The term explanation
afore Surrey dialect for ‘before’
agone ago, in the past
anker a barrel used for transporting spirits; it carried about 8.5 gallons. A half-anker, containing about 4 gallons, was used when men were carrying the load instead of packhorses or carts.
arrack a distilled alcoholic drink originating in Asia. The East India Company imported large quantities of it from India, where it was made from fermented coconut liquid. It was often used as an ingredient in punch.
bagman a pedlar, traveling vendor
bannicking thrashing, beating (Surrey dialect)
bantling a young child
bargeboard an ornamented board concealing roof timbers that project over gables
barker a pistol
batman in smuggling circles, and armed guard. For a military officer, a batman was his personal servant.
beazled Sussex dialect for ‘tired out’
betony also called common hedge nettle or bishop’s wort, a native perennial herb
bilious in 1800, a portmanteau term for any intestinal complaint
black harvest in 1799, it rained so much during the summer and fall that the crops rotted in the fields and turned black
blackthorn winter a frost in late March, when the blackthorns were in bloom
boffled Sussex dialect for confused, bewildered
brake bracken, ferns
breast beam a strong crossbeam on which rests the shaft of a windmill, which protrudes from the top floor of the windmill and to which the sails are attached
carriage folk Surrey dialect for the gentry, or anyone wealthy enough to own a carriage
Catlick Sussex dialect for Roman Catholic
cattle pound a fenced enclosure in a town where cattle were impounded if found wandering, so their owners could collect them
chaise a travelling carriage that was usually covered but open to the air and drawn by one or two horses. A hired post-chaise was usually painted yellow and the driver, known as a postillion, rode on one of the horses.
chalk-plat Chalk was dug from the North Downs, and the area around Darking produced some of the finest. It was brought into town and processed at the chalk-plat into lime, which was in demand both for agriculture and for the masons and bricklayers of London.
chancy risky, uncertain
chandler a maker and seller of candles and other lighting materials such as spermaceti oil
cheroot a cheap cigar cut square at both ends
clay-diggings By 1800 Darking’s pottery industry had largely vanished, but all over Holmwood Common there were signs of where clay had been dug for the pottery works. The holes left behind filled with water and made crossing the common often treacherous at night.
coachwheel a coin worth a crown
cockloft slang for ‘head’
commonable Arcane rules going back to the Middle Ages governed the use of common lands. An animal was considered commonable if it was allowed to graze on the common; the type of animal and time of year were strictly regulated. See also estovers, pasture, piscary, turbary.
coney (plural conies) a rabbit
coppice or copse a thicket, usually of trees growing up as suckers from a stump. The wood was usually only useful as firewood.
coping an angled cap running along the top of a wall
copyhold a form of land tenure in which the land was leased from the manor, subject to restrictions and terms laid out in the manorial court roll. Copyhold property could typically be inherited by a member of the copyholder’s family by renewal of the lease, so tenants could remain on the same land for many generations. Copyhold often came with certain rights to use common lands; see estovers, pasture, piscary, turbary.
cordwainer a shoemaker or, more broadly, a worker in leather
cove a fellow; the term carries the connotation of a rogue
crottle droppings or dung, usually but not always from a hare
cully a bloke
curricle a fashionable two-wheeled carriage seating up to two people, open, drawn usually by a pair of horses
curtilage the enclosed (walled or fenced) area of land around a house, especially one in the country, including its gardens and some outbuildings
cutpurse a thief, especially a pickpocket
dragoon a mounted British soldier, less well trained and equipped (and thus paid less) than a cavalry soldier. Starting in 1746 the British army demoted all its cavalry soldiers to dragoons.
draw one’s cork punch in the nose, drawing blood
dray a large cart or waggon without sides; also, a squirrel’s nest
drover one who drives cattle or sheep
dust one’s jacket give someone a beating
esh stubble in a field after harvest
estovers the traditional right to take branches from smaller trees or bushes for use in a commoner’s house
Excise the government agency responsible for dealing with smuggling on the domestic front (Customs policed international trade). At the coasts, prevention was handled by the Landguard and Waterguard, but excisemen enforced the law inland.
exciseman an officer of the Excise
false pair o’ jaws a liar
farradiddle an implausible story
flat boring; also, a gullible person
flitch a side of cured meat, especially bacon
floated Surrey dialect for ‘flooded’
fluttermouse or flittermouse a bat; Sussex dialect
forrards Surrey dialect for ‘forwards’
fortnight two weeks
freehold a form of land tenure that owes nothing to the manor. The owner of a freeheld farm can dispose of it at will and is known as a yeoman.
free-trader a popular term for ‘smuggler’. People using the term were generally those who had no objection to smuggling.
furlong a unit of distance measuring 220 yards or 201 metres
gainsay contradict or deny
gig a small, low-end open carriage carrying no more than two people and drawn by one horse. It was one step up from a cart by virtue of having springs.
glims eyes; also, in Sussex dialect, either a glimpse or a ghost
gooming Surrey dialect for ‘daydreaming’
gormless Surrey dialect for ‘half-witted’
graces a game played mostly by young girls; in 1800 it was very recently introduced from France. Two people stand facing each other holding out sticks crossed like a pair of scissors; they toss a small hoop back and forth, trying to catch it atop the sticks.
gudgeon a freshwater fish easily caught by beginners; hence its slang usage, meaning a gullible person, one who easily swallows the bait
hay-wain a heavy waggon used to bring in the harvested hay from the fields
heave-jar a nightjar, a bird that hunts for insects between dusk and dawn
hedgebird a criminal
herbage a hereditary right to graze livestock on common lands
higgler This term is used in different ways in different regions of England. In Sussex and Surry it is generally an itinerant pedlar going door to door in rural areas; elsewhere it is more broadly a seller of wares or poultry.
