Clay tobacco pipe makers' marks from London title banner
photograph of detail of pipe mark

Wheel symbol with pellets between the spokes, stamped in relief on the base of the heel of a pipe dated to c 1610-40.

The stamped makers' marks project

The stamped marks project has grown out of the work carried out on London clay pipes over many years and by many researchers, both professional and amateur. One if its chief aims is to create a physical and digital database of clay tobacco pipe makers' marks found in excavated contexts from London, dating to between c 1580 and 1910. This will ultimately encompass examples of makers' marks, both stamped and moulded, on pipes made in London and imported from further afield, both in the UK and on the Continent. The physical database will be housed in the LAARC, where it will be open to researchers and students. The digital version of the database is now available online, as part of the Museum of London's website.

The first stage of the project focuses on 17th-century stamped marks, a sample of which is presented here. This is envisaged as a dynamic and ongoing exercise with new examples added as they are identified. The earliest marks are stamped incuse, usually on the base of the heel, although after c 1630 they were largely replaced by marks stamped in relief. Makers' marks are also found stamped on the stem of the pipe, and occasionally on the bowl. Moulded marks do not appear in London before the later 17th century.

Initially the MoLAS central database was searched for records of marks on pipes of 17th-century date. These come largely from sites in the City of London and from Southwark, and include only those sites for which computerised records exist. It is by no means an exhaustive list. The next stage will be to expand the search to include material from sites for which no such records are available and then to include stamped and moulded marks on 18th- and 19th-century pipes. A sample of makers' marks from City sites excavated in the 1970s and '80s has been included in the National Clay Pipe Stamp Reference Collection, which is currently under construction at Liverpool University. These marks are not included here, and will be incorporated at a later date. Marks selected for illustration here represent a wide range of initials and symbols used by pipemakers. In some cases examples of different dies are shown. The great majority of the pipes included were made in London; wherever possible the name of the pipemaker has been suggested and the level of certainty indicated as 'definite', 'probable' or 'possible'.

The ultimate aim of the project is to create a centre for clay pipe studies at the LAARC with a centralised database of clay pipemakers' marks for Greater London, and to foster collaboration between professional and amateur archaeologists across the capital to create a dynamic and accessible, working reference collection.

Credits

This project would not have been possible without the generous support of the City of London Archaeological Trust, for which we are extremely grateful.

This site was compiled from research carried out by Jacqui Pearce and Tony Grey. Database design, web and application development by Mia Ridge. Photography by Andy Chopping.

David Higgins gave much valued advice with some of the identifications. We would also like to thank colleagues at the Museum of London for their help and comments, especially David Bowsher, Geoff Egan and Roy Stephenson. We are very grateful to Sarah Pearce for compiling the MoLAS digital database of pipemakers' names.

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Comments, information or questions on the marked pipes on this site are welcome. Please email claypipes@museumoflondon.org.uk.
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