Dating english clay pipes
The bowl form is usually the most accurate way of dating a pipe, since the shapes changed rapidly over time.They were also subject to marked regional variation prior to the nineteenth century, so the shape can also be used to identify which part of the country a pipe comes from.Burnishing was rarely used, although it continued to be a characteristic of pipes from the Shropshire industry and on some high quality pieces from elsewhere.Stamped marks, now typically orientated along the stem, continued to be used in the West Midlands and North West but died out in other areas in favour of moulded marks.As a result, fragments usually show a clear taper along their length and can be quite chunky if the fragment comes from near the bowl.Stem bores were generally large at this period and so normally range from about 9/65” to 7/64”, with a few pieces of 6/64”.Local clays with inclusions were rarely used after about 1710.
Retaining this unit of measurement ensures that any new data is comparable with previously published material.
Some pipes were burnished during this period and many areas of the Midlands and northern England exploited local clays, where these were available.
A fine sandy fabric was used in the Oxford area and pipes from areas with access to the Coal Measures often employed clays with opaque white gritty inclusions in them.
But it is certainly possible for a good assessment of date to be made by considering the key characteristics of any given pipe or pipe assemblage, guidelines for which are given below.
This can be very useful for ‘spot dating’ deposits, or providing a basic record where the assemblage does not warrant a specialist report.