Domestic Life and Industries


Institute of Historical Research



Francis Grainger & W.G. Collingwood (editors)

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'Records : Domestic Life and Industries', Register & Records of Holm Cultram (1929), pp. 238-249. URL: Date accessed: 20 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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At the middle of the sixteenth century ex-abbot Borrodaile was lodged in part of the old abbey buildings, and Wolsty Castle was tenanted by the Chambers; but ordinary people did not build themselves stone houses. Even if they had so desired, stone was not to be found until the ruined abbey supplied a convenient quarry. The usual house was a clay-daubing, upheld on timbers, and of one storey only, unless the loft in the roof, approached by a ladder, was reckoned as an upper floor. The building of houses in stone did not come into fashion until after the Restoration, though there are a few instances of an earlier date.

The first of these is perhaps Raby Cote, begun soon after 1600 with stones from the abbey, and enlarged probably about 1621; and the restoration or partial rebuilding of the Millhouse near the abbey, part of Gawen Borrodaile's lodging, by Robert Farish, who has left his initials on the lintel "R.F. 1604 F.F." There seems to have been building by this family in 1666, for James Jackson's diary notes that on April 16 of that year "did Mr. Lamplugh and Francis Threlkeld discharge Robert Fearish from digging stones in the house steads; his answer was he would take no stop at anie man." The lintel in the street of Abbeytown with a Latin motto and "R.F.S. 1612," and that of a cottage at Mawbray, "16 W.T.M. 13," perhaps of Martindales, are unusually early instances of domestic masonry in the Holm.

1654, Aug. 22, James Jackson viewed and measured the house which his brother John had built out of stones taken from Wolsty Castle, then recently demolished; "In length, 14 yeards, In bredth, 6 yeards. In height, 5 yeards, with 2 chimneys and one staire case, the bredth of the wall 2 foot … We valew the stones in Jo: Jac' house to £100."

James Jackson himself built a new barn in 1662, for which on Oct. 14 his friends, giving him boon-labour, brought 'a great sile from Souterfield;' that is to say one of the A-shaped forks of which examples are still seen, as in the barn at Raby Cote (photographed in C. & W. Trans, N.S. xiv, 280). This style of building, long continuing in use for barns, was the usual style of dwellinghouse in the earlier days.

1667, April 15, James Jackson began to build a new house for himself. He describes the long list of 'boons' or gifts in kind given by neighbours in place of personal service, from the vicar's quarter of veal and the schoolmaster's pound of tobacco to the pot of ale contributed by Jane Langcake; but he does not describe the house. Its lintel, however, at Swinsty still bears "16 I I I 67,' for the names of himself and his wife Jane.

A rather earlier house is indicated by a stone built into a wall at Mawbray, said to have come from Salta. It seems to be a voussoir, ornamented with a kind of chevron or 'lazy-tongs' pattern, above which is 'N.O. 1666'; probably of Osbornes. But the inscribed lintels in general run from 1679 to the end of the century, showing the period of stone-house building:—At Plasket lands old house, 'A L. 1679 F O' (Anthony Langcake?) and at Plasket lands also 'IP. A P. 1681' (Parkin ?). At Dubmill, 'MEMENTO . TE . ESSE . MORTALEM . WO . FO . 1682' (William and Frances Osmotherley). At Tarns, 'I P. M P. 1682. FEAR GOD' (Parkins). At Edderside, 'E W. T W. I W. 1684' (Wilsons?) At Pelutho, REMEMBER. SON. WHEN. I. AM GON. I. WAS. THE FOWNDER . OF . THIS . STON . FER. GOD . 1685. F S . I S . AS . IS . D' (Sibsons?). At Farmery Cowper, 'TB. IB. MB. 1686' (Joseph and Mary Barnes, and son Thomas). At Swinsty farm, 'R.D. G.D. 1688,' (Dentons). At Southerfield, three stones; the middle one with a 'cat's cradle' pattern; on the left, 'T P I' (Thomas and Phœbe Jefferson) and on the right, '1696.' At Greyson House, 'J.B. I.B. 1697' (Bensons). At Mawbray farm, 'T.O.N.O.A.O.1698' (Osmotherleys). There is also at Mawbray another much later, '17 I W I 78' (Willis).

