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Dig will reveal Worcester’s forgotten industry

Historic clay pipes found in WorcesterExamples of clay pipes, including Russell pipes, found in Worcester

The industrial past of one of Worcester’s most popular parks is set to be uncovered next week when archaeologists set out to dig up the remains of a clay pipe factory.

From Monday (September 16) a team will be onsite at the Green Flag-winning Cripplegate Park in the heart of the city, digging to unearth the kiln where the Russell Pipe Manufactory produced smoking pipes for more than 50 years.

Worcester City Council is working with amateur archaeologists and specialists to unearth the remnants of one of the city’s lesser known industries.

Visitors and residents will be able to watch the team in action during the week and also come along on Saturday (September 21) for a special open day when they can see some of the team’s finds and listen to talks from experts.

Sheena Payne-Lunn, Historic Environment Record Officer at the City Council, said: “Worcester’s ceramics and glove-making industries are very well known but fewer people realise that our city was also a centre for pipe-making, attracting specialist pipe-makers from across the country

“Pipes were made here on a small scale from the 17th Century onwards, but the industry continued to grow until the 19th Century when we know there were at least three manufacturers in the city, the largest of which was the Cripplegate works. People up and down the country were often to be seen smoking Russell pipes. Many Worcester residents will have seen these pipes and may even have found the remains of them in their gardens.

“The Russell kiln was located off Tybridge Street and was founded by John Russell, an entrepreneur from Broseley, who married a local woman. Russell Terrace, a row of 20 houses that once extended into what is now Cripplegate Park, was named after him and was where many of the kiln’s workers lived.

“Thanks to historic maps we know exactly where the kiln was located, close to the children’s play area and the Sons of Rest pavilion. This dig will help us rediscover a largely forgotten part of Worcester’s history.”

The dig takes place at Cripplegate Park Monday to Friday next week (September 16-20), 10am-3pm each day. 

The open day is on Saturday, September 21, 10am-3pm at Cripplegate Park when visitors can see finds from the dig and enjoy informative talks about the history of the site and the city’s pipe industry.

Read the exhibition blog and follow live updates on Twitter.

Cripplegate Park in 1946. Russell Terrace is on the left and the clay pipe kiln was on the far side of those houses.Cripplegate Park in 1946. Russell Terrace is on the left and the clay pipe kiln was on the far side of those houses.

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