Barrels, materials - Portugal, et al

Selected data for real barrels and cargoes, etc. To show that the subject is not simple.

There are significant local variations, even in the 19th century.

Even standards are difficult to trace and confirm.

R.A.Barker - September 2000

Lucian, Dialogues, "The way to write history"
" I decided to roll my cask as best I could. I do not intend to write a history, or attempt actual narrative; I am not courageous enough for that; have no apprehensions on my account; I realise the danger of rolling the thing over the rocks, especially if it is only a poor little jar of brittle earthenware like mine; I should very soon knock against some pebble and find myself picking up the pieces. Come, I will tell you my idea for campaigning in safety, and keeping well out of range. Give a wide berth to all that foam and spray, and to the anxieties that vex the historian - that I shall be wise enough to do........"

James Inman
A Treatise on Ship-building,
respecting to [ie, translation of] the Architectura Mercatoria Navalis of Chapman. [1768].
Cambridge 1820

Chapter XI. On measurements for tonnage and stowage

$196, p172
By measurement for tonnage is meant the taking of the dimensions of a ship, in order, from the consideration of its form, to find the lading it can carry, and with which it can navigate without danger.

$197, pp172-3
To measure for tonnage in the Swedish manner, is to determine the number of lasts, which the ship can carry, as follows. The length of the ship is taken on the upper deck from the stem to the sternpost, the breadth within the ceiling, and the draught of water from the plank of the said upper deck to the plank of the bottom, these three dimensions are multiplied together, and the product is divided by 200; the five-sixths of the quotient will be the weight, which the ship can take in lasts of 18 skiponds iron weight per last; as much per cent however is subtracted from this quantity as the measurer judges the ship more or less full in the floors, or as it carries a greater or lesser number of guns. The remainder is the burthen in lasts.
 It follows from hence that if two ships were constructed from the same plan, but the upper deck of the one placed one foot higher than that of the other, the former would be found of a greater quantity of lasts than the latter; which ought however to be contrary, for the former ship ought to carry less, as its sides being raised a foot weigh more (the two ships being laden to the same draught of water). The result of this calculation may moreover be erroneous on this account, that the degrees of the ship's rising, more or less, will not always be estimated correctly by a person in the hold; whence it happens that the addition or subtraction on this account must be in a great measure arbitrary; without mentioning other reasons, which render the measurement of tonnage, by this method, very uncertain.
 If a last were a certain space, this manner of measuring would be more tolerable, but as it is  a weight, it is altogether without reason.

$198, p173
The method of measuring for tonnage in England, is not used for the direct purpose of finding the quantity of lasts which the ship can carry, but to obtain the content, according to which the ship pays dues.
 The capacity is found thus: the product of the length of the keel multipled by the breadth of the ship to the outside of the plank, and again by the half breadth; this product, I say, divided by 94, gives the capacity of the ship in tons. If the ship carries more than this quantity, it is said to carry more than its measurement for tonnage, and vice versá. Little need be said in regard to this method, because the immediate object of it is not to find the burthen; however the manner of determining the length of the keel, upon which length the calculation is founded, is faulty, 3/5 and 1/8 of the breadth of the ship are taken, for the rake of the stem and sternpost; these two quantities are subtracted from the length taken from the after side of the wing transom at the middle line; the remainder is considered as the length of the keel. That this method is erroneous appears as follows. [Continues…..].

These two methods of admeasurement being entirely defective, in order to determine the weight it can carry……[proceeds to displacement method, but by block calculation; remark about ballast].

I.Sequeira, A new merchants' guide, London 1798:

Barrel gauging by the diagonal; cask gauging by the pen. Hogsheads (1/4 tun) are best measured by the diagonal.

Volume = [H+0.7(H-B)]^2*length*(1/294) wine gallons. Wine gallon is 8 pounds of water, 252 gallons to the tun.

Dimensions internal, in inches. Inch is 25.4mm. Pound is 453.597gms, wine gallon 3628.8gms

The length of foreign barrels has to be reduced (by up to 2.3 inches) to use the same formula.

Barrel/Head diameter/bung (bilge) diameter/length/ capacity, full, wine gallons:

Port pipe/23.5/30.7/51/137 deduction 1-5/10 inches

Lisbon pipe/24.6/31.8/48.8/141 deduction 1-3/10 inches

Madeira pipe/22.0/27.9/47.0/106 deduction 1-3/10 inches

Vidona pipe/21.5/26.8/46.2/97 deduction 8/10 inches

Nice butt/25.2/30.3/45.8/122 deduction 2-3/10 inches

Rhenish half vat/29.2/34.7/41.4/151 deduction 6/10 inches

Sherry butt/25.8/32.0/42.4/128 deduction 7/10 inches

Mountain butt/26.7/32.0/40.6/126 deduction 4/10 inches

Port and Lisbon hogsheads - no deduction

J.R.McCulloch, A Dictionary, practical, theoretical and historical of commerce and commercial navigation, 2nd Ed, London 1834.

