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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79 (later 86) Great Peter Street (17601825)

This workshop was occupied by a succession of pipe makers over a period of 65 years. It was located towards the west end of modern Great Peter Street, just to the west of its junction with New Peter Street (modern Chadwick Street) (Fig 6).

Fig 6  Extract from Horwood's map of 1792–9, locating 79 Great Peter Street

Robert and William Ridout

The house seems to have been built on a previously vacant plot in the early 1750s, on what was known then as New Peter Street, near the junction with Horn Court (Fig 6). The first occupier was Elizabeth Tate (1752), who is not known as a pipe maker. She remained there until about 1756, after which the property was unoccupied until 1760 when it was taken by a Mr. Ridout. This was Robert Ridout, a pipe maker who advertised in Mortimer's directory for 1763 (Wright 1991, 20). For the purpose of the poor rate assessment the house was valued at an annual rent of £8, incurring a rate of 2s 6d. This was an average value for the houses in that part of Peter Street.

Robert Ridout was responsible for the poor rate until 1766, during which time he got steadily into arrears, eventually owing £2 6s 8d. A William Ridout took over the house in 1766, at which time the arrears were settled.

The relationship between these two men is unknown. The International Genealogical Index records the baptism of a William Rydeout, the youngest of at least four children of Robert and Jane, on 22 June 1702 at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster. Another(?) Robert Rideout was recorded on 4 December 1709 when he and his wife Anne baptised their son James in St Martin-in-the-Fields. Ann Ridout of St Martin-in-the-Fields was recorded on 4 September 1716 when she took as an apprentice Ann, daughter of George Turner, pipe maker of St Margaret's, Westminster. Ann was described then as a widow and market woman.

William Ridout paid the poor rate on the Peter Street house until 1775. It is not known what happened to him after that date. However, a William Ridout is known to have been living in nearby Medway Street as late as 1829 (when he was excused payment of the poor rate on the grounds of poverty), and it seems likely that descendants of the pipe-making family continued to live in the area.

William and Joseph McKay

William Ridout was succeeded at the Peter Street house by William McKay. He paid the poor rate until Lady Day 1780, when Joseph McKay assumed the responsibility. A William McKay was born in Westminster in 1728, the son of Adam and Susanna. When Joseph voted in the election in 1780, he gave his occupation as pipe maker, of Peter Street.

James Harrison

The next occupant was James Harrison, who moved there in 1781 or 1782. He was a prominent pipe maker, who became an assistant of the company in 1784. Much is known about Harrison, thanks largely to research by Ron Dagnall (Dagnall 2002, 3; Dagnall, pers comm).

James Harrison was a native of Rainford in Lancashire. There is some uncertainty about his parentage and date of birth, but he was probably the son of Thomas Harrison (husbandman) and his second wife Rachell, and was baptised at Rainford Chapel on 4 August 1751. Thomas died in 1757, and in 1760 James (a poor child) was bound apprentice to the pipe maker James Burch (Birch), for the period of ten years.

In December 1771, having completed his apprenticeship, Harrison married Mary Ratcliffe in St Peter's Church, Liverpool. Nothing more is known of him until his appearance in Great Peter Street in 1781/82.

In 1784 Harrison became an assistant of the company and in December of that year he took Francis Cant as an apprentice for the term of seven years (Hammond 2004, 26). As an aside, Francis subsequently became a successful pipe maker in his own right. He and his wife Rebecca established a business in Whitechapel (in east London) which existed until at least 1837, and in 1805 he signed the new bye-laws of the company as an assistant. Francis was probably the son of Stephen and Elizabeth Cant, who were near neighbours of James Harrison. From at least 1772 until 1799 (when Elizabeth died) the Cants paid the rates on a house and two adjoining tenement buildings on the western corner of Great Peter Street and Blue Anchor Yard/Court, close to 79 Great Peter Street. It is known from Elizabeth's will (PROB 11/1340) that she had a son called Francis, and the names and estimated ages of some of his children recorded in the same document match those of the children of Francis and Rebecca Cant of Whitechapel. The name Stephen Cant also occurs in rate books for nearby Pipemaker's Alley (see Great St Anne's Lane) for the period 1766–80. It is not known whether Stephen was a pipe maker, but according to her will his widow Elizabeth earned her living as a chandler. Elizabeth's daughter Charlotte was married to a Joseph Wild, and there was certainly a pipe maker of that name living in Featherstone Street, City Road in 1824 (Proceedings of the Old Bailey).

