Analysis of the Clay Tobacco Pipes by S.D. White


The excavations at the Upper Chapel produced a total of 87 clay tobacco pipe fragments, consisting of 9 bowls, 76 stems and two mouthpieces, from a total of nine different pipe-bearing contexts and two unstratified deposits (Table 13).

Methodology and treatment of the material

The pipe fragments from the Upper Chapel have been individually examined and details of each fragment recorded in an Excel spreadsheet. The layout of the spreadsheet is based on the draft pipe recording system developed at the University of Liverpool (Higgins and Davey 1994). A copy of the spreadsheet appears as Table 14. Stem bores have been measured to the nearest 64th of an inch, using a ruler.

An assessment of the likely date of the plain stem fragments has been given in broad date ranges. Stem dates should be used with caution since they are much more general and less reliable than the dates that can be determined from bowl fragments or stems marked by known makers.

Where more than one bowl fragment occurs in the same context group they have been allocated a simple reference number in the form of a letter (for example, A, B, C, etc.), which has been pencilled on the inside of the bowl. This is to enable individual bowl fragments to be linked back to the Excel catalogue.

The context groups

The pipes from this site are first considered in their context groups, before a more general discussion of the pipe evidence from the site as a whole. Details of the pipes from each context are provided as a context summary in Table 13. This lists the total numbers of bowl (B), stem (S) and mouthpiece (M) fragments from each context together with the number of marked or decorated (Dec) fragments. The overall date range for the pipes from the context is then given followed by the most likely date of deposition, based on just the pipe evidence. Finally, any general comments about each context are given.

Only four of the eleven groups of pipes contained ten or more pipe fragments. In the following description of these four contexts, the total number of pipe fragments recovered is given, where the first three figures represent the numbers of bowl, stem and mouthpiece fragments respectively, followed by the total number of fragments recovered as a whole. For example (1/2/3 = 6) would represent 1 bowl, 2 stems, 3 mouthpieces giving a total of 6 fragments.

  1. Context 106 (0/12/1=13). This context is the upper fill of drain [105] and of the 13 clay tobacco pipe fragments 12 were plain stems, with just a single mouthpiece. All of the fragments are heavily iron-stained, consistent with being deposited in a drain fill. All would appear to be early to mid-19th-century types from long-stemmed pipes.
  2. Context 107 (1/16/0=17). This context is stratigraphically below context (106) (described above). The single rim fragment comes from a 19th-century bowl. As with the material from context (106), these pipe fragments are also heavily iron-stained. Both groups are very similar in nature and make up and typologically the two groups are very similar.
  3. Trench 1, U/S (3/26/1=30). This is an unstratified group and as such very little can be said about it from a contextual point of view. It is, however, one of the more interesting groups of pipes from the site, in that it contains earlier material, something that is normally lacking in pipe assemblages from Sheffield. The stems are all plain and of a mixed date although they are dominated by late 17th- or early 18th-century types. The three bowl fragments comprise one each from the 17th (Fig. 21, 1), 18th (Fig. 21, 2) and 19th centuries.
  4. Trench 2, U/S (2/8/0=10). This is another unstratified group, comprising just two bowl fragments and eight plain stems. Although this group includes material from all periods of pipe production and use, the majority of the fragments are 17th- or early 18th-century types.

The pipes themselves

The clay tobacco pipes from the Upper Chapel are interesting in that seven of the nine bowl fragments recovered from the site are 17th- or early 18th-century forms, a relatively rare phenomenon in Sheffield.

The earliest bowl form from the site is a rim fragment of c. 1640-1660 from context (204) (the fill of grave [203]). This particular fragment appears to have been burnt but clearly has a bottered and milled rim. A slightly later rim fragment of c. 1660-1700 was also recovered from this context together with a number of plain stems, four of which are clearly of late 18th- or 19th-century types. This either suggests some later disturbance to the possible grave fill or that the grave itself dates from the late 18th or 19th century.

The only marked pipe to have been recovered from the excavations came from the unstratified material from Trench 1 (Fig. 21, 1). This pipe dates from c. 1650-1670 and is stamped on the base of the heel with the initials WL. This pipe is most likely to have been produced by William Lee (1) of Rotherham, who is known to have been working c. 1655-1680/81 (White 2004, 175).

Three of the bowl fragments from the Upper Chapel had either a milled band (Fig. 21, 2 and 4) or a cut (Fig. 21, 3) across the base of their heel. The application of a band of milling, or a cut mark, across the heel would appear to be rather rare, although these features have not been systematically recorded nationally. It is unclear whether these bands or cut marks represent a poor attempt at marking a pipe, or whether they are a tally of some kind. In a recent survey of 17th- and 18th-century clay tobacco pipes from Yorkshire, large numbers of Civil War period pipes from Pontefract and Sandal castles had milled bands on or immediately adjacent to the heel. In this particular instance the application of these bands would appear to have been a peculiar local phenomenon (White 2004, 73).

The late 17th and early 18th century is represented by one heel fragment from the unstratified deposit from Trench 2. The top half of the bowl is missing but it would appear to be a forward leaning type, typical of the transitional period (c. 1680-1720).

Finally, the latest two bowl fragments to be recovered from the Upper Chapel are a rim fragment from context (107) (c. 1840-1880) and a bowl/stem junction from the unstratified deposit from Trench 1 (c. 1800-1900). Both fragments are typical 19th-century forms.

All of the stem fragments from the site are plain and all periods of pipe production and use are represented in this assemblage. There are no fragments from the shorter-stemmed 'cutty' style pipes of the later 19th or earlier 20th centuries, suggesting that all of the pipes had been deposited by the mid-19th century.

Only two mouthpieces were recovered, both from Trench 1, one from context (106) and the other from the unstratified deposit; both have simple cut tips with no obvious finish or glaze and are most likely to have come from long-stemmed pipes of the late 18th or early 19th centuries.


Although the pipe assemblage from the Upper Chapel is a relatively small one, it is one of the few sites to have been excavated in Sheffield in recent years that has produced a number of earlier bowl forms. As such they provide a useful addition to the corpus of pipe material that is being accumulated for Sheffield and they add greatly to our knowledge of the early pipes from the city.


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