products. The local markets at Exeter employed a heaped bushel of 10 gallons for grain rather than the standard Winchester bushel of 8 gallons. See W. H. Beveridge, “‘A Statistical Crime of the Seventeenth Centur,” Journal of Economic and Business History, i ( 1929), pp 503-33. |

C [C, centum, cent] | Equivalent to a hundred by tale or a hundredweight depending on the commodity. Boards, canvas, fish, garlic, linen cloth, onions, and skins were counted by tale but varied from the short hundred (100) to the long hundred (120 or more). At Exeter, the short hundred seems to have been used for herring, and for cloth (where it contained 100 ells), but the long hundred was used for many northern French goods (Touchard, “Les douanes municipales,” p xxiv). The hundredweight used for copper, iron, grease, salt, spices, wax and other goods also varied, from 100 to 112 pounds. At Exeter, 1.5 cwt of iron made up 8 quintals (PCA 1318/19, p 170, above), and 1.5 C of herring equalled 1 seam (PCA 1335/6, merchandise account: i di’ C allec qui fac’ i summe). See also bale (for almonds, alum, madder, and wool yarn), charge (for salt), fardel (for canvas and cloth), quintal (for iron), seam (for fish), and trendle (for wax). |

cade [cadus, cade] | A small barrel, often used for herring. Equivalent to a mease; 20 cades made up 1 last. |

cark [carch, cark] | Weight used for spices and alum; equal to 3-4 cwt. |

charge [charge] | Variable measure of capacity for salt. At Exeter it equalled 11.5 quarters (PCA 1303/4, p 80, above), or 10 cwt (PCA 1394/5: xl charge salis (est cccc)), or just under 9.17 quarters (PCA 1396/7: xviii (clxv quart’) charges salis); in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, it was normally 8 quarters although it varied from 4.3 to 8.5 quarters at times (Touchard, “Les douanes municipales,” p xx-xxi). In most ports, the charge equalled 5 quarters. |

chest [cista] | Variable measure of capacity. |

coffin [cofyn] | Measure of capacity similar to a chest; used for rosin. |

[coketcoket, coketz] | Measure of capacity, perhaps derived from concha, conqua, a bowl or basin which may have been equal to about 54 pounds (Du Cange, ii, p 447). At Exeter, 10 cokets of potash were assessed as 1 tun (PCA 1320/1, p 198, above); and, in the same year, 6 cokets were allowed for 1 tun (PCA 1320/1, p 200, above) for customs purposes. |

cope [cope, copula] | Variable measure of capacity used for fruit. |

cord [corde] | Variable measure of quantity originally based on the length of a cord or rope. For garlic, the cord was probably the same as a tress which contained 15-25 heads. At Exeter, there were about 4.9 cords in each seam (PCA 1335/6, merchandise account: xxvic cord alleii qui fac’ liii summis). |

dicker [dacrum, dyker] | Measure of quantity equal to 10; commonly used for hides, where 10 dickers equals 1 last. |

dozen [duodena] | Measure of quantity equal to 12; used for cordwain where 12 hides were probably meant. |

ell [ulna] | Measure of length for cloth, usually 45 inches. See also piece. |

fardel [Jardel, Jardell] | Measure of capacity used for cloth and other merchandise. At Exeter, 1 fardel of canvas contained 4 C (PCA 1304/5, above, p 97), or 300 yards (PCA 1356/7: i Jardel canobi cont’ ccc virg’), or 7 fardels contained 30 C (PCA 1360/1: xxx centum. canobi in vii Jardel’). For cloth at Exeter, 1 fardel contained 64 cloths (PCA 1322/3 merchandise account: i Jardell cont’ lxiiii panni). |

fother [!other] | Weight for lead, usually of 2100 pounds. |

frail [fraellus, frail, Jrayl] | Measure of capacity of uncertain size. At Exeter, 1 frail of raisins contained 100 pounds (PCA 1322/3: J Jrael reysouns cont’ C li’); 1 frail of onions contained 20 seams (PCA 1320/1, p 201, above). |

gallons [galona] | Liquid measure and measure of capacity which was not standardized in this period, but usually contained 4 quarts or 8 pints. See also barrel (for oil). |

garb [garba] | Weight of uncertain poundage; used for weld. |

graner | A bale of uncertain size used to measure woad. |

hundred; hundredweight | See C, above. |

jar [iar, jarre] | Variable measure of capacity; used for oil. |

last [lestum, lastum, last] | Measure of capacity which varied according to commodity. Equal to 20 dickers of hides. Normally, 1 last herring equalled 10 seams or 10 M, but in one entry at Exeter, 3 lasts of herring contained 32 M (PCA 1316/17, p 149, above). |

