11.1.2 Furniture.

The presentation of furniture evidence in Chapter 5 includes an alphabetical list of sites from which furniture has been recovered (Table 3). This same data is presented below in chronological order to highlight the sequence of development (Table 7)


Figures 18, 19 and 20 illustrate the variety of both form and size amongst the growing corpus of props recovered from kiln sites and waste dumps. By far the greater part of this material is from nineteenth century deposits the exceptions being Figure 18a to f, Figure 19 a, Figure 20t, v and w.

The earliest known forms of prop are those from Gloucester, Quay Street, 1670-1700 and Chelmsford, Moulsham Street, 1660-1710 (Figure 18a & f). These early forms appear to be non stacking, with projecting lugs in one case and cruciform stems in the other against which a conical stack of pipes could be formed. The Gloucester prop is hollow and shows evidence, in the form of flash glazing on the inside, that fire passed through. This accords with its muffle which has a hole through the base also displaying signs of the passage of fire (Figures 8 and 9). The base of a second prop, from the same site, also has glazing on its inner surfaces (Figure 20v). For a reconstruction of the Chelmsford prop with stems in place see Appendix 6.

Evidence from the eighteenth century is in short supply. Figure 18c depicts an indented terminal formed around a cluster of pipe stems which probably served as a prop. This piece is from the excavated site at Brentford dated by documents and pipe products to the period 1730-80 (Laws & Oswald 1981, 15-19; 30-31). The small assemblage of muffle material gives little indication of its features. There is no evidence for peripheral shelves. Another indented prop terminal formed around pipe stems is that from Salisbury, Trinity Chequer (Figure 18d). This came from a believed 18th-century context with no other associated pipe kiln material. The third example from Norwich, St Benedicts (Figure 18b) is part of an anonymous gift to the museum. It is accompanied by six enigmatic muffle fragments. Figure 18e represents a hand formed terminal with the ends of four stems embedded at divergent angles to form a quadrupod. This object from the Bristol museum has no provenance. Similar objects were made within living memory at Pollock's Manchester works, used in place of the usual wooden cones to form the conical stacks of pipes in bottomless cylindrical saggars. Once formed, the stack became self supporting and the wooden cone or clay mock up could be removed from below (Walker 1977, 143). The base of a hollow prop which had been broken and repaired was recovered together with an indented bun from the remains of a kiln base in Southwark Street (Figure 20t). This assemblage has a terminal date based on pipe typology of 1770. Two props from Waterford complete the roundup of eighteenth century material (Figure 19a & 20w). Both have flat tops consistent with a stacking system. The associated muffle material indicates a tall muffle with a side opening though there is no direct evidence for shelves. From the same site, though separate context, there is evidence, apparently contemporary, for peripheral shelving (Appendix 5).

All of the remaining props illustrated are from the nineteenth century. Although the figures are arranged according to type it can be seen that these are not site specific. Two sites have produced a number of objects each, clearly illustrating the diversity that might be expected from one production unit. From Stamford, North Street, there are examples of Type 2a, Type 3b, Type 4a, Type 4c, and Type 5. The heights range from 52mm to 524mm. From Lewes, Pipe Passage, there are examples of Type 2, Type 3, Type 3a, Type 3b, and Type 4, ranging in height from 40mm to 320mm. From the latter site there is also a strange object which may be a prop or possibly a baffled vent (Figure 20r). It is clear from this that a greater degree of versatility in stacking arrangements existed compared with the Cyclopaedia descriptions quoted above (Chapter 9). It is also noticeable that the smaller the prop the less likely is it that it will be pierced vertically. In view of the large number of solid props it is unlikely that the practice described by Duhamel du Monceau, of an iron rod running through the centre of the standard, was a feature of nineteenth century practice in the British Isles. There are however, a number of props with laterally pierced holes which may have served to socket some form of lateral stabiliser (Figure: 18q, 19 i, 20o, p and v). The tallest prop recorded is that from Stamford at 524mm (Figure 19e). Originally a little shorter, this prop has been extended and plugged at the upper end. From the same context there is a further extension which fits onto the base to give an overall height of 564mm. The only logical explanation for these extensions is to accommodate an increase in the stem length of the product.


These are also illustrated in order of the typology (Figures 21 and 22). The early Type 1 examples from Gloucester, Quay Street, appear similar in design to the top of the prop from the same site (Figure 21a & c). The two buns are however clearly formed as separate objects. They are both hand formed and irregular the hole through the centre appearing to be of greater importance than the shape of the lobes. Although their function is uncertain it is tempting to see them as the precursors of later buns, as stem end supports used in conjunction with props. Figure 21f represents an indented bun from a late eighteenth century context from Southwark Street. This well made regular object has three stem sized diagonal holes aligned downwards and outwards from the top centre. The completed disc would have eight such holes. Stems passed through these holes could have been used to stabilise the column acting also to contain the ranged pipes into fixed segments. The remaining Type 1 buns are of nineteenth century date: b and d are from Gloucester, Black Dog Yard, 184970 and e is from Newark, Albert Street, mid 19th century.

