Occupations in Wills and Land Records

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See also General Terms, Legal Terms, Inventory Terms, Church Terms and Measurements.

Occupations and Titles

  • Apothecary - later, Druggist. Prepared and sold medicines and drugs. The modern Pharmacist (in the USA the older term, druggist, is still used).
  • Broadweaver - Wide (broad)loom operator.
  • Chandler - Candle maker, often using tallow.
  • Chapman - A dealer in small items e.g. haberdasher. Sometimes a travelling pedlar.
  • Cordwainer - Pronounced ‘cordner’. Generally a shoemaker or cobbler. Originally, a leather worker using high quality Cordovan leather from Spain for such things as harness, gloves and riding boots. By the 19c it had reduced to a shoemaker - as distinct from a cobbler, who repaired shoes.
  • Corviser - see cordwainer.
  • Cooper - Made or repaired vessels made of wooden staves & hoops, such as casks, barrels and tubs.
  • Draper - Dealer in fabrics and sewing goods - still in use today. From the French “drap-de-Berry”, a woollen cloth coming from Berry in France.
  • Esquire - The term used after a person’s nameby the sons of peers and knights of the realm. The eldest son would inherit his father’s title, his younger brothers continue as esquires.
  • Gentleman - A member of the landed gentry who lived on income which was usually from land he owned and rented out. The term is used after a person’s name in legal and formal documents. It was later extended to civic officials and by the end of the 17th Century was being used by wealthy professional people.
  • Haberdasher - A dealer in, or maker of hats and caps. Later a dealer in thread, ribbons and other small wares.
  • Hind - An agricultural worker who looked after working horses and did farm work using the horses, such as ploughing or logging.
  • Husbandman - Usually a smallholder who may also have to work on others land to support himself, i.e. one below the status of yeoman.
  • Innholder - Innkeeper. Owning an inn which offered bed and board for travellers and their mounts. This distinguished an inn from a tavern or alehouse.
  • Master - The term of address used when speaking to esquires and gentlemen in everyday life. Apparently pronounced ‘Mister’ by the end of the seventeenth century.
  • Mercer - Involved in the trade of ‘mercery’ which now no longer exists. It was the exporting of woollen materials, and the importing of luxury fabrics such as silk, linen and cloth of gold.
  • Slaymaker - Made slays (wooden pegs) or reeds which were used in weaving to separate the threads on the loom.
  • Tanner - Tanned (cured) animal hides for leather making - in use today.
  • Yeoman - Farmers who would work on their own land as either freeholders or tenants. Husbandmen would tend to have less land. They could serve on juries and vote for shire representatives.


Proceedings of the Wills Group of the EPE Ledbury history project 2006-13
Hall Genealogy Website, Rodney M H Hall; http://rmhh.co.uk/occup/index.html
The Honourable Cordwainers’ Company; http://www.thehcc.org/