Friday, 9 November 2012

Clay Pipes & 106 Old Street

Over the last few months I've begun to pick up clay pipes again, with some project in mind. Another one of the "It wasn't until I got home did I realise" stories, I noticed rather nice swirls on one of the pipe bowls and some faint writing. I worked out the second word was 'ROFFE'. Not enough for Google to throw me a lead. Oh for young eyes, it took a bright sunny morning for the first word 'WOOD' to reveal itself. Of course I could have asked my 13 year old - but I was filled with childlike determination to 'do it on my own'. 
Mudlarking Find: James Woodroffe Clay Pipe 1789-1799
Surprisingly there were only a couple of brief entries on the net "He was apprenticed to the pipe maker James Woodroffe on 10 January 1792, for the term of seven years" ( An article by David Wright, reveals his address in Islington "106 Old Street 1789-1799". An ancient route outside the City walls, Old Street was  recorded as Ealdestrate in 1200 and some believe was originally a Roman Road linking Silchester and Colchester. 

As the weeks went by I kept coming back to my delight in finding something I could trace to a familiar London Street. Eventually I decided to go and take a look. 

Ozge Bozyigit and her father Nihat Bozyigit welcomed me with Turkish tea and hospitality to 'The Legend' their barbers shop. Ozge had taken a break from her medical studies to meet me as she was particularly intrigued. 

The little object reunited with its birthplace after 200 years was passed around and considered, and considered again, as Nihat and his staff calmly attended to their customers. Turkish coffee and Turkish delight were delivered, encased in ornate silver metal work, to the men who'd chosen Saturday lunchtime to give themselves up to the full works. The large barbers chairs looked the perfect place to kick back, relax and enjoy the ritual finale, cosseted and cocooned under hot towels.  
Ozge Bozyigit and her brother iphoning Woodroffe's 200 year old pipe. 

Nihat Bozyigit making out the lettering on Woodroff'e's Pipe

One of Legend's customers getting into the history too. 
As I left, the yellow lit barbers looked as though it could almost fit into a 18th century scene. Alas 106 is no longer the pipe makers building - replaced by a Victorian high rise at some unknown date. I snapped a few adjacent buildings, several looked Georgian, so could have been the type of building which stood at 106 in 1789. 

What hasn't changed is James Woodroffe's view - a rather elegant  icing cake church, St Lukes, built across the road in 1733. 
St Lukes Old Street 1733

Since Richard put me onto the definitive guide to clay pipes 'London Clay Tobacco Pipes by David Atkinson and Oswald' 1969, I was surprised to learn there were four Woodroffe's making clay pipes in London, James, John, Jane and Sarah. The design on my find above was in fact John Woodroffe 1799-1832, he's listed later in the appendices as working from 1832-37 in vinegar yard St Giles, a little enclave which has long gone. I wonder where he worked between 1799-1832?


  1. Another gem. Thank you. Barbara

  2. I adore your finds and the tales you share.

  3. Fascinating post Julia. It really felt as though you'd got to the nub of things.

  4. Very interesting and I am glad I have found your blog. Since the beginning of the year sea defence works have been taking place at Margate. The old stone pier constructed 1812 has been underpinned resulting in deep digging. The stone pier was constructed on the site on many previuos old structures. The interesting thing is that many of the finds are of London origin from the days of the time of the sailing hoys, paddle steamers and Victorian day trippers. Finds have not been found on an industrial scale like the banks of the thames but what has been found is a link to London and part of it's social history that people took holidays to Margate. I am one of many that have made finds and my finds are in the margate museum and are unresearched. However it is unfortunate that it has been a free for all and a lot of items have been found by other people that have not been recorded in anyway.

  5. This was an enjoyable article. I found another 'woodroffe' clay pipe this morning on the Thames foreshore and google led me here.