I found a clay pipe under the window

Although our building has some amazing original features in the upper stories such as the Jacobean ceiling in the upstairs living room and panelling from the same era in some of the bedrooms, the bar itself hasn’t fared so well over the centuries.

I was very excited though that under the two front windows, hidden for years behind built in seating, was some rather lovely panelling that looked rather old.  Further digging through the historical report told me that in actual fact this panelling had been part of the building in its previous incarnation as a shop and that the panelling had been taken from the shop walls and used to decorate the front of the bar when it first became The Bunch of Grapes in 1792.

There was a slight problem though.  While one side was relatively sound, the other side was basically matchboard.  All the panels had become loose and some of the pieces were missing.  The massive estate agents sign that we had taken down from the window a couple of days before to let in more light seemed the perfect item to start to carefully remove the broken panels and that is when I found the centuries of dirt in the void.

We got hold of an old door to create a clean space where the dirt could be sifted through to see if we could find any of the missing pieces and it was great to find two more pieces of beading, though a further two would eventually need replacing (a big thank you to the rather wonderful chap in the wood yard at Sydenhams for patiently going through all the options with me until we found the right one).

The rubble, dirt, filth sift also revealed something a little more exciting alongside the remains of an old poster and that was an old clay pipe.  I happily shared the news on social and immediately started to regret it slightly as people starting asking how old it was.  Not being my field of expertise, I was relieved to discover some pretty good identification charts on the web and estimate the age to be early C17th. Chats on Twitter and Instagram then revealed that a couple of years previously, the remains of a clay pipe factory had been discovered in Bridewell Lane and Saw Close just over the way from us and you can read more about that here.

Two weeks later and the panelling has been carefully stripped of layers of paint and varnish, pieced back together, a back panel fitted to give it stability and the void filled with breathable cork insulation.  The inside of the void has been thoroughly cleaned out and the Bath stonework repointed with lime mortar.  No one will know but me how much work went into it but I really enjoyed the process and it gave us the idea to have a carpenter make up some shutters for the windows above in a matching style.

Have a look and see when we open.

  • Patricia Leiper
    Posted at 16:11h, 10 May Reply

    Clay pipe a great find. Can imagine the original owner being upset at it’s loss!

    • Ellie
      Posted at 13:45h, 12 May Reply

      🙂 Should think they’re long gone Pat. Lovely to have something that ties in with the local archaeological findings of the Clay Pipe Factory across the way.

  • Gill Winfield
    Posted at 18:41h, 15 July Reply

    have you contacted Marec Lewcan at Bath Archaeology. He has immense knowledge of clay pipes and has lectured also written a book I think.
    Good luck with all the exciting restoration. We will definitely be in to see you when you’re open!

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