The description of a small house built in 1720–1 for Ann Benson, widow, by the Manor Court under the custom of free bench or widow-right, is given thus:—"Imprimis. Three pieces of timber 9s. It: For three dorments [roof-timbers] 9s. It: for spears [spars] and finishing ye principalls 10s. It: for dales and Jests [deals or planks and joists] for lofting 3 yards and a half in length 18s. It: for three stone windows one to be 2 feet high and 2 feet breadth and ye second to be a foot and a half in height and a foot in breadth and ye third a foot square 6s. 6d. It: For glass for the windows 3s. 9d. It: For one door and 2 pair of cheeks 5s. It: for stairs 3s. It: for building ye walls and to make them 3 yards and a foot in height, ye east side wall and ye end walls to stand and to rest ye west side wall 3 yards ye height of house [?] and Thatch ye house 2l. It: for ye chimney and oven, Bricks Lime and workmanship, with six loads of lime for plaistering ye walls 17s. 8d. It: for wood-work and carriage of wood 13s. Total 6l. 15s. 3d."

Where stone was not easily obtainable, a rough casing of boards was set up and into this was poured the clay in a semi-fluid state, layers of straw cut to the required length being laid on the wall every few inches. The dwelling-house consisted usually of two rooms on the ground floor, a living-room or spence with wide hearth, and a sleeping-chamber for the farmer and his wife. Over these was a garret or loft, approached by a ladder and open to the thatch, in which the younger members of the family and the servants slept. At a later period a pentice or lean-to was erected on the north side and used as a dairy or wash-house. The door was invariably at the north-east corner, opening into a passage running north and south, dividing the dwelling-house from the byre. Huts of clay or brushwood, covered with thatch, reeds or turves, sheltered the live stock. The floor of the dwelling was usually of clay, beaten almost to the consistency of stone by the constant passage of feet, flags being necessary only for the threshold and the hearth, where peat was burnt. The only masonwork required was in the jambs and lintels of the doors and windows; all the rest could be built by the owner with the assistance of his neighbours, who gave him a 'boon-day' for the purpose.

The 'insight and plenishing' of a Holm Cultram farmhouse in 1575 is given in the inventory of John Borrowdale of Southerfield, one of the more substantial tenants. He possessed:—

Beddinge, a pare of Bedhangings, j [pair] Sheits £ 5 2 0
xiij Secks, iiij wynding clothes, ij axes & one Great scath, (fn. 1) iij Basons, j ewer 2 0 0
v plattes & iij poyder [pewter] dishes, vij Unked [foreign-made] poddigers [porringers] 1 2 0
v round poddigers, iiij Sawcers, vi Candlesticks 0 13 4
1 chiste, 1 seatt 0 1 8
v Brasse potts 0 2 6
iij pannes, j fryinge panne, v spitts & xij hopp's [baskets ?] j pair of tongs, j lead [bason] and iij
seatts 1 5 8
iiij Landers [wooden troughs], ij more, iiij stands, iij poyd' [pewter] potts, i Brandreth, one pistol [pestle ?]; j chaffinge dishe, one great chist 0 8 4
One pyke & Bands [pack and bands?]; j cupboard, j almyrie [small cupboard] crookes 1 5 0

Compared with this, James Jackson's inventory taken in 1651 at the beginning of his career is distinctly poor:—" 4 kine, 2 Calves, 1 Cubbert, 2 Brasse potts, 2 copper pans, 5 pudder [Pewter] dishes, 5 Handles [bowls with handles], 2 fatts [vats], 1 caffe [chaff] bed, 1 covr cloath, 2 Happins, 2 paire of Sheets, 3 Cheeses [so it seems to read], 1 table, 2 bedsteeds, 1 chaire. Witnes hereof Robt. Chambr that writt the same." But James Jackson's circumstances improved and in 1671 when his eldest son Richard married Frances the daughter of John Chamber of Blackdike, he could pay for the wedding outfit:—

