Monday 16 September 1661

This morning I was busy at home to take in my part of our freight of Coles, which Sir G. Carteret, Sir R. Slingsby, and myself sent for, which is 10 Chaldron, 8 of which I took in, and with the other to repay Sir W. Pen what I borrowed of him a little while ago. So that from this day I should see how long 10 chaldron of coals will serve my house, if it please the Lord to let me live to see them burned.

In the afternoon by appointment to meet Dr. Williams and his attorney, and they and I to Tom Trice, and there got him in discourse to confess the words that he had said that his mother did desire him not to see my uncle about her 200l. bond while she was alive. Here we were at high words with T. Trice and then parted, and we to Standing’s, in Fleet Street, where we sat and drank and talked a great while about my going down to Gravely Court,1 which will be this week, whereof the Doctor had notice in a letter from his sister this week. In the middle of our discourse word was brought me from my brother’s that there is a fellow come from my father out of the country, on purpose to speak to me, so I went to him and he made a story how he had lost his letter, but he was sure it was for me to go into the country, which I believed, and thought it might be to give me notice of Gravely Court, but I afterwards found that it was a rogue that did use to play such tricks to get money of people, but he got none of me. At night I went home, and there found letters from my father informing me of the Court, and that I must come down and meet him at Impington, which I presently resolved to do… [Continued tomorrow. P.G.]

28 Annotations

First Reading

mlee  •  Link

1 chaldron = 36 bushels

A. Hamilton  •  Link


From Merrian-Webster On-line:
"One entry found for chaldron.
Main Entry: chal-dron
Pronunciation: ‘chol-dr&n, ‘chal-
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle French chauderon, from chaudere pot, from Late Latin caldaria — more at CAULDRON
: any of various old units of measure varying from 32 to 72 imperial bushels”

A. Hamilton  •  Link

our freight of Coles

Do you suppose these are the soft coals we caled kennel coal in my youth?

Pauline  •  Link

"...I afterwards found that it was a rogue.."
Sounds like the real deliverer of the letters tipped off (maybe inadvertantly) this rogue. Plenty of sliding space between letters to Sam at home and a message for him to come to the tailor shop regarding letters for the rogue to extract a tip for his services. I wish Sam had been more forthcoming about why he gave no money for the information despite believing, or how he found out it was a scam.

adam w  •  Link

Just in case that isn't clear, a bushel is of course four pecks.
And sometimes a chaldron was 72 bushels.

Pedro.  •  Link

"a rogue that did use to play such tricks to get money of people"

What a rascally fellow!

George  •  Link

"Just in case that isn't clear, a bushel is of course four pecks.
And sometimes a chaldron was 72 bushels.” Looks very much like the old quantity of “best part of a tidy bit”
Interesting to see how Sam traded off part of the load to settle an outstanding debt. I rather gather that there was a shortage of actual coinage until modern times so a considerable amount of trade was done by a system of barter.

Pauline  •  Link

"Sam traded off part of the load to settle an outstanding debt"
But it looks like the 'debt' was having borrowed coal from Sir Wm Pen--replacing rather than trading.

Grahamt  •  Link

"borrowed coal from Sir Wm Pen":
I think Pauline must be correct, otherwise how can Sam see how long 10 chaldrons of coal lasts, as he only took in 8, unless he had already borrowed two from Sir William.
A bushel of water weighs about 80 lbs. Coal is heavier than water (it doesn't float.) If a chaldron is 36 bushels, it weighs more than 2880 lbs, i.e 640lbs more than an imperial ton, therefore 10 chaldron is at least 13 tons, (or 26 if there are 72 bushels per chaldron) for one winter! No wonder Evelyn wrote about the smoke pollution in London.

Good to see he is thinking ahead, though, and buying his winter fuel before the weather gets really cold.

Ruben  •  Link

I was mystified and did not understand all the different weight units till Grahamt wrote "10 chaldron is at least 13 tons". This sounds to me excesive for a winter at SP's place. And you need a lot of place in your cellar.

