water measure

In England, at least as early as the 15th – 19th century, a system of capacity measures used for goods sold from shipboard, separate from the ordinary system used on land. It survived longest as a measure for coal, still at around 5 pecks to the bushel (including the heap).

Sources

Report from the Committee Appointed to Inquire into the Original Standards of Weights and Measures in this Kingdom and to Consider the Laws relating thereto. [Carysfort Report.]
Reports from Committees of the House of Commons (1737-65) Vol II.

The Statute of 11th of Henry the 7th, A.D. 1494, Chap. 4, after reciting, that the several Laws enacted to oblige Persons to buy and sell by one Measure according to the Standard had not been observed, to the great Vexation of the King's Subjects, it again enacts, That there be only eight Bushels stricken to the Quarter of Corn, and 14 lb. to the Stone of Wool, and 26 Stone to the Sack; but the Act provides, that Water Measure may be used within shipboard, and that said Water Measure shall only contain five Pecks, according to the Standard and stricken.

[Page 416]

The Statute of the 16th of Charles the 1st, A.D. 1640, Chap. 19, after reciting the undue Execution of the Office of Clerk of the Market, and the still continuing Unequality of Weights and Measures throughout the Kingdom, Sect. 2d enacts, that there shall be but one Weight, one Measure, and one Yard, according to the Standard of the Exchequer, throughout all the Realm; and that every Measure of Corn shall be striked without Heap; but by Sect. 7, this is not to extend to Corn Rents; and it is enacted, that Water Measure shall be still used, and continued as formerly.

...

The Statute of 2nd Charles the 2nd, A.D. 1670, Chap. 8, after reciting that there is great variety of Bushels, and other Measures of different Contents, and Gauges used in several Counties and other Places in the Realm, to the great Oppression of the People, contrary to the Great Charter, and other good Laws which had enacted that there should be but one Measure throughout the Realm: Sect. 2 repeals the Clause in the Act of the 16th of Charles the 1st, Chap. 19, for allowing Water Measure; and enacts, that no person shall for the future sell any Corn or Grain, ground or unground, or any Salt usually sold by the bushel, either in open Market or other Place, by any Bushel than that which is agreeable to the Standard in the Exchequer, commonly called Winchester Measure, containing eight Gallons to the Bushel, and no more or less, and the said Bushel stricken even by the Wood, or Brim of the same by the Seller, and sealed as this act directs.

[Page 417]

The Statute of the 1st of Queen Anne, Stat. the 1st, A.D. 1701, Chap. 15, Sect. 1 and 2, after reciting, that Fruit is frequently sold by Water Measure, the Contents whereof are very uncertain, and not ascertained by Law, which occasioned many vexatious Suits between Buyer and Seller, enacts, that the Water Measure shall be round, and in Diameter eighteen Inches and a half within the Hoop, and eight Inches deep, and no more, and so in proportion for any greater or lesser Measure; and that this Measure shall be heaped as usual: This Act is not to extend to any Measures marked or sealed by the Fruiterer's Company of London.

[Page 418. The measure described would have a capacity of 2150.42 cubic inches.]

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