Sunday, August 30, 2009

The clay pipes of Copsey Place

A friend who collects bottles and used to go digging for them in the 1970s, gave me the above photograph in 2004. It shows a pile of broken and not-so-broken clay pipes, found somewhere near the end of Copsey Place in Avondale. Back when about a third of the old Copsey farm was still Railway land for the planned Avondale-to-Pollen Island link (never happened).

Above is a detail from SO 43071 from 1961 (LINZ records, crown copyright). It muddies any thoerising as to how the pipes came to be dumped in the area. Up until his death in the 1870s, Robert Chisholm used this land as part of his sheep farm (I doubt his sheep were into smoking). Then in 1882, it was bought by a brewer named Donald Norman Watson. A possible lead there.

In 1898, Edward Ernest Copsey bought part 55 in the middle, through which Copsey Place was formed when the land (up to the railway bit at the end) was subdivided in 1967. Part 54 to the right went through a series of owners from 1898, until it became the property of the Connell family from 1921 until 2008.

Anyway, my friend was good enough to donate three bits from the pile -- two bowls and a pipe end. The design of the three-masted full-rigged sailing ship and anchor don't help. The design seems to have originated from the 1860s and the time of the American Civil War. It was commonly used and adapted all over, and in various times, though. The donor suggested that the pipes might have come from a German tobacconist's shop ransacked due to anti-German feeling in World War I. He reckoned he saw German-made pipes.

There is an interesting page on the archaeology of clay pipes, with some other ideas. The northern shoreline of Rosebank, though, could simply have been a rubbish tip for quite some time, as well as a place over which the night soil was spread in the 19th century.

Meanwhile, another friend back in 2004 donated this complete pipe found in the mid-20th century over at Horton Place, part of the Aickin family farm. Made by Pollocks of Manchester, that isn't too much help for amateur sleuthing either -- Pollocks were going from the 1700s to the 1990s. Still, it's a cool relic.

Any ideas from readers would be appreciated.

Oh, and today most of the former railway land is now all developed and covered by buildings, with just a narrow coastal strip left in public ownership. If there was anything left on the ground to help sort out the mystery -- it's gone, now. Sad, that.


  1. It doesn't say whether they were found in one midden or whether they were from scattered diggings in an area over time. That area had a history of potteries anyway, did it not? I'd definitely attach a commercial endeavour of some sort to the history and how they ended up there in such a great volume. If they were scattered it may or may not be unusual to find so many depending on what sort of other things were found with them. It sounds like they were an unusual concentration. They do look Victorian era. Possibly rejects from a manufacturer? Most of them seem to be made from Kaolin and unbroken. Telling would be whether they had been used at all, it's usually pretty easy to see.But I am thinking a commercial dump, possibly even stock that had gone "out of fashion". I don't know much about the evolution of smoking pipes but I am pretty sure that cheap Kaolin pipes were on their way out around the turn of the C20TH.

  2. This is in from Stephen Smith:

    "Found an exact duplicate of the Copsey Place clay pipe on Island of St. Croix in US Virgin Island. This pipe has what appears to be a D 75 stamped on the ship side of stem about 1/2" from bowl and ending @ 1". I do not know the origin of this pipe.