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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The main objectives of this study were to compile a list of pipe makers living and working in the heart of Westminster, and to identify the locations of their workshops. It is felt that this report has, to some extent, fulfilled those aims. Hopefully it provides a basis for further research and will be updated as new evidence comes to light. The principal conclusions of the report are as follows:

The study has identified 133 pipe makers, many of whom do not appear in any of the lists that have been published previously. The list of pipe makers is probably fairly comprehensive for the midĖlate 19th century (thanks largely to the census returns), but is less complete for the earlier periods of manufacture when documentary records were fewer and less informative.

The origins of the clay pipe industry in Westminster are obscure and it is not clear at present why it became one of the principal areas of manufacture in the London region.

It is likely that the parishes of St Margaret and St John the Evangelist were the main areas of pipe production within what became the City of Westminster. This certainly seems to have been the case in 1851, according to census data presented by Cannon (Cannon 2004, 11). However, for the earlier periods this will remain uncertain until such time as the neighbouring Westminster parishes of St James (Piccadilly), St George (Hanover Square) and St Martin-in-the-Fields have been evaluated.

At least 10 pipe-making workshops have been identified, mostly located in and around Great Peter Street. This was one of the principal thoroughfares and commercial centres in this part of Westminster. It is likely that these workshops represent only the more successful ventures, and that other (as yet unidentified) workshops existed in the back streets and courts.

Most of the master pipe makers identified as a result of this project were known previously, if only by name. However, not all of them were understood to have worked in Westminster. Many of them were active members of the tobacco pipe makersí company.

Most of their workshops remained in use for long periods, with some (54 Old Pye Street, 79 Great Peter Street and 4 Old Rochester Row) lasting for more than 60 years. Almost all of the workshops were occupied by successions of pipe makers. This was a common feature of the industry and has been noted many times before (see for example The Tappin family, of Blackfriars in the City of London).

The study provides some evidence for regional migration of pipe makers, with James Harrison (a native of Lancashire) being a good example. There are also many examples of local movements, within Westminster itself and the wider London region.

The degree to which pipe-making families were inter-connected by marriage has been discussed previously (for example, in Tatman, 1994), and the Westminster study has thrown up many examples of this particular aspect of the industry. Also, there is some evidence for  social relationships between pipe makers, as shown for example by the number of occasions when they acted as executors of the wills of their fellow tradesmen.

Another apparent association that has been highlighted was between pipe makers and publicans, with the former often acting as suretors in the matter of victuallers' licence applications. Since public houses were one of the principal outlets for pipes this was presumably good business practice.

The report does little to further the study of the tools and processes of pipe manufacture. Henry Powell's will contains a rare reference to pipe-making equipment, but generally the wills have proved something of a disappointment in this respect.

Similarly, there is little evidence for the actual pipes that were produced in Westminster. The group of armorials from Benjamin Turnerís kiln is notable and of great significance. However, there are remarkably few pipes from archaeological excavations in Westminster. In fact, the comprehensive MoLAS database contains only 173 pipes bearing makersí marks from excavations in the whole of the modern City of Westminster, and of these 145 were from the SAL94 (Benjamin Turner) group (Jacqui Pearce, pers comm). Hopefully, now that the locations of the major workshops are known, greater emphasis will be placed on recovering assemblages from sites close to areas of production. Of course, other examples of Westminster pipes will have been found elsewhere in London but at the time of writing (February 2006) these have not been assessed. Also, although there have been many finds from the Thames foreshore it is likely that only a small percentage of these have been published. The writer would be grateful therefore for any information on Westminster pipes or pipe makers.


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