Sugar - to illustrate variety of forms:

Entering London Docks in:

4-5 cwt bag/basket; 2 cwt ditto; mat boxes or chests; bastards, 14 cwts and upwards; casks 12-14 cwts; tierce, under 8 cwts; barrels under 2.5 cwts; refined, in casks 12-24 cwts. No allowance for damage or increase of weight by water. Tare on British plantation sugar: under 8 cwts - 14%; 8-12 cwts, 1 cwt per cask; 12-15 cwts, 1 cwt+40 pounds per cask; 17 cwts upwards, 1 cwt+84 pounds per cask. (Cwt=112 pounds; tare is weight of container).

Leaving as:

Crushed fine by the mill, packed in Havanna cases; partly crushed, packed with lumps; crushed rough; cushed fine; ground by the mill;; broken and packed, rough and not to particular weights; broken small and rammed with entire lumps; broken large and rammed with entire lumps.


8 ounce=1 mark, 16 ounces= 1 arratel, 22 arrateis=1 arroba, 4 arrobas = 1 quintal.

100 arrateis= 101.19 pounds Averdupois Imperial= 45.895Kgs.

Dry measure: moyo=15 fanegas=60 alquieres=240 quartos=23.03 Winchester bushels

Liquid measure: almude= 2 potes=12 canadas=48 "quartellos"= 4.37 English wine gallons

18 almudes= 1 baril; 26 almudes= 1 pipe, 52 almudes= 1 tonelada (sic) = 227-1/4 wine gallons.

Lisbon pipe (established at the British Custom House)=140 gallons, "supposed 31 almudes".

Pipe of port= 168 gallons (21 almudes of Porto).

Pé = 12.944 English inches = 1-1/2 palmos

Freight: Last = 4 pipes oil/wine, 4 chests of sugar, 4000 pounds tobacco.

Citing Kelly's Cambist: weights and measures same throughout Portugal, but not capacity. No certain rule for tares.

Lists by place, almudes in English wine gallons, alquieres in Winchester bushels:

Lisbon, 5-3/8, 3-1/16

Oporto, 6-5/8, 3-7/8

Faro, 4-1/2, 3-3/4

Figueira, 5-3/4, 3-1/4

Vianna, 6-1/2, 3-7/8

Dues for a 300 ton ship in Lisbon: Royal passport 7200 reis; Petty expenses, Custom House 700 reis; anchorage 500 reis; ballast clearance 400 reis; tonnage 30,000 reis; lights 15,000 reis; Board of trade 1,500 reis; Petty charges 720 reis; Bill of health 240 reis.

John Edye, Calculations relating to equipment and displacement of ships of war, 1832

One man and his effects: 2-2.5 cwts

Chord of wood, stowage, 128 cu ft, 1700 lbs

Chaldron of coals, stowage, 57.25 cu ft, 3024 lbs

Bushel of pease, 1.0 cu ft, 64 lbs

Bushel of oatmeal, 0.83 cu ft, 47 lbs

Material/contents in pounds/tare in pounds/non-water casks, length in inches/diameter, inches:

Bread in bags/112/2/-/-

Beef, Irish, half-puncheons/304/60/31.5/25

Beef, Irish,barrels/208/42/28/21

Irish pork, half-puncheons/320/60/30/25

Irish pork, barrels/208/42/27/21

Flour, hogsheads/560/86/36/28

Flour, half-hogsheads/280/45/27/22

Flour, barrels/360/52//30/24

"Typical packages" ditto (most occur in many container sizes in the list):

Suet barrels/280/52/30/24

Raisins, barrels/336/60/30/25

Sugar, barrels/372/77/30/25

Cocoa, barrels/224/52/30/24

Tobacco, barrels/150/52/31/24

Butter, firkins/65/14/17/14

Cheese, casks/120/30/29/18

Tea, cases/180/126/39/25x25squ.

Soap, cases/224/45/33/17x17squ.

