The Watkinson "Journal"

W E R Hallgarth, in his article entitled The Market Rasen Pipe Maker, refers to a journal kept by George Spencer Watkinson junior, son of George Spencer Watkinson who founded the business in Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, in 1843 (Hallgarth 1969, 32-34). It is not clear how much of the text of Hallgarth's article is drawn from this primary source. Hallgarth does not record the whereabouts of the "journal" but writes simply that it came to light as result of a train of investigation. Enquiries addressed to the local records office and libraries failed to locate the document. It was assumed that if it survived at all the "journal" must be in private hands. An attempt was made to trace papers belonging to the late Mr. Hallgarth with the result that his photographs were found to be in the keeping of the Welholme Galleries, Great Grimsby Borough Council. Amongst these were the originals used for the 1969 article and one other of a pencil sketch showing the interior of the trimming and drying room at the pipe factory. No papers or "journal" were found.

In October 1991, an advertisement placed in the Market Rasen Mail, requesting information regarding the Watkinson pipe factory, initiated a reply from Mr Bernard M Watkinson, a grandson of the pipemaker. Bernard Watkinson and Hallgarth had been colleagues at Binbrook School and Bernard Watkinson had supplied Hallgarth with much of his material. Bernard has in his possession photocopies of a transcript of the papers used by Hallgarth. These papers are later recollections, not a contemporary journal as Hallgarth implied. Also in Bernard's possession are a number of pocket books filled with naive sketches in pencil and coloured crayon, all the work of his grandfather, G S W. One of these books contains four invaluable illustrations depicting the four rooms inside the pipe works. These are annotated, the clay soaking trough and block, trimming and drying, rolling stems wireing [sic] and moulding, kiln and tipping. In the same book but separated from the others is a depiction of the Toll Bar and Old Pipe Cart. The first five pages of the pocket book, containing the illustrations, are used as a diary beginning on January 1st ending on January 13th 1941. Every subsequent page in the book is covered by an illustration. Some of these are drawn from local life some from literature; many of uncertain origin. The drawings of the pipe factory appear to have been made from memory in the nineteen forties. In this writers experience these illustrations have no parallel.

The original memoirs are in the keeping of another grandson, the Rev. Eric Whitworth, now residing in Wiltshire. A note on the top left hand corner of the original suggests that at least one other copy existed, in the hands of brother Dick.

The pages are numbered 1 to 14. Pages 2 and 10 to 13 are missing. Pages 1 to 9 are signed and dated 1918. Page 14 is signed and dated 1928. Beginning on the obverse of page 14 and continuing uninterupted on the obverse of page 9 is an undated postscript written sixty eight years after G S W was married. This dates the postscript to the early 1940s about the time that the illustrations were drawn. Clearly pages 10 to 13 were already missing at this time. Hallgarth appears to have had access to at least one page that is no longer available for he states that G S W noted the rates paid for various tasks, and quotes these in his article. This information is not included in the surviving papers. In a later article in the Grimsby News for January 23 1974 (Hallgarth 1974a), Hallgarth again quotes the piece work rates stating that they are those paid at the Burgess Street pipeworks in Grimsby, established in the eighteen twenties or thirties by Spencer Watkinson the father of George Spencer senior. Unfortunately no source is given for this information.

The memoirs appear to have been edited sometime after the first draft, additions, in the same handwriting are inserted between lines. These additions may not all be contemporary. Some seem to cloud rather than clarify the text. In the following typescript these additions are shown between brackets thus (), while the G S W's parentheses are shown thus (). Notes made by this writer are italic in square brackets. Page breaks are shown thus;


The numbering shown on the left at indicated page breaks is the original page numbering. The following typescript is a faithful copy of the original including erratic capitals, punctuation and spelling. Pages 5 and 9 include thumb nail sketches in the text (Figure 100).

