"A part of the World Heritage Site Ironbridge Gorge"
Two miles outside of Ironbridge is the small town of Broseley, and here once you've wiggled through the narrow streets you will come to the Broseley Pipeworks. This is a small cottage industry factory which operated for ??? years until production came to an end in the 1957. It then stood abandoned and untouched for more than 40 years when in 1996 it was re-opened as a museum. Everything within the museum is left to a standard that is safe to visit but it feels like the workers have just left with tools and unfinished work left in place. It is time capsule and an insight into the world of clay tobacco pipe making and it's workers.
A little bit of history
Broseley has been famous for it's pipes since the 17th century and in the 1880's a local builder, Rowland Smitheman, took over a row of cottages which he then converted into workshops, built a coal fired bottle kiln and began to manufacture clay tobacco smoking pipes. Although by this time it was felt that the demand for clay pipes was diminishing because of the introduction of cigars and cigarettes, Smitherman decided to exploit the fact that in nearby Ironbridge the Severn Valley Railway line, which allowed him to bring in clay from Devon and Cornwall and then get his pipes and salesforce back out of the valley again to promote and sell his products. He decided to produce decorative pipes as well as Broseley's trademark the Churchwarden and Dutch Long Straw pipes. However the Broseley industry couldn't hold back the popularity of the new smoking methods and by the beginning of the 20th century demand had slumped and the pipe industry had dwindled. At the end of the 1920's the factories main rivals, the Southorns, took over the running of the factory and closed down their other factories in Broseley to concentrate on making them from here, and this continued until 1957 when the last owner, Harry Southorn, died.
The process of making the pipes
Making clay tobacco smoking pipes was a skilled job and the majority of the fiddly tasks were done by women. Men did the heavy tasks such as mixing the clay to make it soft enough to mould, or stacking the saggars in the kiln and then firing it. However it was primarily women who moulded, shaped and decorated them.
Handfuls of clay were rolled out to the approximate length of the finished pipe. Then the part that was to form the stem was pulled onto a wire to form the hole. Once on the wire, it was positioned into one half of a two part cast-iron mould, the other half then dropped on top, and then clamped in a vice. The hollow bowl end was then formed by pressing an iron stopper attached to the end of a lever into the clay. The stopper was removed and the mould then extracted from the vice. The wire was then pushed through to the hollow just created and then removed, which left the stem very floppy.
The next process was 'trimming'. This task was achieved using three special tools and eight separate little procedures, in this process removing the excess clay. Then a small metal hook on a wooden handle was used to polish the stem and bowl. It was then fired.
Allow 30 minutes to 1 hour for visit.
The Annual Passport. The Ironbridge Museums operate an Annual Ticket and Passport where for one price you can get access to all 10 of their sites with unlimited day time access during normal opening hours, so you can return as often as you like for a whole year. If after 12 months you have still not visited particular sites, you can return at any time in the future to make one free visit to the sites that you've missed. These tickets are sold at all the museums and the visitor information centre in Ironbridge itself or you can buy them in advance by phone. The 2009 prices for the Passport tickets are:
Adult £19.95; 60+ £15.95; Child £12.95 or a family ticket for 2A up to 3C £54.95.
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