bascheron

The word bascheron or bassheron occurs in late medieval English customs entries describing the importation of battery. Battery were metal goods made by hammering, such as bowls. Is bascheron the name of a unit, or simply the name of a type of container?

Below are all the London customs entry for 1480 in which the bascheron appears, taken from Cobb¹. Each line consists of the original entry number, the importer's name, “H” for Hanse, the materials imported, and the duty. Words enclosed in quotes are the original language, the rest has been modernized by Cobb.

1. John Salmer, H, 3 bales 1 'bascheron' battery, £40

34. Frank Savage, H. 1 frail 1 'bascheron' 1 basket battery, £30

59. John Salmer, H, 1 'bascheron' 2 frails battery, £30

77. John Salmer, H, 1 frail 1 'bassheron' 1 basket battery, £30

90. John Salmer, H, 2 'bassherons' battery, £20

94. John Salmer, H, 2 frails 1 'bassheron' 1 basket 1 bale basins, £50

Frank Savage, H, 1 frail 1 'bassheron' battery, £20

95. John Salmer, H, 2 'bassherons' 2 frails 1 pipe battery, £50

87. John Salmer, H, 2 'bassherons' 1 frail 1 basket battery, £40

134. John Salmer, H, 1 basket 1 'bascheron' battery, £20

147. John Salmer, H, 1 frail 1 'bassheron' 3 baskets battery, 1 small brl. copper weight 4 C. 40 lbs., £54 6s. 8d.

150. John Salmer, H, 1 'bascheron' basket battery, £20 [The Surveyor's Acct. inserts “1” before basket.]

151. John Salmer, H, 1 'bascheron' 4 baskets battery, £50

159. John Salmer, H, 1 'bassheron' 1 basket 1 small 'cropp' of battery, £23

204. John Salmer, H, 2 'bassherons' battery, £20

208. John Salmer, H, 1 pipe 1 basket battery, £20 [The Surveyor's Acct. substitutes 'basheron' for basket.]

211. Frank Savage, H, 1 frail 1 'bassheron' battery, £20

Analysis of the various combinations appears to show that the same duty, 10 pounds, was charged for a frail, a bascheron, a basket, a pipe or a bale of battery. (Only 3 pounds was charged for the cropp.) We conclude that the bascheron is some type of container, and is not a unit of capacity. But please see the acknowledgements page for David Dowd's excellent argument to the contrary.

1. H. S. Cobb, editor.
The Overseas Trade of London. Exchequer Customs Accounts 1480-1.
London Record Society, 1990.

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