Category Archives: Travel

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One large frying pan & three paires of Irish stockings

From John Smith’s The Generall Histories of Virginia (1624)


This post comes from a text published in 1622, advising prospective pilgrims travelling to the New World on the provisions they needed to take with them; ‘such necessaries as either private families or single persons shall have cause to furnish themselves’ to prevent the hindrance of the ‘Progresse of that noble Plantation.’ What’s particularly interesting is that the text sheds light not only on what may have been a typical family’s belongings, but also on the costs involved in purchasing everyday items such as shirts and wooden spoons. I’ve used the National Archives to gather the modern price equivalents: a penny in 1620 was worth about 40p, a shilling about £4.80, and a pound about £96.


Apparrell. Apparrell for one man, and so after the rate for more.

One Monmouth Cap — 00 li. 01 s. 10 d.
Three falling bands [collars] — li. 01 s. 03 d.
Three shirts — li. 07 s. 06 d.
One waste-coate — li. 02 s. 02 d.
One suite of Canvase — li. 07 s. 06 d.
One suite of Frize [woollen cloth] — li. 10 s. 00 d.
One suite of Cloth — li. 15 s. 00 d.
Three paire of Irish stockings — li. 04 s. — d.
Foure paire of shooes — li. 08 s. 08 d.
One paire of garters — li. 00 s. 10 d.
One doozen of points [laces] — li. 00 s. 03 d.
One paire of Canvase sheets — li. 08 s. 00 d.
Seven ells [one ell was c.45 inches] of Canvase, to make a bed and boulster, to be filled in Virginia 8. s.—
One Rug for a bed 8. s. which with the bed serving for two men, halfe is—li. 08 s. 00 d.
Five ells coorse Canvase, to make a bed at Sea for two men, to be filled with straw, iiij. s.—
One coorse Rug at Sea for two men, will cost vj. s. is for one—— li. 05 s. 00 d.

[sub-total] 04 li. 00 s. 00 d.


Victuall. For a whole yeere for one man, and so for more after the rate.

Eight bushels of Meale —02 li. 00 s. 00 d.
Two bushels of pease at 3. s.— li. 06 s. 00 d.
Two bushels of Oatemeale 4. s. 6. d. — li. 09 s. 00 d.
One gallon of Aquavitae — li. 02 s. 06 d.
One gallon of Oyle — li. 03 s. 06 d.
Two gallons of Vineger 1. s. — li. 02 s. 00 d.
[sub-total] 03 li. 03 s. 00 d.


Armes. For one man, but if halfe of your men have armour it is sufficient so that all have Peeces and swords.

One Armour compleat, light — li. 17 s. 00 d.
One long Peece, five foot or five and a halfe, neere Musket bore — 01 li. 02 s. — d.
One sword — li. 05 s. — d.
One belt — li. 01 s. — d.
One bandaleere [a broad belt to support a musket] — li. 01 s. 06 d.
Twenty pound of powder — li. 18 s. 00 d.
Sixty pound of shot or lead, Pistoll and Goose shot — li. 05 s. 00 d.
[sub total] 03 li. 09 s. 06 d.


Tooles. For a family of 6 persons and so after the rate for more.

Five broad howes [hoes] at 2. s. a piece — li. 10 s. — d.
Five narrow howes at 16. d. a piece — li. 06 s. 08 d.
Two broad Axes at 3. s. 8. d. a piece — li. 07 s. 04 d.
Five felling Axes at 18. d. a piece — li. 07 s. 06 d.
Two steele hand sawes at 16. d. a piece — li. 02 s. 08 d.
Two two-hand-sawes at 5. s. a piece — li. 10 s. — d.
One whip-saw, set and filed with box, file, and wrest — li. 10 s. — d.
Two hammers 12. d. a piece — li. 2 s. 00 d.
Three shovels 18. d. a piece — li. 04 s. 06 d.
Two spades at 18. d. a piece — li. 03 s. — d.
Two augers [tool to bore holes in wood] 6. d. a piece — li. 01 s. 00 d.
Sixe chissels 6. d. a piece — li. 03 s. 00 d.
Two percers [tool for boring holes] stocked 4. d. a piece — li. 00 s. 08 d.
Three gimlets [ditto] 2. d. a piece — li. 00 s. 06 d.
Two hatchets 21. d a piece — li. 03 s. 06 d.
Two froves to cleave pale [?] 18. d.— li. 03 s. 00 d.
Two hand-bills 20. a piece — li. 03 s. 04 d.
One grindlestone 4. s. — li. 04 s. 00 d.
Nailes of all sorts to the value of 02 li. 00 s. — d.
Two Pickaxes — li. 03 s. — d.
[sub-total] 06 li. 02 s. 08 d.