The Type 2 buns illustrated all date from the nineteenth century (Figures 21g-y). They are recorded from Ipswich, Lewes, Bristol, Stamford and Chatham. Diameters range from 60mm to 280mm. Those of small diameter were probably used to adjust prop heights. The diameters of o, p, q and r could not be established from the small fragments recovered.

Type 3 buns with convex upper and flat lower surfaces with varying degrees of vertical piercing are recorded from Bristol and London, Aldgate all dating from the 18th century. Diameters range from 200mm to 320mm (Figures 22g-j).

Type 3 buns without piercing are recorded from Bristol, Chatham and Stamford, all dating from the nineteenth century. Diameters range from 200mm to 392mm (Figure 22b-f). It is possible that the object with stem reinforcement from Chard, Silver Street, is an early version (1675-1700) of this type (Figure 22a).

Type 4 buns with convex upper and concave lower surfaces are recorded from Bristol and Stamford. Diameters range from 100mm to 400mm (Figure 22k-m).

Only one Type 5 bun is recorded (Figure 22n), this being from Gloucester, Quay Street 1670-1700. The function of this object is uncertain. There is a considerable amount of fire discoloration which, together with its eccentric form, throw doubt on a conventional bun usage. A possibility is that it is a concentric bung, the centre hole for observation and full removal allowing access for fuel or test pieces. Just such an object is described by Gordon Pollock as used in the old kiln at his Manchester pipeworks.


Of the twelve dishes recorded all except one are of late nineteenth century date conforming to the 1881 description from McLardy's Manchester works (see Anon 1881). These come from Boston, Rosegarth Street; Gloucester, Westgate Street; Leeds, Cottage Street; Lewes, Pipe Passage and Manchester, Hurst Court (Figures 23, 24 and 25). The three from Leeds and two from Lewes are complete unbroken examples. One from the Leeds group has a small round hole in the centre of its base and one from Manchester has pipes included in the base wall angle. They range in size from 304mm to 532mm diameter at the rim. An inverted dish clearly provided a greater support area, for the stems, than had been the case with the simple bun. It is therefore likely that these evolved to cope with the fashion for exaggerated stem lengths. A fragment from a similar object is recorded from Chard, Silver Street 1675-1700 (Figure 23b). Its purpose is not known. It appears to be of hemispherical shape and is stabbed from the outside with an awl type tool. A percentage of these holes penetrate the inside surface.

The fabrics used for prop, bun and dish bodies are generally of coarse texture liberally braced with natural grits or grog. In a number of cases the grog is identifiable as crushed pipe material. This first makes its appearance at Chelmsford prior to 1710.


Evidence for the use of saggars for firing pipes first appears in the archaeological record from the early seventeenth century. The evidence from Barnstaple points to the firing of tobacco pipes in Type 1 saggars sharing kilns with glazed products. The site, in Potters Lane, produced enormous quantities of gravel tempered pottery and roof tiles. It is not clear whether the manufacture of tobacco pipes was just another string to the potter's bow or if a pipemaker shared space in a potter's kiln. The fabric from which the wheel thrown saggars are made is the same as that used for much of the pottery and roof tiles. Clearly there was at the very least a high degree of dependence on the established pottery industry. This early use of saggars at Barnstaple may or may not reflect a more widespread practice. The only other artefactual evidence from the early years are the pipes themselves and unless damaged by the firing process these shed no light upon the kilns in which they were fired. Pipe evidence from the same Barnstaple site suggests that there at least pipes continued to be fired in company with glazed wares into the third quarter of the seventeenth century.

Although there is some evidence for the possible use of Type 1 saggars from the end of the eighteenth century, the greater body of evidence is from the second half of the nineteenth century when open flame kilns began to be used for the bulk of production. This phenomenon is probably due to the general adoption of shorter stems unsuited to the developed muffle structures. It is possible that initially saggars were used in the lower stages of muffle kilns, for short pipes, with longer stemmed pipes ranged above on props and buns in the traditional manner. This would explain the occasional saggar fragment found with muffle kiln assemblages at such sites as Bristol, Gravel Street, late 18th century; Bristol, Waverly Street, early 19th century and Canterbury, Northgate, 1790-1820. Evidence for a similar arrangement to cope with the production of wig curlers, in the second half of the 18th century, has been recovered from Waterford, Arundel Square. Here a number of shallow saggar rings 93mm deep by 320mm to 480mm in diameter, and parts of circular bats with a central hole, occur in company with clay pipes and wig curlers sharing the same stamped mark (Figure 30a-c). The assemblage also includes material from a traditional pipe reinforced muffle. A proposed reconstruction of these objects in a functional context appears in Appendix 5.