"Dick's cloake 8 yeards and a halfe att ijs. ijd. p. yearde 18 5
6 yeards of base [baize] for lineing att js. iiijd. p. yearde 8 0
One sette of Mowheire [mohair] buttons 2 2
halfe an ounce of Silke 1s. neck button 6d. black threed 2d. 1 8
p. cloake £ 1 10 3
More for his sute.
2 yeards and a quartr att 6s. 8d. p. yeard 15 0
Buttons to his dublett, 8d., Silke vjd 1 2
gallow' [galloon] vjd. collor iijd. 0 9
His suite 16 11
Two hatts. A dinn castor [grey beaver] for ffrances ix vj
in all 13 0
ffor ffrances gowne x yeards of Rosetta [russet] att ijs. iijd. a yearde, comes to 1 2 6
Halfe a pound of whailebone. 1 0
½ an ele of buccaram, 8d., 3 yeards of gallowne, 9d. 1 5
Silke ½ an ounce, 1s. ffirrittin [silk] Ribbin, 1s. 8d. 2 8
Sum[m]e toto: 1 7 7

Memor'. July iiijth, 1671: was my sonne Richard and ffrances Chambr married att Abbey Church and Mr. Bolton preacht twice next Lords day following."

Dick's younger brother Joseph went up to Queen's College, Oxford, on 'March 1th, 1676'; he became fellow in 1685 and died rector of Bramshott, Hants., a college living, in 1729 (Dr. Magrath, The Flemings in Oxford, ii, 37). His father makes frequent reference to sending him clothes, such as "Sept. 29th, 79: Sent to my sonne Joseph att Oxon a suit and a coat with Triming for his Coat, and xs. in Money for a token, by Richard Burneyeats," the carrier from Cockermouth. "Sept. 29 [80?] Mich. day. Sent to Oxōn to My sonne Joseph p. Burneyeats a fedder bed with ticke, a waist Coat, and two paire of Stockens," and later, he sends various articles, apparently made up at home, except the rather noteworthy entry in 1682 of '9 yeards and a halfe of Scotch Cloath.' Besides the usual carrier, kind friends took charge of consignments from the Holm to a distance; one who carried Joseph a letter and a five-shilling piece was no less than Mr. William Nicolson, the vicar of Torpenhow, and a fellow of Queen's, afterwards the famous bishop of Carlisle.

Apart from infringements of manorial byelaws there seems to have been little serious crime after the rough Tudor period was passed. James Jackson made some interesting experiments, in advance of his age, as we might think, when he tried to cure individual cases of drunkenness and gambling, by getting Hugh Cogton to pledge 5s. 'for 6d. I gave him' not to be in an alehouse above an hour at a time, nor to be taken in drink; and in a similar way to induce Thomas Smith to abstain from 'anie unlawfull game' from June till Martinmas. But in the earlier period there were a few tragedies.

A tombstone in the abbey church porch records—"Oct. 21, 1586. Here lyeth Ann Musgrave being murdered the 19th of the said month with the shot of a pistol in her own house of Raby Cote by Robert Beckwith. She was the daughter of Jack Musgrave, Capt. of Bewcastle, Knt. She was married to Thomas Chamber of Raby Coat and had issue six sons vidt. Robert Thomas John Row. Arth. Will. and a daughter Florence." As Beckwith was not a local name, it may be suspected that this meant a feud somehow connected with wild doings on the Bewcastle border.

We have noticed (p. 199) the gossip of 1604 about the killing of Richard Glaisters by Thomas Harding, which is also unexplained. A little earlier we find a petition from Richard Chamber of Brockholes, probably a surgeon, for his will of 1601 mentions books and instruments of surgery. He writes to Queen Elizabeth —"That whereas Robert Barwis, John Stagg and others were indicted within … Cumberland for the killing of one Robert Chamber, your poor Subjects neere kindsman," and obtained pardon on their own recognizances in bonds of £40 to be of good behaviour, "notwithstanding, they … have made divers assaults, fraes, bludsheds, misdemeanours as well against this petitioner and his friends as divers others" and he "humblie praieth that the said recognizances may be assigned ovr unto him …" The result is not recorded.

In 1667 there was a trial at Carlisle assizes in which Richard Nicholson sued Anne Brisco for trespass and ejectment from land in Kitching Crook; the chief interest in this is that Sir William Scrogs, afterwards the notorious chief justice, was counsel for the defendant, but lost the case. Ten years later John Paipe, miller, refused to take off his hat when Mr. Addison's health was drunk, saying that the new steward of Holm 'had cheated the king of £4000 and would not get thatch to his houses'; for which there was another trial, and Paipe was mulcted. In 1701 there was complaint that men not qualified by their standing kept guns, dogs and ferrets for sport, and the constables were ordered 'to search the houses and other places for all such doggs gunns etc. and destroy the same.' In 1699 and later, horse stealing was rife and the sufferer could claim the value from the county; but as late as 1756 there is a case of a horse-thief who was sentenced by Quarter Sessions 'to be publickly whipped until his body be bloody at the post in the publick market at Cockermouth.' But the records show nothing to indicate that the people of the Holm, always quarrelling and inclined to have the law on their neighbours, were otherwise than well-conducted on the average.