High Toby highway robbery
hollands gin from the Netherlands
inglenook a recess to the side of a large fireplace
inholding private property carved out of waste or common land. By early custom, if a man could build a dwelling with a roof in the course of a single night and have a fire burning on the hearth by morning, he was entitled to live and farm there. The property he thus claimed was an inholding.
lackwit a half-wit
lamentable an intensifier meaning ‘very’
lanthorn obsolete spelling of ‘lantern’. There were various types: a close or dark lanthorn had panels that could be closed to hide the light; a spout lanthorn looked a bit like a watering can, with a long spout that directed a beam of light like a modern flashlight or torch.
leasehold a form of land tenure that was less common in rural areas than copyhold. With a leasehold, the tenant held the land for a fixed term of years without the potential for passing it on to an heir.
leveret a juvenile hare. Different laws governed the killing of juvenile and adult hares at various times of year.
lief wish, prefer
lonesome Surrey dialect for ‘lonely’ or ‘solitary’
lych-gate a roofed gateway to a churchyard, also called a resurrection gate
lying-in giving birth
magistrate a gentleman appointed to administer the law, usually in rural areas or small towns. The magistrate would triage cases that came before him, either settling them out of hand or referring them to the court system for adjudication, depending on severity.
manor dating from feudal times, an area of land granted to a lord that he could rent to tenants (see copyhold, freehold, leasehold). Also, the house the lord lived in on the manorial estate.
mast the nuts of a beech tree
menjous an intensifier in Surrey dialect, meaning ‘extremely’
meuse an opening through a hedge made by a hare repeatedly using it to pass through
middling Surrey dialect for ‘somewhat’
mog a snob, or a person acting above his station
mullion a usually vertical divider between panes of a window
pannage the traditional right to allow one’s pig to forage in the wooded area of a common. Pigs would be fattened on acorns and other nuts in the late summer and fall.
pasture the traditional right to let cattle, sheep, horses, and other animals graze on common land.
pattens footwear for women in the form of a wooden platform or clog set atop a metal ring, intended to lift the wearer’s feet above mud and muck
pease peas or other leguminous crops
pewit the lapwing
phiz face, visage
picksome Sussex dialect for hard to please, selective, picky
piscary the traditional right to fish on common land
poor rates a system of property taxes levied by parishes to provide for workhouses and other relief for the poor. Assistance depended on having established residence in the parish, so it was difficult for poor people to move out of their home parish. In the 1790s changes came to the poor rate system that partially mitigated the distress caused by bad harvests but also placed a heavy burden on the rate-payers.
pothery a term originally used for sheep suffering from an illness that made them run around in circles, broadened to mean ‘crazy’
prad a horse
rabbit form rabbit warren or den
reckon guess or suppose; in Surrey dialect, pronounced ‘rackon’
regale a banquet, especially one provided by a landowner to his farm labourers after harvest
resty restive, restless
rush light the cheapest form of illumination. A rush light was made by dipping a dried rush stalk in grease
sarmint or sarment Surrey dialect for ‘sermon’
sartin Surrey dialect for ‘certain’
scapegrace a wild, dissolute fellow (one who has ‘escaped Grace’)
scarper run away
scatheless unharmed, unscathed
shaft (of a windmill) the spar that protrudes horizontally from the upper storey of the structure, to which are attached the rotor blades for the sails
shag-rag a person of tattered appearance
shaw a small wood, in the Midlands known as a spinney
shuckish Surrey dialect for ‘showery’
somewhen Surrey dialect for ‘at some time’
spermaceti oil a waxy substance taken from the heads of sperm and other whales and processed into a liquid to be used in cosmetics. It was very expensive and valued because it did not become solid in cold temperatures. The solids left behind in processing were also used as a type of wax.
spillikins a game similar to jackstraws or pick-up-sticks
stays strips of whalebone or other firm material used to shape a garment, most commonly one worn by a woman
stook a cluster of sheaves of grain. During harvest, labourers would stack up sheaves vertically in a field into stoooks to make it easier to collect them and place them on a waggon for bringing in for storage.
stubble it shut up
tail pole a post mill like the one on Holmwood Common was built around a single post, allowing the entire structure to be turned so that the sails might best catch the wind. The tail pole was the device used to turn it.
talk his dog’s hind leg off Surrey dialect for being overly voluble
tallow dip a dried reed dipped in melted animal fat. As the fat cooled it became solid and formed a primitive candle. Tallow dip candles were cheap but smoked and smelled bad and were therefore considered inferior to wax candles.
thruppence three pennies
toff a swell, a wealthy person
tuppence two pennies
turbary the traditional right to collect turf for fuel on common land
waste lands the open space on a common not generally suited for agriculture
water souchy a freshwater fish stew that was a traditional speciality of Darking
whorts Surrey dialect for whortleberries, sometimes also called ‘harts’. They grew wild and were often collected by children and poor people in season.
windhover the common kestrel
worrit Surrey dialect for ‘worry’
yaffle Sussex dialect for the green woodpecker
yard of tin slang term for a post horn. Drivers of Royal Mail coaches were issued a tin horn, three feet long, that they used to signal their approach to a toll gate so the gatekeeper could open the gate more quickly and not delay the mails.