Clay Pipes

Image of clay pipes Click to enlarge image of man smoking clay pipe
The Old Vicarage at Mellor was a Public House called the Church Inn from around 1560 to 1784 and this is refected in our finds from the period, which are of platters, drinking vessels and clay pipes. Tobacco was introduced to England from America around 1558 and the earliest clay pipe bowl to be found on our site dates from about 1640.

Remarkably clay pipes can be dated fairly accurately to within about 20 years. As a rule the larger the bore and thicker the stem, the earlier the pipe. The size of the bowl is also a very good indicator as when tobacco was initially introduced it was expensive so the bowls were small, but as it became cheaper and more people were able to afford it the bowls were made larger. As a dating aid clay pipes are more reliable than pottery because their shape and decoration changed more often.

Click to enlarge image of clay pipes
The stems also tell us about the social position of the smoker, as men working on the land preferred a pipe with a shorter stem which could be clenched between the teeth so that they could work and smoke at the same time.

Click to enlarge image of clay pipes and pottery from subsoil
A histogram of the numbers pieces of pipe along with their age clearly demonstrates the introduction of smoking at the Church Inn but then later the dramatic drop in the numbers when it was sold in the 1780s .Pipes were sometimes provided free of charge by the publican to attract trade, they might also be cleaned to re-use by putting them into a cage in the embers of a fire. Pipemakers, like local potters, were never rich because there were just too many of them.