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?
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.
Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire is a 17th century house built by George Vernon, which is now in the safe keeping of the National Trust. Anyone who has watch the BBC’s Price and Prejudice may recognise it, as it was used for the filming of the interior shots.
Next to Sudbury Hall is the Museum of Childhood with its reconstructed Victorian schoolroom and nursery filled with old toys and games. The museum is currently rationalising their collection and came across a small number of smoking related items. These didn’t really fit in with the childhood theme of the museum so they were looking for someone to give their waifs and strays a new home. That’s where the National Pipe Archive stepped in.
In early February the Archive’s curator visited Sudbury and met Sue Fraser and Helen Subden, Collections Assistants, to pick-up seven objects for re-homing. It was a fun visit – it’s not every day you get to have a cup of tea in the butler’s pantry! The Hall was undergoing some work in preparation for opening to the public over the half-term holiday, but it was still a beautiful building – if you’ve not visited before, you should!
As well as being able to help by offering the surplus objects a good home, what has made the objects even more special from the Archive’s point of view is that many of them fill gaps that are poorly represented in our collection of pipes and other smoking related items. So, the objects – what where they?
LIVNP 2017.01.01 – A giant ‘cadger’ pipe, with the bowl depicting a large glass building, probably the Great Exhibition building of 1851. Pipes with this design were first produced for sale at the exhibition itself, but remained popular for years afterwards and were produced into the early twentieth century. We have a number of cadger pipes in our collection but this one is unusual in that it has been decorated with coloured paint, although not amazingly well, it has to be said. These large pipes were most likely to have been novelties rather than produced with the intention of being smoked, although it is evident from the staining in some examples that people have clearly tried!
LIVNP 2017.01.02 – A short-stemmed “cutty” pipe with the lettering MINERS PIPE moulded along the sides of the stem, which was the pattern name for this particular style of pipe. This example hasn’t been smoked. This is a common style of pipe that would have been produced by a number of the larger pipe making firms during the later 19th and early 20th centuries.
LIVNP 2017.01.03 – A Bryant and May match box containing seven incredibly large matches. These were called a Motor Match and were for “motor-car, cycle and launch lamps” and were first advertised in 1904. It states on the box that these will “flame for 20 seconds and keep alight in the strongest wind”. With heads this size, we are not at all surprised by that statement!
LIVNP 2017.01.04 – This item comprises a group of 11 very long “safety” matches.
LIVNP 2017.01.05 – A late Victorian or Edwardian novelty brass vesta case with a striker on one side. It is a rather unusual shape – almost “tooth” or “tusk-like” – with a rather charming pig on the top.
LIVNP 2017.01.06 – A silver vesta case marked with a Birmingham hallmark for 1912 and the maker’s initials JR. This case has a panel ready for the addition of a monogram but it remains blank, so the original owner remains a mystery.
Finally, LIVNP 2017.01.07 – A heavy non-ferrous metal cover for a large match box with silver coloured inlaid decoration in the form of a bird in a tree surrounded with other foliage.
All of these items make a most welcome addition to our collections and we are very grateful to the National Trust Museum of Childhood at Sudbury Hall for passing them on to us.
Since the Queen has been celebrating her 65 years of reign this week, we thought that a Royal Spotlight item would be appropriate.
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.
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”.
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.