Back in August 2016 we told you all about the Atkinson notebooks (LIVNP 2012.06.216-232) – 17 small hard backed books containing drawings and information on pipes from various parts of the country, produced by one of the leading lights in clay pipe research, David Atkinson .
Over the next few days, we hope to be uploading the last of these notebooks as PDFs so that they will be available to researchers. These really are a mine of information with details of bowl forms and marks as well as possible attributions for the pipes themselves.
What wasn’t apparent to us at the Archive, when we first started scanning these notebooks, was how close the collaboration had been between David Atkinson and the other leading light in pipe research, Adrian Oswald . We were aware that these two titans of the clay pipe world had regularly collaborated with each other but we had not appreciated that these notebooks had clearly been passed between them.
On some of the pages, particularly in the London books, there are annotations in the unmistakable hand writing of Adrian Oswald. Adrian adds comments about the attribution of some of the marks and notes where other examples are known.
We now have instant access to documents and can send and receive messages from the comfort of our own home with just the push of a button, but in the days before the internet the only way information could be exchanged was via the post. It is clear that David sent at least some of his notebooks to Adrian for comment in the same way as he did to one of our Trustees, David Higgins, when he was compiling his PhD thesis on the Broseley pipe industry in Shropshire.
Both David Atkinson and Adrian Oswald were excellent record keepers and both men kept all the letters they were sent. We are lucky enough to now have these letters in our collection, preserving both sides of the conversation. They make for fascinating reading giving us insights into the lives and interests of these two great researchers outside of the world of pipes as well as providing a mine of valuable unpublished information.
It is possible that more connections will come to light as we continue to process the Atkinson Archive, as there are also clear references to the Elkins Collection, another substantial and important group of pipes from London that we now hold. What else will we discover?
The Pipe Archive is very pleased to have recently acquired a small group of pipes from the Museum of English Rural Life, that had previously been in the possession of the potter Mary Wondrausch, OBE.
Mary (1923-2016) was born in Chelsea. She began life as a watercolour artist, but turned her hand to potting when she was in her 40s. She trained as a potter at Farnham School of Art and the West Surrey College of Art and Design, opening her own pottery workshop in Godalming in 1974 and then moved it to her own home, Brickfields, near Guildford, Surrey in 1984. Mary died, aged 93, in 2016.
The collection of pipes, which Mary used for inspiration, had originally been deposited with the Museum of English Rural Life, however, they felt that the Pipe Archive would be a more suitable home. The Museum have retained eight pieces, but the rest – some 43 pipe bowls – are now in the Archive’s possession (LIVNP 2018.01).
The majority of the pipes appear to have been dug, probably from a bottle dump, and are mostly “as dug” and unwashed. Most of the types are pipes that date from 1870-1930 and they are mainly types that are typical of London and the South East, which is where Mary was working. They do not all appear to be from one source since there is one unmarked eighteenth-century fragment with glue adhering to the bowl suggesting that it may have been part of another collection at one stage. It is quite possible that Mary may have added to the group herself since one of the fragments is a late eighteenth-century fluted bowl with the moulded initials MB on the side of the spur. This particular fragment can be attributed to the Guildford maker Moses Baker, who took his freedom in 1762 and died in 1794. This is the only fragmentary bowl in the group and may well be something that Mary found locally.
The group includes designs typical of the period such as fluted bowls, basket weave, thorn design, eagle claw and clasped hand; as well as some representing popular figures of the day such as John Bull and Bill Cody. Other designs include sporting themes, such as a boot and football, Irish and Scottish designs, and one imported pipe – a socketed pipe from France made by Gambier.
The group also includes some pipes that commemorate organisations such as trade unions, the Masons and the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (RAOB) – all popular late nineteenth-century decorative motifs. These include two interesting examples, which are worth considering in more detail.
