A simple Guide

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Batch and Batch ID

In the brokage books, a batch usually consists of a one, two or three-lined paragraph, sometimes more. The number of batches, or paragraphs, on a single page varies according to the size of script and the amount of detail.

Carts and horses passing through Bargate carried loads which consisted of one or more commodities, for one or more owners. Sometimes the quantity or weight of the commodity or commodities required more than one cart or horse to carry that particular consignment, or ‘batch’, as it is referred to in the database. A batch, therefore, can relate to one commodity carried by one carter to one destination, or it can refer to several commodities carried in one or more carts, by one or more carters to a single destination, for one or more owners. Depending on the volume of trade, any number of batches can represent a single day’s trade.

Each batch is identified by a batch ID. For example, consider batch SC5/5/8.2r1. According to the Southampton Archives Services’ numbering system, Southampton brokage book SC5/5/8 is the brokage book for the accounting year 1447-48. In the example the ‘8’ is the number of the brokage book within the series; the ‘2’ is the folio number; ‘r’ denotes recto (‘v’ verso); and the number which follows, in this case ‘1’, refers to the number of the entry on the page. The latter number does not coincide with the numbering in the original document which starts renumbering from 1 on each new day. Very occasionally it has been necessary to divide a single batch into two batches to facilitate entry on to the database; on these occasions the second batch has been given a letter, e.g. 1 and 1a.

Referencing in this book uses the batch ID from the database.


In the original text, all entries for a single day were listed under one date heading; on the database, the day, date and month were added to each batch entry. In addition, to facilitate easy comparison across years, the week of the financial year was also added to each batch. This was designed to assist comparison between years even when some weeks are missing.


Christian, or first, names have generally been standardised and modernised;1 however, Italian forenames have been retained and not anglicised.

Original surnames with variant spellings, as seen in the text have been retained, but, for sorting purposes, the most frequently used form of the name has been inserted in a separate field (standard surname) and should be used for analysis. Italian names have not been anglicised unless the person was Italian by birth but English by denizenship as in the case of Christopher Ambrose who traded out of Southampton.

Note, there are occasions when the name of the carter is given as, for example, ‘servant of John Smith’. On these occasions the ‘servant’ box has been ticked and the name ‘John Smith’ entered for the carter. Where members of the same family are seen carting together, ‘senior’ or ‘junior’ has been inserted in the title box. Status has added when confirmed in the text, so too the place from which the person comes if indicated.

Place names were entered in their original variable forms and linked with a table which contains the corresponding place names in their modern forms. County names were then added to this table. The town/county refers to those pre-1974 boundary changes. The addition of counties makes it possible to identify Southampton’s trade from a county perspective with interesting results. Consequently, figures for Bristol are included in Somerset results and London in Middlesex.

Relevant grid references, eastings and northings, which link with the GIS mapping system, were also added. When allocating grid references to place names, it became obvious that a single place name could refer to more than one location. For example, there is a Twyford in Hampshire about nine miles from Southampton, but there are others in Buckinghamshire, Derbyshire, Dorset, Herefordshire, Leicestershire, Norfolk, Oxfordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire. Generally, the closest place to Southampton was assumed. However, in a few instances, calculated judgements were made. For example, Bradford appears in the records; there is a Bradford in Cornwall, Devon and Northumberland, and a Bradford Abbas in Dorset. However, since the goods conveyed to ‘Bradford’ were dyes for the cloth industry, it has been deduced that the records refer to Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, which was renowned for its involvement in the cloth industry.


The broker used Roman numerals to record the tolls paid. These were converted to Arabic form, and, for easy addition, all tolls in excess of 11d were converted to pence. Halfpennies were written as 0.5d and farthings as 0.25d. Book 1 shows total tolls paid; brokage, custom and pontage were not shown individually.

The broker also collected payments for market stalls. For simplicity, the names of the people who made payments for market stalls were included in the list of carters. The amount paid for the market stall was shown in the appropriate column ‘m/s’ (market stall).


The spelling of these was standardised and each commodity categorised so that they could be analysed as single items, in categories or sub categories. A few examples follow

itemsub categorycategory
almondsspices2 consumables food and drink
alummordantswool and cloth trade
herringfishconsumables food and drink
hides, tannedhides and skinsskins hides leather
onionsvegetablesconsumables food and drink
soap, blacksoapwool and cloth trade
teaselstools and equipmentwool and cloth trade
wine, rumneywineconsumables food and drink
woaddyeswool and cloth trade

Looking at the above table, rumney was only one of fourteen types of wine on the database. By categorising each commodity, it not only becomes possible to calculate the quantity of rumney which left Southampton but also to identify all types of wine and to see which was taken out in the greatest quantities; similarly, the range of different types of vegetables or fish; or whether more carts carried consumables than raw products for the wool and cloth trade.

A list of unclassified items is given at the end of the items list; either the item was not recognised or the medieval uses of the commodity was unknown, thus preventing categorisation.

Weights and Measures

The measurement of commodities was one of the greatest problems to be overcome and some remain which cannot be counted satisfactorily. In the original text, commodities were measured in a variety of units, which not only differed with each commodity, but one commodity alone could be measured in many different ways. Even similar commodities used different weights and measurements; for instance, soap appeared in the text as soap, white soap or black soap. Soap was measured variously in barrels, C, cases, chests, hogsheads, pipes, puncheons and serons. Generally, the same measurements were used for white soap, but black soap was most frequently measured in barrels. In book eight a pipe of soap could vary between 6C, 6.5C, 7C, 7.5C and 8C but generally the weight is specified; when not specified, then the smallest, 6C, has been taken.