Lime juice (sic), cases/72/110/32/18x14

Pease, barrels/40 gallons/52/32/24

Oatmeal, barrels/60 gallons/52/31/24

Vinegar in barrels/45 gallons/77/31/24

Spirits in barrels/42 gallons/77/32/25

Wine in pipes/126 gallons/165/52/33
Wine in puncheons/84 gallons/128/40/30
Wine in hogsheads/63 gallons/100/35/28
Wine in barrels/42 gallons/77/32/25
Wine in half-hogsheads/32 gallons/66/27/22

Table of every description of cask, iron tank, etc [part, converted]

Item/capacity in wine gallons/tare in lbs/weight of water in each/length, inches/diameter, inches:












Bilge tank/130/300/1087/38/33x28

Gunpowder case/-/43/120 lbs powder/21/17x17

Gunpowder barrel/ -/54/90 lbs powder/21/17

Weights of timber, pounds, cubic feet, green and seasoned, used for displacements

(Average for hull of man of war about 50, for masts and yards about 40)

English Oak , 71.625, 43.5

Danzig Oak, 49.875, 36

Larch, 45, 34.25

Riga Fir, 48.75, 35.5

New England Fir, 44.75, 30.69

Elm, 66.5, 37.31

Beech, 60, 53.375

Ash, 58.19, 50

African Teak, 63.75, 60.83
Cedar, 32.0, 28.25
Indian mast Peon, 48.31, 36.0
Indian Teak, green or seasoned, about the same:
Malabar (heaviest), 52.94
Rangoon (lightest) 26.25

Loads of rough timber and plank etc that one man can work up in one year in:

28 gun frigate, war rate, 22

28 gun frigate, peace rate, 26

18 gun frigate, war rate, 18.5

18 gun frigate, peace rate, 22.25

James Inman, A Treatise on Ship-building,
respecting to [ie, translation of] the Architectura Mercatoria Navalis of Chapman. [1768].
Cambridge 1820

Swedish foot= 1.02604 English feet, Swedish pound [provision?]=0.9324 English pounds
Last= 18 skiponds iron weight
5 skiponds iron weight = 4 skiponds provision weight
1 skipond = 400 pounds

Weights of materials, cubic Swedish feet, "provision pounds ". [Densities within 1% of English units]

Lead 672

Wrought iron 475

Cast iron 440

Pitch 83

Tile 116

Lime 42

Sea water 63

Fresh water 61

Oak 53

Fir 38

Biscuit 26

Wheat 44.5

Finland rye 42.6

Bread rye 40.25

Barley meal 36.18

Oats 31

Oatmeal 30

Malt 28.9

Peas 52.25

Packages: "weight of a ton" [?], in provision pounds

Cagliari salt 3800

Setubal salt 3500

Salt beef 3000

Herrings 3000-3600

Ground rye 2400

Stuff for paying 3380-3080

Finland tar 3840-2960


Casks of beef, herrings, flour, 2.5 feet ext length, 1.833 feet ext diameter

Barrel of tar, 2.667 feet x 1.92 feet diameter

Barrel, quintal of powder, 2.083 feet x 1.5 feet diameter

Cask of tobacco, nearly 1200 lbs content, 4 ft ext length, 3 feet ext diameter

Cask of sugar, nearly 1700 lbs content, 4.5 feet x 3.333 feet diameter

Smyrna cotton, 300-320 lbs, 7 x 2.833 x 2 feet (Last occupies 640 cu ft)
Bale of Petersburgh hemp, 5.5 skiponds, 8.0 x 4.5 x 4.0 feet (Last occupies 340 cu ft)

Whole chest of tea, 2.92 x 2.42 x 2.0 feet

Chest of porcelain, 3.333 x 2.5 x 1.667 feet

Weight of a man and his effects 260 provision pounds
Weight of galley and cooking utensils 30 provision pounds for each man in the crew
Weight of provisions per man-month, including casks and wood, 186 provision pounds
Weight of water, ditto, 217

Clairbois, 1781, p178 contains the following data for French barrels, all in French units:

[Pied = 1.065765 English feet= 324.845mm; 12 pouce=pied; 12 lignes=pouce; livre = 1.10254 English pounds=500.109gms]

Pinte given as 47.285 cubic inches, French. This does not correspond exactly with Belidor's 1 pinte = 2 livres, 35 pintes=pied cube: pinte=49.37 cubic inches French. Nonetheless, the barrique is roughly equivalent to quarter-tun/tonel.

Iron-hooped barrels. Data below is:

Barrel/External length in pieds,pouces,lignes/external bilge diameter/external end diameter/weight of barrel, livres/capacity, pintes






Bordeaux barrique/2,9,4/2,1,3/1,10,10/86/232

Ditto - internal/2,4,0/1,11,9/1,9,3/86/232


Powder barrels/ external length/external bilge diameter

100 livres/1,11,0/1,3,6

50 livres/1,6,0/1,0,0

25 livres/1,2,0/0,9,6