The first is a very heavy Irish style bowl with moulded milling and has two figures on either side of the bowl – one sailor and one soldier. Along the stem, which is broken, is the incuse lettering A & N…./…C S L. This stands for the ARMY & NAVY CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY LIMITED, an organisation which was founded in 1871 by a group of army and navy officers. The aim was to be able to supply goods to its members at the lowest prices. The Co-operative was originally housed in a distillery premises in Victoria Street, London, which was leased from Vickers and Co. They began by selling groceries but by 1873 had added stationery, fancy goods, a chemist, tailoring as well as a gun department. The stores continued to grow and increasingly larger premises were being sort. By the 1930 they had a number of store locations in London as well as Plymouth and had even ventured overseas with stores in Paris and Leipzig as well as stores in Mumbai, New Dehli, Karachi and Calcutta (now Kolkota).
The outbreak of the Great War resulted in a dramatic fall in sales, but this was slightly offset by a contract from the War Office. The society was incorporated in to a limited company – Army and Navy Stores Limited – in 1934.
The second pipe of note is marked with the lettering AOFB in relief moulded lettering on either side of the bowl above a beer mug. AOFB stands for the ANCIENT ORDER OF FROTH BLOWERS. This was British charitable organisation that was in operation from 1924-1931. It was founded by Bert Temple, an ex-soldier and silk merchant, initially with the aim of raising £100 for children’s charities. Whilst raising funds the organisation also aimed to “foster the noble art and gentle and healthy pastime of froth blowing amongst gentlemen of leisure and ex-soldiers”. The idea was to meet regularly in pubs and clubs to enjoy “beer, beef and baccy”. The 5-shilling membership fee entitled members to a pair of silver enamelled cuff links and a membership booklet and card. This membership also entitled them to blow the froth off any members’ beer, or a non-member if they weren’t looking! The organisation’s motto was “lubrication in moderation”.
The organisation folded with the death of its founder in 1931, but during the almost 7 years they had existed they had managed to raise many tens of thousands of pounds from its almost 700,000 strong membership, to fund cots for hospitals, outings for invalid children, toys and clothing and even roof garden provision in St Marylebone slum area re-generation.
There are a number of pipes in the group with moulded makers’ marks including GROUT & WILLIAMS, C CROP of London, GAMBIER PARIS and a Masonic pipe with the initials IB on the spur. There is also one stamped pipe amongst Mary’s collection. This is a plain spur bowl with an incuse stamp facing the smoker reading FULLER / UXBRIDGE. This is almost certainly a product of J Fuller who is recorded as a maker in Uxbridge from 1845-1846.
This is certainly a very interesting group of pipes and one that makes a very welcome addition to the Pipe Archive’s collections.
In the nineteenth century the French manufacturers, such as Fiolet and Gambier, were masters at creating ornate figural pipes. Often these pipes had coloured enamels applied to the white pipe clay – a characteristic that is especially common on French clay pipes, but never found on the English ones. Over time, and as a result of continually being smoked, the pipe clay itself discoloured, but the coloured enamels stayed as bright and as vibrant as when they were applied so that they stood out in strong contrast with the background. Some of these French pipes were very intricate, with lots of undercutting in the designs that required the use of a more elaborate multi-part mould rather than the usual mould with two halves that was used in England.
A number of these French pipes were of morbid or deathly subjects that included skulls and skeletons. As with many of the French designs, these were copied by the English manufacturers and remained popular into the early years of the twentieth century.
This Halloween’s issue of In the Spotlight highlights just two of the many French figural pipes that the Archive has in its collection. The first was produced by Gambier and depicts a skull. Not only has this pipe been enamelled but the eyes have been inset with spooky looking artificial gem stones. This particular pipe has been quite heavily smoked so the white enamel detail can clearly be seen.
The second is the full figure of a skeleton and was produce by Dumeril of St Omer. This is also enamelled, although it has not been as heavily smoked as the Gambier skull. Not only do we have a full skeleton but behind his head is the figure of a bat! He’s also smoking a pipe – I wonder if it is a skull pipe?
This September the Society for Clay Pipe Research and the Académie Internationale de la Pipe both held their annual conferences in England – the first time the two organisations had been together since 2008, when they met in Liverpool during the city’s Capital of Culture year. The two conferences were run back-to-back and the National Pipe Archive was offered a stall during the SCPR part of the proceedings. This gave us the opportunity to highlight the work we have been doing on the digitisation of some of our collections. We are most grateful for the kind donations that were received as a result of this display. We plan to put the funds towards some much needed storage boxes.