While living at 79 Great Peter Street it is possibly that James Harrison also paid the rates on a house in Pye Street, north (1784–85).

In 1786 Harrison took out a Sun Assurance policy on his property at 79 Great Peter Street (Guildhall Library ms 11936 vol 337, p 320):

Household goods in dwelling house (£80)

Apparel (£50)

Plate, china, glass and books (£3)

Utensils and stock in warehouse behind (£167)

In 1788 he was named as a minor beneficiary (five guineas) and appointed as an executor in the will of his friend George Benson, pipe maker of Grays Inn Lane, London (Heard 1999, 57). Benson was also a native of Rainford, Lancashire, having been baptised there in February 1752. The earliest record of his presence in London is from a trade directory of 1785. It is possible that the two friends moved to London at the same time, as journeyman pipe makers. It is even possible that Harrison gave Benson one of his pipe moulds, as suggested by a pipe bowl (type AO27, dated 1780–1820) found in Westminster by Colin Tatman (Fig 7).

Fig 7  A pipe bearing the marks of George Benson and (perhaps) James Harrison, from the Thames foreshore at Westminster (drawing by Colin Tatman)

Another pipe, possibly made by Harrison himself, was found during the MoLAS excavation at 18 Great Peter Street (see Great St Anne's Lane). It has a plain bowl of type OS12 (1730–80) and is therefore slightly earlier than the example above. It has the initials IH on the sides of the heel, although the H might have been re-cut from an original W (see Appendix 1, number 10).

In 1795 Harrison moved production to a new workshop on the opposite side of the road at 11 Great Peter Street. The property at 79 Great Peter Street remained unoccupied until 1798 although Harrison still had an interest in it, because he continued to pay the poor rate.

The Webb family

On Lady Day 1798 the responsibility for the poor rate was assumed by William Webb, who was succeeded by Samuel Webb (1799–1802) and Paul Webb (1802–14). The Webb family of pipe makers was prominent in London and Westminster for many years; there were pipe makers of that name from the late 17th century until the second half of the 19th century (Oswald 1975, 147–9).

Little is known about William Webb. At the same time that he was named as ratepayer at 79 Great Peter Street (1798–9) he was probably also the licensee of the White Hart, at the east end of Market Street. His suretor for two successive years was John Ward; in 1798 Ward gave his occupation as pipe maker but in the following year he was recorded as a backmaker, making wooden casks used in brewing. After 1799 William Webb disappeared from Westminster records, although someone of that name continued to play an active role in the company; a William Webb was nominated for the post of renter warden of the company on 25 March 1800 (Guildhall Library ms 3601) and was elected an assistant on 7 January 1801 (Colin Tatman, pers comm).

Even less is known about his successor, Samuel Webb, who took over the property in 1799. He was possibly the Samuel, son of Samuel and Ann Webb, who was baptised on 26 July 1770 at St Margaret's, Westminster. His name does not appear in the records of the company, and he does not appear in any of the published lists of London pipe makers.

From 1802 the property was occupied by Paul Webb. Paul seems to have been at a number of Westminster addresses prior to that date. In 1788 he was named as the ratepayer for 17 Strutton Ground. This was the fourth house on the east side of the street, north of its junction with Old Pye Street. In the same year he gave that as his address when he voted in a Westminster election. He took over the house from his brother James, who had paid the rates during the period 1785–88. James probably then relocated to Hungerford Market, in the parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster; he was certainly there by 1808, when he and brother Paul were named as beneficiaries in the will of their brother George (also of Hungerford Market, and master of the company in 1800). There is no evidence that pipes were manufactured at 17 Strutton Ground, although Paul Webb did give his occupation as tobacco pipe maker in the poll book of 1788. However, unlike most of the properties described in this report, 17 Strutton Ground was not obviously occupied by a long succession of pipe makers; when Paul Webb vacated in 1789 he was replaced as ratepayer by a Mary Hollis (not known as a pipe maker), who also had the house next door.

On 4 August 1795 Paul Webb became an assistant of the company and in the same year he was named as ratepayer for a house in Great (Broad) Sanctuary, overlooking Westminster Abbey. This house was assessed at an annual rent of £21, and was one of the largest properties in the Sanctuary. Paul was still there on 17 July 1798 when he acted as suretor for the victualler John Plant of the King's Head in James Street, but moved out later in the same year. Soon after that the houses in Broad Sanctuary were cleared away to create an open area between the Cathedral and the Guildhall.