There are several photographs showing cylindrical saggars either stacked in kilns or in the proximity of kilns. From Belfast there is a photograph taken in 1914 showing staunches of these saggars inside an updraft kiln (Deane 1914, Plate 1; Figure 84). There are a number of published photographs of saggars used at Pollock's Manchester works. One picture taken in 1968, through the wicket, shows three staunches each nine saggars high with three uncovered saggars in the foreground. Two of these are filled with short stemmed pipes whilst the third has a cone of longer stems protruding from the top, looped together by a ring of clay (Peterson 1968, 1314). Accompanying the same article is a second picture showing Gordon Pollock with five piles of saggars some of which appear to be oval. Walker includes four pictures showing staunches of cylindrical saggars inside the kiln and a further two pictures of a cylindrical saggar with cut away base (Walker 1977, 165-69).

Photographs taken at Christie's Leith pipe factory show cylindrical saggars being inspected by the foreman and in the background of the packing department (Gallagher & Sharp 1986, 1718). McDougalls' of Glasgow, which closed down in December 1967, also used cylindrical saggars, one being shown part filled with short pipes in an account of that factory (Walker 1970, 141).

A photograph taken at Hill Top pipe works, Rainford, early this century, shows piles of cylindrical saggars against the outer wall of the kiln (Davey et al 1982, 119; Figure 79a).

Complete examples of Type 2 hump backed saggars (Figure 28) are known only from the Broseley King Street factory which continued to produce pipes until 1960 (Higgins et al 1988, 5). In 1932 there was still demand for the twenty four inch Broseley Churchwarden of which it is written:

'The pipes are embedded in chinaclay dust, and the graceful curve of the long pipes is procured by having a curved bottom to the saggars.' (Anon 1932).

The type three saggar designation was first allocated at Gloucester on the strength of corner pieces from vessels of rectangular plan with sides sloping inwards to the rim. Although shallower than the Type 2 saggars from Broseley those fragments recorded as Type 3 could be from a similar hump backed form. The Type 3 fragments recorded from Gloucester and Bristol are of similar heights all being within the range of 100-110mm.

Type 4 saggars (Figure 29f & g) have been recorded from Bristol, Barnstaple and Gloucester with terminal dates of 1860, 1865 and 1875 respectively.

The Type 5 saggar (Figure 29h-i) is known only from two straight edge fragments one from Lewes the other from Gloucester. The terminal dates for these assemblages are 1870 and 1875. The complete form is not known. Although the appearance of the fragments is similar to saggar material in thickness, fabric and construction it is possible that they are from some other unknown object. Apart from the single Type 5 saggar fragment the entire Lewes assemblage is consistent with a peripheral shelf muffle kiln. The Gloucester assemblage on the other hand includes both peripheral shelf muffle material and a substantial quantity of saggar including Type 1, Type 3 and Type 4.

Type 6 saggars are known only from Waterford (Figure 30a-b) where the evidence suggests use as containers for wig curlers (see Appendix 5). Saggar rings, as these are called, are commonly used in pottery kilns and were certainly used by German pipemakers to extend the height of Type 1 saggars filled with short stemmed pipes (Film of Lothar Hein's pipe factory at Hilgert, in the author's possession; Kõgler 1987). A variation of this type was still being used by Pollock's of Manchester in 1991 when the author visited the works. This variation has a partial base extending inwards from the periphery approximately 40mm. Long stemmed pipes are placed in these saggars, bowls downward resting upon the partial base, stems arranged to form a cone projecting above the top of the saggar. Each saggar filled with pipes has a conical void under the stems so that similarly packed saggars fit one upon another to form a stack. Each saggar acts in a similar manner to a stage in a peripheral shelf muffle. Published photographs show these saggars with pipes in place (Peterson 1968, 13-14; Walker 1977, 1657-1665).

