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 origins of the Westminster clay pipe industry

The clay tobacco pipe industry in England began in the 1570s and until about 1650 the London region was the principal area of manufacture (Oswald 1960, 2). Westminster seems to have played a key role from at least the beginning of the 17th century. Why this should have been is not yet clear. Tatman, in his study of the clay pipe industry in the parish of Newington, Southwark (south of the River Thames), suggests three main reasons for the development of the industry there:

Southwark was already an industrial district, and in particular was home to many of the noxious trades such as pottery and glass making, tanning and lime burning

the existing pottery industries of Southwark employed the same raw materials and similar processes to the clay pipe industry

there was an ample supply of a variety of fuels (such as wood, coal, faggots and tan-turf), some of which were used by the existing industries and others that were produced as by-products of those industries (Tatman 1994, 12)

Other factors that favoured the clay pipe industry in Southwark were its riverside wharves (since the pipe clay, mostly coming from Dorset, would have been transported by boat) and an abundant water supply provided by its many streams.

In contrast, Westminster was not apparently a great centre of manufacture in the 17th century. There was an important brewery and a sugar bakery on Millbank at that time, and brewing and distilling would later become two of Westminster's major industries (Watson 1993, 109). 17th-century wharves between the Palace of Westminster and the Horse Ferry did provide the town with good access to the river. Also, there was a ready water supply from the various branches of the Tyburn, and presumably Tothill Fields was a source of wood for fuel.

Apart from Westminster and Southwark, the main areas of clay pipe production in the London area in the 17th century were Stepney (east of the City of London) and districts on the periphery of the City, such as Aldgate, Cripplegate and Spitalfields. Generally, the unsavoury trades were excluded from the City (by custom, and occasional legislation), and beyond the City boundary the eastern districts were favoured so that the prevailing westerly winds carried the polluted air away from the City. Westminster, lying south west of London, would not therefore have been an obvious location for the expanding clay pipe industry.

It might be argued that one of the factors which contributed to the development of the industry in Westminster was that parts of St Margaret's parish were among the poorest districts in and around London; these were, almost without exception, the areas where clay pipe manufacture became established. However, as has been discussed above (Historical background), in the early 17th century the worst area of Westminster was the Sanctuary, adjacent to the Abbey, and the evidence does not suggest that this was a hive of industry at that time. Perhaps the pipe kilns were located on the edge of the town, towards the largely unpopulated area of Tothill Fields where fuel and water were available.

Whatever the reasons, it is clear that the industry was well-established in Westminster by the early 17th century and that local pipe makers were among the first to try to introduce some organisation and control of the (still relatively new) industry. There are several published accounts of the formation of the pipe-makers' company, including those by Woodman (1969), Walker (1971) and Tatman (1994). The origins of the company were complex and need not be repeated here except where relevant to the pipe makers of Westminster. 

There is some evidence that a monopoly on the manufacture of pipes existed in 1601, but the first serious attempt to control the industry was a charter of 5 October 1619, granted to the Tobacco Pipe Makers of Westminster in the County of Middlesex. Although this was not a City of London company it had rights throughout England and Wales; only members were allowed to make pipes, and the company's officers were authorised to search premises for illegally imported pipes. In fact, the company owed its formation to, and was financed by, a group of pipe-clay monopolists who procured the charter in order to further their own interests. These men became the first masters of the company. Another of the monopolists, Philip Foote (who had been granted his monopoly in 1618), was one of the company's first wardens. The officers of the company (a master, four wardens and 12 assistants) together with 19 other men  named in the charter of 1619, are listed by Atkinson and Oswald (1969). Presumably a large proportion of those men were Westminster pipe makers, but this can not be confirmed at present.

The first company was short lived, but a second company of the same name was established by charter on 4 December 1634. The new charter was granted to 24 men (also listed by Atkinson and Oswald), the names of some of whom appeared on the original charter. Once again, the pipe-clay monopolists were instrumental in obtaining the charter, on the grounds that some of their members had developed a method of firing pipes using coal rather than wood (the latter becoming increasingly in short supply). One of the petitioners, and perhaps one of the men who had developed the new firing technique was Richard Coxe, who (according to Atkinson and Oswald) was a Westminster pipe maker, although his precise location is unknown. The petitioners agreed to provide financial backing and to teach the pipe makers how to use coal instead of wood in their kilns; in return the pipe makers agreed to buy their pipe clay from the monopolists. Despite this apparently promising start, the second company was dismantled in 1639.

A third company was born on 20 April 1663, with the title of the Tobacco Pipe Makers of the Cities of London and Westminster and the Kingdom of England and Dominion of Wales. Later in that year the new company was granted City Company status, without livery, by the court of Aldermen. The officers of the new company are listed by Walker (1971) and among the 15 assistants named in the charter there was at least one man, John Boughton, who is now known (as a result of this study) to have been a Westminster pipe maker. A manuscript in the collections of the City of Westminster Archives Centre (CoWAC) refers to Boughton and two other Westminster pipe makers:

Be it known to all by these presents that I John Boughton of the parish of St Margaret Westminster, Middlesex, pipemaker, and James Worcus of the same [parish] pipemaker, are held and firmly bound to the venerable and distinguished John Exton, doctor of laws and [?principal officer] of those learned gentlemen the Dean and Chapter of the collegiate church of St Peter Westminster, in one hundred pounds of good and lawful money of England payable to the same venerable man or his attorney, executors and administrators or [?]. To which payment, well and faithfully to be made, we bind ourselves and each other as well as, in total and jointly, our [?], executors and administrators. Sealed and dated 16 July 1661, 13 Charles II.

