- Museum number
Clay tobacco-pipe bowl, incomplete with damaged spur. Moulded in relief on the left side of the bowl with a figure of an African slave, naked to the waist, kneeling on his left leg, and with chains binding his hands. His hands are raised in front of him, as if imploring the female figure of Liberty, moulded in relief on the right side of the bowl. The incomplete figure of Liberty is represented holding a long staff surmounted by a pilleus, the cap of liberty. The bowl seams on front and back display paired leaf moulding, each pair separated by a shoot or stalk on either side of the bowl. Broken at stem; also three separate fragments of stem.
- Production date
Diameter: 6 millimetres (stem frag 1)
Diameter: 7 millimetres (stem frag 2)
Diameter: 6 millimetres (stem frag 3)
Height: 37 millimetres (bowl)
Length: 44 millimetres (stem frag 1)
Length: 34 millimetres (stem frag 2)
Length: 15 millimetres (stem frag 3)
Width: 23 millimetres (max)
Depth: 22 millimetres (max bowl)
- Curator's comments
- The design of the anti-slavery/abolition of the slave-trade motif is thought to derive from the Wedgwood jasper medallions of the late 18th century, with the motto 'Am I not a man and a brother?'. It was adopted as the emblem of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, established in 1787. Wedgwood medallions were manufactured in large numbers, and many were widely distributed and worn from the late 1780s onwards. The design was frequently reproduced in prints and drawings. For an example of a Wedgwood jasper medallion, see Merlin record for 1909,1201.261.
Anti-slavery pipes are very specific to eastern England and appear only to have been produced in that area. Known production centres include Hull, Gainsborough, Lincoln, Market Rasen, Wisbech and Norwich. The majority date to the period c1810-1850.
For further information see David J Woodcock, 'Pipes attributed to William Hensell, clay tobacco-pipe maker of Norwich Norfolk c.1825-c.1853', in The Archaeology of Clay Tobacco Pipes series, Vol IX, 1985 (BAR British Series 146 (ii), 325-336), who comments:
'Since the slave design was originated for the struggle for abolition, the pipes, depending on exactly when they were made, can either represent popular support for the abolition of slavery, or progressively after 1807 and 1833/4, assume a more commemorative association with the successful abolition itself. The distinctly regional distributution of these pipes may be explained partially by the bonded nature of the largely rural economies in which these pipes seem to have been so popular. The slavery issue would perhaps draw much support and sympathy from rural populations where poverty and hereditary 'bondage' to the land tied the local workers to conservative agrarian systems. Many of the working poor might have seen themselves as slaves to the earth, let alone slaves to oppressive masters and overlords'.
See also J.Mann, 'Clay Tobacco Pipes from Excavations in Lincoln 1970-74', CBA/Lincoln Archaeological Trust (1977), p33-34.
Archaeology of Clay Tobacco Pipe I, British Archaeological Report (1979), p 205, fig 17; p 124, fig 1, no 14
This pipe featured on the BBC History of the World website, titled 'anti-slavery tobacco-pipe'.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Donated by Mrs Caroline Best, whose late husband Derek was the finder of the object.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number