Paul Webb was the ratepayer at 79 Great Peter Street from 1802 to 1814, advertising at that address in Holden’s directory for the period 1805–11. However, when he was named in the will of his brother George, in November 1808, his address was given as Strutton Ground. This suggests that he did not live 'over the shop' at that time. By March 1814, when he wrote his own will, he was resident in Great Peter Street.

The date of Paul Webb's death is not known. His will (PROB 11/1570) was proved in June 1815, and contains some interesting detail and several useful pieces of information:

This is the last will and testament of me, Paul Webb of Great Peter Street in the parish of St John the Evangelist, Westminster, in the county of Middlesex, tobacco pipe maker. I direct that my just debts, funeral expenses and the costs and charges of proving this my will be fully paid and satisfied. I desire to be buried in St Margaret’s churchyard as near as [???] to my late friend Mr Gustoe(?) and that a gravestone with a suitable inscription be placed over my grave.

I give unto my faithful servant Mary Lawrence now living with me the sum of thirty pounds, payable in three installments. viz, ten pounds part thereof within a fortnight after my decease, ten pounds other part thereof within twelve months after my decease, and ten pounds remainder thereof within two years after my decease.

I give to Mrs Ann Robinson, wife of Mr John Robinson of New Peter Street, five guineas to be paid to her within one month after my decease.

I give to my apprentice Richard Temple five guineas for mourning, to be laid out at the discretion of my brother James Webb.

I give to the Society of College Youths the sum of two guineas to be paid to them on the day of my funeral, provided they ring a funeral peal for me on that day in the steeple of the church of Saint Martin in the Fields. To the ringers of Saint Margaret’s I give the sum of one pound one shilling, to be expended on the day of my funeral at the Blue Boar Head, King Street, immediately after the ringing of my funeral peal in the steeple of that church.

And as to all the rest, residue and remainder of my estate and effects of what nature or kind soever the same may be, I give, devise and bequeath the same unto my brother James Webb, of Hungerford Market in the said parish of Saint Martin in the Fields in the county of Middlesex, tobacco pipe maker, to hold the same unto and to the use of the said James Webb, his heirs and assigns forever.

And I do nominate, constitute and appoint my said brother James Webb to be executor of this my will, hereby revoking all former wills by me at any time made. I declare this to be my last will and testament, in witness whereof I have hereunto subscribed my hand and set my seal this eighteenth day of March 1814. Paul Webb. Signed, sealed, published and declared by the said testator as and for his last will and testament in the presence of us who at his request, in his presence and in the presence of each other have subscribed our names as witnesses thereto. James Whitby, Queen Head, Marsham Street / Stuart(?) Stephenson, Great Queen Street, Westminster / John Rose, his mark.

Proved at London 8th June 1815 before the worshipful Samuel Rush [???] Doctor of Laws and Surrogate, by the oath of James Webb, the brother and sole executor to whom administration was granted, having been first sworn duly to administer.

Since there is no mention of a wife or children, it seems likely that Paul Webb never married. Thus, his brother James was his principal beneficiary. John Robinson of New Peter Street was perhaps the pipe maker of that name living in New Pye Street in 1829, at the time of his son's baptism (see the List of pipe makers). This is the only known reference to Webb's apprentice, Richard Temple

Henry Powell

In 1815 the Great Peter Street property was taken by the pipe maker Henry Powell and his wife Sarah. He might have been related to an established family of Westminster pipe makers: John Powell, Senior and John Powell, Junior (of Old Pye Street), are discussed elsewhere (54 Old Pye Street).

Henry Powell was born circa 1787, and seems to have been admitted to the company in 1809 (Guildhall Library ms 3601). It is possible that he married Sarah Hutt on 13 April 1806 at St Bride's, Fleet Street, London (International Genealogical Index). Before moving to Westminster the pipe maker was certainly living in the east London parish of St Leonard's, Shoreditch; at least two of his children were baptised there:

William, born 6 September 1809, baptised 18 May 1812

John Izzard, born 29 February 1812, baptised 18 May 1812

On 14 April 1816 Henry and Sarah had a daughter Charlotte baptised at St John the Evangelist, Westminster. They had at least one other daughter, Mary Hannah, but the record of her baptism has not been found.

