400-year-old shopping list found under floorboards of UK home

Posted at 10:16 AM, Feb 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-03 10:16:20-05

KENT, England – It’s not known if Mr. Robert Draper ever received his pewter spoons and “greenfish,” but the discovery of the shopping list nearly 400 years later has an English archaeology team trying to figure out who he was.

Volunteer Jim Parker made the find while the team was working to restore Knole, a historic house located in Kent, England. Parker, who had already spent the last six years working on the building, found the shopping list and another letter under the floor of the attic, according to the National Trust, a UK conservation charity.

“I was very excited to see some pieces of paper hidden underneath some rush matting,” Parker recalled. “The first piece was folded and very dusty. We realized it was a letter and there was writing on it which looked like a seventeenth century hand. I was nicknamed ‘Jimdiana Jones’ after that.”

Here is the full transcription of the shopping list:

Mr Milby, I pray p[ro]vide to be sent too morrow in ye Cart some Greenfish, The Lights from my Lady Cranfeild[es] Cham[ber] 2 dozen of Pewter spoon[es]: one greate fireshovell for ye nursery; and ye o[t]hers which were sent to be exchanged for some of a better fashion, a new frying pan together with a note of ye prises of such Commoditie for ye rest.

Octobre 1633


Your loving friend

Robert Draper

The second slip of paper Parker found – a letter dated May, 1603 – is mostly illegible, despite a painstaking cleaning process at a London lab.

“As the letters were crumpled they were then placed in a hermetically sealed humidifying chamber to relax the paper fibres before they could be smoothed in a paper press,” the National Trust described on its website. “Infra red imaging was also used to help decipher the writing.”

One initial mystery was why the letter had Copthall, or Copt Hall, as the address – but was found in an attic at Knole, roughly 36 miles away. The National Trust says a 1637 marriage between Frances Cranfield and Richard Sackville, whose respective families owned the two estates, could explain it.

National Trust records show that multiple large trunks were moved from Copt Hall to Knole and placed in the attic after the marriage.

“When you think that you’re reading someone’s handwriting from 400 years ago, it sends chills down your spine,” Jan Cutajar, an objects conservator, told the National Trust.