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Clay Head

by Ruth Gatenby

Clay head

Clay head

Top of head

Top of head

Usually in this blog we write about things that we know something about, because they are interesting and want to share our knowledge with you.  This post is rather different.  It is about a clay head that we know very little about.  Nevertheless we hope you find it interesting!

This is a small terracotta clay head that is 10 cm tall and 8.5 cm wide.  The nose is broken off, and the smoking pipe in the mouth is broken off.  There is a large hole in the base, and a smaller hole in the top of the skull.

It has been in Louth Museum for many decades, and we don't know its provenance.  We wondered if it might have been a decorative roof tile.

Fortunately we have experts we can consult, and we are grateful to Professor David Stocker, who gave us his opinion:  “I rather doubt that it's one of the novelty roof tiles of the sort you no doubt have in mind. Those are all properly potted which this is not.  It appears more inexpertly modelled in thick clay. And I don't think the novelty roof tiles I have seen could have had a 'pipe', as they were made during the middle ages, and so before the arrival of tobacco.

“To me, this looks more like a nineteenth century novelty item. Presumably it was intended to be put on top of a stove, and smoke came out through the eyes and mouth. It might perhaps be the sort of thing that a bored brick- or tile-maker might make when work was a bit slack in the yard?  And the pipe itself seems to speak of that period before Word War I, when smoking a clay pipe was a sort of badge of the working classes.”