John Pawson was a successful clothier who had a timber-framed house on Kirkgate, Leeds. When he died in 1576 his friends made a list of everything owned. This was called an inventory and helped them to share out the goods just as he had asked them to do in his will. The information in his inventory, which still exists, gives us clues about what life was like inside his house. (A transcript of the original inventory can be downloaded in the Resources section.)
John Pawson’s wife and only child each received £69.18s.5d (£69.92) after his death. That was an enormous sum of money for the time. The Office House was his kitchen and the only room with a fireplace. The parlour was also a bedroom and was warmed only by leaving the door open to the kitchen. The Chamber was a granary for corn and contained wool and the alum used for dyeing it. The arks held flour for the household. Pawson had three apprentices.
The inventory provides a special kind of evidence because it had to be very precise about the types and quantities of objects.
Using an inventory can help you make comparisons between the lives of people at different levels of society.
Below is a glossary of terms that will help you to understand the inventory of John Pawson.
Alum - chemical used to stop the dye being washed out of cloth
Ark - very large chest used for storing grain
Flitch - side of an animal, salted and cured
Hatchet - small axe
Kneading trough - long narrow box used in bread making for kneading dough
Laithe - barn
Range - kitchen fireplace with ovens
Shear board - flat board used for placing the cloth on so that the surface can be cut evenly with shears
Walker shears - huge pair of scissors used for cutting the surface if the cloth to make it smooth and even
Shilling - English coin that was worth a twentieth of a pound (now 5p)
Shovel - tool like a spade with the sides turned up, for lifting and moving coal, earth etc.
Spit - long thin metal spike put through meat to hold it whilst being roasted
Swine - pig
Tenter - frame used for stretching and drying wet cloth after it has been washed
Wool comb - used to straighten the wool before spinning .