Talk: 'The History of Clay Tobacco Pipes'

  • November 15, 2013 · 6:00 PM
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Come along on Friday 15th November at 6pm for a talk on 'The History of Clay Tobacco Pipes'.

About the talk

Pipes of clay were first smoked in England after the introduction of tobacco from Virginia at around 1580.  Sea captain, Sir Walter Raleigh, who founded colonies in the New World, was one of the first to promote this novel habit.

At first only the rich could afford tobacco, being an expensive luxury, although farmers soon began to cultivate fields of it here in England.  In other parts of Europe people were put to death for smoking, but in England during times of plague, men, women and children were forced to smoke as it was thought to be a cure.

The habit spread quickly across the country and by the mid 17th Century the manufacture of clay pipes was a well established trade.  The size of the pipe bowl was increased over time as tobacco got cheaper and longer pipes allowed a cooler smoke, but also broke more easily and so they were often thrown away on the spot after use (which is why you find them on the Thames foreshore at low tide).

The talk will be given by Jacqui Pearce, an expert on Clay Pipes from MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology), who will tell us about the history, different types of pipe design and about the people who used them. 

Clay Pipes are important in archaeology as they help to date an archaeological dig.  There will be lots of clay pipes on display on the night which we can handle.

If you have ever found any Clay Pipes on the Foreshore, feel free to bring them along for identification.

The talk is £6 per person (pay when you arrive) and lasts about 1h 30mins (finishing about 7:30pm). 

Afterwards we will head to the William Blake pub, 174 Old Street for a chat over a drink.

Hope to see you there!


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  • mario

    Thanks everybody, it was a nice experience!

    November 17, 2013

  • Robert

    Brilliant and informative talk.

    November 17, 2013


    Interesting, entertaining, well presented. Very glad I came.

    November 17, 2013

  • Kim

    Really interesting and enjoyable thanks

    November 16, 2013

  • Hilary

    very interesting and informative

    November 15, 2013

  • Suzan L.

    Very interesting talk and great company, thank you

    November 15, 2013

  • Tricia

    It was brilliant. Many thanks, Robert.

    November 15, 2013

  • Vlad V.

    I will be stuck at work today (and I am working in a different place). Sorry

    November 15, 2013

  • mario

    I'm planning to come along. I hope to make it! It seems interesting.

    November 10, 2013

  • Hazel

    This looks an interesting event - such a shame I can't make it! Grrr

    November 10, 2013


    This appeals as it appears to be about quirky social history as well as the artifacts.

    October 26, 2013

18 went

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