7. The Archaeological Evidence for Furniture Supplements, Miscellany and Waste

7.1 Furniture Supplements

The archaeological record of pipe kiln sites and dumps includes a second group of objects which, although less formal than the furniture described in the previous chapter, clearly occupied a similar station in the kiln in close proximity to the charge of pipes. This group of objects includes simple hand-formed rolls, sheets and wads of clay, often bearing impressions of objects with which they were in contact while still in a plastic state. In some cases these impressions can be identified with a degree of certainty while in others this is not the case. Impressions of pipe stems and bowls show that some of these objects were used under, on top, or between bedding, covering or stabilising the charge of pipes. Opposed flat surface contact impressions indicate use as wadding or bedding between bricks, bats, saggars, props or buns. It appears, therefore, that these objects were used, in conjunction with preformed reusable items of furniture, for the purpose of containing the charge of pipes within the chamber. Once the firing cycle had been completed, the nature of these ancillary items was irreversibly changed from plastic material to fired ceramic. The term furniture supplement has been chosen to embrace any such object, used within the firing chamber, dependent upon plasticity to fulfil its purpose.

Furniture supplements were expendable at the end of the firing cycle as the attendant loss of plasticity prevented reuse in any similar capacity. Being both fragile and expendable, such material most frequently occurs as small broken fragments. In the catalogue which forms part of this report, these fragments have been classified according to a number of distinctive features. These classifications do not imply object status. A complete object, if encountered, could display a number of different features in different parts of the whole.

Fragments of furniture supplements have been divided into a number of groups. These groups are rolls, straps, wads, applied strips, thin sheets and racks. Each group has been subdivided into a number of recognisable variations, each given a type number for simplicity of recording. The presence and nature of any impressions is noted in the catalogue after the type number. These groups and their attendant typologies are defined below.

Roll definition and typology

The term `roll' was first used by Wells (Wells 1970, 24-5), to describe billets of clay, circular or sub-rounded in cross-section. These are usually roughly formed by hand, either straight or curved, and often bearing impressions which may be indicative of their use.

Straight or near straight.
Curved roll.
Tapered roll.
Serpentine roll.
Roll with ends spread or flattened to form a strut.

Specimens of roll types are illustrated here (Figures 31 & 32).

Strap definition and typology

The term `strap' has been chosen by the author to describe objects formed from rolls, by hand, to produce flattened strip or strap sections. They sometimes retain the impressions of pipe stems or bowls, through contact with these objects while still plastic.

Straight strap.
Serpentine strap.

Specimens of strap types are illustrated here (Figure 32).

Wad definition and typology.

The term `wad', defined by Rosenthal as 'rolls of plastic fireclay placed between individual saggars to prevent fumes from affecting the ware' (Rosenthal 1949, 301), is chosen to describe any piece of clay used while still plastic to form a joint or bedding between other objects. Wads usually retain imprints of the compressing objects on opposing surfaces. When fired they are unable to serve the same function again and are generally abandoned as a waste product.

Flattened roll wad.
Crescent section wad.
Flattened ball wad.
Wad formed by pressing a roll into a joint and smoothing it over.
Ring wad or roll bent into a circular or near circular shape and then flattened.

Specimens of wad types are illustrated here (Figure 33).

Applied strip definition and typology

The term `applied strip' is chosen by the author to describe objects formed from rolls by pressing them onto some other object or surface. They are distinguished from wads by virtue of a single contact surface. Those surfaces that are opposite to the contact surface frequently bear impressions of pipe stems and occasionally of bowls.

Applied strip of D section.
Triangular section.
Crescent section.
Strap section.

Specimens of applied strip types are illustrated here (Figures 34 & 35).

Thin sheet definition and typology

The term `thin sheet' has been chosen by the author to describe flat or undulating pieces of clay 2-10 mm thick. They functioned as packing material within the kiln; they often retain impressions which are indicative both of the method of their fabrication and the ways in which they were used. From these impressions it is clear that when these sheets came into contact with the pipes they were still plastic. It is not clear whether this was at the drying stage or when they were loaded into the kiln. Some are flat, some rolled or folded; they occur in two fabric categories, simple pipe clay and pipe clay with added organic material. Those in the first category tend to be from 2-5mm thick and those in the second from 4-10 mm thick.

Flat thin sheet.
Rolled thin sheet.
Folded thin sheet.
Folded edge thin sheet.
Thin sheet edge strengthened with a roll added and smoothed towards the interior.
Thin sheet strip with parallel cut edges 58-64mm wide.

Specimens of thin sheet types are illustrated here (Figures 36, 37 & 38).

Rack definition and typology

The term `rack' has been chosen by the author to describe objects formed by fixing together a group of prefired pipe stems with a knob of plastic clay. The surviving evidence is in the form of these knobs with broken stems protruding from them. The complete form or the exact function of these objects is not known.

