A “Drop from the Clouds”

In the nineteenth century, clay tobacco pipe manufacturers were producing pipes in a variety of shapes trying to come up with a design that would mark their product out as the latest “must have” for the discerning smoker.  Kings, Queens and other famous people of the day were immortalised in clay but occasionally memorable events also received this treatment.

The Mason Collection is a recent acquisition to the National Pipe Archive’s holdings, comprising mainly decorated nineteenth-century pieces, including one that has immortalised an event that first took place in 1888 at Alexandra Palace (Fig. 1).

Baldwin Balloon pipe LIVNP2017.02.01

The pipe in question is in the shape of a hot-air balloon which is covered with a criss-cross of rope work.  Trailing from the balloon are a number of ropes that come together at the bottom, forming a sort of a platform.  On the smokers left there is a depiction of a man hanging from a small umbrella-shaped parachute.  On the smokers right, a band around the balloon reads BALDWIN.

Sadly, we do not know which pipe maker produced this pipe, but the event he was commemorating was widely reported in the National Press.  The event revolves around a man known as Professor Baldwin, “an American daredevil”, who has been credited with being the father of the modern parachute.  However, it would appear that the “American” part of this description of him is a bit of a red herring.  There were at least two Americans with the same surname – a Thomas Scott Baldwin and a William Ivy Baldwin – both of whom had a circus background, and both of whom performed an act involving jumping from a hot-air balloon with a parachute.  However, notice of the Baldwin’s death following an unsuccessful descent in 1905, describes him as the “well known English aeronaut ‘Professor Baldwin’” (Waikato Times, Sept 4, 1905, Issue 6808).

The first reference to Professor Baldwin and his famous balloon dates from August 3, 1888, when The Times newspaper began publishing advertisements for an event to be held at Alexandra Palace which read;

Tomorrow and Bank Holiday, Professor Baldwin, at 6 p.m., will illustrate his great scientific discovery, having succeeded in making an umbrella with sufficient surface resistance to land passengers from an aerial ship at any height.

On the same day an advertisement said …

…Professor Baldwin proves the possibility of his invention by jumping out of a balloon 1,000ft from the ground and will drop 200ft, through space before opening the umbrella.

and that he will…

…make the ascent from and descend in the park in such a manner that every visitor can see him the whole time of this marvellous, stirring, but scientific experiment… to make a special drop from the clouds.

These advertisements were placed in The Times on a number of days in the run up to the event.  At the same time, other events were being promoted, including advertisements for balloon ascents at Crystal Palace and South Kensington, so balloon flights were clearly all the rage and very popular spectacles at the time.  What made Professor Baldwin’s event different, and more exciting, was that he was going to throw himself out of his balloon!

The authorities were clearly concerned about this since, on July 27, 1888, a question was raised in the House of Lords.  The Earl of Milltown wanted to know if;

the attention of the Home Office has been directed to an announcement in the newspapers that a Professor Baldwin will, at the Alexandra Palace, on Saturday next, jump out of a balloon 1,000 feet above the ground; whether it is believed that the announcement is genuine, and if so whether measures will be taken to prevent so dangerous and demoralizing an exhibition. (The Times, July 27, 1888. Issue 32449, page 8).

The response from Home Office was to ensure that there was a police presence at the event and they were to “report upon its [the performance] character and result from personal observation”.  The event itself was reported in The Times on July 30, 1888 (The Times July 30, 1888, issue 32451, page 6)., when it stated that;

On Saturday evening a daring aeronautical feat was performed in the grounds of the Alexandra Palace, at Muswell-hill, in the presence of many thousands of spectators.

Professor Baldwin apparently addressed the crowd to reassure them that all was well.  The plan was to ascend to 1, 000ft and then jump from the balloon, dropping about 100ft before opening his umbrella.  He told the crowd that …

…if he found that he was being carried where he should not be able to descend within view of the spectators assembled in the grounds, he would leave the balloon when it reached a height of five or six hundred feet. So as to insure his descent being visible to them.

All he then asked for was silence while he gave the final orders to guarantee that everything would then “go right”!

The balloon itself was described as having “no car” but only a cross-bar with a large ring or loop attached.  When the balloon ascended Baldwin held on to the ring, with his feet resting on the ropes of the balloon, with his “umbrella” hanging by his side (Fig.2).  He came down in a little over one and a half minutes, to everyone’s relief.  It was clearly a spectacle although The Times raised the question as to the scientific value of the event!

From the Illustrated London News for July 1888 showing Baldwin’s ascent and descent.

Whoever was responsible for producing the pipe as souvenirs to commemorate this event, which could then be sold to the vast crowds, was clearly on to a good thing, as this spectacle was to be repeated every Thursday and Saturday evening!

These performances clearly went on for some time since in December 1888 an article published in the Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser in Australia reported that Saturday 20 October 1888 had been the last performance of the summer season.  On this occasion the balloon was reported to have reached a height of 8,800 feet before Baldwin finally “severed his connection with the balloon and began to descend” this time taking eight minutes to safely reach the ground.  It was also announced that Mr Baldwin was about to go to Australia but planned to return to the Palace on “Whit Monday in next year”.