The industries on which they were employed were mainly agricultural with the accompanying domestic occupations, and a little salt-making and fishing.

During this period the copyholder's land consisted of three kinds, infields, outfields and meadows. The infields were closes of arable land adjacent to the homesteads and continually under crop, no pasturage being obtainable therefrom until after the corn and pulse crops had been garnered.

The outfields were shares in the acredales or commonfields, known also as Lammas lands because, though fenced off from the common pasture from seed-time to Lammas Day (August 1, old style) they were then thrown open to the common pastures. In the upper part of the Holm the acredales spread over an area of some three miles by two of light sandy soil; the separate holdings were divided by strips of grass known as balks and reins (sometimes spelt 'rheins' and 'ranes'). An example surviving at Aldoth is described by Mr. T. H. B. Graham (C. & W. Trans. n.s. xiii, 22). "It lies on the south side of the road leading from Abbeytown to Aspatria, and is the second field after passing the guide-post, numbered 818 on the old Ordnance Survey. The share furthest from the road, containing 2 roods 35 perches, belongs [in 1912] to Mr. Tordiff. It has a frontage to the headrigg of 12 yards, and is bounded north by a three-foot grass rane. The middle share, containing 2 roods and 3 perches, belongs to Mr. Wilson. It has a frontage of only 9 yards, and is bounded by a similar rane. The third share, containing 1 acre 3 roods and 29 perches, belongs to Mrs. Rook. It has a frontage of 36 yards and probably includes three or four original acredales."

The allotment of these acredales is shown in an extract of 1581:—"A whole Riving called Whinny Rigg and his fellows: First, to Southerfield, vi acres, whereof one acre of Whinny Rigg, one acre of Askew Brigg, v acres of the East End of Stoney Law, 2 acres of the Middle Flatt of Stoney Law, one of the westernmost Flatt of Stoney Law to their footmen [i.e. for the class of tenants who had to find men without horses for Border service] which Thomas Challenor had: Thomas Benson 2 acres in Little Flatt." That is to say, these strips of arable land were held dispersedly by various owners, each of whom had pieces in different places. The size of an acre in Elizabeth's reign may be reckoned at three modern statute acres, and the rent paid in addition to tithe and customary services varied by 1s. to 2s. per acre. The rental paid in Tudor times did not exceed, for ordinary Cumberland soil, from 4d. to 6d. per statute acre.

The commonfield land was usually divided into three equal dales. Each of the three dales was cropped with grain three years in succession and then laid to pasture for six years; rent and tithe being paid only while the land was under crop. Thus out of an estimated area of 243 acres, one-third paid rent and tithe yearly.

The third great land-division of the period included the Lammas meadows. These were situate in some low-lying part of the manor preferably near some stream. The land was fenced from the common pasture until Lammas or until the last hay was carried; an inquisition of Jan. 23, 1591, found that "after the time the said hay be led away, ye said meadow in ye Abbot's tyme was used to be closed and ye said yeate [gate] safely well kept locked until All Hallowes tyde, and then ye cattell to be put on to ye foggage or after crop … until our Lady day in Lent … and then ye said cattell were taken away from ye said meadow ground and ye same was frithed [fenced] for ye tenants Profitt until it was mowne, and then for ye better rizing of ye foggage it was spared till All Hallowes tide." The several portions of the tenants lay undivided by fences, the allotments being marked by 'meare steanes' or by reins. As the area was measured by 'darricks' [day-works] the space mown in one day would vary according to the soil and situation. Artificial grasses did not come into general use until the eighteenth century.

