Clay pipes from Allen Garden training dig

Archaeologist's pipe dream

Josh Frost

Josh Frost is a trainee archaeologist. In this blog he explains what he and the team have learnt from the clay pipes they’ve found at Allen Gardens.  

The Archaeological Traineeship dig at Allen Gardens is investigating the archaeology of the area east of Brick Lane. One of the most common finds coming out of ground at the Allen Gardens site is clay tobacco pipes. There have been a variety of shapes and sizes and we have been slowly getting to grips with using these indicators to help date the pipes. It has also thrown up some interesting nuggets of information.

The oldest pipes that have been found so far date to the 17th century and are identified from the small bowls they have. One of the smaller pipes may date to as early as 1610. These early pipes may have been disturbed by later construction on the site.

The majority of the pipes found so far are 18th or 19th century in date, but offer tantalizing links with the past. Many of these pipes have initials or embossed names on them. One of the most prevalent initials is “IW” and some of these are marked “WOODROFFE”. Needless to say a quick internet search later and a name was found. James Woodroffe was making pipes on Old Street between 1789 and 1799, a period fitting perfectly with the date of many of the “IW” pipes. It is not clear why there are so many of his pipes on the site, but it has been great to put a name to the finds coming out of Allen Gardens.

Tower Hamlets Council has kindly made land available in Allen Gardens for the Archaeology Traineeship. For more information about the Traineeship explore using the links below or follow our updates on Facebook and Tiwtter with the #I❤archaeology.

  • Artefacts
  • Post-medieval
  • Community project
  • Excavation

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