Bristol and Avon Archaeological Society

A Group of 1850’s Clay Pipe Kiln Wasters from Wellington Road, St Pauls, Bristol

August 26, 2014
by Ian Beckey


In December 1998 contractors working for S.W.E.B. dug a trench for new electricity cables with an associated inspection chamber in Wellington Road, St Pauls, formerly known as Victoria Road and later Rope Walk (Fig.1). This trench cut diagonally across the road at a depth of approximately 2m.

During the course of these excavations a layer of clay tobacco-pipe material approximately 80mm thick was observed at nearly 2.0m below the present road surface in the excavated inspection chamber pit almost opposite the Phoenix Public House = No 5 Victoria Road on Fig.1 (NGR ST 5959 7342. With the permission of the contractors, a small rescue excavation was carried out by the author in the pit dug for the inspection chamber in a rectangular area of 1.5m x 1.0m.

The waste clay pipe group overlay a red sandstone layer and consisted of broken pipe bowls, stems (including green glazed tips), lumps of clinker, ash, fragments of kiln muffle and small pieces of pipe clay. The deposit was sealed by various banded layers of demolition nibble, clay, small stones, coal and ash and seemed to spread over a much larger area than could be excavated. It must therefore be assumed that the kiln-waste group was part of a much larger dump which should be fully examined whenever the opportunity arises. Further trenches were dug by the same contractors in the vicinity of the deposit during early July 2000, but unfortunately no observations were made and no other waste material was recovered.

Fig.1 Site location plan based on Ashmead's map of 1855

Fig.1 Site location plan based on Ashmead’s map of 1855

The Pipes

On examination of the pipes it was noted that some had broken stems whilst others were badly discoloured by overfiring in the kiln, which would have made them unsaleable. Other pipes such as types 4 and 7 have a crack on the bowl and one of the type 8 bowls has evidence of copper staining on one side. Additionally, some of the leaf decoration pipes had poorly defined leaves and many have not been properly trimmed or registered, which might indicate wom moulds. None of the pipes had been smoked. Each bowl had a stem bore diameter of 1/16″ and all decoration was in relief. The number of examples of each type of bowl recovered is listed below (Table 1). All pipes are illustrated full size in Fig.2.

Type No. of Examples
1 8
2 1
3 1
4 1
5 3
6 1
7 1
8 6
9 3
Total of pipe bowls recovered: 25
Type Description
1-2  Plain bowl with spur
3-5  Bowl with oak leaf decoration up the front and back mould-line
6-7  Bowl with a leaf decoration up the front and back mould-line
8  Bowl with oak leaf decoration up the front and back mould-line; bunch of grapes on both sides and multi-pointed stars on each side of the spur
9  Bowl in the form of a human head in the style of a military figure wearing a cocked hat with chinstrap and a collar with a but ton decoration on the tunic


In 1855 a new road (Victoria Road) was constructed along the course of the River Frome with the possibility of the river being culverted at the same time. The pipe waste was deposited in an area close to the river to enable the road surface to be levelled up along the new alignment (Ashmead 1855). Very often pipe waste was used in this way because it made a reasonably solid base and could easily be transported by cart from any nearby pipe factory (Price et at 1984). Examination of both documentary and archaeological evidence suggested a mid-1850s date for the deposition of the pipe waste from the Wellington Road site.

Close to the waste group’s location is a row of Italianate brick-built terraced houses (Numbers 11-15 Wellington Road, originally numbered 1-5 Victoria Road) of a style which became popular in the 1840-50s following the return of wealthy visitors returning from the Grand Tour of Europe. This was reflected in the creation of a new Italian style of architecture which included Queen Victoria’s Osborne House. These houses are stylistically very similar to a row of houses constructed in 1853 at St George’s Road, Hotwells, Bristol (NGR ST 578 725) and make a useful comparison. Examination of earlier maps including Mathews ( 1815), Donne (1821), Ashmead (1828 and 1846) and Chilcott (1838) show the area as being undeveloped with no indication of a new road on the same alignment and no changes were apparent on any map until Ashmead’s in 1855. Next to Numbers 1-5 Victoria Road was a row of terraced houses named Viacoff Parade which were shown on the 1855 map. They presumably had some connection to the Crimean War but so far no information has come to light to prove this. It should also be noted that the nearby St Matthias Parish Church was consecrated in 1852 (St Mat PR). Next to the church, new baths and wash-houses were built which opened on 12 August 1850. This followed the establishment of a Bath and Wash-House Committee by the City Council in 1847 because of concerns over public health following outbreaks of cholera in Bristol in both 1845 and 1849 (Large & Round undated).

The bowl in the form of a human head (Fig.2, Type 9) is of particular interest and requires further explanation as it is probably a representation of the head of a British military figure such as a general, admiral or cavalryman from the Crimean War period 1853-6. This war fought by Britain, France, Ottoman Turkey and Piedmont (Sardinia) against Russia was the biggest military campaign Britain had been involved in since the Napoleonic Wars, and as a measure of its scale required almost half of the British Army and Royal Navy to be there. A brief background to the campaign is given as this has some bearing as to why Crimean pipes are important when dating kiln waste groups.

