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Broseley Pipeworks

Broseley, Shropshire

Location Guide

"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.

Your visit

Today your visit takes you first past the small bottle kiln, where you get to see inside as they have removed some of the brickwork on one side. Then you navigate your way through rooms up to the top of the building, before coming back down to the back of the bottle kiln. As you enter the first part of the ground floor, the ceilings are quite low, there are open fires to keep workers warm, cables strewn and hanging from the ceilings which would have provided light in the rooms, tables, tools, the office and an electric kiln in one corner of a room.

As you go up the steep and narrow set of stairs you come to a small room which is fitted out with cases of clay pipes showing the different designs and intricacies of them. Then you move into the main work room which is laid out as it would have been used at the time, with displays showing tools and explaining the processes taken to make these pipes. At the end of the first level is a small room which shows a short video of the history of the factory and demonstrates the making of the clay pipes.

Coming down another steep and narrow staircase brings you back outside behind the bottle kiln and then back into the entrance room, where amongst other things there are examples of the Churchwarden pipes you can buy as a souvenir.

 

Inside the Kiln

 

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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.


Location: Broseley Pipeworks, nr Ironbridge, Shropshire

Grid Reference: SJ671022 Ceremonial County: Shropshire

Map Link: Multimap

Aerial photo: Multimap Aerial

Getting there: Exit J4 of M54. Follow signs for Ironbridge Gorge. Then follow signs for Ironbridge Museums. On approaching the town look for signs for Bridgnorth, Broseley and Pipeworks. Cross the new bridge and follow the signs. You will find the Pipeworks in Broseley Town centre.

Access: Entrance is off it's own small car park.
Website: Broseley Pipeworks
Other Useful Websites:
Email:
Address: Broseley Pipeworks, Duke Street, Broseley, nr Ironbridge, Shropshire
Postcode: TF12 5LX Telephone: 01952 884391
Opening Times: Mid May until end of September 1pm-5pm. Closed rest of the year.

Charges: Use the Annual Passport as detailed above or for entry to the Pipework Museum only prices are: Adult 4.15; 60+ 3.25; Child 2.75

Nearby Locations:
Other Location Pages:

Bedlam Furnaces

Blists Hill Victorian Town

Coalport China Museum

Darby Houses

Enginuity

Hay Inclined Plane    Hay Inclined Plane Gallery

Jackfield Tile Museum  

Iron Bridge and Toll House

Museum of the Gorge Ironbridge

Museum of Iron

Tar Tunnel

Other Relevant Pages:

Living History Section

List of Living History Museums

Living history museums introduction

World Heritage Sites     

World Heritage Sites - Further Information

World Heritage Sites in the UK

Industrial Heritage

Anchor Points and The European Route of Industrial Heritage  

The Industrial Revolutions

Technological Developments in the Industrial Revolution

Transport in the Industrial Revolution 

Further Information on Industrial Heritage 

European Route of Industrial Heritage - UK Sites   

Notes: A small site which older children will probably find fascinating but not really suitable for younger children and no space to use pushchairs. Staircases are narrow and steep.

 

 

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By: Tracey Park Section: Heritage Section Key:
Page Ref: Broiseley_Pipeworks Topic: Industrial Last Updated: 10/2009

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