(CoWAC ms 10/181; translated from the Latin by Tony Dyson of MoLAS)

James (Jacob) Worcus appears in Oswald's list of pipe makers (Oswald 1975, 148), with an apparent reference to his death in 1663, although the original source of this information is not stated.

The reverse of the manuscript bears an additional, undated text, in English, which refers to John Boughton's wife Bridgett and her duties as administratrix of the estate of her late first husband, the pipe maker Richard Bassett. The first part of the text reads:

The condition of this obligation is such that if Bridgett Bassett alias Boughton (now wife of ye within bounden John Boughton) ye Relict and Administratrix (with the last will and testament annexed) of Richard Bassett's goods, chattels and debts late whilst he lived of the parish of St Margaret's Westminster in Middlesex deceased, do make or cause to be made a true and perfect inventory of all and singular the goods, chattels and debts of the said deceased which have shall or may come to her hands and possession or knowledge.

The document goes on to define further Bridgett's duties, which included exhibiting the inventory of her late husband's effects in the Consistory Court for Westminster, at or before the feast of St Michael the Archangel next. Unfortunately, it does not give any indication of the nature of those effects.

Richard Bassett died in 1657 and the St Margaret's parish register records his burial on 8 May of that year. His Last Will and Testament was proved by the Royal Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster on 16 July 1661, the same date as the Boughton/Worcus contract:

In the Name of God Amen. I Richard Bassett of Westm in the County of Middx Pipe Maker being at Present visited with sickness, But of a Sound mind and memory (praised be God) yet knowing the uncertainty and Shortness of mans life do make and Ordeine this my last Will and Testament in manner and form following. First of all I do wholy resigned give and bequeath my Soul into ye hands of Almighty God, hoping to be Saved by the sole Merritts of my Blessed Saviour and Redeemer Christ Jesus, and my body to the Earth from whence it came to be decently buried. And for such Personall Goods as it hath pleased God to send me and bless me withall I do Give and bequeath as followeth, first I give and bequeath unto my Daughter Bridgett the summe of Forty pounds of good and Lawful money of England, which money I leave with my wife to be at her disposall untill that my said Daughter be of Age, if so be that my wife shall Continue a widow during that time. But if in case she Marry I do appoint Corben Farmer and John Etherington of Westm to take care that this money be reserved and put to a good use for my said Daughter. But if it shall so happen that my said Daughter shall dye then my desire is that Bridgett my wife shall possess and enjoy the said forty pounds. And as for the rest of my goods moneys and debts which is or may grow due unto me I leave it all unto my wife. In witness whereof I hereunto set my hand and Seal this sixteenth day of April 1657.

Sealed and delivered in the presence of (the mark of) James Charlton, (the mark of) James (?)Howell, Richd Charlton

A Richard Bassett, pipe maker, is listed by Oswald (1960) for the period 166163 and is supposedly named in connection with the charter of 1663. However, the list of signatories to the charter published by Walker (1971) does not include his name. Confusing the issue further is a second reference to Richard Bassett (Oswald 1975, 132) which refers to his death in 1663.

One of the executors of Bassett's will, John Etherington, might well have been the pipe maker John Hetherington of Westminster, whose own will (drawn up in 1660) was proved 18 July 1665 by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PROB 11/317). His principal beneficiary was his wife and executrix Margery, followed by his three children Mary, John and Anne. Unfortunately the will does not give Hetherington's precise address or the nature of his effects. The other executor, Corben Farmer, is not known as a pipe maker.

A few other Westminster pipe makers of the late 17th- and early 18th centuries are to be found in Oswald's list (Oswald 1975, 130):

Phanuel Phelps, of St Margaret's, Westminster, who married Margaret Michell at St Martin-in-the-Fields on 4 May 1667 (Oswald 1975, 143; International Genealogical Index)

Francis Roberts, Senior, who signed the Oath of Allegiance in 1696 as a journeyman. In 1704 he was recorded as a father (presumably to Francis, Junior) in St Margaret's, Westminster (Oswald 1975, 143)

Francis Roberts, Junior, who was apprenticed to his father in 1713. In 1733 he took an apprentice, Abe Venner, in Cripplegate (Oswald 1975, 143)

George Turner, who is named as an apprentice in 1694 and who might have been the same Westminster pipe maker whose daughter Ann was apprenticed to a market woman, Ann Ridout, in 1716 (Oswald 1975, 147; Gibbons, no date)

Finally, the pipe maker Anthony Sidwell, of St Margaret's, Westminster made his will on 24 December 1717, and it was proved at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 26 August 1718 (PROB 11/565). Sidwell's address is not given, and apart from monetary bequests there is no indication of the nature of his effects. His wife Anne was nominated as executrix and his brother Jonathan and various nephews and nieces were the principal beneficiaries.

Clearly, the documentary evidence for the early period of pipe manufacture in St Margaret's, Westminster is slight. The names of only a few pipe makers can be gleaned, and the locations of their workshops are unknown. Fortunately, the records of the later 18th century and 19th century are more comprehensive, and they provide a much fuller picture of Westminster's clay pipe industry, as will be shown in the following sections of this report.

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