A Day  •  Link


"In the England, 15th-19th century, a unit of dry capacity. Sometimes called a chalder.
used for coal, in some places a unit of mass and in others a unit of capacity.

As a unit of dry capacity in England, = 4 quarters = 32 bushels.

For coal, however, 1 chaldron = 36 bushels, weighing 566 pounds avoirdupois. The chaldron was abolished by the Weights and Measures Act of 1963.

On shipboard 1 score of chaldrons was 21 chaldrons.

The Newcastle chaldron, used only for coal, in 1695 standardized = 72 heaped bushels, weighing 53 hundredweights (5936 pounds, about 2692.5 kilograms). Before 1695 its weight was taken to be 42 hundredweight ( about 2134 kg)."

So, in 1661 10 chaldron would have been 21,340 lbs. Or just over 10 US tons.

It must have taken several waggons to carry this load. With the very inefficient fire places of the day it might not last long.


Ann  •  Link

Any idea how much all this coal cost? Sams seems worth a lot, but pretty cash-poor, if I'm not mistaken. Would he have paid for this all at once?

Pedro.  •  Link

"to take in my part of our freight of Coles"

From one site it is estimated that you need 40 cu ft of space for 1 ton of coal US measure (2000lbs), so if my maths is right for 10 tons (mentioned by A Day above) would need 400 cu ft. This could be 10x10x4ft, and not unreasonable for a coal cellar, but if Sir G and Sir R had the same amount then the space would treble, and the same for a waggon to deliver it. Would Sam have a cellar of his own at the Admiralty?
How many horses would be needed to bring this amount from the Docks?

john lauer  •  Link

13 vs 10 T (ton)
graham's estimate is likely 25% high due to the initial assumption: "a pint (=) a pound" would be 64 pound for a bushel of aqua. Those wonderful "English" units of wet and dry volume measure!

A Day  •  Link

I made a mistake. The weight was 2134 KILOGRAMS per chaldron, or 4705 pounds, so 10 chaldron = 47050 pounds or 23.52 US tons.

The text from the site noted above said it would be 42 hundredweight. Therefore 21 US tons.

Sorry for the error, still sounds like a lot of coal.

E  •  Link

"my part of our freight of Coles"
So the three of them together bought a "freight" of maybe 60 tons? Cheaper by the shipload? Did the others put down the cash? Or is it possible, as all those named are connected to the navy, that they were all living in naval houses for which the navy supplied the coal and they merely arranged the shipment?

"see how long 10 chaldron of coals will serve my house, if it please the Lord to let me live to see them burned" seems to imply quite a long time. Cooking and water heating would be the main consumers, as it would be both wasteful and dangerous to have a fire burning in a room that was not in use, so the sitting-room fire might only be lit on the evenings they spent at home.

Grahamt  •  Link

Coles from Newcastle:
I must backtrack on some of my calculations, because I assumed coal is heavier than water. It is as a slab, but not when broken up. It is then about 80% as heavy as water so a barge filled to the gunwhales and above with coal will not sink.
btw John Lauer, I would never assume 1 pint = 1lb because as every Brit from my generation knows " a pint of water weighs a pound and a quarter" ;-) My error was in a wrong assumption based on the knowledge that a single lump of coal sinks.

From A Day's post, assuming this is a British 112lb hundred weight,(cwt) then 42cwt = 2.1 imperial tons, not US tons, hence the discrepency in his figures of 21 vs 23 US tons for 10 chaldron.

I am from a coal mining family and our family of 6, in a fairly large house, used coal for all heating and cooking in the 50's and 60's. (1960's not 1660's!) We normally used 10 (imperial) tons of coal a year. The Rayburn, burned 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for hot water and cooking, and there was a fire in the living room all winter, but it did go out at night. That is why I thought 13 tons was a lot just for the winter in a town appartment, 21 tons doubly so.

As to volume (imperial measures all the way here) 1 cu ft of water weighs 62.3 lbs (if memory serves) therefore a ton of water takes up 36 cu ft, so coal would take 36/.8 = 45 cu ft, so 21 tons would take 944 cu ft i.e. 12 x 10 x 8 ft high. (approx) Quite a large coal cellar.
Sorry for the very long post, but coal was the livelyhood for several generations of my ancestors, so close to my heart.

