Smoking, drinking and the British sweet tooth

Tobacco pipe crate stencil, Calabar

Made for John Pollock & Company, Manchester, 1950s

Object number 2001.281
Purchased from Gordon Pollock, 2001

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Tobacco pipe crate stencil, Calabar

This stencil was used to mark crates containing clay pipes made by John Pollock & Company, Manchester. They were exported to Calabar in southern Nigeria. Calabar became a centre for coastal trade between Europeans and Africans from the 1600s. Foodstuffs were exchanged for manufactured goods and Calabar also became a major slave port. Over 85% of the ships used to transport enslaved people from Calabar to the Americas and the Caribbean were from Liverpool and Bristol. After the slave trade ended, the port continued to prosper until it was overtaken by the development of Port Harcourt in 1916. Calabar was the administrative capital of the British Protectorate from 1884 to 1906, when Lagos replaced it. The city still serves as a major transport and market centre for its surrounding region.

There were approximately 50 clay pipe manufacturers in Manchester in the 1800s. John Pollock & Company was one of the three largest. Hit by a decline in clay pipe smoking in the 1900s, Pollock was the last British traditional clay pipe manufacturer when it closed in 1990. Exports were increasingly important to Pollock's business, with distributors appointed in Nigeria and other west African countries to promote its products.

This information was provided by curators from the Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI).