London Clay Pipe Studies

The clay tobacco pipe industry in the parishes of St Margaret and St John the Evangelist, Westminster

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11 (later 16) Great Peter Street (17951841)

James Harrison

The pipe maker James Harrison (formerly of 79 Great Peter Street) moved production to this address in 1795. The building was located on the north side of Great Peter Street, almost directly opposite Harrison's previous workshop at number 79, and was the middle one of three properties between Saunders Court and Perkins Rents. These three buildings had just been constructed (perhaps by Harrison himself) to replace a terrace of houses that had been demolished in the previous year. For the purposes of the poor rate Harrison's new property was valued at an annual rack-rent of £12, and the poor rate was assessed at 11s 6d. From this we can deduce that number 11 was a larger property than number 79, which, at the time of Harrison's occupancy, had been valued at a rack-rent of £8. The house and yard of number 11 are shown clearly on Horwood's map of 1799 (Fig 9).

Fig 9  Extract from Horwood's map of 1792–9, locating 11 Great Peter Street (magenta). Also shown is Harrison's previous house and workshop at 79 Great Peter Street (cyan)

Harrison's connection with this property lasted for at least three years. On 13 April 1798 he took out a Sun Assurance policy on the address (as a pipe maker), as well as on a number of other properties in Westminster, Chelsea and Lambeth, for a total sum of £2800 (Guildhall Library ms 11936, vol 38). This is one of the largest policies known to have been taken out by a pipe maker, and suggests that Harrison was a man of some means. The policy details for the Great Peter Street house were as follows:

On dwelling house £300

On household goods in dwelling house £100

Wearing apparel, plate, china and glass, books £100

Utensils and stock goods in trust, in workshop £100

Workshop only £300

The other properties insured at that time were:

House, the Elephant and Castle, same street £500

Three houses 33-35 Great Tothill Street £700

House, Lower Sloane Street in tenure £500

House, 2 Saville Place in Lambeth £300

The Elephant and Castle public house was located on the corner of Perkins Rents, next door to Harrison's house and workshop. It was built at the same time as the house, to replace the Castle tavern that had stood on the site since at least 1729. The public house that occupies the site today (The Speaker, previously the Elephant and Castle) was built, according to Watson, in the early Victorian period (Watson 1983, 26).

The poor rate books for St Mary Lambeth do not record Saville Place prior to 1797, and for the period 1797–1800 only two houses were rated, increasing to three in 1801. This suggests that Saville Place was newly constructed in 1797, and raises the intriguing possibility that, as in Great Peter Street, James Harrison might have been active as a speculative builder. Harrison was not named as the rate payer on any of the properties for the period 1797–1801, suggesting that the house which he insured in 1798 was occupied (like those in Tothill Street and Lower Sloane Street) by a tenant. The three properties in Saville Place listed in 1801 were rated at £20, £11 (a brew house) and £16, which suggests that they were more substantial than the house at 11 Great Peter Street.

In the same year that Harrison insured the Elephant and Castle public house he gave it as his address when he stood as suretor for the licensee John Henderson. Harrison gave his occupation as tobacco pipe maker. In the following year the role of suretor was assumed by a Charles Steadman, which suggests that Harrison might have moved away by then. Certainly, there is no evidence that he was active in Westminster after 1798.

On 25 March 1800 he attended the court of the company in his capacity as warden. Later in the same year (28 July) he fulfilled one of his obligations as executor of the will of the late George Benson, by insuring a house and workshop in Plumb Tree Court, Grays Inn Lane. The property was then in the tenure of Martins, a carpenter (Guildhall Library ms 11936, vol 418). Company records refer to Mr. Harrison (presumably James), warden on 3 February 1801.

In the same year, Harrison moved back to his birthplace of Rainford in Lancashire. There he occupied a farm house that had belonged previously to his old friend George Benson, pipe maker of Grays Inn Lane (Dagnall 1999, 61; see also 79 Great Peter Street). George had died some time before 16 June 1797 (the date on which his will was proved), and at the time that Harrison took up residence the house belonged to George's heirs - his father James and his son George, Junior. In 1804 Harrison purchased the property from the Bensons, for the sum of £970. At that time it consisted of a house and farm buildings, a cottage and 76 acres of farm land.

It is possible that Harrison's wife died in Lancashire. Certainly, the register of Rainford Chapel records the burial of Mary, wife of James Harrison, pipe maker of Rainford, on 17 December 1803. Although there were several pipe makers with the surname Harrison in Rainford at that time, none of the others were called James.