M [mell’, mil, milJ, m1] | A thousand by tale, or the thousandweight; equivalent to 10 hundreds or hundredweights and thus varied according to commodity. See also last (for herring) and seam (for garlic). |

mease [mis] | Measure of quantity for herring; there were 20 mease to 1 last. |

pack [paccum, pack, pak] | A bundle used as a measure for items such as cloth. The number of cloths or pieces in each pack varied widely although it often included 10 in the later middle ages. At Exeter, however, one pack contained 43 cloths (PCA 1322/3 merchandise account: pacca panni cont’ xliii pannos). |

piece [pecia] | Measure that varied according to commodity; often used for cloth. At Exeter, 1 piece of canvas contained 30 yards (PCA 1315/16, above, p 137; and 1394/5: 1 pecia canabi continent’ xxx virg’); 1 piece linen cloth contained 60 ells (PCA 1316/17, p 151, above), although Breton linen cloth could vary from 36 to 100 ells per piece (Touchard, “Les douanes municipales,” p xxviii). Also at Exeter, 2 pieces cloth of Rouen may have contained 41 ells (PCA 1317/18, p 162, above). |

pipe [pipa, pipe] | Measure of capacity for liquids and dry products that varied according to commodity; equal to 0.5 tun or ton, or about 126 gallons. |

pot [pott] | Measure of capacity of about 14 gallons; used for butter and grease. |

pound [libra] | A weight that varied according to the measuring system used (e.g., mercantile, troy or tower weights). See also frail (for raisins). |

quarter [quarterium, quarter] | Measure of weight (0.25 cwt) or capacity; equivalent to a seam. Used for coal, grain, salt, and woad. At Exeter, each quarter of grain contained 8 bushels, and there were 3 quarters in each ton (PCA 1383/4: x dol’ ord que continent xxx quart’, ix dol’ Jab’ que cont’ xxvii quart’, iii dol’ frumentum que cont’ ix quart’). See also charge (for salt) and barrel and tun (for woad). |

quintal [quintal] | Usually equivalent to a hundredweight but varied according to commodity. At Exeter, 1.5 C of iron contained 8 quintals (PCA 1318/19, p 170, above). |

roll [rolia, rote] | A cylindrical bundle of varying size, often used for cloth. At Exeter, one roll contained 26½ cloths (PCA 1322/3 merchandise account: xxvi pannos di’ panni pro una Rolia). |

rundlet [rondelet] | Measure of capacity often used for wine but here used for archil; a small cask equivalent to 0.5 barrel (roughly equal to 16-18 gallons or 13 pounds). |

sack [sacca, sacula] | Measure of capacity that varied by commodity; for wool, equal to 26-28 stone. |

seam [summa] | Measure of capacity and weight, equal to the quarter for dry products. At Exeter, 1 seam fish imported by a Cornishman equalled 0.25 C (PCA 1398/9: CC vidz. viii sum piscis). For garlic at Exeter, 24 tresses [of garlic] equalled one horseload, and 25 sums were in 1 M garlic (PCA 1303/4, p 82, above) and 25 sums were in 1 M garlic (PCA 1304/5, p 92, above). See also C (for herring), cord (for garlic), and frail (for onions). |

stone [petra] | Weight normally equal to 8-14 pounds although it could vary from 5 to 32 pounds depending on the commodity. |

thousand; thousandweight | See M, above. |

ton [dolea, dolium] | Weight equal to 20 cwt. The ton by weight is difficult to distinguish from the tun by capacity since the same Latin word was used for both. Items like iron, for example, are here noted in tons, but could also be measured in tuns. See also quarter (for grain) and tun. |

trendle [trendel] | Uncertain measure of capacity (a round oval or tub) used for wax. At Exeter, it weighed 1 C (PCA 1316/17, p 220, above). |

tress [tracis] | Measure of quantity for garlic and onions; usually included 15-25 heads or tops braided together. See also seam. |

tun [dolea, dvlium] | Measure of capacity for liquids and some dry products; usually 252 gallons but could be smaller. It was difficult to distinguish from the ton since dolium was used for both terms, although the tun of capacity was sometimes written as dolium plen’ de. At Exeter, 1 tun woad contained c. 4.11 quarters (PCA 1395/6: ix dol’ waide cont. xxxvii quart’f, but normally 1 tun was reckoned at 6 quarters elsewhere and at Exeter in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. See also coket (for potash), and ton. |

yard [virga] | Measure of length; usually 36-37 inches for cloth; see also fardel (for canvas) and piece (for canvas and cloth). |