Object of the Week: C is for Clay Pipes

Tuesday 19 January 2021

Whilst the Museum is closed and our collections unable to be seen by visitors, we have created a weekly virtual museum with an Object of the Week feature from our collections.

Object of the Week:  C is for Clay Pipes

 The Museum collection contains a number of Clay Pipes which were discovered in Scratchwood forest, which is now a large area of woodland alongside the A1 bordering Barnet.

We have little information about the pipes or how they came to be in Scratchwood. 

Scratchwood itself was part of the once great Middlesex Forest and this ancient woodland has areas which it’s believed grew up at the end of the last Ice Age.

Parts of the woodland were once hay meadows, growing food for the large horse population of London.  In 1866, Scratchwood and Moat Mount were part of a large private estate which was used for sport and rearing game.

Clay smoking pipes were first used in Britain in the 16th century following the importation of tobacco from the Americas. Early pipes tend to have small bowls as tobacco was relatively expensive at the period.

Around the mid 18th Century, Snuff taking in the upper classes became popular and smoking was discouraged because of health risks. Clay pipes came back into fashion again in the 19th Century and designers from around the globe were competing for attention in a huge world market. This was reflected in the artistic designs produced, using every aspect of life as inspiration, such as plants, animals, birds, Coats of Arms, Royal events, names of Inns, Masonic symbolism, sporting events, advertising, heads of celebrities and even characters from mythology.

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