The Penny Nail
This article in 'The
Ironmonger' from 1915 tells us the story of the 'penny' nail.
As you can see from the above
picture, the details come from the account books of churchwardens and builders in the
Middle Ages in England. In this case, the researcher examined the records dated 1477
from the Church of St Mary-at-Hill
in the City of London.
Although many different
handmade nails were in use at the time which had specific names, a large proportion were
named simply by the number of pence paid for a hundred nails.
For example, four penny nails
were those of which a hundred were purchased for 4d. (The 'd' stands for pence in the days
when sterling was denominated in pounds, shillings and pence - £ s d).
The account records of the
Church of St Mary-at-Hill show -
'ffor a c of v
peny nayle vd'
The 'c' is the Roman numeral
for 'hundred' and 'v' is the Roman numeral for 'five'.
The amount of money paid for a
hundred nails - fourpence, fivepence,sixpence - is thought to depend on the size of the
nail. The larger the nail, the more expensive it was. The largest nail appears to have
been the tenpenny nail, also referred to as the 'fyve stroke nayle' - possibly because it
took five strokes of the hammer to get it home.
This nomenclature for nails
4d, 5d, 6d etc is still in use today particularly in the USA, but relates only to the size
of the nails not the price!
For those that
would like to work out the true cost today, the article tell us that the medieval penny
would have been the equivalent of around 1s 6d in value in 1915. Government sources suggest that
prices have risen over 61 fold since 1914, so a medieval penny might be worth around
the full article (170K).
Nails in Stuart Times
Moving on a couple of centuries and we begin
to see some of the nail names appearing that we still use today.
This article, again from 'The Ironmonger' this
time dated 1924, reports on a young man named Ambrose Crowley who lived in the days of
William & Mary. He was a Quaker who was in business as a 'naylor' and by 1682 had set
himself up as an ironmonger in Thames Street in London to sell his nails.
Apart from explaining the best size of bags to
use for packing the nails to stack them successfully in a pile, the document reviewed by
the researcher showed the following nail names being used at that time -
||Pound Nailes Long
||Patten Rivetts Long
||Horse Nailes Short
||Patten Rivetts Short
||Rosehead Nailes -
|Flat Head Nailes
|Flat Pointed Short
ditto Diamond Head
|Horse Nailes Long
||Weight Nailes for ye King
||Spikes Copp Head
|Pound Nailes Short
||Spikes Diamond Head
||Spikes for ye King
Today, we still use the words Flat Point,
Rosehead, Clout, Spikes, Dog spikes, Square shank and so on.
When Ambrose Crowley died in 1713, at the age
of 54 years, he left a fortune of well over £100,000 (over £6 million today) - an
inspiration to all nail manufacturers!
complete article (170K).
In 1946, 'The Ironmonger' tells us under the
Trade Chat section of a Mr S R Naish who put together 'a fine private collection of nails
made by methods in use before nail-making machinery was invented....which must be by far
the most comprehensive of its kind that has ever been compiled'.
Listed below are the types of handmade nails
Mr Naish had collected at that stage.
The article goes on to state that the
collection of handmade nails was given to Salisbury Museum. The museum, now Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum,
still has the collection and has kindly given permission to show images of some of the
on the links - the images are Copyright © of the museum).
Although the collection is not currently on
display at the museum, the nails can be viewed by visitors provided adequate advance
warning is given. (The museum accession number is SBYWM: 1941.8)
||Hob, Wrot. Sq.
||Hob, Wrot. Patent.
||Hurdle, 6 in.
||Limer, Stock Head,
|Clasp, Fine Wing.
|Clasp, 4 in. Wrot.
||Mop, Rd.Hd., Large.
|Clout, Best Strong.
|Clout, Common Wrot.
||Prison Door, Cast.
|Clout, Double Deep Csk.
||Prison Door, Wrot.
||Roofing Stud, Cast.
||Rose, Flat Wrot.
||Rose, Pointed Wrot.
|Cooper's Nails, 2 in.
| (or Cooler)
|Fencing Spikes, Wrot.
||Scupper, Fine Sq.
|Frost, Chisel Head
|Frost, Snap Head.
|Horse, Half Csk.
|Hob, Wrot. Clasp
|Hob, Wrot. Clinker.
||Tyre Stubs, Wrot.
|Hob, Wrot. Fancy Sq.
complete article (70K)
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Co 1997- All rights reserved