To facilitate the counting of quantities, each commodity was designated a unit of measurement at the planning stage. For example, gallons were the designated unit of measurement for wine. Thus wine, which appears in the original text as barrels (32 gallons)3 , hogsheads (63 gallons), pipes (126 gallons), butts (126 gallons) and dolios (252 gallons), is entered on the database only in gallons.

Where necessary, original measurements have been converted to one standard measurement which can be used for calculations, but the quantity has been retained in the notes, both for checking purposes and to allow future researchers to consult the original text. However, if bales or balettes are retained as the standard measurement they are not shown in the notes.

For some commodities, where the measurement was found to be too imprecise, it was impossible to provide a reliable figure for calculations. For example, where the original mentions a bundle of goods, or a quantity for which a translation is unattainable, then this is deemed to be an ‘indeterminate quantity’. On these occasions a ‘1’ is entered in the indeterminate quantity column. If two indeterminate loads are recorded together, then a ‘2’ is entered. However, whereas two burdens of fish in one cart counted as one indeterminate; two burdens fish in two carts counted as two. Although not ideal, it does show that a quantity of that commodity was taken to a specific destination.

Grouped commodities:

Where commodities have been grouped together in the original documents, corn and malt, cloth and leather, flax and yarn for example, they have been separated for the database, and the quantity divided equally between the two products, and each commodity has been entered separately and a note added to that effect. Therefore, figures should be considered as indicative rather than absolute.

Goods for two owners/recipients:

Occasionally, a quantity of goods was delivered to two owners but the proportion was not shown. To overcome difficulties when counting total quantities, it has been necessary on such occasions to divide the quantity in half, with equal portions assigned to each recipient, and to include a note to show that this has happened. Again, figures should be considered as indicative rather than absolute.

Groups of carters

When named individually in the database, groups of carters travelling together caused duplication/triplication of commodity quantities. To ensure that commodities were only counted once, ‘group of carriers’ was entered in the ‘forename’ and ‘surname’ columns and the members of the group identified on a separate table, thus all the original information was retained without compromising the calculations. The groups of carters have now been amalgamated into the main list of single carters, but the groups can be identified because the carters share the same ‘carBatchID’ or carrier batch ID, for that transaction.

Custom only:

For some commodities, custom was levied on the sale of certain goods in the town, such as cloth, horses, kerseys, leather, lead and malt. In the database these are shown as ‘custom only paid’. In book three a lot of the entries for corn and malt were recorded however, there is not always any indication of whether the goods were brought in or taken out, merely that custom was paid. These entries have been recorded as ‘custom only paid’. Probably they were brought into the town on horseback but certainly not in a cart as pontage was not paid.

Translation and Transcription

During the process of transcription and translation, issues arose and decisions had to be made.

Onions (cepa, sepa, sepum) and tallow (cebum, cebum, sebum, sepum). Since the root of both words can be spelt in the same way e.g. ‘cep’ and because the signs of contraction giving the correct ending are non-specific abbreviations, it is not always clear whether the entry refers to tallow or onions. Onions were almost always sent out of the town and were packed in barrels; tallow was generally brought into Southampton by cartload; where the reading is uncertain, the type of packaging and directions of goods were used as an indication and to assist in decision making.

Similarly, unclear or abbreviated endings on words such as ‘cart’ and ‘carter’ (er) meant that there were occasions when it was impossible to determine if ‘cart’ or ‘carter’ was intended. The broker was interested in collecting pontage of 1d per ‘cart’ so cart was deemed to be more likely. Similarly, bread ‘panis’ and cloth ‘pannus’ are both abbreviated in the text to ‘pan’ and, on occasion, a non- specific abbreviation added. The sense of the entry helped determine the intention of the scribe.

In the brokage book SC5/5/37 for 1538-9 the quantities for canvas are occasionally ambiguous. The scribe could have intended six and a half bales or he could have intended six half-bales. Since canvas was frequently entered as half bales and, on occasion, as a balettes, the decision was taken to assume six half-bales.

There were instances when the palaeography meant that it was difficult, indeed, at times impossible to distinguish between the long 'f' and long 's' with implications for names such as Colfoxe and Colswayne.


(barley, corn, oats and wheat) In some of the brokage books4 when the word ‘frumentum’ was used it was translated as wheat. In books 33, 37, 38, where the originals are written in English, the word ‘corn(e)’ was used and has been retained;5 one entry from book one shows a consignment of ‘bladum’, corn, differentiating it from the other entries in that book for ‘frumentum’. There are six entries for barley, ‘ordeum’;6 seven entries for oats, ‘avena’, also spelt variously, otis, ottes, otys.7 All these cereals have been sub-categorised as grain. On occasion, corn and malt or wheat and malt were carried together, in such cases the quantity was divided equally between the two commodities. See SC5/5/28.17v10 which shows 8 carts of corn and malt; this was divided equally into 4 carts corn and 4 carts malt.

1With reference to E. G. Withycombe, The Oxford Dictionary of English Names, Oxford, 1977

2 In the middle ages the term ‘spice’ referred to two types of imported foodstuffs. The first group included dried fruits, such as currants, dates, figs, prunes and raisins, with almonds, rice and sugar, and the second, the highly flavoured spices, such as, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mace, pepper and saffron. (See C. Dyer, Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages Social Change in England c. 1200 - 1520 (Cambridge, 1989) p. 62.

3A barrel generally contained 32 gallons wine, oil etc. and on those occasions when it differed, the broker indicated the specific quantity, e.g. 1 barrel oil containing 6 gallons (SC5.5.3.59v1)

4Books 1,3, 8,13,14, 28,29, 30; there are 3431 entries for wheat

5There are 1181 entries for corn

6One entry in book one, two entries in book three, one entry in book 29 and two entries in book 38.

7Three in book 14, one in book 22; two in book 29; one in book 33.