firkin

In England and its colonies, at least as early as the 15th century – 2000, a unit of capacity, like the puncheon. It is also the name of a small cask.

The firkin of beer and the firkin of ale

For beer and ale, the firkin was a quarter of a barrel, from the 15th to the 17th centuries 8 ale gallons or 9 beer gallons. For later values, click on the chart symbol: charts showing relationships between divisions of the barrel Abbr., “fir.”.¹

1. Nesbit (1869), page 276;

The firkin of wine

For wine, however, a firkin was a third of a tun, originally = 84 wine gallons. Better known as the puncheon. For later values, click on the chart symbol: charts showing relationships between divisions of the tun of wine This unit was earlier called a tertian. The statute 1 Richard III, chapter 13 (1483 - 1484) defines the tercian as 84 gallons.

The firkin of herring

By a law of 1482 - 1483, 8 ale gallons.

22 Edward IV chapter 2 (1482 - 1483)

The firkin of eels

By a law¹ of 1423, = 7½ gallons. By a law² of 1482-83, = 10½ ale gallons. See eel barrel.

1. 2 Henry VI chapter 14 (1423)

2. 22 Edward IV chapter 2 (1482 - 1483)

The firkin of soap

An act of 1531 specified that a firkin of soap must contain 8 gallons, the container weighing 6½ pounds.¹ In 1711 the firkin of soap became simply 64 pounds of soap, net weight.² See soap barrel.

1. 23 Henry VIII chapter 4 s 4 1531–1532.
Statutes of the Realm.
London: HMSO, 1810–1828.

Vol III, page 367.

2. 10 Anne c 18 s IX 1711.
Statutes of the Realm.
London: HMSO, 1810–1828.

Vol. IX, page 596.

The firkin of butter

According to an act of 1662,¹ from “time immemorial” the firkin of butter had weighed 64 pounds, a minimum of 56 pounds of butter and the barrel weighing 8 pounds.

1. 13 & 14 Charles II c 26 1662.
Owen Ruffhead and Charles Runnington, editors.
Statutes at Large.
London: HMSO 1780–1865.

Vol III. Page 240.

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