Household Implements. For a family of 6 persons, and so for more or lesse after the rate.

One Iron Pot 00 li. 07 s. — d.
One kettle — li. 06 s. — d.
One large frying-pan — li. 02 s. 06 d.
One gridiron — li. 01 s. 06 d.
Two skillets — li. 05 s. — d.
One spit — li. 02 s. — d.
Platters, dishes, spoones of wood — li. 04 s. — d.
[sub-total] 01 li. 08 s. 00 d.


For Suger, Spice, and fruit, and at Sea for 6 men —00 li. 12 s. 06 d. So the full charge of Apparrell, Victuall, Armes, Tooles, and houshold stuffe, and after this rate for each person, will amount unto about the summe of 12 li. 10 s. — d.

The passage of each man is 06 li. 00 s. — d.
The fraight of these provisions for a man, will bee about halfe a Tun, which is 01 li. 10 s. — d.

So the whole charge will amount to about 20 li. 00 s. 00 d [c.£1920 today]

Nets, hookes, lines, and a tent must be added, if the number of people be gretter, as also some kine. And this is the usuall proportion that the Virginia Company doe bestow upon their Tenants which they send. Whosoever transports himselfe or any other at his owne charge vnto Virginia, shall for each person so transported before Midsummer 1625, have to him and his heires for ever fifty Acres of Land upon a first, and fifty Acres upon a second division.


From Thomas Hariot’s A Brief Report of the New Found Land of Virginia (1590)




Captain Cook’s Four-legged Friends

Today, a guest post from cartoonist and QI contributor Adrian Teal.

I hope to tickle your fancy with a couple of stories which focus on naval matters and another great British obsession: our love of animals. We often forget that, in an era before refrigeration and Heinz’s 57 varieties, eighteenth-century ships were often laden with livestock, including chickens, geese and even cows. The lives some of these critters led were sometimes as epic and noteworthy as those of the globe-trotting Jack Tars who berthed alongside them.

Lieutenant James Cook (1728-1779) was dedicated to the health of his crews, and was determined they should enjoy the benefits of fresh milk on his first great voyage of 1768 – 1771. To this end, he took a lady goat aboard HMS Endeavour for his voyage to observe the transit of Venus from Tahiti, and the circumnavigation of the globe which this expedition entailed. This goat was already a seafaring veteran, however. After serving on land in the West Indies for three years, Captain Samuel Wallis (1728-1795) had her put aboard HMS Dolphin for his circumnavigation in 1766. On her return to England with Cook, she was pensioned off by the Admiralty, and enjoyed ‘good English pasture’ for the rest of her days. Not once did her milk run dry, and Dr. Samuel Johnson (who met Cook and knew his shipmate, the botanist and man-about-town Sir Joseph Banks) penned a Latin couplet about her, which was emblazoned on a collar and put around her neck. It read, “PERPETUA AMBITA BIS TERRA PRAEMIA LACTIS, / HAEC HABET ALTRICI CAPRA SECUNDA JOVIS”. Johnson’s sycophantic hanger-on, James Boswell, later translated and expanded this as follows…

                 In fame scarce second to the nurse of Jove,
                 This goat, who twice the world had traversed round,
                 Deserving both her master’s care and love,
                 Ease and perpetual pasture now has found.

In one of those inconvenient twists which too often dog true stories, she died not long after her retirement.

Rather more long-lived was another sailing companion of Cook, this time on his third and final great voyage. He was a radiated tortoise from Madagascar called Tu’i Malila. Cook (by now a Captain in charge of HMS Resolution and HMS Discovery) gave the tortoise as a gift to the people of Tonga in 1777, and he soon became a valued member of the island’s royal household. In fact, his name means ‘king of the royal residence’. He had a habit of straying, however, and seems to have been highly accident-prone. He was singed in a grass fire, kicked by a horse, and a carriage once ran him over. When he was a boy, the Tongan king used to ride around on his back. He was shown to Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Tonga in 1953. In spite of his hard life, he was clearly tough as old boots because he didn’t die until 1965, when his age was at least 188 years. His mortal remains are now on display in the Museum of the Tongan National Centre.