Following a dispute over the custody of Holy Places in the Ottoman Empire between the Catholics and the Green Orthodox, Russias’s Tsar Nicholas I demanded that they should have protectorate rights over all Orthodox subjects but this was refused by the Sultan of Turkey. Russia then invaded Wallacia and Moldavia in July 1853 and destroyed the Turkish fleet at Sinope in November 1853. This caused outrage in Britain and France and many people felt that Russia was expanding its sphere of influence into Levant and the Balkans, thus threatening the British Empire. Therefore, to prevent Russian expansionism both Britain and France declared war on Russia on 27 March 1854 although there was little action until an expeditionary force landed in the Crimea on 14 September 1854 to destroy the Russian Naval Base at Sevastopol. Because there was no clear strategy on how Russia should be dealt with, hostilities dragged on until the winter of 1855 but on 30 March 1856 Britain, France, Austria and Russia signed the Treaty of Paris to bring the war to a close (Barthorp 1990).

The British public and national press in particular were very enthusiastic when the British Government declared war on Russia (Royle 1999) and newspaper reporters like William Howard Russell of The Times went to the Crimea to report on events at the front, together with artists such as William Simpson (Barthorp 1990). The enthusiasm for the war must also have filtered down to various pipemakers who realised that the Crimea campaign might produce new pipe -selling opportunities and this has been shown to be the case judging by the number of military-headed pipes from Bristol and elsewhere. These sites include Bath Road (Price & Jackson 1984), Temple Back (Beckey & Jackson forthcoming), Lawrence Hill (Beckey, Baker & Jackson forthcoming) and Great Ann Street (Beckey & Baker forthcoming).

Because Britain was only directly involved in the Crimea from 27 March 1854 to 31 March 1856 it is provisionally possible to date the pipe group to around this time. However, it should be noted that it is not unusual to see production of pipes continuing for several years after a particular event due to the fact that steel pipe-moulds were expensive to produce. Therefore, to obtain maximum return on investment, a pipemaker would have to make full use of his moulds until they were either too worn/damaged, or if the subject was no longer of interest to the public.

Clay pipes from Wellington Road (Victoria Road) Scale 1:1

Clay pipes from Wellington Road (Victoria Road) Scale 1:1

Of particular relevance is that the Type 9 design is exactly the same as a pipe found in Great Ann Street, St Judes (NGR ST 5977 7345). This pipe was part of a kiln waste pit group (known as Group 2) which was found in the yard area between 58 Great George Street and 49 Great Ann Street (or the Three Tuns Public House as it was known, Fig.4).

Additionally, other pipes in the group such as the ones decorated with oak leaves (Types 3-5) and bunches of grapes (Type 8) were known to be popular in the 1850s and have been found at Temple Way (Price et at 1984), Clement Street (Beckey & Jackson 1986) and Lawrence Hill (Beckey, Baker & Jackson forthcoming).

One pipe from Group 2 had the initials `EB’ marked on one side of the bowl only, and recent research suggests that it was made by a member of the Bye pipemaking family. This property was used by the pipemaker James Maun but the reason why pipe waste from another manufacturer was allowed to be dumped there is not known unless there was an arrangement to use the material to level up the yard area. Additionally, two other ‘EB’ initialled pipes were found in a deposit located in the yard area of 33 Great Ann Street known as Group 1 (NGR ST 5975 7342). According to the 1851 Borough Survey of Bristol, 33 Great Ann Street was being used as a cooperage by Thomas Jones and no pipemaker is recorded there during the 1850s (04250/1). It should be noted that 33 Great Aim Street has been identified as No.16 in the unified street numbering system established by Price, R (forthcoming). The ‘EB’ pipes from both groups are illustrated full size below (Fig.3).

Fig.3 Examples of 'EB' initialled pipes from Great Ann Street. Scale 1:1

Fig.3 Examples of ‘EB’ initialled pipes from Great Ann Street. Scale 1:1

Previous research had shown that the Bye family were not large-scale pipe manufacturers, and until 1991 none of their pipes had been positively identified. Therefore, any new information about the types of pipes these manufacturers produced would help build-up the picture of how the smaller-scale pipemaking industry operated. There were two possible candidates from the Bye family who could have made these pipes, either Elizabeth (Betsy) or her sister Eliza who were the daughters of George and Sarah Bye.

Elizabeth (Betsey) Bye

Elizabeth was probably born in Great George Street, St Philips c.1831. On 6 June 1841 she was still living at Great George Street with her mother and father and two sisters Louisa and Mary(41C). On 30 March 1851 she was living at 12 Great George Street, St Philips with her mother and father as well as her sisters Sarah, Mary Ann and Hester. She was described as a pipemaker as was her sister Sarah and her father was a pipeburner (51C). Some time after this she married a James George and had two sons James and Thomas and later, in the will of George Bye dated 25 April 1879, it states that she had married David George of Gloucester, labourer, who was the brother of William Henry George and was living at Stroud Road, Gloucester (BRO Wills, Vol.52, p397). The will gave her a quarter share in the proceeds from the sale of her father’s property in Eyers Lane, St Philips on the death of his wife, with equal amounts going to her sisters Sarah, Eliza and Mary Ann. Later in the will of her sister Eliza dated 5 December 1894, Elizabeth’s sons James and Thomas from the marriage to James George were given legacies of £100 each, with her children by her second marriage to David George receiving £20 each (BRO Wills, Vol.67, p148).

