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Personal Necessities

Although site 35F is sparse in material culture, one intriguing find – a clay tobacco smoking pipe – does provide a glimpse into British societal trends that began in the latter part of 16th century. Lacking a maker’s mark, the style of the pipe did contribute to the evidence suggesting that the wreck dates to the late 17th century.

By the end of the 16th century the custom of smoking in public places had become widespread, as witnessed by a visitor to England in 1598, who noted that “the English have pipes on purpose made of clay into the farther end of which they put the herb, and putting fire to it draw the smoak into their mouthe.” In 1603, the first year for which there is satisfactory data, 25,000 pounds of tobacco, all of it from Spanish America, was imported into England. By 1700 tobacco imports has increased to almost 38 million pounds.

The early pipe makers established in England exclusively used white clay and two-piece molds to produce their wares in enormous quantities. Relatively quick and easy to manufacture, pipes were cheap to make and thus “could be bought for as little as one to two shillings per gross.” By the 17th century pipes were readily available commodities and the clay pipe trade had extended to colonies all around the world. Pipes produced in a network of centers across the country, including major cities, small market towns and rural settlements. The size of workshops varied from a single pipe maker to large export firms in Scotland, which employed several hundred workers. Bristol, in particular, is the most thoroughly documented English pipe export hub for the period covering the 1600s to the mid-19th century.

Pipe making technology remained substantially unchanged from the 17th century onwards. A sausage or tadpole-shaped piece of clay was rolled to the right length and thickness and a wire was then inserted the length of the stem to form the bore. The clay with inserted wire was then placed in an open two- or three-part metal mold, which when closed formed the final shape. A plunger was used to make the bowl cavity and the wire to connect the stem bore to the bowl. Once removed from the mold, the pipe was cleaned and stamps for additional decoration or maker’s marks could be applied.