A couple of days ago, on my post about stooping, Ellen commented, "You are at war with yourself. One part of you loves to bring stuff home and the other part hates clutter."
That is completely true. Yesterday, after cleaning out that dark space under the stairs, I submitted all the information needed to arrange a hazardous waste pickup by the council. In other words, I inched forward on getting some stuff out of the house.
But as I was walking home from work, I found this (above)! A box full of antique clay smoking pipes, lying on the sidewalk in the same place where I found the bottles and the wet books. Someone is definitely having a clear-out, but I couldn't believe they'd just throw these pipes away. When I saw the box on its side, the pipes strewn across the sidewalk, I actually exclaimed out loud, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!"
Though not uncommon, clay pipes like this are quite old, going at least as far back as the Victorians and sometimes hundreds of years earlier. They featured long stems, and were inexpensive and made to be disposable. They're often found in the Thames by mudlarkers, but usually not on a sidewalk in West Hampstead!
It's much more common to find broken pieces of stem than it is to find a cup. I've found some stems myself, and years ago, my friend Sally gave me a cup that she bought from an antique dealer at Greenwich Market -- so I'd have at least one. Now look at them all!
I scooped the pipes back into the box and brought it home, so I could examine them more closely. The box was numbered -- 17 -- and there was a note inside: "17/ Pipes 13, 1/2 of 1882." Perhaps these are inventory or lot numbers, or is 1882 a year? Who knows.
Most commonly, clay pipes feature a simple cup with maybe some ribs or basic patterns around the outside. But some of the ones in this box are really unusual. Here's one that looks like a grinning man with a big nose.
This one has a stag's head, with a sun or a radiating eye above it...
...and this one has a sort of faux wood-grain texture.
This one may be my favorite, with images of giraffes on the cup. On one side of the stem it says "The Giraffe," and on the other is part of an address, "-ton Place, SE." The Giraffe was a pub on Penton Place in Kennington, in southeast London. I feel certain this pipe must have come from there.
Anyway, I have no idea what to do with them all. I can't even say for sure that they're all old or authentic -- people do make modern versions -- but I think they are. I wrote to the Museum of London asking them if they'd like to take a look. I don't know whether any of these are so unusual they're worthy of special preservation.
If not, maybe I can sell them on eBay or donate them to a pipe-collector's club. I just want them to wind up in the right hands, and not go out with the trash!