The fabrics used for the saggar bodies are all of coarse texture liberally braced with natural grits or grog. In material from Canterbury, Bristol 12, Lewes and Boston the grog is identifiable as crushed pipe material. Material from Boston also includes pipe trimmings added as unfired clay. In the Hein film referred to above the pipemaker is shown crushing old saggars, mixing the resulting grog with powdered clay and water to form a body which he then uses to make new saggars. Hein is also filmed using wire to bind cracked saggars thus extending their useful life (Freckmann 1987, 93). Walker recorded the same practice at the works of Richard Simonis, another Hilgert pipemaker, when he visited the works in 1969 (Walker 1977, 122). The wire in both cases was covered with a thin daubed layer of clay to protect it. Many of the saggar fragments from Carlisle have been treated in the same manner (Figure 30f). Walker also visited the pipe factory of Wilhelm Klauer Sohne of Baumbach in the Westerwald where he noted that 'a number of saggars were bound together with wire which was plastered with wet clay before being put in the kiln' (Walker 1977, 122). Iron bands are used in a similar way on the humpbacked saggars from Broseley (Figure 30h).


The term bat is used for any flat fragment of material with two parallel faces, unless accompanied by significant evidence that it belongs to another group of objects. Such a fragment might for example come from the base of a saggar or from a Type 2 bun. Where such a fragment is found in conjunction with other saggar or bun fragments and formed from the same fabric as these fragments, it would be recorded as saggar base or bun. Those bats recorded in the table without a type number are of little significance. Any fragment with a single intended straight edge has been recorded as a Type 1 implying rectangular form. Only from Lewes and Gloucester have sufficient material survived to allow an estimate of complete dimensions to be made. From Lewes, what is probably a half bat, measures 190mm x 200mm x 25mm thick. The broken edge has a semicircular cut notch which probably represents a 55mm diameter spy hole through the bat. If this was placed centrally the complete bat would measure 380mm x 200mm. Slagging on one side only together with compatible joint wadding with pegged shelves places this material in the muffle wicket. The opening in the side of the muffle was closed for firing with bats set on edge bedded with plastic clay. Where appropriate the muffle shelves were extended across the inner surface of the bats, pegged into the joints with pipe stems. The bats from Gloucester served in the same or a similar capacity. From separate fragments come the dimensions of 152mm and 110mm both being 40mm thick. From the same assemblage there is joint wadding and pegged shelves with bat impressions. Whilst it is possible that the entire muffle was constructed from this material, as at Leeds, it is more likely that it was used to close the wicket.

Corner fragments from Type 1 bats are recorded from Bristol 4, Bristol 7, Canterbury 1, Northampton 1 and Boston. In the case of the Bristol 7 material, they are likely to come from the structure of a furnace for tipping stem ends with glaze. The bats are between 38mm and 55mm thick, some of commercial firebrick fabric and others probably made on site. There is considerable green glaze spillage over some surfaces and masking along edges which had clearly been built into the structure. There is no clue to the purpose of the remaining fragments.

Type 2 trapeziform bats are only known from one seventeenth century site at Birtley Farm, Herefordshire (Figure 29n). Although only two examples survive, their discoverer, the late Mr J Griffiths, recalled there being many more. They are 15mm thick and unusually reinforced with pipe stems. Their exact purpose is not known.

Type 3 circular bats have been recovered from two sites at Waterford and Gloucester in both cases associated with circular saggars. Those from Waterford are eighteenth century in date with a large centre hole. Associated evidence implies their use with saggar rings to contain wig curlers in the kiln. Other evidence from the site is consistent with a peripheral shelf muffle kiln. It has been postulated that the saggar ring and circular bats were used in the lower stage of the muffle the centre holes allowing a column of props to pass through supporting pipes in the upper stages. The Type 3 bats from Gloucester, dating from the third quarter of the nineteenth century, come from an assemblage containing both muffle material and saggars of Type 1, Type 3 and Type 4. It would appear that both muffle and open flame kilns were used on this site. The circular bats are likely to belong to the latter, functioning as saggar lids (Figure 30d).

A number of bat fragments, pierced or stabbed in a variety of manners occur from the late seventeenth to the late eighteenth century. Stabbing is likely to have been done to facilitate quicker more even drying which in turn reduces deformation by warpage. It can also play a part in the initial firing of the object by reducing the effective thickness, shortening the distance escaping water vapour must travel thus allowing more speedy escape and reducing any tendency to burst under pressure. Stabbing was frequently used on the thicker parts of medieval jug handles for this reason. Piercing may fulfil a number of functions depending upon the size and nature of the holes. It may serve to reduce the weight without any serious effect on the strength of the object. It may be done to allow passage of fire gasses. Although an unpierced bat placed across the path of the fire will transmit heat by conduction and radiation the deflection of the fire path caused will inevitably result in areas of extreme temperature difference. A pierced bat would in some measure reduce this effect. Piercing may also be employed to locate some other supporting or stabilising structure. At present the evidence concerning pierced bats is sparse and inconclusive.


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