1) We are accustomed to think of the grocer as a tradesman who dealt in spices, sugar, dried fruits and other items of domestic consumption but the term was not prominent in the fourteenth century, unlike 'mercer' and 'spicer', and in that period it more probably referred to an 'engrosser', that is a wholesaler:

c.1450 no groser of fysche awe to cut hys awn fysche be hym selffe, Malton. This meaning of the word was in general use for several centuries, and as late as 1535 the corn that fed the people of York was provided by byers and engrossers: they were ordered not to sell any of their grain until the city had been fully servyd. Fifty years later it could still have that meaning: in 1585 Edward Osborne of London informed the Earl of Shrewsbury that nutmeg was sold unto the grosers which take towe or thre houndereth ponds wourthe at a tyme. There are early references to grocers, for example, 1403 Ricardus Beche, grocer, York

1504 John Lupton, Ledes grocer but these are unlikely to have been retailers. We can be sure though that John Hubye of Selby, grosser, who died in 1663, was more like a grocer in the modern sense, since his inventory lists the scores of items that were then in his shop. They include numerous spices, brimstone, turpentine, raisins, hops, treacle and saffron, as well as a variety of other goods more usually associated with a haberdasher.

dates 1403 1450 1504 1535 1585 1663

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