Appendix 3: The Clay Tobacco Pipes

Sarah Newns

Cite this as: Newns, S. The Clay Tobacco Pipes in N. Corcos et al. Excavations in 2014 at Wade Street, Bristol - a documentary and archaeological analysis, Internet Archaeology 45.


In common with many excavated assemblages from central Bristol, the majority of the pipe fragments recovered are of late 17th to mid-18th century date, and are the products of makers who were living and working largely in the Lewins Mead/Broadmead/St Thomas Street area. Only one named pipe fragment from the present excavation was produced in the St Jude's area, and this is likely to be the product of James/Joseph White II or John Wilkey, who were working at 26 Wade Street during the mid- to late 19th century. This shift at the beginning of the 19th century reflects the general trend of the relocation of the pipemaking industry from the Broadmead/central Bristol area to St Jude's, which was taking place from c. 1810 onwards, at a time when St Jude's itself lay outside the city boundary and was one of the poorest areas of the city (Walker 1971, 11, and see also main report).

Research by Dr Roger Price based on the trade directories and other documents has shown that upwards of fifty pipemaking factories were operational in the immediate vicinity of Wade Street during the 19th century, within the area bounded by Great George Street, Little George Street, Great Anne Street and Little Anne Street, although not all were contemporary, and some were very short-lived (Price 2014, section 3). Census research for the present project has also revealed details of the families involved in pipe manufacturing. The research has shown that the inhabitants formed a close-knit community, with frequent inter-marriage between members of the same trade, and frequent changes of address within the St Jude's area. Many of those employed in the factories were women and children.

Census and related documentary research has revealed only one pipemaking factory within the study area, run by the White/Wilkey families of 26 Wade Street. The gradual infilling of garden/yard areas to the rear of properties fronting both Wade Street and Little Anne Street was apparent from documentary records, which showed that the pipemaking property is known to have included workshops to the rear, parts of which may have been recorded during the recent excavations. No kiln structures of any kind were located during the project, and certainly nothing approaching the small but very well preserved integrated clay tobacco pipe manufactory recently excavated by Cotswold Archaeology at Saw Close in Bath (Cotswold Archaeology 2011). However, something akin to the Saw Close factory may once have existed on or near to the Wade Street site: there are a good few structures depicted on the historic maps covering the excavation site whose function(s) are now simply unknown. We consider that a discrete deposit of 19th-century pipe material, within a possible cellar to the rear of 26 Wade Street, may represent waste material from the White/Wilkey pipe workshop. John Wilkey is known to have employed no less than three men and twelve women in his business, and to have constructed a cottage to the rear of 26 Wade Street, possibly the beginnings of the area later to be known as Buss Court.

A total of 476 fragments of clay tobacco pipe, weighing 1,923g, were recovered during the excavation, and 44 fragments, weighing 746g, during the following watching brief. The fragments were sorted by eye, counted and weighed. The larger of the bowl fragments were dated and characterised according to the recently established typology for Bristol-made pipes (Jarrett 2013), with additional reference to typologies of Gloucestershire pipes (Peacey 1979) and to the earlier, country-wide typology established by Adrian Oswald (Oswald 1960).

The assemblage as a whole comprises 123 bowls/bowl fragments and 397 stems (including nine mouth-pieces). Of the datable bowl fragments, the vast majority are dated to the late 17th/mid-18th century, and were retrieved from a wide range of contexts over the entire study area. The assemblage contains only seven pipe fragments that pre-date the late 17th century, and these are from contexts that also contained pipe material of later date.

With the exception of a discrete and isolated dump of unsmoked pipe fragments, very little pipe material of 19th-century date was recovered, which is possibly surprising in view of the fact that the St Jude's area of Bristol became a noted focus for the pipemaking industry during the 19th century. Documentary sources17 consulted revealed that significant numbers of pipemakers were living and working in Great George Street, Great Anne Street, New Street and Lamb Street, and at least one property, 26 Wade Street, within the bounds of the study area itself is likely to have included a pipe workshop to the rear. It is, in fact, likely that the unsmoked pipe fragments mentioned above represent waste material from Wade Street, although no associated kiln material was recorded.

17. This report would not have been possible without reference to Dr Roger Price's ongoing monumental and incredibly detailed study of the pipemakers of Bristol (Price 2014). In addition, Appendix 1 details information compiled from the 19th-century census records for the area.


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