When Harrison bought the farm he was described in the deeds as Gentleman. This suggests that his pipe-making days were behind him. There is certainly no evidence that pipe making was ever carried out on the farm, and presumably Harrison employed a manager to run the estate.  When he sold the property in 1807 its value had gone up to £2620.

Fig 10  The Rainford farmhouse purchased in 1804 by James Harrison (photograph by Ron Dagnall)

Having sold the farm in Rainford, Harrison probably moved back to the London area. Certainly at the time that he made his will (January 1809) he was living at 2 Saville Place, Lambeth – the house that he had insured in 1798. The principal beneficiaries of the will were the children of his sister Rachell Stephenson and (brother?) John Harrison (the latter was described as a tobacco pipe maker, late of Liverpool in Lancashire), and the children of a Mary Tunshall (probably another sister), wife of the weaver Thomas Tunshall of Rainford. It is not known if Harrison had ever had children of his own, but none are mentioned in the will.

Other beneficiaries included the children of his brother William, his sister Elizabeth Cross, the Reverend Mr. Groves, minister of St Margaret's (Westminster?), and John Piercy of Tothill Fields, Westminster. The latter had been a trustee for Harrison in the matter of his purchase of the Bensons' farm in 1804. George Burchall, tobacco pipe maker of Chatham, Kent, received seven pounds for mourning and ring. Burchall was also a native of Rainford and a contemporary of Harrison. Another pipe maker, George Clarke, of Queens Court, Holborn, London, was appointed as one of the executors. The other executor, Hugh Sephton, was described as a yeoman but was in fact also a pipe maker of Rainford. The will, which is reproduced in full as Appendix 4, was proved on  19 May 1810.

The Brown family

In 1798 11 Great Peter Street was taken over by the pipe maker George Brown, then aged about 25. It is possible that Brown rented the house and workshop from James Harrison which would explain why, in Harrison’s insurance policy of that year, his utensils and stock goods in the workshop were described as in trust.

It seems that there were two London pipe makers by the name of George Brown at that time, perhaps father and son. The records of the company state that on 7 May 1799 George Brown fined for the position of steward, but on 1 October of the same year a George Brown paid the renter warden 8s in full admission. A George Brown also had a premises in Gray's Inn Lane Road, and was listed there in Holden's directory of 1799.

On 23 July 1798 George Brown (of Great Peter Street?) took an apprentice, Thomas Brown of Hounslow, the son of a butcher. It is not known if they were related. For some reason, five years later Thomas was turned over to complete his apprenticeship with James Lawrence. On 10 Jan 1804 Brown took another apprentice, Joseph Hudson of Great Peter Street, who was the son of a local labourer and a scholar at Westminster's Blue Coat School.

It appears that Brown also employed the pipe maker John Dearden and his wife Isabella. In later years Dearden would become warden and then master of the company. In 1796 he gave his address as 78 Great Peter Street when he voted in the Westminster election (his vote was disallowed on the grounds that he was not a ratepayer). Number 78 was opposite Brown's workshop and next door to the pipe workshop at number 79 which at that time was occupied by the Webb family (see 79 Great Peter Street). In 1799 Dearden's house was burgled. Two suspects were apprehended and tried, but found not guilty. The Proceedings of the Old Bailey contain the following statement by Isabella Dearden:

I am the wife of John Dearding, tobacco-pipe maker, Peter-street, Westminster: On the 14th instant, my house was broke into, I work at the same business with my husband; I went out in the morning about five o'clock, and locked my parlour-doors and windows, there were two lodgers in the house; I left the street-door upon the latch, but not locked; our usual hour of leaving work is at nine o'clock, the shop where we work is only across the street [my emphasis]; when I came home, with my two children, the door was broke open, and my chest broke open, and I found every thing in as distressed a situation as could be; we were stripped of every thing we had in the world but what we stood upright in, and all my children's clothes were gone; my husband's waistcoat was gone, a check cotton handkerchief, a child's shift, and a pillow-case, and a great number of other articles; the articles in the indictment I have since found, in the possession of the officer, James Bly; I never saw the prisoners.