The Pipe Archive is fortunate in having examples of some very early clay pipes amongst their collections and these provided the focal point for a small group of pipe researchers who recently visited from the Netherlands. Of the many early pipes from the very beginning of the 17th century that were available to study, two took their eye – both from London and both part of the Elkin Collection (LIVNP 2012.04).
The first, and probably one of the earliest marked pipes in our collection, is an example with a heart-shaped heel bearing the initials RC. It is likely that this pipe was made by Robert Cotton, one of the first pipemakers documented in Britain, who sailed to Jamestown, Virginia, in April 1608. Once he arrived in America, Cotton set up a workshop that produced a distinctive series of pipes, examples of which have been found during the recent excavations there.
The second pipe is perhaps Dutch rather than English and is decorated all around the stem with a series of small stamps and decorative bands of milling. There is also a small symbol stamp on the base of the heel and this must have been an impressive piece when complete.
It is very difficult to differentiate between pipes produced in England and the Netherlands during the late 16th and very early 17th centuries. This is partly due to the fact that a number of early English pipemakers fled to the Netherlands as a result of religious persecution, where they set up new pipe making workshops. It is hoped that the on-going research into these early pipes will help to shed a little more light on what was happening during these early days of pipe production.
Hot off the Press! Today we are at the CIfA conference in Newcastle to officially launch the HOW TO… pages of our website
Our new HOW TO… pages take you through all the steps of what to do when you’ve found a pipe and want to know all about it. Our pages tell you how to … get help with excavation, illustration and reporting, as well as how to…. identify the likely maker and place of production.
In addition to the HOW TO… pages there is also a useful glossary of pipe terms, which we will update from time to time
All our guidelines are also available to download as a PDF.
We hope that these pages will be helpful but if you can’t find what you are looking for, then don’t forget that you can always email us a question or query on NCTPA@talktalk.net
You can also use our site to check out what digital resources we have from your area either through a Find by Location page or on our Resources page. Keep an eye on these pages because we are adding to them all the time.
Now back to it – people to see, pipe queries to answer!
Over the course of the Historic England Project, we have been able to offer placements to some of the undergraduates in the Department of Archaeology at Liverpool University. The aim was to give the students an opportunity to work in a museum environment; a chance for them try their hand at the sort of tasks a museum curator might be expected to undertake on a day-to-day basis. This could be anything from re-bagging or boxing objects, to cataloguing and photography.
We thought it might be quite nice to let our students tell you, in their own words, what they thought of their time with the Archive. The first student up is Kevin …
During my time with the Pipe Archive at Liverpool University I’ve learnt valuable skills within a professional setting. Working in a museum setting has always been a professional goal of mine, whilst here I’ve learnt more about the meticulous approach needed to succeed in such a field and feel more focused than ever to reach my goal.
In the Pipe Archive I’ve experienced the development of important databases, the archiving of large collections and the art behind photography. My favourite part of the experience was the photography, the art behind creating the perfect photo that captures everything important about the item in one sitting was a learning curve for me but one that I enjoyed attempting.
My item was a pipe, which had a hand wrapped around the bowl, it was nothing eccentric or special especially when compared to some of the French made pipes in the collection, but its odd shape and peculiar details made it a challenge to photograph. I had to move the object a number of times and there was a lot of trial and error on the lighting to find the perfect balance with the contrast.It was also important to make sure all elements of the pipe were on display and looked natural. Not only did this exercise help me learn a lot about photography itself, but it made me appreciate the craftsmanship behind the pipe itself – something I wouldn’t have thought about before my time here.
Another challenging piece was a glass ash tray. In certain light it changed colour and during photography some parts became transparent. With so many points of light it was a huge test to photograph and present exactly what it was. This piece is so peculiar, but crafted so well.
I’m much more confident in my ability to work in a professional setting like this in the future. Working alongside the Curator, Susie White, who has an enormous passion for her work, has encouraged me to do the same.While pipes may not be my own personal passion I can now appreciate the skills and craftsmanship behind these pieces, their significance in understanding the past and just how important the Pipe Archive is in achieving this.”