(The passing of)(this is
The Old Clay Pipe:Revised
Well what about it?in your Uncles Copy
Brother Dick)
Isn't it about time, someone who really knows something first hand of our history, and the important part we often took in public or private functions, in social life of a century ago - We should have something to say about it. Certainly yes! We have many references in prose, and Poetry, where the "Old Arm Chair" - Grandfather Clock" and the foaming Bowl, with its Home brew,- (...y) But never a word, or Hyphen even, of the humble Clay Pipe - Though conspicuous in Lordly Halls and public bean feasts, with lesser jovial functions The part it has played in being the humble, but necessary vessel for containing the fragrant weed by which its aromatic virtues could be diffused like "Incense" a Silent oblation, and opiate of calm on the atmosphere, of a bibulous quarrelsome garrulous circle - (1) or the rest by the wayside and cottars [sic] Ingle Nook, seeing visions, or Dreaming of the might have beens or (the wayfarm [sic] on the lazy road with something -better at the bend of it too. thinks) of past days, with Hopes bright, scenes of the May-be yet (- to come) As the short clay is filled (with dry herbs or dark shag he puffs away) and its pungent vapour floats around (; or) the Occupant of the "Old Arm Chairs, silent (,sits) Puffs, and ponders, to the Rythm [sic] of Fathers (old) Clock - Tick Tock tick, measuring out lifes [sic] short day. "The Pipe of Peace", quite true: The tale of the Old Clay Pipe we now unfolds Its Genesis
(These dwindled away rapidly in the sixties through the public being introduced to the more durable Briar Wood pipe.)
Father left Gy, (Grimsby) his home, in Feb. 1841, to set up in business at Mkt R (Market Rasen) - for himself at the time of my birth (14 years later) he employed two (or) three journeymen with an indoor apprentice the workman had choice of hours, pay according to quantity and size of pipe, usually per gross, of twelve; sixteen to the dozen, to allow for breakages; boy & girl trimmers [sic] any or all hours Each bench about six feet by two & half height two ft Until the factory Acts of 1864 our working hours were indefinite; with the Act, school half day supposed to be compulsory; unfortunately few or no schools until the seventies - The crude Clay prepared (until) plastic (and uniform in texture, by beating on a raised slab.) Upon the bench mentioned was laid a smooth board; about 4ft by 1ft in width - sitting in front of centre with the raw material of plastic clay, on this the workers (right hand, the) only tool, a four inch wide smooth hand board- the worker nips off a lump (on right) sufficient for two models, pressing and dividing into two; which is then rolled (out) into length and thickness required, each hand moving in unison: leaving the upper end with a thicker amount for the bowl, (a slight diminishing taper of shank with) a smart turn of the (hand, on left) placing the rolled shapes, side by side. the hand (board) rounding (it) is applied, the models then pressed together lightly, and placed in a double layer of eight, the workers dozen; the pipe in embryo now left to harden, until firm enough to handle separately.
The next phase of the crude clay in its metamorphoses, is the moulders task; sat with a pile of the rolled forms in front, a box press of iron, loose sliding (centre, side clamp) when the mould (is) inserted and tightly screwed up, with left hand lever, while (the) right brings down a (right) lever with a punch (below) exactly poised to insert in the head bowl (for) pressing the clay into the mould (having a cavity) and allowing escape of surplus (material.) the worker having separated his rolled forms, a wire as thick as an ordinary ladies knitting needle, held firmly by right hand the left hand taking the tip of the rolled form presses it on the wire (with thumb and fore fingers) which drawing pressure, is continued until whole (length) is perforated (and wire covered) to bend of the upper part as the bowl - a slight touch of lubricant, then laid in one side of mould (and) closed then (smartly) inserted in press, overhead lever brought down, mould withdrawn bowl top, trimmed smooth, shape still with wire enclosed then held in left hand right (hand with a slight twist) extracts the wire and Hey Presto "A clay pipe" in form but firing to come.
After a few hours exposure on boards the clay hardens, for the trimmer to remove the slight ridges left by moulding a small steel tool, hollowed to enfold half the stem as a scraper, with other side or end, hollowed out for smoothing: Inserting the wire, and cutting tip of stem(;) as assistant (;) was my introduction to the work shop (age) between 7 & 8 passing the Dr as fit (for work) in June of 64 (the) good old times - "What" ending in a smoking day (or blowing soap bubbles of the unknown future).
