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Saturday, 16 February 2013

Sepia Saturday - Broseley Clay Pipes

Each week, Sepia Saturday, provides an opportunity for genealogy bloggers to share their family history through photographs.


I was puzzling over this prompt.  I dismissed the idea of focusing on military caps, as I don't know enough about the different types (and didn't have time to research them).  I also know nothing  about tortoises, though I have a vague memory that we once had one as children, but it quickly disappeared. 

Which left "Pipes" - and inspiration struck!  Why not tell the story of Broseley Clay Pipes?  
Dad as vice captain
of Broseley School Football Team, 1926.

My father John Percy Weston) grew up in Broseley, Shropshire, near the famous Ironbridge - the birthplace of England's Industrial RevolutionBy the beginning of the 17th Century, Broseley was a thriving settlement on the banks of the River Severn near the coalfields of Coalbrookdale.   In the 18th and 19th centuries it developed into a major centre for coal mining, iron manufacture, distinctive roof and wall bricks, decorative tiles, earthenware manufacture including clay pipes.   In the early 19th century ironstone replaced coal as the main product of the parish's mines. Many of the developments celebrated by the world heritage sites of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums started in Broseley or were connected to the town. 
River Severn flowing between Broseley and Ironbridge
Photograph by my brother Chris Weston
pipe.gif (1134 bytes)Broseley's clay tobacco heritage stretched back over 400 years.  The industry prospered  as raw materials - clay and coal for the kilns - were in plentiful supply.  The town became the centre of the British pipe-making industry and achieved a reputation for quality pipes  which came to be acknowledged worldwide. The name Broseley was synonymous with clay tobacco pipes and "Will you take a Broseley" was a phrases much in use. Broseley church warden pipes, 26" to 28" in length were supplied to inns and coffee houses in London. Millions of clay pipes were produced every year, before the industry declined as late as the 1950s.
Pigot's Directory of 1828-9 lists nine pipe makers in Broseley,  including Wm Southern & Co. 
This company had been established in 1823 and by 1890 the factory employed 90 people.  It  finally closed its doors in 1957 and its  premises in King Street  are now a pipeworks museum,
Sign, Broseley Pipe Museum - Broseley photos, Broseley photography

Broseley Pipe Museum - Broseley photos, Broseley photography
Clay pipes, Broseley - Broseley photos, Broseley photography


Furher Facts About Broseley - courtesy of Broseley Local History Society.

·       A  large part of the first Boulton & Watt steam engine was made at  John Wilkinson's iron works at Willey, near Broseley. John Wilkinson described himself as Ironmaster of Broseley.
·       Many of the cannon with which Admiral Nelson worn the Battle of Trafalgar were cast and machined by John's Wilkinson's. 
·       John Wilkinson built the world's first iron boat. On its launch, it surpassed sceptics, by not sinking!
·       John Guest and Peter Onions, great names in the iron industry of South Wales came from Broseley.
·       John Randall (1810-1910), painter of Coalport china and a geolgist was born in Broseley.
My father was very proud of his Broseley heritage -
though he never smoked a pipe!

The famous 100 feet span of the Ironbridge, linking Broseley  and Ironbridge, completed in 1779.   My grandfather Albert Ernest Weston had a 35 minute walk (one way), crossing the bridge to Coalbrookdale where he worked in the Power House.  Photograph by my brother Chris Weston.
CLICK HERE to find out how other bloggers put their thinking caps
for  this week's photo prompt.    


  1. Interesting take on the theme. Clay pipes are still made but not used for smoking these days mainly for ceremonial purposes in Orders such as the RAOB.

  2. I'm sure nobody in 1890 could dream of a day when pipes weren't in demand and the industry would virtually disappear. The pipes pictured are beautiful and Broseley looks idyllic.

  3. Oh my this was fabulous, and I believe that is the best word for those pipes (besides stunning and artfully crafted) they just are so idyllic!

  4. Yes, I'm with Karen...those pipes are quite idyllic - very William Morris n'est ce pas?

  5. Even in my smoking days, I never much enjoyed a pipe, but perhaps I would have if I'd had a Broseley.

  6. How wonderful that there is a pipe museum! People these days wouldn't think it was a big enough industry to warrant one. Lovely bridge too - another place to put on my travel list.

  7. Interesting post. I would think those long clay pipes would be hard to smoke and easily breakable.

  8. Great post. I've been to Ironbridge but missed the connection to pipe manufacture. Pipes are an important archaeological find for dating colonial settlements.

  9. This is the sort of history lesson I like. There must be many places where the history has been lost. In the last 30 years two industries have disappeared from the local town and already people have forgotten they were there and what they contributed to the place.
    Great post.

  10. I've been to Ironbridge too but, like Mike, missed the pipe connection. Thank you Sue for this interesting post. I'm always fascinated by anything to do with the Industrial Revolution and I never knew there were so many links to Brosely.

  11. A friend collects fragments of clay pipes that wash ashore from shipwrecks.

  12. Sue, Surely a fascinating post. My grandfather was a pipe smoker, but I never though much about pipes and how they were made. What really drew me in was the picture of the Ironbridge and the Industrial Revolution. It's amazing how one's perspective changes when a bridge, a place, and even pipe making are recognized as part of my heritage, tho far away in time and place. Great post!

  13. What a great opportunity to reveal the history of a place so important to your family heritage. They look like amazing pipes. My grandfather "always" smoked a pipe, and Dad occasionally, but not these.


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