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In the late 19th century many working men including ironstone miners would have smoked a clay tobacco pipe and on my allotment in North Skelton, close to the site of the former ironstone mine, I frequently turn up broken fragments of pipe stem & on one occasion a complete pipe bowl.

Very rarely do these fragments carry any form of identification, but two pieces unearthed recently have both carried the name of their maker & the place where they were manufactured.

The first of these clearly shows the place name STOCKTON & on the opposite side of the stem, somewhat indistinctly, what appear to be the letters RIOR. This is most likely a reference to Farrell Prior who in the 1880s and early 1890s was a clay pipe maker living at 31 Britannia Street in Thornaby on Tees, then known as South Stockton.

The other fragment is more clearly marked Wm TENNANT & NEWCASTLE. William Tennant was born in Berwick upon Tweed in 1838, the son of Charles Tennant the owner of a pipe making business in Tweedmouth. In 1872 William moved to Newcastle where he set up his own pipe making business at 24 Dog Bank. The business was obviously successful as in 1879 he submitted detailed plans for a new “Tobacco Pipe Manufactory” to be built in Back Pitt Street. For some reason this work did not go ahead and instead Tennant took over an established pipe works in Bell’s Court off Pilgrim Street, where the company remained until 1925. William himself had retired by 1901 and died in 1916.

The museum’s collection includes multiple clay pipes from around the East Cleveland area, including this clay pipe bowl.

In the 20th century clay pipes gradually fell out of favour owing to the increasing popularity of cigarettes, particularly in the trenches of the First World War.