George Brown advertised as a pipe maker at 11 Great Peter Street in Holden's trade directories in 1805, 1809 (in conjunction with a Thomas Brown, perhaps his former apprentice) and 1811 (Wright 1991, 14). According to Oswald, Thomas Brown was listed in directories at the same address 1805–11. The property was described in poor rate books from 1805 until at least 1823 as house and shop (or shops), which raises the possibility that Brown's pipes were sold on the premises. A number of his pipes have been recovered from the Westminster foreshore by Colin Tatman (Fig 11), and a similar example has been published by Le Cheminant (Le Cheminant 1981c, 145).

Brown's first wife was Nancy, the sister of the pipe maker George Benson, Junior, of Grays Inn Lane. Her father had been George Benson, Senior, friend and associate of James Harrison. An entry in the International Genealogical Index suggests that George and Nancy might have married at Heston, Middlesex on 20 June 1797. Nancy was one of the principal beneficiaries of her brother's will, made 30 January 1804 (Ron Dagnall, pers comm).

George Brown's  name appears frequently in local records. He voted in Westminster elections on three occasions (1802, 1806 and 1820) and stood surety on eleven occasions for nine different local victuallers, three of whom were his next-door-neighbours at the Elephant and Castle public house.

Fig 11  Pipes made by George Brown, from the Thames foreshore at Westminster (drawings by Colin Tatman)

By 1820 George Brown had been elected an assistant of the company. He remained at 11/16 Great Peter Street until his death in 1824, aged 51. He was buried on 21 May in St Margaret’s churchyard. Under the terms of his will (made 26 November 1821, and reproduced in full as Appendix 5), his entire estate, including his pipe-making business, was left to his second wife Sarah. However, this was on the understanding that if at any time she should decide not to continue in the trade then the goodwill and stock in trade of the business should be made over to George's younger brother William.

Sarah Brown remained at 16 Great Peter Street (her name appearing in the rate book in 1824) and was listed as a pipe maker at that address in Pigot's directory for 1826–1828. However, this might have been a clerical error because it seems that she was dead by then. The parish register records the burial on 5 January 1826 of Sarah Brown of Peter Street, aged 45.

Her successor was William Brown, presumably her brother-in-law, who was then aged about 34. He was the second 19th-century London pipe maker of that name; a William Brown appeared in trade directories at a number of addresses during the period 1805–1809. In 1805 he was working in St James Place, in the parish of St James, Piccadilly and in 1805–1809 at 23 and 24 Joiner's Place, St George's Field, Lambeth (Wright 1991, 14). This was probably the same William Brown who paid dues to the company on 4 Aug 1801 and 10 January 1809. It is not known if he was related to George and William Brown of Great Peter Street.

William Brown paid the rates at 16 Great Peter Street from 1826, but his first entry in a trade directory for that address was not until 1828 (Robson's directory). However, Pigot's directory of 1826–28 has a pipe maker of the same name at 1 Trafalgar Place, Locksfields, Southwark, so perhaps it took Brown a couple of years to switch production to Great Peter Street. Some of his pipes are illustrated in Fig 12, and a further example, decorated with a vine motif, has been published previously (Le Cheminant 1981c, 145). Another stem fragment, with the inscription Brown/Westminster, is shown in Fig 13.

Fig 12  Pipes made by William Brown, from the Thames foreshore at Westminster (drawings by Colin Tatman)

William remained at 16 Great Peter Street until 1841, when he moved production to 42 New Peter Street, Westminster. The departure of the Brown family from 16 Great Peter Street marked the end of pipe making at that address. Brown's successor as rate payer was Thomas Townsend (1841–1842) who was followed by George Freeman (1842–1845). Neither of these men is known to have been a pipe maker. In 1845 Thomas Randall, tallow chandler, who for some years had also occupied the house and shop next door at number 15, took over the premises. Finally, the 1851 census reveals that the house was then occupied by a Thomas Galligen (?), who was a pavier.

Fig 13  A pipe fragment marked Brown/Westminster, from the Thames foreshore at Westminster (drawing by Colin Tatman)

Numbers 15 and 16 Great Peter Street were demolished in about 1856. They were replaced by St Mary's Roman Catholic School, which appeared in Kelly's directory for 1858 and is shown on the first edition Ordnance Survey map of 1869. A recent archaeological evaluation of the site by MoLAS (site code: PKN97) did not reveal any evidence for the pipe workshop, or examples of pipes contemporary with the period of manufacture on the site. However, the area of investigation was limited and was located some distance back from the Great Peter Street frontage (Bowsher, 1997).

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