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.