After exposure to dry air indoor, or out; the pipe is really (then) a White clay, each (one) seperate [sic], lay in horizontal sequences, heads out, over the ledge, alternate right and left, thus ready for potting, (that is packing in the kiln)
the term used for packing in the kiln
The very brittle stems required considerable skill and light handling, from drying tray to position in kiln (a delicate task for the expert.)
The kiln internally was constructed on simple principles but peculiar details, to fulfill [sic] its purpose.
Imagine an egg shape fire clay (cone hollow cone well with a larger) standing upon arched curved fire box 5ft long - flues on either side, between kiln sides and outer walls: the thickness of kiln wall diminishing from 9in (base) to a flimsy thin dome cover about two coppers thick; thus leaving an incircular [sic] shelf (sketch) (at intervals round inside) the centre (of) mushroom shape points of stem supports mushroom. Heads or bowls resting on the ledge of the (inside of) kiln: As each ledge filled another mushroom shape stalk and all added to centre (sketch) like the sketch, the gradual widening by reduction of the thickness of kiln walls, ensured gradual and equal diffusion of heat; otherwise the lot might fly into fragments - the firing usually occupied 11 to 13 hours quality of coal the determinate factor - upon testing heat by the withdrawal of a test stem, if brittleness satisfactory, fires were immediately raked - as too much (w)as disastrous as too little firing. After some hours cooling, contents of kiln withdrawn, there but remaining the glazing of tip stems, that the users lip would not be injured - this was called tipping by liquid red lead Potash (permanganate of) or verdigris (;for different colour of glaze, then by) inserting the tips, over a coke fire in a confined space at white (heat) withdrawn immediately when clearly fused. Then placed with the tip on a raised wire (to cool). The clay pipe is complete (ready for sale and use by each devotee, Aristocrat, Tradesmen, Cobler [sic], or child floating Bubbles in Air)
(Now Having our stock its disposal comes next that the pipes are available for the user - there was first of importance the Licensed Houses Hotels Inns Jerry shops (country stores &) Wholesale grocers supplying small shops in out of the way places, (with a few) scattered wholesale tobacco & pipe dealers who bought in quantities these -
the Inn or Public house, and Hotel had their select Bar parlour Commercial and open smoke room with the Tap room or kitchen for the common man not a hard or fast arrangement - but in harmony with the adage Birds of a feather flock together so those of the public found their own place and were content it should be so.
In select Parlour Bar or Smoke room the table was provided with a supply of long clay pipes with open Tobacco jar for any to use if so inclined the pipe often used but once).
(The above is on the reverse of page 6 but is clearly intended to precede it)
The worker should have a place in the picture - they being literally and actually "hand crafts men" from the plastic clay to the pipe finished "no mechanical element used whatever except the mold [sic] screw press"!
They served an apprenticeship of not less than five years; I had an Indenture of one of fathers apprentices, which I gave to my brother Will a few years ago as a "Curio."
After completion of apprenticeship to qualify as a full fledged "Journeyman" - this sobriquet " a mark of distinction, before Trade Unionism evolved - being gained by at least a years wandering over the country from town to town; with the object of acquireing [sic] any additional skill; with short or long terms (of work) in various workshops; Designated on "Tramp": If no offer of work, Customs unwritten law enjoined a subsidy from the shop to enable the Tramper, to have sufficient funds to reach his next call.
One result of this wandering life - was some became regular Nomads perpetual roadsters [sic], never remaining over a few weeks to refresh and refit for another spell of freedom - On the Open Road and Fresh Air his Goal determined by the mudpushers [sic] he wore; a few days work and off again.(Overleaf)
(The following paragraph appears inverted on the bottom of the reverse of page 6).
(This the manner of their life, was not exceptional or peculiar to pipemakers, but customary, with a section of unstable workers in all handicrafts that required no bulky or expensive tools to encumber an handkerchief and stick their entire fit out.To page 7 Top)
(you could make sure this type)
of seeing them again on the same old round or quest.