Eliza Bye

Sister Eliza was also probably born at Great George Street in c.1836-7. In 1851 she lived with the other members of her family at 12 Great George Street (51C). By 6 April 1861, her candidate because she was 23 years old, and thus had greater pipemaking experience compared to Eliza who would have been about 17 years. The only other possibility is that the initials ‘EB’ represent the name of a local public house, but as the `EB’ pipes were found in close proximity to George Bye’s factory in Ayers Lane it would have to be considered unlikely.


The staff at Bristol Record Office, B Bond, Smeaton Road, Ashton, Bristol, Mike Bye of 13 Barron Place, Basingstoke RG24 9.1S for supplying information on the Bye family, the staff at Gloucester Record Office, Clarence Row, Alvin Street, Gloucester, Madeline Leigh, Senior Modern Records Assistant, Bristol City Council Modern Records Department for her assistance with deed packages, Dr Roger Price for his advice, help with documentary research, and proof-reading and finally SWEB and their contractors for permission to excavate the site.


These follow the Price Jackson standard system established by Jackson & Price (1974), Price, Jackson et al (1979) and Price, R Bristol Pipemaking Families (forthcoming).

BRO – Bristol Record Office, B Bond, Smeaton Road, Ashton, Bristol.
Gbk – Greenbank Cemetery Records held on microfiche at Bristol Record Office.
MD – Mathews’s Bristol & Clifton Directories.
St M PR – St Matthias Parish Records held on microfiche at Bristol Record Office. PPR – St Philip & Jacob Parish Records held on microfiche at Bristol Record Office. SWEB – South Western Electricity Board.
5IC – 1851 Census records held on microfiche at Bristol Reference Library.
6IC – 1861 Census records held on microfiche at Bristol Reference Library.


Ashmead, G C, 1828 Map of Bristol, Bristol Record Office Ref B29885.
Ashmead, G C, 1846 Map of Bristol, Bristol Record Office.
Ashmead, G C, 1855 Map of Bristol, Bristol Record Office Ref 40860/MAP/1-108.
Barthorp, M, 1990 The British Army on Campaign 1816-1902 (2): The Crimea 1854-1856. Osprey Men at Anus Series No 196. Osprey Publishing, London.
Beckey, I, Baker, M and Jackson, R (forthcoming), Some 1850s Clay Pipes from Lawrence Hill, Bristol.
Beckey, I, and Baker, M (forthcoming), Mid 19th-century Clay Pipe Kiln Waste from Great Ann Street/Great George Street, St Ades, Bristol (1991) and its Relationship to the Bye, George and Roberts Pipemaking Families.
Beckey, I, and Jackson, R, 1986 19th Century Kiln Waste from Bristol. Society for Clay Pipe Research Newsletter No 9.
Beckey, I and Jackson, R (forthcoming), Mid 19th Century Kiln Waste from Temple Back, Bristol (1988) and its connection with the R F Ring Pipe Factory.
Borough Survey of Bristol, 1851 Bristol Record Office Ref 04250/1.
Chilcott, J. 1838 A New Plan of Bristol, Clifton and the Hotwells, published Chilcott, .1, Wine Street, Bristol. Bristol Reference Library.
Deed packages for properties in St Judes, and St Philip & Jacob from Bristol City Council, Modern Records Department.
Donne, 1821 New and Correct Plan of Bristol, Clifton and the Hotwells, Bristol Reference Library.
Jackson, R G and Price, R H,1974 Bristol Clay Pipes – a study of makers and their marks. Bristol City Museum: Research Monograph No.1 . Bristol.
Large, D, and Round, F (undated), Public Health in Mid-Victorian Bristol. Bristol Branch of the Historical Association, Local History Pamphlet 35, Department of History, Bristol University.
Matthews, 1815 New and Correct Plan of the City & Suburbs of Bristol including the Hotwells and Clifton and the new buildings down to the year 1815. Bristol Reference Library.
Price, R H, Jackson, R, Harper, P and Kent, 0. (1984) The Ring Family of Bristol, Clay Tobacco Pipe Manufacturers. Post-Medieval Archaeology 18, 263-300.
Price, R H, Jackson, R G, and Jackson, P 1979 Bristol Clay Pipe Makers – a revised and enlarged edition, Bristol. Privately published.
Price, R H, (forthcoming) Bristol Pipemaking Families.
Royle, T, 1999 Crimea The Great Crimean War 1854-1856 I, Little, Brown and Company (Uk), Brettenham House, Lancaster Place, London WC2E 7EN.
Sweetman, J, 1990 Balaclava 1854 The Charge of the Light Brigade Campaign Series (6). Osprey Publishing Ltd, 59 Grosvenor Street, London WIX 9DA.