The Old Clay Pipe of Box
Varian and Marilyn Tye
Photos Varian Tye (unless stated otherwise)
The village clean-ups have been an enormous success in getting people out for some community exercise and improving the appearance of Box. Without rubbish we can really see the amazing amount of greenery in the area.
It is a curious anomaly that our area of Outstanding Natural Beauty should have parts that are fly-tips for passing motorists. The clean-ups have had an unexpected consequence in revealing more of Box's history, as revealed by Varian Tye in this fascinating contribution to our miscellaneous finds in the village.
Left: Box Fiveways shows the best and worst of our area
Below right is a photo of a clay pipe I found the other day when collecting rubbish at the top of the Devizes Road, just after Short Hill. I think it may date from 1790 - 1820, according to the limited research I have been doing due to the decoration on it.
The history of clay pipes is fascinating. Of course, they only came into existence after Walter Raleigh's discovery of tobacco in the Elizabethan period and smoking was at first the habit of the wealthy. Many pipe-makers developed in local towns. But social changes in the early 1700s led to snuff-taking as more acceptable than smoking. The working class took up the habit and, in an age of limited leisure activities, it became the social norm for many.
With its distinctive spur at the base of the bowl, I wonder if this is an example of a Reading clay pipe. However, I am no expert on this matter and I welcome any views from clay pipe enthusiasts.
The Pipe's Owner
I wonder who would have smoked the pipe, a farm labourer, perhaps a quarryman, or even a highway man on his ride through Box who then threw the pipe to the side?
I have just been reading a book on Tanky Elms the Bath Stone quarryman, who talks about the short clay pipe, calling it a nosewarmer.
Could this the gentleman who smoked the clay pipe? I found the photo of him in Mark Jenkinson's very interesting and informative article about Box's Underground Quarries. Mark tells how Sam Ford was a quarryman who lived in Henley. He was born around 1829.
I wonder if people will be so keen on discovering old MacDonald's plastic straws and coffee take away plastic tops in the future? One things for sure with the finding of the old clay pipe can we at least we get a better class of rubbish in Box?