European contact with tobacco probably dates from the first landfall made by Columbus, in the Bahamas, in October 1492. The native population greeted this impressive visitor with a gift of dried leaves. Later on this same voyage, the native American custom of smoking was observed and duly recorded in the log (Mackenzie 1957, 63). From this time tobacco in small quantities could have reached Europe in the hands of sailors and adventurers.
Records of the plant itself in Europe appear from several countries in the 1550s and 60s. It was being cultivated as an exotic novelty, used predominantly as a medicine; indeed the first description of a European tobacco pipe or proto-tobacco pipe is connected with medicinal use (Oswald 1975, 3). This description comes from the pen of William Harrison in his Great Chronologie published in 1593. The passage in question relates to the year 1573:
In these daies the taking-in of the smoke of the Indian herbe called "Tobacco" by an instrument formed like a little ladell, whereby it passeth from the mouth into the hed and stomach, is gretlie taken-up and used in England, against Rewmes and some other diseases ingenderd in the longes and inward partes and not without effect
The progress of tobacco into England, as with the rest of Europe, is shrouded in uncertainty. At best the documents only provide cameos on which to form a judgement. English sailors under the command of Hawkins in 1565 observed the native Floridians taking smoke through a pipe consisting of a cane and earthen cup, and record that the French, who had already established a colony there, also practised the smoking habit (Hakluyt 1589 , ed 1926, VII, 47). In the face of this experience it seems unlikely that some of the English sailors did not experiment also. Only six years later, in 1571, attempts were being made to cultivate tobacco in England (MacInnes 1926, 75, quoting Lobelius 1576). If Hawkins' men brought pipes into this country they would have been of the stub stemmed type that they observed in Florida. A pipe from Cambridge Backs, illustrated by Oswald, conforms to this general type (Oswald 1975, 35).
On the 25th of March 1584 Walter Ralegh obtained letters patents granted by the Queenes Majestie for the discovering and planting of new lands and Countries (Hakluyt 1589 , ed 1926, VI, 115). On the 27th April the first Virginia voyage under Ralegh's sponsorship sailed, led by Captains Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe. They returned in September having made contact with the native population and laid claim to territory in the region of Roanoak Island. Captain Barlowe sent Ralegh an account of the voyage in which he described the people and the victuals which abounded there. In this account there is no mention of tobacco, but appended to the list of gentlemen and men of account present and witness to the title claim are the names of two savages brought home to England, Manteo and Wanchese (ibid, 132).
In his Counterblaste of 1604, James I links the introduction of these two or three savage men with that of smoking or, in his own words, this savage custom.
The second Ralegh-sponsored Virginia voyage sailed on the 9th April 1585. This carried the first settlers who made their base on Roanoak Island where they remained until June 1586 (ibid, 132-162). Thomas Hariot, mathematician, astronomer and tutor to Sir Walter Ralegh (Stephen & Lee 1917, 1321-3), was a member of this expedition and in his Briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia, he provides a reliable description of native tobacco culture and smoking habits (Hariot 1588 , no pagination). Significantly, he writes they use to take the fume or smoke thereof by sucking it through pipes made of claie, and later in the account We our selves during the time we were there used to suck it after their maner, as also since our returne, (ibid).
Ralegh and his associates, by their enthusiasm for this new habit, established tobacco drinking, as it was then termed, firmly in the upper strata of English society, and with this came a demand for English-made tobacco pipes.
By 1598, Paul Hentzner, a visitor to England, records the constant custom of smoking in public places and notes that: The English - have pipes on purpose made of clay into the farther end of which they put the herb, and putting fire to it draw the smoak into their mouthe (Sheppard 1902, 4).
The first suggestion that these English pipes were modelled on American examples appeared in 1605. De l'Ecluse added a footnote to his abridged translation of Monarde's Las Indias Occidentales, based on Hariot's account (Mackenzie 1957, 81).