Ruben  •  Link

still coal:
I do not remember and have no patient just now to look back who was living next to our Sam, but may be that Sir Carteret and Sir Slingsby and Sam used the same cellar? (I remember that when Sam moved to his home his dwellings were connected by the cellar to his neighbor). May be it would be cheaper to buy a big consignement of coal. As coal must have been expensive, specially in the winter, this was a sign of wealth, of place to keep the goods and of good administration.
He would not end like La Boheme, didnt he?

john lauer  •  Link

graham: i didn't know your rule; in the US a pint is 1.04 lb. And a British gallon is 1.201 US gallon; so there's the 1.249 discrepancy. Occam's razor doesn't apply to "English" measures, as i now know.

Glyn  •  Link

The only consolation of British beer being so expensive is that the pint is bigger than the American one (20 fluid ounces/550 ml compared to the U.S. 16 fluid ounces/440 ml). I was brought up in the South Wales coalfields where the coalman used to bring you 112 pound sacks to put in your outside coal bunker. At that time, the definition of a gentleman was someone who held open the door when your mother carried the sacks in :-)

E  •  Link

More on coal:
Grahamt's Rayburn cooker was much more fuel-efficient for cooking and heating water than the open fires of Pepys' day. It would be nearly another 150 years before closed ranges (with the fire inside them) came into use, although open ranges would arrive towards the end of his life.

On the other hand, Grahant's family probably used more fuel for heating if they were getting their coal at a special price. The Pepys household probably wore more clothes in winter and had fewer fires burning -- efficient fireguards were another invention that hadn't arrived yet.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Coal and silver
With the increased use of coal in the second half of the 17th century, silver tarnished for the first time. So the servants in the Naval Office houses are soon going to have to do more than buff up the silver tankards: they will need tarnish removing agents!
Extra clothing: we are now used to removing a coat or jacket when we come in from outdoors and hanging it up. Sam would not have done this - his coat would have stayed on in or out. He would have added a riding cape and long boots for trips out in really inclement weather.

vicente  •  Link

1 ships worth.
keel to chauldren to cwt
However at this time the Newcastle 'chaldron' was much larger than the standard 'chaldron' weighing 42 cwt (2133-684kg). A keel then consisted of 10 Newcastle ‘chaldrons’ totalling 420 cwt (21,336-840kg).……

re: coal: a good read is coal by Barbara Freese:

Second Reading

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

OED has:

‘chaldron, n. Etym: Another form of cauldron n.; < Old French chauderon,
. . 2. A dry measure of 4 quarters or 32 bushels; in recent times only used for coals (36 bushels).
. . 1664 S. Pepys Diary 27 July (1971) IV. 223 This afternoon came my great store of Coles in, being ten Chaldron.
. . 1798 C. Hutton Course Math. I. 28, 36 bushels, heaped up, make a London chaldron of coals, the weight of which is 3156lb Avoirdupois.
. . 1851 G. C. Greenwell Gloss. Terms Coal Trade Northumberland & Durham (ed. 2) 13 The Newcastle chaldron is a measure containing 53 cwt. of coals..It has been found, by repeated trials, that 15 London Pool chaldrons are equal to 8 Newcastle chaldrons.’

Christopher  •  Link

"I afterwards found that it was a rogue that did use to play such tricks to get money of people, but he got none of me,"

An email, Internet scam-1660s style!

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"we...talked a great while about my going down to Gravely Court"

The note by Lord Braybrook says: "The manorial court of Graveley, in Huntingdonshire, to which Impington owed suit or service, and under which the Pepys’s copyhold estates were held. See July 8th, 1661, ante. — B. ↩ "

But L&M say the manorial court of Graveley, Cambs, .is the manor in which Pepys's copyholds were held:…

See the Admissions to copyhold properties in Graveley, Cambridgeshire, England…

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