Class Outline from Pennsic

These are JUST class notes but you might find them useful.  They are still copyrighted of course.


  1. Course Overview:
    1. Household account books (also called Diet and Privy Accounts) are records kept by managers of household estates (usually large ones) recording all manner of transaction.  These included incoming income and outgoing income.
      1. They were not usually recorded by the lord or lady of an estate
      2. They were often taken in the form of notes and receipts
      3. They were later put into the large legers (which are the part that survives) and organized into sections: income, outgoing payments.  Then they are broken down into sections by material: food stuffs, textiles and other household materials, valuables (gold, jewels and cloth of gold), transportation, payments to staff, horses and similar needs, ect
  2. In the terms of textiles we often know what was bought, where it was bought, how much it cost, how much length, who transported it, whom it was for and sometimes the names of tailors, cutters, embroiders and weavers.  Part of this information or all of it might be listed.
  3. Wills often list textiles and garments in their lists of bequests.  If your looking for the middle classes and the lower classes, the wills and court records are an excellent place to start.  Wealthy persons often have much more to list but they also bequest to many levels of society.
  4. Our Sources:
    1. You might notice on your handouts that all of our source materials are from nobility, most are from kings or queens.  While this does limit our ability to assess what the average man or woman wore (ie. peasants and merchants) it should be noted that many of these noble households bought textiles in large quantities for their servants. It was in fact often part of the payments rendered for service for both lay servants and noble ones.  If you want more information about the lower classes and their textiles look at English wills and court cases and indeed a few notable will have been included in this class.
    2. What textiles were bought?: Wool was the primary textile but there are few mentions of cloth-of-gold, fine furs, silk brocade
      1. Furs: In the glossary terms relating to fur are listed for you.  Most are sold in timbers which is a group of 40 skins.  You can find rabbit and sheepskin, but most fur entries are luxury goods like minever, gris, popell and strandling.  All of the later are the Baltic squirrel who changes color with the season thus the many names.  Pured and half-pured refers to how much of the white belly is showing and how much of the surrounding color is removed.
        1. “…Purchase of fur. Sir William accounts for 2 furs of minever half-pured, each of 7 timbers, and 2 hoods each of 50 bellies, £8 5s. 5 furs of gris each of 7 timbers….” From The Provisioning of Elizabeth de Burgh’s household according to her wardrobe account of 1350-51” page 162 & 177
  5. Wool: wools come in many variations from truly expensive (scarlet) to truly cheap (blanket).  Many are listed as striped or motley.  It is possible that these colors were heraldic in nature but colors are not listed for the less expensive cloths.  Both scarlet and russet refer to a kind of cloth and not a color.
  6. Silks: all kinds are listed and they are used for both outer garments and linings.
  7. Cloth-of-Gold: This is by far the most expensive item including silks.  It is a silk fabric woven with metal threads to create a pattern.  They are often listed with the precious good or in their own category in wardrobe accounts.  In Queen Isabella wardrobe account 1311-1312 listed them in their own category and they do not seem to have been cut into clothes (this happens later in period) but rather given as gifts.  She had 24 cloths in stock (from the previous year) in 1311 and 2 cloths of turkey (page 233), and her husband added another 6.
  8. What textiles were used for?
    1. In the cases of upper class – livery
      1. “Of the lady’s livery, delivered to Lady Katherine… Christmas two lengths of silk brocade, white and blue, together with furs of pured minever as entered below…..Delivered to Joan, daughter of Lady Katherine Swynford for her livery at Christmas five timbers of pured minever, with one length of white and blue brocade as above.” (The Maintenance of Lady Katherine Swynford and her daughter. Page 63)
  9. Some of the items were purchased for personal use and some were given to lesser nobles in the household as part of their yearly maintenance.
    1. The above example of Lady Katherine Swynford and her daughter Joan was part of the requirements of Lady Mary de Bohun, Countess of Derby, John Gaunt’s daughter in law, in whom household they resided.
    2. In the earlier case of Queen Isabella, her ladies did not receive wages or fees but were entitled to drawn an allowance for summer and winter robes but none of them apparently did so during this period.  In her case it seems that the nobles who worked for her did not have any records of fees, garments or textiles.
  10. Gifts: Queen Isabella gave many gifts in the turbulent years of 1311-1312 many of which were cloth-of-gold.  (Page 235) Most were given to religious groups or churches.  Only one was made into pillows for one of the royal carriages when she sent a few of her ladies to deliver a message. (PAGE)
    1. She also gave clothes to “little Thomelinus, the Scottish orphan boy, to whom the queen, moved by piety of the heart…” took care of.  “To the same also from the alms of the queen, in the amount of 4 ells of mixed cloth from which to make one robe for himself, by the hands of William de Croydon, in the same place 3rd day of January. 8s2d” (page 103)
  11. In the case of servants there are many records of textiles being bought for their use, as part of the payments/wages for services rendered.  But I think it is more than that; a matter of pride for a noble to have well dressed servants.