Henry was apparently quite a respected Westminster citizen. In 1818 he sat as a juror on the Panel of Annoyance for the City and Liberty of Westminster. Between 1818 and 1824 he acted as a suretor in relation to victuallers’ licence applications on 12 separate occasions, for 10 different victuallers. He seems to have had a close association with James Winter, licensee of the Elephant and Castle public house in Great Peter Street. Not only did Powell stand surety for him twice, but the two men cast their votes together in the Westminster election of 1819. Powell also voted in the election of the following year.

Although listed at 86 (formerly 79) Great Peter Street in Pigot's directory for the period 1826–1828, Henry Powell's name was removed from the rate book in 1825, when he moved to Old Pye Street. It is possible that he continued to make pipes at number 86, although the new ratepayer was Thomas Thyer, a butcher who had been responsible for the rate on the property next door since 1819. Thyer's name appears next to those of Henry Powell and James Winter in the poll book for 1819.

Thomas Thyer's involvement with the property was a short one, for the rate assessor noted that he was gone March 1830, not known where, insolvent. The 1841 census reveals that he was then living in Medway Street, aged 60. Coincidentally, his son Henry Thyer, aged 20 (who lived at the same address), was a pipe maker. After Thyer's disappearance from 86 Great Peter Street the rates were paid by Thomas Randall (1830–35), who was responsible for a number of other properties in the area and was probably a tallow chandler, and Richard Moore, a broker (1835 until at least 1841).

Henry Powell died at Old Pye Street at the age of 40, and was buried on 12 November 1827. He had made his will on 3 October of that year (PROB 11/1754). It is interesting for a number of reasons, not least because it is the only known will of a Westminster pipe maker that refers to specific items of pipe-making equipment:

This is the last will and testament of Henry Powell, pipe maker [of] Pie Street in the parish of St Margaret’s Westminster. I, Henry Powell, being of sound mind and memory do hereby make my will as follows. I give and bequeath to my lawful wife Sarah Powell all my household furniture, goods and chattels. And also my shop of working tools, stock in trade of every description I leave to my lawful wife Sarah Powell for her own use. I give and bequeath to my son William Powell my silver watch, seal and key, my watch, seal and key to be given to my son William in three months after my decease. And be it understood when my son William receives the before mentioned watch he, my son William Powell, is to return to his mother Sarah Powell the silver watch. Also I request to be given to my son William Powell when at the age of twenty one years, one score of grates and also one pair of fifteens molds and one pair of eighteens molds for pipe making, but not with intent to set up in opposition to his mother Sarah Powell. I give and bequeath to my daughter Mary Hannah Green a feather bed which is now in the upper room, this bed to be delivered to my daughter Mary Hannah Green in six months after my decease. And respecting my wearing apparel, I wish it to be divided between my sons William and John Izzard Powell as my wife thinks proper. I request the watch as was left to my son John Izzard Powell by his uncle to be given to my son John at the same time my son William receives his watch. Furthermore I nominate and appoint my lawful wife Sarah Powell executrix to this my last will and testament, this third day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty seven. Henry Powell. Witness Joseph Bond and William Walker.

Proved at London 4th April 1829 before the worshipful Charles Coote, Doctor of Laws and Surrogate by the oath of Sarah Powell, widow, the relict, the sole executrix to whom administration was granted having been first sworn duly to administer.

No evidence has been found to indicate that either Sarah or her son William continued in the pipe-making trade. The shop (workshop?) referred to might have been at 86 Great Peter Street; there is certainly nothing in the will (or any other evidence) to suggest that Powell was making pipes in Old Pye Street. The fifteens and eighteens moulds that he mentions were for making pipes of different lengths. The meaning of the one score (20) of grates is not known, although it seems unlikely, given the number involved, that these were fire grates such as would have been used in a kiln. It is not clear why Henry should have bequeathed his son pipe-making equipment when he obviously did not want him to set up in business on his own account.

The demise of Henry Powell seems to have marked the end of pipe making at 86 Great Peter Street. However, he was not the last Powell to make pipes in that street: a pipe dated circa 1850 has been found with the mark P Powell Peter Street Westminster on the stem (Colin Tatman, pers comm). Fragments of two other early 19th-century pipes, also from the Tatman collection, are marked with the initials I (or J) P on the spur and the inscription Powell/Westminster along the stem (Fig 8). Perhaps these was made by Henry's son John Izzard Powell, although if so the location of his workshop has yet to be discovered.

Fig 8  Pipe fragments made by I (or J) Powell of Westminster, from the Thames foreshore at Westminster (drawings by Colin Tatman)

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