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).

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Chairman of the Académie Internationale de la Pipe, studying hard!
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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.

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Robert Cotton pipe from the Elkin Collection (LIVNP 2012.04.30)
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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.

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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.

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In the Spotlight! A Royal Souvenir

Since the Queen has been celebrating her 65 years of reign this week, we thought that a Royal Spotlight item would be appropriate.

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Pipe and Royal Tobacco Packets in “home-made” presentation box (LIVNP 2012.04).

This pipe and its associated packet of tobacco is part of the Elkin Collection (LIVNP 2012.04).  The original box, if it had one, has not survived, but a “home-made” presentation box has been created from an old cigar box.  The pipe itself is a standard early 20th-century design and the packet of tobacco is now empty,  but printed in gold with the Royal Coat of Arms and the lettering FROM H.M. THE KING 31ST OCTOBER 1913, which confirms the Royal connection.

The label in the lid of the box reads:

This pipe & Tobacco was given to all the workmen who was employed on the refronting of Buckingham Palace which was completed in 6 weeks. When a dinner was given to all the workmen employed on the job & each one was presented with pipe & tobacco from his Majesty King George 5th.                                               31st of October 1913

It has been signed by S.C. Kesby.

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Typed label from the lid of the box explaining the contents (LIVNP 2012.04).

In 1913 a decision was made to re-face the front of Buckingham Palace and Sir Aston Webb was commissioned to create a new design for the façade in Portland stone.  The stone was prepared in advance and numbered prior to delivery to Buckingham Palace.  The actual re-facing work was carried out by Messrs Leslie and Co, under the direction of Mr Shingleton, the managing director.  The work was reported in the press and an article in the New Zealand Herald, on 28 October 1913 noted that there were over 1,000 workmen employed and that they were working by day and night.  It was also reports that the “old dirty facing of French stone was being hacked away till the workmen came to the red brick, and then the find new Portland stone will be put in place”.

When the work was complete a special meal was given for all those involved at the King’s Hall at the Holborn Restaurant.  This too was reported on in The Times (1 November 1913), which tells us that men “came in their best clothes” and that a “substantial British dinner” was served.    It also noted that there was an “abundant supply of good ale”.  After the meal “pipes and tobacco were then passed round.  The packets containing the tobacco were ornamented with the Royal Arms in gilt, below which was printed “From H. M. the King, 31st October 1913; and the pipes were clays of special pattern.  Both packets and pipes were greatly appreciated as mementoes of the occasion”.

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The clay pipe of “special pattern” and the Royal tobacco packet (LIVNP 2012.04).

But who was S. C. Kesby, who signed the note in the box lid and, presumably, a recipient of this gift?  The only S.C. Kesby that can be found in the 1911 census is Sidney Charles Kesby, who was a 31 year old restaurant waiter living near the King’s Hall.  Given the unusual name, his occupation and where he lived, it seems likely that Sidney was one of the waiting staff at the king’s meal, who also received a pipe and tobacco as a souvenir of the occasion.