Customs Records of Wire Harp Strings — 1683

According to the Drogheda Customs records for July 1683 a ship called the Diamond from Liverpool arrived carrying goods for two local merchants. As was common at that time merchants tended not to be specialists so the cargo covered a very wide range of goods,anything from “5 pairs of womens sleeves” to “box locks and Horse collars”. For customs purposes the total value of the cargo was compiled and then a duty of 5% was charged.

The merchant called James Stennons received “3 lb Harp Wyre” valued at £0–3–0, (three shillings in other words), while merchant John Gilmore received “1 lb Harp Wire” valued at £0–2–0, (two shillings).

This means that the harp wire for one merchant was twice the value of the other. It may be the case that both of them stocked harp wires and simply were replacing rolls of a particular size. The more expensive wire was likely of a smaller gauge and therefore the labour cost for multiple drawing raised the price. It would be the labor involved in drawing the wire driving the price, unlike the situation in modern times, when the labor would be mechanized and so one might expect to see a discount applied to a high–volume purchase.

It may also be observed that the value of the harp wire, even with the labor costs included, was a small amount. One may then conclude that the metal in question was a base metal such as brass or bronze, and not a precious metal.

The whole customs accounts for that year have been transcribed and published in “The Count Louth Archaeological Journal, vol 3. No 1”. December 1912.

Submitted by Keith Sanger, 25 September, 2010

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