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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54 Old Pye Street (17491809)

John Powell

Pipe making in Old Pye Street seems to date from at least 1749. In that year the surname Powell appeared for the first time against the poor rate assessment for the fourth from the east of eleven properties between Perkins Rents and Duck Lane (Fig 5). In the same year John Powell gave his address as Pye Street and his occupation as 'pipe maker' when he voted in the Westminster by-election (Osborn, 1981).

Fig 5  Extract from Horwood's map of 1792–9, locating 54 (formerly 53) Old Pye Street

John Powell was a member of an established pipe-making family. His father John, Senior is known only from his will, made in 1745 and proved on 24 March 1746 (PROB 11/753):

I, John Powell of the parish of St Margaret Westminster, pipe maker, being weak in body but of sound and disposing mind, memory and understanding, do for preventing disputes after my decease make and declare this to be my last will and testament in manner following. That is to say I give and bequeath unto my loving wife Mary Powell all my household goods, plate, rings, money, stock in trade and utensils used in my business of a pipe maker which I shall leave at my decease, together with my said trade and business aforesaid. To hold to her, her executors, administrators and assigns forever. And I so direct that my daughter Mary Powell be made free of the Company of Pipemakers at the expense of my said wife at the first or second court day after my decease. Also I give and bequeath to my two sons John Powell and George Powell all my wearing apparell and cloaths whatsoever, to be equally divided between them. And all the rest and residue of my estate whatsoever I give and bequeath unto my said wife Mary Powell, and I do hereby constitute and appoint my said wife executrix of this my last will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills by me howtofore made and do declare this to be my only last will and testament. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this twenty-seventh day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and forty five. John Powell. Signed, sealed, published and declared by the above as and for his last will and testament in the presence of Thomas Green.

Unfortunately the will does not tell us the location of Powell's pipe-making business. His wife Mary was granted the administration of the estate, but no evidence has been found to prove that she continued in the same trade, or that his daughter Mary achieved the freedom of the company. It seems more likely that it was his son John who continued in the family business.

The Powell family were contemporaries of Benjamin Turner of Great St Anne's Lane, and John, Senior or John, Junior probably made the armorial pipes marked IP that were found in association with Turner’s pipes at 18 Great Peter Street (see Appendix 1). 

In 1749 John Powell, Junior was one of eleven new tenants and ratepayers in the section of Old Pye Street between Perkins Rents and Duck Lane; in the previous year that part of the street was not rated, and prior to that (back to 1730) the rate books recorded a different set of occupants. It is likely therefore that there had been some redevelopment or wholesale rebuilding in 1748. Powell’s annual rent was assessed at £9 but he was described as 'poor' and until 1758 his contribution to the poor rate was only 9d annually, becoming more and more in arrears.

He was probably the pipe maker John Pownall of St Margaret's, Westminster who took an apprentice, Edward Bulling, in 1748 (Oswald 1975, 143). As an aside, Bulling was perhaps the son of an Edward Bullen, pipe maker of Pye Street, who was named as the father of an illegitimate child in 1749. The following account is from the bastardy deposition:

The examination of Susan Casey singlewoman taken upon oath this 15th December 1749

Who voluntarily saith that she is now pregnant of a Bastard Child or Children which on her body was Unlawfully begotten by Edward Bullen of Pye Street Westminster pipemaker who had Carnall knowledge of her body the 1st time in or about the month of January last at the House of Wm Barnett in Thieving Lane Westminster and several times afterwards. This Dependant further saith that the said Edward Bullen is the true and only father of the said Bastard Child or Children of which she is now Pregnant as aforesaid no other Person having had anything to do with her in begetting the same. And that the said Bastard Child or Children is or are likely to be born a Bastard or Bastards and to be Chargeable to the Parish of St Margaret Westminster. (Osborn, no date)

In 1759 a member of the Turner family (presumably related to the then recently-deceased Benjamin Turner of Great St Anne's Lane), replaced John Powell as ratepayer, and Powell's name disappeared from Westminster records. The parish register records the burial of a John Powell (perhaps the same man) on 28 September 1765.


From the outset, Turner (no christian name given) was described by the rate assessors as ‘poor’, and he (or she) soon fell into arrears. Turner occupied the Old Pye Street property until 1765 or 1766, at which time he/she also disappeared from the records. The name does not appear in the parish burial register at that time, suggesting that he/she might have moved out of the district. With this in mind, it might be significant that in the year 1766 all the tenants in nearby Pipemaker's Alley moved out as well (see Appendix 2).

