LAARC VIP11 – Week 7
It’s been a busy old week at the museum’s Archaeological Archive. The main focus of our activity has been clay tobacco pipes, specifically, those that were discovered in Brentford in 1977. Previous blogs will tell you more about the amazing pipe kiln that was found there and the excellent work our ‘Unearthing Hounslow’ team carried out this summer, but for this blog, it’s all going to be about the makers themselves.
First and foremost, whilst smoking is bad, tobacco pipes are pretty cool. And sometimes, they’re just pretty. You can get different shapes and sizes, ones with flat bases, ones with spurs, some that are plain and some that are fantastically decorated like our pooping pal on his potty:
But for the archaeologist, it’s all about the small maker’s stamp that can be found on the heel or base that reveals the initials of the pipe maker. The way to ‘read’ a pipe is by holding it so the stem is towards your mouth. The letter on the lefthand side is the initial of the maker’s first name, the letter on the right, the first letter of their surname.
The kiln in Brentford belonged to William Heath so it’s not surprising that a fair number of these pipes have the initials ‘W,H’ marked. However, this being said there’s been lots of other makers too and even the ‘W,H’ pipes have variations such as crowns or stars atop of the letters. Our specialists are even able to identify which pipes have been produced using the same pipe mould.
So the task set aside for our VIP11 teams this week was to identify these stamps and group any similar ones together. Over 70 different stamps were identified suggesting that Mr Heath was hiring out his services to several other pipe makers and our teams took to the challenge of using their magnifying glasses to carefully scrutinise and separate the different types.
Meanwhile, the other interesting finds from the excavation were being assigned individual numbers and packed to the archive standards. These included buttons, buckles, coins, stone hones and some really cool glass bottle seals, including the one with the griffin’s head (as first discovered during Week 4) and one with the actual word ‘Brentford’ on (which is always nice)
For this task, our volunteers got to use iPads to create a digital record with a photo of the object and the object’s information label. These will help create a database of finds from the site, which we aim to get online in the near future.
The University of the 3rd Age were also using iPads as a useful resource for public engagement. This came into the final part of their training ahead of next Wednesday 21st November when they’ll be chatting to visitors to the Museum in the main foyer from 13.00 – 16.00
So iPads & pipes. What about plaster? Well, last week we got to handle, audit and pack two very different types of plaster. First, there was some amazing fragments of decorated roman wall plaster from Cornhill including splashes of colour attempting to replicate marble and lines with different shading attempting to create perspective. Later in the week we came across some Victorian moulded plaster from Liverpool Street which included this incredible plaster horse’s head.
This inspired Glynn & I to lead a short workshop about roman rooms, from underfloor hypocaust tiles to the best wall plaster ever found in London, to mosaics and to ceilings. Any excuse for us to go into our ceramic & glass store!
You can keep track of our progress via Twitter #LAARCVIP #VIP11