They were not heavy drinkers but the Pub or Jerry being their most valuable customer, frequent calling contributed to formation of bibulous habits of conviviality their earnings sixteen to twenty four shillings (p week) according to ability a good wage for those days -
To return to our "Clay pipes" having stock of various sizes. The salesman or Hawker with (a tilted cart and horse) a stock packed (within,) in casks, and boxes; usually some casks of six or eight gross would (be) earmarked for a particular Pub or dealers shop our salesman accompanied by a boy (I started to travel at eight) starts off with his load for distribution anywhere within the Area of mid and North Lincoln: Humberside to Spilsby with all town and intervening villages (to call.)
The round or journey varied from one day, say to Kirton, Lindsey and villages: (or Lincoln) Or three, Grimsby Tetney Nth Somercotes, Spilsby, Alford (Horncastle) - home - we made no Speed Records & no need of Halt signs; the roads or (better say) direction tracks arranged for stoppages; it might be a snow drift or a six inch rut: or worse still loose stones thrown broadcast for traffic to reduce: All in the piece, with plus the Turnpike Toll Bars; Lin, Louth, Gy, Tetney, Rasen all paid (their) Toll - until the sixties: toll for one Horse and cart 4d. Horse & Rider 3d. - These Journeys with a night in Country Inn and the big kitchen with their big fireplaces and log wood fires plus the company "nondescript" all sorts from bailiff foreman village cobbler smith and constable with peripatetic roadsters [sic] all smoking clay pipes (with mug or Pewter on table or long saddle - these)
(Was a wonderful education in human life of town and village life with their homeless types most everywhere.)
I remember one night in a Pub kitchen at Nth Somercoats [sic] conversation turned on the jobs the members of the company engaged in; their answers I havent [sic] forgot. One man in fustian said he was not a sandhopper we [sic] wings - but a clodhopper Ploughman Another looking much worse for wear - said he was a road surveyor "professional". (One Tramp a born cadger his bed the barn of the Inn, no charge for this, only smoking barred As a recent one remarked at Reading) One with a complete set of whiskers, long seedy Frock coat and small cloth cover'd [sic] box, stated he was a professional man Extractor general move all and optician -literally Travelling Dentist and Pill vendor, Spectacles a side line at 6d. Father wound up by describing himself as a Scots Whistle maker. (one Wholesale Paper hanger & Bill sticker) a truly mixed company (of the country side at night)
Different localities varied on preferences, Lincoln had a demand for Church Warden or a go between A Pipe twenty inch stem a more aristocratic style than the common Pub smoke room type. Grimsby wanted shorter stems mostly Dandies a nine inch or cutty; for to take to sea to smoke his cheap (duty free) bacca - swopped for fish, from the Dutch Cooper of North sea fame. And so our clay pipe found its way into Civic Halls Pubs or Village Club feasts, and a solace or sedative to the road mender pondering how to get bread at 1/- a four pound loaf, for wife and four or five children (at 10/- bob a week) as he ate his frugal meal a raw onion, roasted potato or a turnip -(I have seen it) in the sixties.
This rambling over the country made one familiar with its odd ways & topography - calling on shopkeepers the simple needs, and limited purchasing
power made apparent. I was packed off to sell my first load when thirteen (12) years old my companion a younger brother, Snow, Hail, Rain or sunshine the Pipes must be delivered or what is habitues [sic] of the Bar Parlour or smoke room to do. then Johnny Hodge (the) village Patriarch sitting and ruminating on how to live on 4/6 week in his old arm chair (Parish relief for two) with difficulty peering at a well thumbed letter from his lad in Canada or Australia (a time of mass emigration) the Old Grandfather clock tick, tock, marking with other unrecorded things without so much as a protest by - The meerschaum the Wood Briar pipe, Cigar and cigarette later ousting it entirely & Passing of the Old Clay Pipe (with only a sigh from the old time maker)
G S W July 1918
(A half page of sketches appears here).
The crude clay as received in lump about 30lb
Same after drying, crushing, & water'd [sic]; until a Plastic consistency gained
After kneading Roll into this shape
Packed thus mould top cavity of ...
outer wall & chimney Trimmers [sic] tool and block
inside kiln
Fire & Flues dark inside kiln
Stoke Hole mushroom dish for pipe tips to rest
Flues basin inverted for tip rest
Grate bars Ledge for heads
(Pages 10-13 inclusive are missing and were missing when the postscript was written starting on the back of page 14 and continuing on the back of page 9).