It is possible that Turner relocated to Gravesend in Kent. Oswald's list includes a pipe maker by the name of Benjamin Turner who took an apprentice at Gravesend in 1784 (Oswald 1975, 176). Benjamin Turner was certainly living in Gravesend in 1774, when he made his will (PROB 11/1150). He died in 1787, and in accordance with his will the bulk of his estate went to his wife Hester. A small bequest of £10 was made to his brother William Turner, and the same sum to his niece Sarah Morgan, to be held in trust by her father Edward.

Edward Morgan was also a pipe maker, of Mile End in the parish of St Dunstan, Stepney, London. He was married to Benjamin Turner's sister Ann. His own will (PROB 11/1072), made in 1779, named his brothers-in-law Benjamin Turner (the pipe maker of Gravesend) and William Turner (carver and gilder of St Mary Le Bone Street, Golden Square, London) as executors. Although the evidence is circumstantial it seems likely that Benjamin Turner of Gravesend was the son of the Westminster pipe maker of the same name. Certainly, the parish register of St John the Evangelist, Westminster records the baptism of a Benjamin, son of Benjamin and Mary Turner, in 1730. The same couple also baptised sons named William in 1738 and 1739, a daughter Ann in 1731 and another daughter Anne in 1740. 

As far as can be determined from the rate books subsequent occupiers of 54 Old Pye Street were Samuel Hagus (1766), Walter Davidson (1775–7), William Coffield or Schoffield (1778–93) and William Bartlett (1795–8). None of these men are known to have been pipe makers.

John Harrison (Senior?)

In 1799 the pipe maker John Harrison (Senior?) took the house. His name appears occasionally in the records of the company, notably on 7 May 1799 when he fined for steward. John was possibly related to the pipe maker James Harrison of Great Peter Street (see 79 Great Peter Street). He was recorded as ratepayer only until 1801, at which time he was £4 7s in arrears. According to the rate assessor Harrison had 'gone', but it is possible that he died in the same year; the parish register recorded the burial of a John Harrison (not of this parish) on 16 July 1801. In 1801 and 1802 a John Harrison paid the rates on a house at the north end in New Pye Street. This could have been the pipe maker (assuming he was still alive), or his son of the same name. Note that in the same period the records of the company refer to a Jonathan Harrison at Horns Lane, Highgate.

The Tester family

The next occupant of the house in Old Pye Street was Jonathan Tester (1801), who was succeeded by James Tester in 1804 and possibly 1805. The Testers are well known as a family of pipe makers, although Jonathan does not seem to have been recorded previously. James was admitted to the company on 19 November 1799 and was elected steward on 25 March 1802. At that time he was living in St John’s Street (Clerkenwell or Shoreditch). On 23 January 1805 he signed the new bye-laws of the company as an assistant.

In 1804 Joseph Tester was also living in Pye Street, Westminster, according to company records. On 25 March of that year he was appointed auditor, having been admitted on 29 March of the previous year. He later became an assistant of the company, and was recorded as such in 1821.

John Harrison (Junior?)

In 1805 Holden's directory records a Harrison, pipe maker, at 54 Old Pye Street; this seems to have been the property occupied previously by the Tester family. The pipe maker was presumably John Harrison, Junior, who appears in company records for 1801 and 1804. In 1805 he gave Old Pye Street as his address when he stood as suretor for the victualler John Huskins, and again in 1809(?) when he performed the same service for George Beasley. There are no records of Harrison in Old Pye Street after 1809. During the period of his tenure he was not named as the ratepayer; In 1805 that was Thomas Yarnton, who was also responsible for the rate on the house next door and at least one other property in the same street.

For subsequent years it becomes increasingly difficult to identify the property in the rate books. However, no evidence has been found to suggest that pipe making continued at that address after 1809. Of course, by that time Old Pye Street was at the centre of one of London's most notorious slums. Eventually the buildings in that part of the street were demolished to make way for the construction (in 1862) of Rochester Buildings - a block of flats designed as 'model dwellings'. The block was the first of its kind to be built in Westminster and is still extant. It is unlikely that any evidence of the pipe-makers' workshop will have survived.

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