Rack with 1 stem.
Rack with 2 stems.
Rack with 3 stems.
Rack with 4 stems.

Specimens of rack types are illustrated here (Figures 38, 39 & 40).

Table 4 and Map 3 record the incidence of furniture supplements recovered from pipe kiln sites or dumps of pipe kiln waste.


Racks form another distinct object group that has emerged from this study. Although neither their purpose nor their complete form is known it would appear that they were manufactured for use in the kiln. Whether they were used only once or repeatedly is not known. The term was conceived to embrace a series of objects formed from a number of parallel pipe stems, in a single plane, held together with a rough hand-formed knob of clay. Although the most common manifestation is the rack terminal (Figure 38g-i; Figure 39j-o; Figure 40q & r), there is one example from Gloucester, Black Dog Yard, 1849-70, of an intermediate bridge (Figure 39p). Early examples are the two-stemmed rack from St Albans, Holywell Hill, 1680-1730, and the four-stemmed example from Aylesbury, Castle Street, 1670-1710. The Aylesbury example is unusual in possessing a turned down edge which, if repeated, would have the effect of raising the rack clear of the supporting surface. Their widespread adoption is clearly demonstrated by the examples from Limerick, Gloucester, Boston, Newark and Ipswich, all dating to the nineteenth century.

Usage of the term has been extended to cover two further groups of object which bear certain similarities of form or construction. Examples of the first group (Figure 38c-f), differ from the single stem rack 'g' only in the shape of the clay terminal. In these variant forms the end of the terminal is flattened, allowing the object to function as a prop or strut. A single example of the second group is illustrated (Figure 40s). In common with the basic rack form these consist of groups of parallel stems, not necessarily in a single plane. They differ in that they are held together throughout their length with a thin coating of clay applied as slurry. The illustrated example from Lincoln, Cornhill, 1840-60, is formed from three stems in two planes. Two examples from Bristol, Temple Way, early nineteenth century, are formed from at least three stems in a single plane whilst a possibly related example from Truro, Pydar Street, 1800-50, has five stems bunched together. In none of these instances is there any indication of the terminal form. The object illustrated (Figure 40t), consists of two stems held together in a roughly shaped clay bridge. This bridge appears, from the two broken surfaces, to have extended in both directions on a transverse axis to the stems. At present this object from Warwick, Market Street, mid nineteenth century, has no parallel.

Socket Stands

Another emerging type of object encountered (Figure 42a-f) is formed from a small ball of clay. This is pressed against a flat surface to form a stable base, with a hole or socket impressed from the top with finger or finger-shaped device. Four of these objects were recovered from the Southwark Street kiln site, where pipes of eighteenth century type were made; one from Bristol, Bath Road, in an assemblage dating to the early 1850s, and one unstratified example from Rainford, Reeds Brow Farm. A plausible explanation of these is as candle holders within the dark recesses of the kiln. Until the function of these objects is better understood, the term `socket stand' is deemed appropriate.

Trimming Rings

Trimming rings are formed from surplus clay forced into the knife slot of the pipe mould by the insertion of the bowl forming stopper. These were cut off before the pipe was removed from the mould. All display, at least in part, the stopper-formed centre hole and concentric folds or ridges. The most complete example (Figure 43h), also records the meeting of the mould halves. The fired examples are all from the archaeological record. Comparative material from the bins of clay waste in the reconstruction of Samson Strong's Leeds workshop at Kirkstall are unfired (Figures 42n & o and Figures 43a-d). Additional comparative material has been collected from Bewdley Museum workshop (Figure 43e & f). These are from a mould for a ribbed bowl design and display extruded ridges on their undersides. The remaining rings (Figure 43g-o), are from the eighteenth century assemblage excavated at Brentford High Street (Laws & Oswald 1981, 15-65). Unfortunately it has not been possible to trace this material for first hand study. Although the bricks from the kiln structure are stored in the basement of Gunnersbury Park Museum, the pipes and other finds are not there. Correspondence suggests that the finds could be in the keeping of the Museum of London where attempts are being made to locate them. The published drawings provide a certain amount of information, though there are of course ambiguities. All display concentric folding and a transverse groove which may reflect the mould division. The probability is that these are indeed trimming rings similar to those discussed above. The absence of a square edge may reflect a difference in mould design or possibly the use of a smaller clay blank. The clay extruded from Dutch-style moulds with the hand-held stopper, being free from the restriction of any form of knife slot, tends to form ragged trumpet-shaped tubes. Clearly the continued study of this type of material could enhance understanding of mould design in the earlier periods.

