“A Chalder of Cooles”

Still working on the accounts from the construction of a stately home, and I am astonished by the quantities of goods that were required.  Hundreds of trees, ash, oak and elm, were cut down and sawn into thousands of feet of planks and boards, and all with hand tools. Vast numbers of bricks were made, and bought in.  The workmen were set to building a lime kiln, but until it was completed cart after cart of lime was brought through the gates.  I had never considered the scale of the operation before, nor the logistics of arranging the transportation for all the materials.  Every cart and horse in the area must have been put to use, giving their owners a welcome boost to their annual income.

I have discovered that coal and lime were measured by the chalder, a term I hadn’t come across before.  Looking in one of my trusty books of words I find that “a chalder, or chaldron, is a measure of capacity, originally of 32 bushels, but 36 bushels from 1665/5.  In 1695 a chaldron of coal = 53 cwt = 3 wagon loads = 6 cart loads.  This is the official weight in the Act of Parliament, but probably it was considerably less in practice.  Earlier chalders may have had regional variations.” [A Researcher’s Glossary of words found in historical documents of East Anglia Compiled by David Yaxley – Larks Press – July 2003]

In one week alone 8 chalders of coal were delivered to the site, that’s a lot of coal, although since the work on this house was taking place in the early 1600s there’s really no knowing quite how much.


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