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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In 1996 the writer, then working for the Museum of London Archaeology Service (MoLAS), examined a large group of clay tobacco pipes that had been discovered recently on an archaeological site at 18 Great Peter Street, Westminster (Grainger, 1996). It was apparent immediately that the group was of some significance; it was composed mainly of distinctive armorial pipes, of 18th-century date, most of which had been produced in the same limited number of moulds. Many of the pipes were marked with the makerís initials, BT. The presence of a number of wasters (kiln rejects) and some kiln debris suggested that the material had been discarded from a nearby pipe-makerís workshop.

Documentary research, using readily available sources such as rate books, poll books and parish registers, led to the identification of the maker BT as Benjamin Turner. It proved also that Turnerís house and workshop was located in St Annís Street, close to the archaeological site (see Great St Anneís Lane).

During the course of the documentary research it became clear that the same sources contained the names of many other pipe makers working in Westminster. With the aid of a grant from the City of London Archaeological Trust (CoLAT) the research was expanded, with the objective of identifying all the pipe makers (and the locations of their workshops) in the combined parishes of St Margaret and St John the Evangelist, Westminster (Fig 1). The model for this parish-based approach was the (then recently published) account of the clay pipe industry in Newington, Southwark (Tatman, 1994). The Westminster project has continued sporadically ever since, as additional sources of information have been identified or become available on the Internet, and the results of the study are presented for the first time in this report.

The report opens with a brief account of the history and topography of the two parishes, and an attempt to place the local clay pipe industry within its economic context (Historical background). This is followed by a discussion of the origins of the industry in Westminster and a summary of what is known about the pipe makers of St Margaret's parish in the 17th century (The origins of the Westminster clay pipe industry). The bulk of the report is concerned with the evidence for pipe making in the 18th- and 19th centuries. At least 10 workshops have been identified as a result of this project and each is described on a separate page, arranged in chronological order according to their earliest known date of operation. The pipe makers who occupied them are discussed (again in chronological order), with as much biographical detail as is known. The Conclusions of the report are followed by an alphabetical List of pipe makers. The report concludes with various Appendices, Acknowledgements and a Bibliography.

Fig 1  Map of modern Westminster with parish boundaries superimposed (black lines)

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

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