Pipe Clay Lamp

This interesting survival from Southwark Street (Figure 46) is part of an assemblage dating from the eighteenth century. The lamp, made from pipe clay, has black carbon deposits on the end of the spout and on one side of the rim. It has been roughly formed by hand and knife-pared when leather-hard. Two holes pierced below the rim, in the same alignment as the spout, are clearly intended as suspension points. Although the profile is complete, there is a hole broken through the base.

There are a number of pipe clay objects, recovered from kiln sites, made by pipemakers either for their own use or as side-lines to the main endeavour. From Chard, Silver Street, there is a very fine stamp with the legend GEO WEBB IN CHARD for stamping the heels of tobacco pipes (Figure 44a). Excavations in Trowbridge, on the site occupied by Edward Fox, tobacco-pipemaker, in the second half of the seventeenth century, produced a number of fragments from objects made of pipe clay (Figure 44b-e). Although most are too fragmentary to be certain of their purpose, they include a complete stamp to reproduce a man's face framed in long hair (Figure 44b). This might have been used on small hand-made figures or to form sprigs to embellish other objects.

Although wig curlers have long been thought to be another product of the pipemaker (Le Cheminant 1982, 347-9), hard evidence for this has only been recorded from the kilns in Waterford. Not only has this site yielded pipes and wig curlers with the same stamp but also a unique range of kiln furniture which can be made to fit the product. Of the sites quoted by Le Cheminant where wig curlers occur beside pipe manufacture, the Pydar Street context is far from secure. Three wig curlers, pipes from two distinct periods together with other waste suggested a tip to the museum staff who collected the material from a building site in 1971 (information from contemporary notes in the accession register, Truro Museum); the material from Lemon Quay cannot be located; with respect to Helston, although Douch reported that two kilns were found and that a number of wig curlers were present, the only material now held by the Truro Museum consists of two muffle fragments, two pipe bowls, and a few stem fragments. If any wig curlers were found they have since disappeared. In addition to these sites, there is a wig curler trapped in a white clay matrix from Lower Castle Street Bristol. Although this small assemblage is undoubtedly pipe kiln waste, one wig curler does not prove manufacture.

7.2 Miscellany

Amongst the remaining miscellaneous fragments are wicket slabs, damper plates and plugs (Figure 47).

Tipping Muffles

Artefactual remains of tipping muffles have been recovered from five sites. These are:-

The Bristol evidence is consistent with a uniform type of tipping muffle in use from as early as 1820 to at least the middle of the century. The single small fragment from Barnstaple could have come from a similar object. All have been used to melt green glaze. The type example illustrated is from Bristol, Temple Way (Jackson et al 1991). This tipping muffle is hand built from white clay with self-coloured grog and some organic matter. It takes the form of an open-ended vessel tapering to a spigot base reminiscent of an amphora. The spigot is reinforced with pipe stems. The open end has a thickened rim to a depth of c. 50mm. The outer surface is considerably damaged by spalling and for the most part covered with slaggy glaze. That it was aligned horizontally in the furnace is clearly shown by the crystallised slag drips formed on one more heavily slagged side. This "lower" edge is further attested on the inner surface by green glaze streaked from the depths of the interior to the outer rim. This streak occupies approximately one-sixth of the circumference, above which the interior is glaze free excepting its inner extremity. The rim is slag free, indicating the masking effect of a support. The spigot is partially slag free and generally less slagged than the body, indicating a further masking support. Slagging on the body decreases towards the "upper" surface. The muffle has been breached through the "lower" wall, apparently by glaze erosion of a crack.

The site at Temple Way also yielded two body fragments from another tipping muffle. From Mead Street there are two spigot ends, twelve body fragments and four slag-masked rim shards. This assemblage comes from three or more muffles. The site at Bath Road produced one slag-masked rim fragment. The fragment from Barnstaple is from the body, displaying green-glazed inner and slagged outer surfaces.

7.3 Waste

Waste: stem slag laminates and thin sheet, stem slag laminates

A layer of stems adhering to a bed of slag
A layer of thin clay sheets, then pipe stems, then slag
A layer of thin clay sheets then a layer of slag

In its more simple form (SSL1) this material consists of a more or less flat, unbroken, bed of slag with a layer of clean, parallel, pipe stems fused into one surface (Figure 49). In a second version (SSL2) there is a further layer composed of thin sheets adhering to the pipe stems. A third variation (SSL3) is a bed of slag with a layer of thin sheets fused to one surface. The orientation of these materials when the slag cooled was with the slag uppermost, indicated by pendulous drips between the pipe stems. The slag is visually indistinguishable from hearth slag derived from the earthy residues and ash resulting from coal combustion. Wood ash produces entirely different results being more viscous and glassy, also lacking the deep colour of coal slag. It is clear from the distribution of this material that it results from a practice which was both deliberate and of widespread use.


© Internet Archaeology URL: Internet Archaeology
Last updated: Wed Oct 9 1996