    1. “Provided always that as long as we, the aforesaid Richard Drayton and Alice, during the said term sufficiently and honestly maintain and cause to be maintained Isabella Stoner, daughter of the said Thomas Stoner and Alice, in food, clothing and teaching suitable for her age and status, then we, the aforesaid Richard and Alice and our assigns shall be exonerated and quit of the said yearly rent and payments.” From Agreement concerning the upbringing of Isabella, daughter of Tomas Stoner, 1432 page 77-78
    2. Servants are given textiles as part of winter and summer wages
      1. “…12 variegated cloths bought for the clerks and ladies at 51s 8d each, £31. 10 cloths of ‘porre’ motley and 10 striped cloths bought for the esquires at 51s 8d each, £51 13s 4d. 8 striped cloths bought for the yeomen at 33s 4d each, £13 6s 8d.  5 cloths of brown motley and 5 striped cloths for the grooms at 30s each £15.  2 cloths of tawny motley bought for the little clerks and maids, £4….” From The Provisioning of Elizabeth de Burgh’s household according to her wardrobe account of 1350-51” page 162 & 177
    3. Servants are given textiles proportional to their station or their interaction with guests.
      1. “Delivered of the lady’s livery to Joan nurse of the young lord Henry, Joan nurse of the young lord Thomas, and to Amy Melborne, Katherine Chamberer and Juliana Rokster for their Christmas livery, namely to each of them 3 yards in all 15 yard of motley cloth.  Delivered to Joan nurse of the young lord Henry, Amy Melborne, Katherine Chamberer and Juliana Rokster for their livery at Christmass four furs of poppelen.” From Entries from the accounts of Mary de Bohun, countess of Derby giving details of purchase for her children, 1387-88. Page 73
      2. This same account gives 1.75 yard of scarlet to the boys, along with 2 yards of white short cloth, 2 yards of blue short cloth, 2 yards of red tartarin and 3 yards of blue tartarin, 1.75 blue shortcloth, 5 yards of white shortcloth.
      3. Queen Isabella 1311-1312: her account books list both summer and winter robes (a set of clothes) for many of her servants for this period.  Most were given cash to buy their own robes: “Knights of the Queen’s Household: To the Lord John de Sullee, banneret for his winter robes of the present year by his own hands at 8 marks…” 3 other knights were given 4 marks each. (page 157)
        1. This list goes all the way down to the Laundresses, grooms, messengers, carters, sumptermen, palfrey men, outriders, and stable boys….all listed by name.
        2. Her ladies do not seem to have been paid anything and other than the noble ladies of her court, only laundresses are listed as working for her
        3. Who worked with the textiles?:
          1. Delivery drivers: “For one horse hired in London and going from there to Framlingham and back to carry the winter clothing and other necessaries for the young lord John on 10 November, together with the expenses of the same horse and one man for six days outside of the household, 7s 8d” from John, son of Henry duke of Hereford and Mary de Bohun, in the household of Margaret de Brotherton at Framlingham, 1397” page 74
            1. “…Paid to Sir William de Manton and Colynet de Morleye going from Clare to London to buy the cloths with other expenses for packing them 25s 8d…” From The Provisioning of Elizabeth de Burgh’s household according to her wardrobe account of 1350-51” page 162 & 177
  12. Tailors: there is a difference between a tailor who makes clothes, the draper who sells cloth and sometimes even the cutter who cuts the pattern.  In addition there are specialized tasks such as dyeing, fulling and shearing the cloth.
    1. “Delivered to William Thornby, the lady’s tailor, 6 yards of scarlet for 2 furred robes for the lady against Christmas.  6 yards of scarlet delivered to him for 2 robes lined with tartarin in summer….” He worked on gowns, stockings, cloaks and hoods, ect.  His fee is not listed.  Found in Examples of the lady’s dress from the accounts of Mary de Bohun, countess f Derby 1387-88 page 188.
    2. Queen Isabella’s Wardrobe Account (page 149): her tailor was John de Falaise, and she had 50 workmen for stitching, making and repairing clothes.  What clothes she ordered are listed in detail and the cost of the work as well.
  13. Cutters: Queen Isabella’s Wardrobe Account (page 115): “To Richard Andren, for cutting two cloths for coverlets for the beds of the queen’s damsels, by his own hands, at Westminster, the first day of December 3s.  To William, the cutter of London, for cutting ten cloths of various colors for the queen’s person, by his own hand, in the same place 4th day of December. 20s”
  14. Embroiders: are paid separately and retained by the tailor because they need to work together.
    1. “Paid to Peter Swan for embroidering 1 short cloak of black cloth for the lady, embroidered and powdered with harebells, 40s” Found in Examples of the lady’s dress from the accounts of Mary de Bohun, countess f Derby 1387-88 page 188.
    2. Cost:
      1. It is difficult to assign values to items that compare with cash values in our times so I won’t even try.  Costs for cloths are listed frequently.  You can tell the value of one cloth in comparison to another by these values.  One silk costs more than another for examples, for the same length then you know which is worth more.
      2. The most expensive items are by far cloth-of-gold but some wools were very expensive (scarlet).
      3. Location:
        1. The most expansive cloths were bought in London or other large cities.  If you needed large quantities of even the cheapest cloth you might also travel to the larger cities.  This is show in the cost of horses, carts and men to carry it.
        2. Why should we care- its tells us something about the mind of the medieval consumer as well as economics.
        3. Kinds and Styles of Garments and their Decorations:
          1. They are listed throughout these documents especially Queen Isabella, Edward III and Mary de Bohun.

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