The size of the holdings is inferred from the Survey of 1538, when there were 310 occupiers of arable land and 54 cottagers having common rights. The holdings of arable and meadow land ranged from two to 73 acres of the period, the average being about twelve, that is to say 36 statute acres. In addition, each tenant held in the commonfield from two to four acres, as well as a right on the stinted pasture, the size of which to each stint-holder would be about the same area as his allotment of arable land. The will and inventory of John Borrowdale of Southerfield, who died in 1575, shows that the value of his farming stock was £49 7s. 8d., implements about £4 and crop £16 6s. 8d. The crop may be estimated at half an acre of wheat, ten of rye, sixteen of barley or bigg and thirty-four of oats, accounting for 60 acres of ground. His live stock was reckoned at 9 horses and foals, 5 oxen, 8 cows and 13 young stock, with 20 sheep. His farm at the present day would be of 120 acres, with 35 head of horned stock. A hundred years later we find an entry of James Jackson's crop; of bigg, 505 stooks; of oats, 755; of beans, 47, and of pease, 10; the stook being 12 sheaves.

The horses were kept in large numbers, partly for the Border service; but the smaller holdings furnished only 'lesser horses or naggs' known as demys, whence the name of the tenements. Milch cattle, and some of the working oxen, were sheltered in winter time but those which were poor and not like wintering were killed at Martinmas for winter consumption and laid in brine in a 'flesh salt,' usually made of lead, sometimes hollowed out of stone. After a time the joints were hung up and dried in the living room or passage adjoining. Every township or grieveship kept a bull, and the duty was imposed on some particular farm in return for certain privileges granted, or upon each tenant in turn. As late as 1790 the XVI Men paid ' to the Tenants of Pelatho for the releasing of a free Bull at West House, £46 10s.'

The sheep, according to Bailey and Cully (Report on Cumberland, 1797) were descended from "the black-faced, coarse-wooled heath sheep, but by crossing with some other breed, presumably Herdwicks, many have acquired a large proportion of white on their faces and legs, some having those parts speckled and others totally black." They were high shouldered, narrow backed, flat sided, strong boned, with rough hairy legs, the wool coarse and long, and weighing from 3 to 4 lbs. per fleece. In the inventories of the 16th and 17th centuries the lambs are never more numerous than the ewes. The ewes were milked; among the gifts to James Jackson at the building of his house in 1667 was 'a handle [pot with handles] full of milke and a handle full of ewe milke ' from the Francis Grainger of the time. On Raby Cote farm, of about 100 statute acres, the accounts of May 23, 1605, show 175 lbs. of wool produced, which at 3½ lbs. per fleece would give Thomas Chamber's flock as 50 head; and three stones of wool were kept at home to be carded and spun for domestic purposes. The accounts of tithe lambs in 1613 show that from the 310 tenants 289 were collected, and 58 were bought by the owners; making the number of ewes in the manor about 3,000 (reckoning one lamb per ewe and ten per cent. for loss): the average price would be 2s. 2½d. each.

Pigs and goats were also kept. In the 16th and 17th centuries pigs were valued at 1s. 2d. to 4s. 3d. and John Chamber paid 1d. each for 'tow younge soukers. Of poultry they had geese, hens and ducks; the tithe geese collected in 1613 numbered 218, which were sold for 7d. each. Not many ducks were kept, and hens seem to have been kept chiefly for the production of eggs.

In considering the farm operations of the year, it must be remembered that the Julian calendar was still in force, and that the dates were really later than they would seem by our present almanac; consequently, the season was always a little more advanced. They began when Christmas was over with Plough Monday, the first Monday after Twelfth Night, and during January ploughing and threshing were carried on. Oats then as now formed the chief grain crops, followed by barley, of which the variety here grown was bere or bigg; large and foursquare like an ear of wheat and used for bread, malt and beer. Two minor crops were hemp and flax, indispensable for workers during the winter in days when every household was self-supporting. Flax was sown in a warm season from the middle of March until the beginning of June, on light soil, whereas hemp required stiff soil. In farm valuations for probate, hemp and 'lyne' [flax] invariably appear, and in some cases line seed was bequeathed by will. During April the wheat, where sown, was rolled; the cattle were brought off the meadows and the fences mended. Early in May the common pasture was stinted, and we may be sure that an early spring was ardently looked for, as a defective hay crop and a bad harvest meant short commons for the farmer and certain starvation for the unfortunate live stock. Besides his own work the farmer had to keep and plough the lord's demesne, according to his ability and number of horses and oxen; his allowance for boon labour in pre-Reformation times has been already noticed (p. 171). The use of the scythe does not seem to have been general until the nineteenth century, the sickle being used instead; and until the eighteenth century straw was cut about half length to avoid weeds and preserve the precious grain the more easily. The stubble was afterwards shorn for fodder or thatch. After harvest the pigs and geese were turned into the stubble, and cattle and horses into the commonfield, and cottagers were allowed the run of the stubbles for a certain payment. After wheat was sown (if any, and we have only a few notices of wheat in the Holm during the seventeenth century) land intended for barley—that is to say, wheat or oat stubble—received its first ploughing. Martinmas ushered in the winter season. It was not, however, a season of idleness. There were shoes to mend, flax and hemp to beat, malt to grind, and candle-rushes to pick; while the females were busy in carding wool and spinning the wool, hemp and flax for domestic purposes and for use on the farm.

