In England, 15th – 16th centuries, a unit of count for fish, = 20 or 22 ling or cod.
In England, 15th – 19th centuries, a unit of mass for steel, = 12 sheaves, although many early sources say 6. At 12 sheaves to the burden, it = 360 gads or individual pieces of steel. After the 17th century = 180 pounds. Also spelled burdon.
Stile by the Gadde, the Cheff, the Burdon. Also style by gadds; and euery pece of stele in hymselfe is a gadde; and xxx gaddes make a scheff, and xii scheff make a burdon.
The Noumbre of Weyghtes. [latter part of the fifteenth century]
MS Cotton, Vesp. E. IX ff 86-110. Printed in Hubert Hall, and Frida J. Nicholas, editors. Select Tracts and Table Books Relating to English Weights and Measures. Camden Miscellany, Vol. XV. (Camden Third Series vol. XLI) London: Camden Society, 1929. Page 17.
Stelle the barelle wyche owght to be iiiixx burden and vi sheffe makythe the burdyn and xxx gaddes makythe the sheffe £vi.
Steel, the barrel, which ought to be 80 burden, and 6 sheaves make a burden, and 30 gaddes make a sheave 6 pounds. [customs duty]
From a 1732 copy (British Museum Add. Roll, 16577) of a manuscript internally dated 15 July 1507, consisting of a list of customs duties on various articles, as reproduced as Appendix C in Norman Scott Brien Gras, The Early English Customs System, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press, 1918, page 703.
As for our steele, it is not so good for edge-tools as that of Cullen [Cologne], and yet the one is often sold for the other, and the like tale is used for both, that is to saie, thirtie gads to the sheffe, and six sheffes to the burden.
A Description of England.
in Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles (1577).
In the second edition of Holinshed, printed only ten years later in 1587, the passage reads “twelve sheffes to the burden.” It is thus very difficult to decide whether the burden was 6 or 12 sheaves.
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Last revised: 18 October 2011.