This week’s Spotlight object is a copy of the By-Laws of the London Company of Tobacco Pipe Makers, which is dated 1800.
For many years the organisation of the pipe making industry in and around London was in the hands of an incorporated company of tobacco pipe makers. The company came under the jurisdiction of the City of London authorities and was able to present its freemen to the City Chamberlain for admission to the freedom of the city. This basically meant that they were entitled to trade within the city. Unfortunately, very little is known about the company or its origins as few records survive but what is clear is that there were in fact three distinct companies of tobacco pipe makers, with their roots going back to the early days of the pipemaking at the start of the seventeenth century.
The first company came in to being in 1619 under James I, who granted a charter of incorporation to the “Master Wardens and Society of Tobacco Pipe makers of Westmynster”. This was a short-lived organisation, their Patent being officially surrendered in 1621, although they appear to have continued functioning in some form until the mid-1620s. The second company was formed in 1634 when a charter was granted to the “tobacco pipe makers in the Cities of London and Westminster”. This was, once again, revoked a few years later in 1639, although the company appears to have lingered on until about 1642. The third company came into existence in 1663 when Charles II extended the charter to pipe makers in the cities of London and Westminster as well as the Kingdom of England and the dominion of Wales. It is the third company that regulated pipemaking in and around the capital for the next two centuries and this is the one that the document in the Archive collections relates to.
The document is entitled Extracts of the Bye-Laws of the Worshipful Company or Society of Tobacco-Pipe-Makers of the Cities of London and Westminster, Kingdom of England and Dominion of Wales, made on the 23 March 1738, and approved, allowed, and confirmed by the then Lord Chancellor and Two Chief Justices. This particular copy, however, was clearly printed in or after 1800 (the date is at the foot of the document) and it is signed by Thomas Phipps, Clerk. These extracts deal with the rules relating to apprenticeships.
These regulations limited the number of apprentices that a master pipemaker could take and state that any new apprentice within 20 miles of London had to be presented to the Master and Wardens of the Company before being taken on, or within a month of starting. They also stipulated that any children of a pipemaker must be formally bound as an apprentice from the age of 14 and that pipemakers were prohibited from hawking their wares about the streets for sale. An apprenticeship was normally for 7 years, with the apprentice being eligible to set up his own business and trade independently when it was completed at about the age of 21.
These regulations shed a fascinating light on the way the trade was run and the restrictions that applied to pipemaking families in terms of employing their children or selling their wares. They show how regulated commercial life was during the eighteenth century and provide insights into the ways in which pipes were manufactured and distributed from the workshops.