On the eve a new exhibition looking at the Elizabethan period Curator Tarnya Cooper discusses:
What was it like to go shopping in Elizabethan London?
This week we have been installing the exhibition Elizabeth I and Her People, which includes a fascinating manuscript in the collections of the National Archives that lists the contents of an Elizabethan haberdasher’s London warehouse from 1582. The haberdasher was William Gynn and he was being sued for a debt of a hundred pounds, and so an inventory was made of some of his goods (TNA C 239/48, no.104).
If you want to know what it was like to go shopping in Elizabethan London this list on a long parchment roll, detailing many different tantalising goods, provides a pretty good idea. London shops were the envy of the rest of the country and the warehouse contained all the things you might expect in a haberdashery department today. It includes buttons, pins and fastening hooks, thimbles, silk threads and trimmings and laces of all kinds as well as felt hats and caps, gloves of all sorts, hosiery, purses of taffeta and leather and red satin pin cushions. In order to entice his customers into casual purchases, Gynn also stocked other personal items including playing cards, spectacles, combs, crystal glasses, ordinary drinking glasses, wooden plates, knives and even pictures.
This document can be seen in the exhibition alongside some real life Elizabethan buttons, pins, thimbles, hats and gloves in an ‘Elizabethan’ shop window. The exhibition includes a large number of wonderful, less well-known portraits of both Elizabethan courtiers and more ordinary citizens and it feels enormously exciting to be able to bring together surviving Elizabethan rings, purses, gloves and buttons, alongside portraits of people wearing these accessories.
I hope that visitors will enjoy the many and varied objects in this exhibition and if you want to find out more before you come to visit us, please see our website, where you can play a game to discover which Elizabethan you might have been by answering questions about yourself.
Image credits (top to bottom)
Inventory of the goods of William Gynn, courtesy of the National Archives UK
A variety of buttons, courtesy of the Museum of London
Frog purse, courtesy of the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
Leather and silk embroidered gloves, The Glove Collection Trust, Courtesy of the Fashion Museum, Bath and North East Somerset Council
Elizabethan sweet bag, courtesy of the Burrell Collection © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection