dish

Engraving of the 1513 Wirksworth Dish

In Derbyshire, England, 13th – 20th centuries, a unit of capacity used for lead ore, since 1851 about 520.16 cubic inches. 

A document of 1288 says the miner's measure is 14 Winchester pints. Taking each pint at about 33.75 cubic inches makes the dish about 472.5 cubic inches. In 1513 a bronze prototype, called the Wirksworth Dish, was made, probably in the form of measures already used by the miners. From this standard the miners made oak troughs for everyday use. The inscription on the prototype reads:

This dish was made the iiij day of October, the iiij year of the Reigne of Kyng Henry VIII before George Erle of Shrowesbury, steward of the Kyngs most Honorable household and also Steward of all the honour of Tutbury, by the assent and consent aswele of all the Mynours as of all the Brenners within and Adioynyng the lordshyp of Wyrkysworth percell of the said honour. This Dishe to Remayn In the Moote hall at Wyrkysworth hanging by a Chayne so as the Merchauntes or mynours may have resorte to the same at all tymes to make the trew mesure after the same.

Two Wirksworth Dishes survive, one in the Science Museum in London, and the other in the Derby Industrial Museum. Which is the prototype and which a copy is not certain. The Derby example has a capacity of 464.40 cubic inches and the London one, 487.2 cubic inches.

Sometime before 1820 the size of the dish began to differ between the Low Peak district, where it was still 14 pints, and High Peak District, where it was 16 pints.

The High Peak Mining Customs and Mineral Courts Act of 1851 (14 and 15 Victoria c 94) provided that the dish in the High Peak should contain 15 pints. These would be imperial pints, making the dish 520.16 cubic inches. An act of the following year said that if the prototype was ever lost the Wirksworth local council was also to switch to the 15 imperial pints standard.

sources

1

Beside every Thirteenth Dish to ye king the Myner is to pay the Tenth dish to ye Church for Tyth and ye Standard Dish is made of Brasse and kept in the Towne of Wirksworth And all other Dishes the underBarrmrs keepe are to bee conformable unto that And itt containes in Measure Foure Quarts or thereabouts And a Dish of Oare when it is washed is worth now att present 2/6d or more or less according to ye Goodnes of it and the price of Leade.

R. Slack, transcriber.
A Survey of Lead Mining in Wirksworth Wapentake, 1650.
Bulletin of the Peak District Mines Historical Society, vol. 10, no. 4 (1988).
A transcription of PRO E317/Derb/29a.

Four quarts (dry measure) is a gallon, which in 1650 would be about 272.25 cubic inches. As the “or thereabouts” suggests, the writer was probably being very casual.

2

Brazen Dish, sb. the standard dish or measure by which the wooden dishes for measuring the lead duties in Derbyshire are gauged. Add. MS. 6681, p. 924. The brazen dish by which the wooden measures used for measuring the ore in the Low Peak were regulated, was kept at Wirksworth, and appears, from an inscription on it, to have been cast in 1513, in the reign of Henry VIII. Tapping's High Peak Min. Cus. p. 12, n. (s). Lyson's Derbyshire, cxcv. See Dish.

Dish, sb. a bowl or trough provided by the barmaster, under a penalty of forty pence for each default; it is usually made of wood and in accordance with the brazen dish. See Brazen Dish. The dish is about 28 inches long, about 4 inches deep, and 6 inches wide, and by it all miners measure their ore. If any miner sell his ore without having previously had it measured by the barmaster's dish and paid the king's duties, such miner incurs a forfeiture of his ore. See Boule. Add. MS. 6681, p. 925. Miners were also obliged to sell their ore by the customary dish, or the ore so sold was forfeited. Poor men were, however, allowed to sell small parcels of ore if they could not readily obtain the measuring dish; ll. 80-85. The duties of lot and cope are also measured by this dish. Also, the finder of a vein is, by custom, obliged, before working for his own benefit, to free his vein with one dish of ore there found for every meer, which is payable to the barmaster for the use of the crown or its lessee; ll. 51-55. The poem however states that, by encroachment, the barmaster had usually demanded two dishes of ore, and thereby had wronged the miner; ll. 55, 56.

By the 14 & 15 Vict. c. 94, art. 3, the barmaster of the High Peak is bound to provide, for that district, a dish or measure which shall contain fifteen pints of water, and be adjusted in the presence of two of the grand jury, for measuring the ore. The barmaster incurs a penalty of two pounds every time he is required to measure ore at any mine and is unprovided with such dish or measure; such penalty to be recovered and received, for his own use, by the person who shall have required the ore to be measured, by an action in the county court. See Tapping's High Peak Min. Cus. p. 11.

From the Glossary in
Thomas Tapping.
The Rhymed Chronicle of Edward Manlove...
London: Shaw and Sons, 1851.