In Queen Elizabeth's time it appears there was no fishing off the Holm. The report of the commissioners, April 26, 1566, mentioning Skinburness, adds—"for the governmente of the said Creke or haven heretofore there hath been none aucthorised to license to lode, or unlode. Item, there is no Shippes, vessels, ne any Maryners" (quoted by Mr. P. H. Fox, C. & W. Trans., n.s., xxi, 76). The reason is obvious; any such industry was impossible as long as Scottish raids by boat continued. The only fishing was then in the Stank (p. 169).

After the union of the crowns some boats fished off Skinburness. In the Survey of 1649 is mentioned "All that Jacke called the Prize fish … out of every Boate the best fish, worth pr. ann. iijs. iiijd." On August 8, 1656, the bailiff went to Skinburness, as he records (C. & W. Trans. n.s. xxi, 109) "to the Salmon fisheing and there tooke of either boat one fish as a Prise fish due to the Lord of the Manor," but "both fish were taken from him again" by the skippers, John Waite of Lees and Wm. Messinger of Skinburness. In 1680 the same bailiff notes, "All controversies ended," and the fishers paid their dues; this time it appears that there were three skippers, one of whom came from Silloth. A sturgeon was caught in 1650 and the 'finder' was rewarded with a shilling; but nobody would buy it for half a crown, and there was no representative of royalty to receive it. In 1581 another was landed; the fishers got 3s. 8d. and the messenger who took it to the Earl of Carlisle received 5s. (ibid. 98, 127).

From Angerton near Kirkbride to Border near Sevill Cote the shore was dotted with saltpans, 21 in all. Each pan or cote had a share of peat-moss to supply fuel for evaporating; for the peat, a money-rent was paid, but the salt-cotes paid rent in kind, with so many bushels of salt. The process used in this district has been described by Dr. George Neilson in 'Annals of the Solway,' but it calls for no special explanation here, as the industry differed hardly at all from that which was common on all sea-coasts. It was said, however, that the Solway salt had a reputation for whiteness and purity. Before 1561 Robert Chamber had farmed the salt-cotes; they were then usually let to one man and in 1572 Edward Philipson held them, but the Chambers took them over, later, and were still interested in them in 1640. The 'Saultbook' of John Chamber of Raby Cote (died 1656) is still extant, with all the details of his petty cash. At the Survey of 1572–3 they were said to be decayed, but worth yearly £8 4s. Under John Chamber they made in every quarter of a year about 165 'measures' of salt, worth at Raby Cote from 9d. to 1s. a measure. Most of this was hawked about the country by 'badgers.' In the earlier part of the seventeenth century no tax is mentioned, but by an act of parliament, 7 William and Mary, a duty was imposed; and on Jan. 21, 1698, Quarter Sessions prescribed that "whereas complaint has been made that Salt, under color of paying his Majesty's duty, is sold at extravagant and unreasonable prices … noe salt shalbe sold at any panne where salt is made within the County [of Cumberland] for above 4s. 4d. per Winchester Bushell, including the King's duty, and that the Bushell contain 56 lbs." In 1699 the officer for collecting the duty prosecuted a number of 'badgers' including John Pape, Robert Benson, John Carter [alias Porter] John Peate and Ann Willis, of Holm Cultram, for selling salt, 'without any warrant Ticket or Lycense,' and asked that they should forfeit the salt and double its value; but the parties appealed to have the salt back again, 'which was so ordered.'


1 'Scath,' as in dialect there is confusion between 'f' and 'th,' might perhaps be 'scaf,' given in the O.E.D. as an old word for an open basket.