superstition and odd ways, just oscillating though not perceived - between the Old and an entirely New order
The eclipse, (why the passing of the clay from the date of) of the Clay pipe is invariably charged to the innovation of the Briar cigar or Meerschaum - this is not so from my philosophic reasoning, these being an effect, rather than cause which was (were) readjustments [sic] (to change.) Casting our mental vision Backward a century or (so) Railway just introduced (electric energy and application the dream of a future age)
No unity of workers, Institutes, free libraries a muzzled press transport by execrable [sic] road, or sleepy water way, the Pub or licenced house was a centre from which radiated all the news available, which being limited to that orally by travellers; and few newspapers the gossip and report of those able to read made the Bar Parlour and smoke room, the "Hub" for (and) Broadcasting news; home or foreign, in every village pub or town Tap room the first hard knock for benefit of all the cheap Newspaper 1860 Tax off, shortening of hours and restricting of labour women & children. Free compulsory education by stages; were all factors, in lessening the social lump (in its change) the Pub lost its place as a local Club Newsperveyer [sic] and with the decline its accessories the Clay pipe one of them, in Hotel or restaurant and The modern open Bar or Jug Dept - there is no place for long clays or convivealities, [sic], these ways, and days, are as dead as Queen Ann and so with many memories, neither so pungent or soothing we write the Old clay Pipes Epitaph -(Here lies the old clay pipe sometime) Going: Gone but not forgotten".
G. S. W. 1855-1928
As you probably know your mother was born at Market Rasen about three years about after we were married. I had stayed at home to see the other lads all fixed up & father believing there would be a good living for me in the pipe trade, this I doubted as the years went by as we had to constantly extend our field of operations for to keep up sales this revived for a time by buying out competitors Lincoln where I had charge of one shop for about two years Spilsby, Louth Horncastle Brigg we closed except one of them for a year or two, it was at this time when I felt sure the old clay pipe was doomed - by improved transport the Pubs lost a great part of their clients the commercial traveller and their habit of staying days while they ranged the villages with their samples with the Packhorse hired from the innkeeper hence the familiar sign The Pack Horse. and commercial room the rendevous [sic] of the huckster [sic] and his clients with a sprinkle of traders to hear the latest news and spend a quiet hour with glass and pipe - the introduction of railways and telegraph under post office control caused an underground revolution in all commercial or industrial affairs its working was quiet but the old stage coach ceased to .... from Nottingham by Retford Gainsborough, Rasen and Louth daily these caused a silent upheaval in ways habits
in my earliest reccolection [sic] smoking was almost limited to indoor workshop or field - with the introduction of Briars and meerschaum to carry in ones vest the old clays day of supremacy was over the Cigar or cigarette putting its light out - The introduction of the Lucifer matches had the effect of widening the field to the worker
as you could not carry Flint steel and tinder box in waist coat pocket -
In Those days education of the mass was a thing undreamed of since the monastic orders were suppressed no effort was made to enlighten the common folk the first Government grant in the forties was 8 thousand pounds for England and Wales restricted to the Established Church all honour to them in their National or British schools that kept the Torch alight - the effect of any attempt to educate is evident in the ignorance of the mass the day mother and I married that is sixty eight years ago - there was a couple of young folks to be married a very ordinary country pair - from Tealby - we waited for their nuptials to be over as they had a four mile walk when asked to sign the register they admitted inability to read or write all four of them Brother T R and myself signing for them they affixing a X in confirmation a genuine illustration of the illiteracy of the age.


George Spencer Watkinson junior born 1855 began working for his father at the pipe factory in 1864. The factory seems to have succumbed around 1895 (Oswald 1975).


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Last updated: Wed Oct 9 1996

Reader comments:
"What a wonderful site. The information on the Watkinson family is of particular interest. My husband is decended from this family. His 5th Great Grandfather Spencer Watkinson, was recorded at the time of his second marriage in 1822 at Hull as a pipemaker."
Maria Borrill (