Manlove's poem originally appeared as:

Edward Manlove.
The Liberties and Customs of the Lead-Mines within the Wapentake of Wirksworth in the County of Derby.
London: 1653.

3

Dish, sb. a trough made of wood, about 28 inches long, 4 inches deep, and 6 inches wide; by which all miners measure their ore: if any be taken selling their ore, not first measuring it by the bar-master's dish, and paying the King's duties, the miners incur that forfeiture which the 17th Article has imposed upon them.

Thomas Houghton,
Rara Avis in Terris: or the Compleat Miner.
London, 1681.
Reprinted in W.W. Skeat, editor.
Reprinted Glossaries.
London: Trubner for the English Dialect Society, 1873-4.

4

I observ'd amongst the Lead-Mines in Derbyshire (Anno 1692) that the Miners bought and sold their Lead Ore, by a Measure which they call'd an Ore Dish: whose dimensions I carefully took and found them thus: Length 21.3 inches, Breadth 6 inches, Depth 8.4 inches. Consequently it's Content is 1073.52 Cubick Inches, which is very near Equal to 4 Corn Gallons, according to the above-mentioned Settlement.

Nine of those Dishes they call a Load of Ore, which if it be pretty good, will produce about 3 Hundred Weight of Lead.

John Ward.
The Young Mathematician's Guide… Fourth Edition.
London: Printed for A. Betterworth … and F. Fayrham, 1724.
Pages 35 and 36.

Ward was a sophisticated observer and it can be taken for granted that the dimensions he gives are internal ones. The length measurement is nearly the same as that of the prototype in London, but the other measurements are several inches greater. The 21.5-inch length is in the range, about the width of the shoulders, of the optimal spacing between handles for lifting two-handled heavy objects, so that dimension would not be expected to change in building a larger measure. It appears as if the trough Ward measured was built to contain two dishes of ore.

5

They measure their blacke Tynne, by the Gill, the Topliffe, the Dish and the Foote, which containeth: a pint, a pottel, a gallon, and towards two gallons.

Richard Carew.
A Survey of Cornwall...A New Edition.
London: Printed for B. Law, 1769.

6

DISH. That part of the Ore or sterling poundage, which the Lord or owner of the fee reserves to himself, free of all charges, in consideration of the liberty he grants the Adventurers to dig and search for Metals, or occupy the Mine. The Dish is also stiled the Lord's Dues, (See Bounds, Farm, SETT, and Toll). In the Lead Mines, a Dish is a trough of wood twenty-eight inches long, four deep, and six wide, by which they measure that part of the Ore which is called the Lord's Lot—and, no doubt, this was the method formerly used in Cornwall, from whence the Lord's Dish is a term now in use.

Dish is the ancient name of a measure used for black Tin, containing a gallon. (Carew). "Dishes or bowls are measures filled with Ore by the Miners, whereof, some are paid to the king, others to the church," &c.

William Pryce.
Mineralogia Cornubiensis. A Treatise on Minerals, Mines, and Mining: Containing the Theory and Natural History...etc.
London: Printed and sold for the author by James Phillips, 1778.

Black tin" is washed tin ore, not to be confused with "block tin".

7

DISH, – Derbyshire: of lead ore, 14 pints of 48 cubic inches, making 672, in the Low Peak hundred, weighing 58 pounds ; but in the High Peak 16 pints.

Second Report, (1820) page 15. 

Robin Connor (page 178) observes, “No pint was ever 48 in3 in volume.” The Committee's error has propagated through numerous compilations, e.g., Doursther.

8

The dish, or hoppet, as it is sometimes termed, by which the ore is measured, contains, in the High Peak, sixteen pints; in the Low Peak, only fourteen.

Stephen Glover, publisher; Thomas Noble, editor.
The History and Gazetteer of the County of Derby….
Derby: Printed by Henry Mozley and Son, 1831.
Page 55.

9

A miners' manual of 1892 provides the following curious multiples of the dish:

Old Diggers’ Measure

1 dish = about 572 cub. in. = 1 two-gall. household bucket.

2 two-gal. household buckets = 1 nail can.

4 nail cans = 1 tub.

1 tub = ½ a porter cask.

10 tubs = 1 load.

1 load = not quite 1 cub. yard loose gravel.

120 dishes = 1 cub. yard in situ.

Frederick Danvers Power.
A Pocket-Book for Miners and Metallurgists, comprising Rules, Formulae, Tables and Notes for Use in Field and Office Work.
London: Crosby, Lockwood and Son, 1892.
Page 38.

resources

T. L. Tudor.
The Lead Miners' Standard Dish or Measure.
Derbyshire Archaeological & Natural History Journal.
Part I, pages 95-106 (1937). Part II, pages 101-116 (1938).

A web page on the survival of the miners' customs, with photos of the dish and the Mote Hall: www.btinternet.com/~goodluckmine/barmoot.htm

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