In the year 1585...they found that the Inhabitants did frequently use some Pipes made of clay, to draw forth the fume of Tobacco leaves set on fire; which grew amongst them in great quantity, or rather to drink it down, to preserve their health. The English returning from thence (Virginy), brought the like pipes with them, to drink the smoke of Tobacco; and since that time the use of drinking Tobacco hath so much prevailed all England over, especially amongst the Courtiers, that they have caused many such like Pipes to be made to drink Tobacco with (De l'Ecluse 1605, quoted in Mackenzie 1957)
Shaw points out the remarkable similarities between pre-contact Mexican pipes and early English forms, suggesting parentage not through direct contact but via diffusion of the type throughout the south-eastern area of the United States (Shaw 1960, 291). Clearly, further research is required into pre-contact native American pipe forms before such a statement can be evaluated.
In England it seems probable that pipes were being made in quantity by 1590, a supposition supported by Oswald's statement that in the main pipes from deposits dating to the last decade of the sixteenth century are mould made (Oswald 1975 , 5). The basic form of the pipe and the use of a two-piece mould to produce it, in enormous quantities, were established at this time and both were retained with only minor alteration into the present century.
There is little record of the industry in its infancy but as early as 1601 there appears to have been a monopoly on the production of tobacco pipes (ibid, 7). At this time patents were seen by the Crown as an immediate source of revenue and were frequently revoked, only to be re-allocated, if returns failed to meet expectations. The iron-making patents of Simon Sturtevant and John Rovenson clearly testify to the precarious value of such documents (Sturtevant 1612; Rovenson 1613). A letter dated 20 August 1618 seems to imply that several conflicting tobacco pipe monopolies existed at that time (Walker 1977, 247) and a similarly confused situation existed regarding monopolies to supply pipe clay (ibid, 253-5). This situation was in part rationalised on 5 October 1619 when the tobacco pipemakers of Westminster were granted a charter of incorporation giving them mandatory control over the production of tobacco pipes throughout England and Wales (ibid, 247). Prosecutions for infringement of the company's restrictions are recorded in the Portsmouth Court Leet Books for 1622 and Reading Borough Records for 1623 (Oswald 1975, 9). At Bristol, on the other hand, in 1619 Richard and Ann Berriman openly took John Wall as their apprentice (Jackson & Price 1974, 11) whilst elsewhere early records of pipemakers indicate little control by the London company. The original company seems to have foundered by 1627 (Walker 1977, 248) and a second charter was granted in 1634 by which the petitioners undertook to burn only coals for firing pipes and to pay £40 a year to an individual to instruct their members in the use of coals for this purpose (Atkinson & Oswald 1969, 172). By the 1640s, pipemakers are recorded at numerous centres outside the city (Oswald 1975, 130-207) and the establishment of pipemakers' guilds at York, c. 1650, Bristol, 1652, and Gateshead, 1675 (ibid, 9), indicates that what little control London pipemakers may once have exercised had by then expired.
The evidence from Scotland suggests a monopoly in the hands of one maker, William Banks, from as early as 1622 until 1642 (Gallagher 1987, 5-8). It is possibly significant that a man of this name was a signatory of the London Charter in 1619 (Atkinson & Oswald 1969, 226). However, no certain connection has yet been made between William Banks, the signatory of the London charter, and William Banks the Edinburgh monopoly holder. There is no evidence for either guild or monopoly in Ireland.
A great deal of research effort has been directed at the product of this industry primarily because of its recognised dating significance for post-medieval archaeology. In contrast, there has been little recognition of the technological achievements behind the product and their ramifications over the broader spectrum of ceramic activity. The kilns that produced these ubiquitous products had by the early nineteenth century reached a zenith in their development and were considered by Abraham Rees, writing in 1819, to be worthy of special attention due to their ingenious structure and possible application to more important purposes (Rees 1819, Furnace). The archaeological record suggests that these nineteenth century kilns are the product of a gradual developmental process and that those of the seventeenth century, though less complex, are similar in concept. In the remainder of this paper this evidence will be examined, together with contemporary literature, in an attempt to unravel the origins and to document the evolution of these kilns.
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Last updated: Wed Oct 9 1996