Friday 15 November 2019

William Luckett pipemaker

Phillip Woollard

William Luckett was born in 1865 in Plumstead, son of George and Jane Luckett. In 1881 the family was living at 47 Princes Road Plumstead with their eight children; the youngest was Frederick aged 4 and the oldest George aged 19. Father George aged 45 was a ‘Helper in Forge. (Iron)’, while George junior was an ‘Engine Cleaner (F&L)’ William aged 16 was a Factory Hand. The other children were all at school1

The circumstances that changed William from being a factory hand to a pipe-maker are not entirely clear but it is significant that in 1881 at 31 Princes Road (became Herbert Place in 1939) was Henry Stubbs aged 34 ‘Tobacco Pipe-Maker’ living with his twice widowed mother Ellen Riddle2 and at number 13 Princes Road was his brother, Thomas Jeptha Stubbs, Tobacco Pipe Manufacturer. Thomas had nine children three of whom were Tobacco Pipe Makers: Thomas, 20, Henry 15 and Walter 13.3

Since William was living in the same road and in such close proximity to the Stubbs family, it seems likely that young William Lucket would have known the family, particularly Henry and Walter and it may have been at this early date that he formed the idea of becoming a pipe maker, if not earlier. In 1898 William had moved to 67 Palmerston Road, a few streets away from Princes Road, (at this time he appears in the residential section of the London Directory but not in the trade section.) This part of Palmerston Road must have been built around 1897, as a map of 1894/6, showing the road, does not include his house. What however the map does show is that to the immediate east of Palmerston Road was a clay pit belonging to the large Brick and Tile works of Mr. Dawson. Dawson's house, 'The Links', is also shown to the North East of the clay pit. It is probable that at least one of the clay bowls mentioned by John Me Lean in his article, were made using clay from this site. It is not until 1937 that we have a map (originally published in 1907) showing William's house.67 Palmerston Crescent, (note change of name) with the subsequent development of the area Number 67 was built on a piece of rising land as the map of 1894/6 indicates.

According to William's grandson, John McLean, the kiln that William eventually built was on a piece of rising land which he may have made use of to produce a draught for his kiln. If he was making pipes at this time there is no indication of it in the 1901 census where he describes himself as a 'General Labourer'.4  However lodging with William and his daughter Mabel at 67 Palmerston Road, was a 60 year old ‘Boarder’ -"John Longworth, ‘Tobacco Pipemaker of London’ and to make matters more interesting is the fact that lodging and working for Henry Stubbs (son of Thomas Stubbs) at 23 Princes Road was William Andrews 62 Pipemaker (born Paddington c. 1863)5 Both John Longworth and William Andrew's would have known each other as in 1861 they had both been in the employ of John Harrison Pipemaker Muswell Hill Road, Highgate. Furthermore they were both members of the London Journeymen Tobacco Pipe Makers Trade Protection Society.6   

There can be little doubt that John Longworth was helping William Luckett in the pipe making business while William was content to describe himself as a ‘General Labourer' In 1906 he makes his first appearance in the trade section of the London Directory as: William Luckett Tobacco Pipe Manufacturer 67 Palmerston Road Plumstead. Of interest is the fact that William, according to John McLean, was a member of the Ancient Order of Foresters though no pipes bearing their crest or insignia can be attributed to William.

Of the pipes themselves several examples are known to exist. Three are in the collection of Mr. Peter Hammond which were illustrated in the newsletter of the Society for Clay Pipe Research (SCPR)7 .One in the collection of Roy Mitchell recorded in the newsletter of the SCPR. (Not illustrated).8  Two in the Greenwich Museum one of which, the Derry Castle type is made from a black clay.9 The other is a complete plain pipe with the name LUCKETT incised on the left hand side and PLUMSTEAD on the right. The pipe mould mentioned by Mr. John McLean, is of another design; this was made for the Christmas market. It carries the message. HAPPY CHRISTMAS & A HAPPY NEW YEAR. The mould - generously given to the writer by Mr. John McLean will be donated to the Broseley Pipe Museum Shropshire where Mr. Rex Key will make pipes from it and exhibit them and the mould in the museum.  

Of William Luckett's family life, we have the following facts. His wife was Mary Jane Day (known affectionately as Jinny) of Duxford a hamlet near to Hinton Waldrist Berkshire. (now Oxfordshire). A watercolour of the cottage where Mary Jane Day lived was painted by the present day John McLean and remains in his possession. They had two children, Mabel and Harold. Harold became an engineer. Mabel married John Mclean Snr. about 1924. The Register of Electors has recorded them living at 67 Palmerston Road in 1925 but their names were subsequently deleted, indicating that they had left by this time. They were the parents of John McLean whose reminiscences began this search. William's name occurs in the Register of Electors until 1948/9 but is not there in 1949/50 so we may presume he died in 1948. 

William Luckett would appear to have been a singular man who, from the recollections of his grandson, was proud, intelligent and strong minded, not to be trifled with. He followed a trade that was very demanding and not well paid, so one may conclude that his was primarily a labour of love To add to his problems was the fact that by the late nineteenth century the clay tobacco pipe was going out of fashion so it is a testament to his character that he was able to support himself and a family on the pipemaking trade.

1.RG II/075 lf.89 p.23., 2..RG 11/0751. f87  p.20, 3..RG 11/0751 f.86 p.l7, 4.RG 13/575 f.93 p.47. , 5.RG 13/571 f.llO p.37, 6. Peter Hammond. private communication., 7. SCPR. Newsletter 1998. No.54. p.62., 8. SCPR. Newsletter 1997. No.52. p.56,  9. Greenwich Museum Acc. No. 1969. 271.
My John McLean for allowing me to visit his home and treating me as though he had known me all his life.  To Peter Hammond, that never failing source of information.many thanks for all the details on John Longworth and the Stubbs family, and for permission to use the illustrations of Luckett pipes from his collection.


seaglass said...

Thank you for this interesting blog about William Luckett. I have at least two of his clay pipes which I found in the Thames mud. Id be really keen to send photos to the author of the post and also the grandson of William Luckett. Thank you! Nicola White -

Unknown said...

I am just here because of Nicola, following my future girlfriend around the interweb. :) Love the blog, It is quite interesting.

Bev Robertson said...

Sadly the author of this article has passed away. If you use Facebook you could post your pictures to the Society for Clay Pipe Research (SCPR)page. My forebears were pipemakers in London one branch working in Hornsey in the early 1800s in Lucketts Yard! Have you found any of their pipes Hensher or Hansher?