Baldwin had been enticed to visit Australasia by William Edward Akroyd, JP, a visiting landowner from New Zealand who had met Baldwin in England.  His first jump in New Zealand took place at Dunedin on January 21, 1889 (Anon 2012).  Baldwin was making improvements and refinements to the balloon all the time and during an event in Auckland later in 1898, he explained that the;

biscuit-coloured balloon is made of India silk, it is covered with a varnish preparation, and is enclosed in a linen netting. It has 15,000 [cubic] feet capacity, and weighs 110lb. The parachute is also made of India silk, but it is not oiled. It weighs 30lb and resembles the top of an ordinary umbrella, except that there are neither ribs nor handle. It is 20 feet in diameter, and has a fringe or sail round the edge to assist me in balancing. From the umbrella-like covering there depend [hang down] a number of ropes, 20 feet in length attached to a loop 20 feet in diameter. There is another ring attached to a cord at the end of the balloon, which I call a ‘boatswain’s chair’. I sit on this and have hold of a cord calculated to stand a strain of 100 lb, so that when I throw myself off the chair the cord is broken, and I am free from the balloon. I then descend with the parachute, which at first is closed. It opens out gradually as the air rushes inside and is fully spread by the time I have dropped 300 or 400 feet … I steer the parachute at an incline of about 30 degrees in still air . . . [coming] down at the rate of ten miles an hour or 14 feet per second. (Anon 2012).

The success of his performances took him around the world and by 1905 he was in America where he sadly met his end.  In September 1905 it was reported that;

The well-known English aeronaut, “Professor” Baldwin, has met with his death under shocking circumstances.  At a fete at Granville, in Ohio, one of the attractions was to be the ascent of Baldwin, and the explosion of dynamite in mid-air.  To the horror of the spectators, fifteen thousand of whom were gazing upwards at the balloon, the dynamite exploded before Baldwin had lowered it to its proper depth.  The unfortunate aeronaut and his balloon were blown to atoms. (Waikato Times, 4 Sept 1905, Issue 6808).

The unusual pipe in the Archive’s collection provides a fascinating reminder of Baldwin and his early experiments with parachutes.  The design was most likely made to coincide with his initial season of descents in 1888, but could then have carried on in production for a number of years as a souvenir for his dare-devil events around the World.


“Professor Baldwin’s Performance”, The Times, 6 Aug. 1888, p. 6. The Times Digital Archive, http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/9PTLD5 [Accessed 7 Mar. 2019].

“Personal, &c”, The Times, 3 Aug. 1888, p. 1. The Times Digital Archive, http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/9PUoV2. [Accessed 7 Mar. 2019].

“Parliamentary Notices”, The Times, 27 July 1888, p. 8. The Times Digital Archive, http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/9PVPc3 [Accessed 7 Mar. 2019].

“Leaping From A Balloon”, The Times, 30 July 1888, p. 6. The Times Digital Archive, http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/9PVbU7 [Accessed 7 Mar. 2019].

“Professor Baldwin’s Balloon Ascent”, Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Tue 4 Dec 1888, p.4, National Library of Australia,  https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/18955745 [accessed 7 Mar 2019].

“Balloon disaster”, Waikato Times, Volume LVI, Issue 6808, 4 September 1905, Past Papers National Library of New Zealandhttps://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/WT19050904.2.23.3 [Accessed 7 Mar 2019]

Anon, 2012 ‘Up, Up and Away’, Otago Daily Times, Saturday 5 May 2012. https://www.odt.co.nz/lifestyle/magazine/and-away [Accessed 7 Mar 2019]



Atkinson and Oswald – Titans of the Clay Pipe world!

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.

Page 4 from Atkinson notebook “London II” showing Adrian Oswald’s comments regarding other examples of this AS marked pipe (LIVNP 2012.06.230)
Facing page 29 from Atkinson notebook “London III” showing Adrian Oswald’s comments regarding not only another George Andrew mark but also a Joseph Andrew (LIVNP 2012.06.228)
Page 37 from Atkinson notebook “London I” showing Adrian Oswald’s comments regarding the location of similar examples of this three-letter mark (LIVNP 2012.06.225).

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?

In the Spot Light! Pipes from Mary Wondrausch

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.


Selection of pipes from the Mary Wondrausch collection (LIVNP 2018.01)


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.


French socketed pipe made by Gambier and marked GAMBIER A PARIS / DEPOSE 918.


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.


Masonic bowl with the makers initials IB on the sides of the spur.


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).


Pipe decorated with a soldier and sailor, with a crown mark on the heel and the lettering A. & N. … / … C.S.L  along the stem.


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”.


Specially commissioned pipe for the Ancient Order of Froth Blowers (1924-1931).


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.


Mid 19th century pipe produced by J Fuller of Uxbridge (fl. 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 spotlight! Skull Pipes

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.

Enamelled Dumeril pipe produced in a multi-part mould – sadly not in the Archives Collection (Photograph by D A Higgins).

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.

Skull pipe produced by Gambier with white enamel and inset eyes.

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?

Full skeleton pipe by Dumeril of St Omer, with white enamel detail.

Thank you!

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.

In the Spotlight! Early Pipes

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).

Chairman of the Académie Internationale de la Pipe, studying hard!
Searching the archives for early pipes.

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.

Robert Cotton pipe from the Elkin Collection (LIVNP 2012.04.30)
Detail of the RC mark (LIVNP 2012.04.30)

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.

Possible early Dutch pipe from the Elkins Collection (LIVNP 2012.04.30)

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.

How to….. pages go live!

Hot off the Press!  Today we are at the CIfA conference in Newcastle to officially launch the HOW TO… pages of our website

Our stand at the CIfA conference – everything you want or need to know about pipes!

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.

Our main HOW TO… page.

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

One of our Trustees – Harold Mytum from University of Liverpool – showing off the new HOW TO… pages.

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!