Quite a considerable few years later the magic isn't lost, maybe a little bit repressed by the lure of the more exciting finds, but this weekend proved that the humble clay pipe was capable of bringing more than a smile to the face.
Blessed with a weekend of exceptionally low tides we set forth and found some of our most wonderful clay pipes.
Before I go into detail, a bit of the history of clay tobacco pipes might assist and perhaps whet your appetite.
"Tobacco drinking" as it was known, came to England following the discovery of North America, hence tobacco, and was widely popularised by Sir Walter Raleigh, or so the story goes, in about 1558.
The clay pipe itself was likely devised by the native North Americans, but nevertheless their manufacture here commenced shortly after to satisfy the insatiable demand of that new breed of "Tobacco drinkers".
The earliest written description was in 1573 where a pipe was described as "an instrument formed as a ladell" (sic). No illustrations exist, but it was flat in design and likely inefficient for smoking tobacco other than for ceremonial purposes.
By 1580 however, the pipe took on the more efficient & familiar form, with a barrel shaped bowl and a thick stem between 4 & 6 inches long, they were normally undecorated and had a relatively small bowl, like this early example (which is not fully intact);
As the manufacturing process improved the stem became thinner, the quality of the finish massively so, thus the pipes became more ornate and were adapted for all sorts of commemorative occasions, advertising even.
Fiolet St Omer pipe (1765 - 1921) - French can can dancer sitting on a commode)
Clay pipes were very cheap. They were often given away with a pint of ale by savvy publicans. They would become blocked after a very few uses, they are easily broken, and were thus seen as disposable items. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it was "unlucky" to throw away an intact pipe, so the owners broke them deliberately (probably in an effort to bypass the blockage in all likelyhood). They were also in widespread use for over three hundred years, and it was not unusual for children or women to smoke them. This goes some way to explain the huge numbers of broken pipes that are found.
This post is not meant to be an exhaustive word wall history of the clay pipe, but rather a dip into their world. Here is a gallery of our better ones many of which were found this very weekend.
We hope you've enjoyed reading about our clay pipes. I think you'll agree that they are far more interesting and pleasing to the eye, than modern day cigarette butts!