One of the great delights of researching the history of houses is finding an unusual source that gives you a real insight into some aspect of people’s lives that still has resonance today. Take shopping, for instance.
I recently discovered a set of grocer’s books in which he recorded all his customers’ orders, including the price due for each item. When the account was paid, he drew a vertical line through the centre of that order to indicate it was settled. Taking a page at random, I found that Mrs Lightwood appears not to have paid for the ‘1 large door handle and nails’ delivered by Henry Bentley to her home on 3 November 1804. Amount due: 10½d – that would be the equivalent of £1.34 today – so a pretty cheap door handle.
Green tea, enjoying something of a revival at present, was very popular in this Staffordshire village. It was sold loose by the pound of course and cost 1s 10d a quarter, that’s about £2.95 now, so quite a luxury item.
I’m curious as to what Mrs Dunn of the Swan in Lichfield wanted with ’32lbs of fat’ all in one go, and nothing else. Perhaps she made a lot of pies. Similarly, I wonder whether Mr Levett was planning to use his ‘1lb saltpetre’ as a food preservative or for making gunpowder.
The order in which items are listed is odd. Perhaps customers wrote their shopping list like I do, as I think of things. Here is Mr Dawes’ order, as received by the grocer, that set him back £1 8s 2d – £45.31 or thereabouts today:
1 dozen white plates, 6lbs currants, 1 wool mop, 6 blue and white cups and saucers, 1 teapot and cream jug, 2 pudding dishes, 2 dozen cambric buttons, 1 yard calico, 16 needles, ½oz mace, ½oz cloves, 1 tea kettle, 1 iron pot, 1 carpet broom, 1lb butter, and 3 pints of vinegar.
I’m still puzzling over William Smith’s order in August 1804 for a ‘drink for a cow that could not clean him’, 1s 4d. That might stump even Tesco. Any ideas?Posted in Blog, Historical records Tagged accounts, archives, documentary records, grocer, grocery shopping, old documents, order book