Adrian Teal

Court Travel

Twice every week Elephants fight before him

These fragments come from Thomas Coryat (1577?-1617), an English travel writer responsible for introducing the idea of the Grand Tour to the English. In 1616, just a year before his death, his account of his travels in India were printed in London. What follows are his comments on the court of the Maharajah, usually resident in Agra, now home to the Taj Mahal, but then temporarily located in the town of Ashmere (modern day Ajmer near Pushkar).

Now I am at the Moguls Court, I think you would be glad to receive some narration thereof from me, though succinctly handled: for I meane to be very compendious.  This present Prince is a verie worthy person, by name Selim, of which name I never read or heard of any more than one Mahometan King, which was Suliam Selim of Constantinople, that lived about 80 years since; the same that conquered Jerusalem and Damascus.

He is 53 yeares of age, his nativitie day having beene celebrated with wonderfull pompe since my arrivall here. For that day he weighed himselfe in a paire of golden Scales, which by great chance I saw the same day (a custome that he observeth every year) laying so much golde in the other scale as countervaileth the weight of his body, and the same he afterward distributed to the poore. He is of complection neither white nor blacke, but of a middle betwixt them. I know not how to expresse it with a more expressive & significant epitheton then Olive: an Olive colour his face presenteth.  He is of a seemelie composition of bodie, of a stature little unequall (as I guesse not without grounds of probabilitie) to mine, but much more corpulent then my selfe.

The extent of his Dominion is verie spacious, beeing in circuite, little lesse then 4000 English miles, which verie neere answereth the compass of the Turks territorie. In these two thinges hee exceedeth the Turks, in the fatnesse (as I have said) of his Land, no part of the world yeelding a more fruitfull veine of ground then all that which lieth in his Empire, saving that part of Babylonia, where the terrestriall Paradise once stoode/ Whereas a great part of the Turkes Land is extreme barren and sterill, as I have observed in my peregrination thereof, especially in Syria, Mesopotamia and Armenia; many large portions thereof beeing so wonderfull fruitelesse, that it beareth no good thing at all. Secondly, in the conjunction and union of all his Territories, together in one & the same goodly continent of India, no Prince having a foote of land within him.

Hee speaketh very reverently of our Saviour, calling him in the Indian tongue, Ifazaret Eesa, that is, the great Prophet Jesus. And all Christians, especiallie us English, he useth so benevolently as no Mahometan Prince the like.  Hee keepeth abundance of wilde Beasts, & that of diuers sorts, as Lyons, Elephants Loepards, Beares, Antlops, Vnicornes; whereof two I have seene at his Court, the strangest beasts of the world: they were brought hither out of the Countrie of Bengala, which is a kingdome of most singular fertilitie within the compasse of his Dominion, about foure moneths journey from this, the midland parts therof being watered by divers channels of the famous Ganges, which I have not as yet seene, but (God willing) I meane to visite it before my departure out of this Countrie, the neerest part of it beeing not aboue twelve daies journy from this Court.

The King presenteth himselfe thrice every daie without faile to his Nobles, at the rising of the Sunne, which he adoreth by the elevation of his hands; at noone, and at five of the clocke in the evening: but he standeth in a roome aloft, alone by him selfe, and looketh uppon them from a window that hath an embroidered sumptuous coverture, supported with two silver pillasters to yeeld shaddowe unto him. Twice every week Elephants fight before him, the bravest spectacle in the worlde: many of them are thirteene foot and a halfe high; and they seeme to justle together like two little Mountaines, and were they not parted in the middest of their fighting by certaine fire-workes, they would exceedingly gore and cruentate one another by their murdering teeth.  Of Elephants the King keepeth 30000 in his whole Kingdome at an unmeasurable charge; in feeding of whom, and his Lyons, and other Beasts, he spendeth an incredible masse of money, at the least ten thousand pounds sterling a day. I have rid upon an elephant since I came to this Court, determining one day (by Gods leave) to have my picture expressed in my next Booke, sitting upon an Elephant. The King keepeth a thousand women for his own body, whereof the chiefest (which is his Queene) is called Normal.

A good piece on Coryat in India can be found here

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