Smoking was unknown in England until the reign of Elizabeth 1, when Sir Walter Raleigh returned from exploring the New World in 1565 with a cargo of tobacco. Smoking was soon popular with men, women and children. In 1560 Jean Nicot gave the plant its botanical name, Nicotiana, from which we get the word 'nicotine'.
Tobacco was initially seen as a miracle cure, with health giving qualities. Catherine de Medici praised its curative power. It was soon realised that it was also an addictive substance. Tobacco smoking was already widespread in America and the West Indies, and by the end of the 16th century this was also the case in Europe.
The use of tobacco created the need for something to smoke in, and pipes were developed. Craftsmen began to make pipes from a variety of materials, including clay. Many beautiful and varied designs were created by pipe makers, reflecting both their skills, and the time and place when they were made.
Clay pipes were made from mature clay, which was first beaten with an iron bar to remove all air. If air remained in the clay the pipes would break when they were being fired in the kiln. A prepared portion of clay was called a pill. From the pill a pipe maker took a nip, precisely enough clay with which to create a pipe. The nip was made into a roll, a snake like length of clay with a round lump, or head at the end. The rolls were stacked in a pile called a bunch. Each roll was then wired by pushing a piercing rod up towards the head, creating an air passage for the smoker to draw hot tobacco smoke into his or her mouth. The wired roll was then placed in a pipe mould. Inside the mould the clay would take on the required shape of the pipe. The pipe mould was lightly greased to ease the pipe's removal from the mould after its shape had been created. After the pipe was removed from the mould, it was air-dried, trimmed and burnished using special tools. Finally the pipes were stacked in saggers, and fired in a kiln. After firing and inspection, the pipes were packed in wood shavings for transport, to prevent breakage.
Tobacco was first sold by apothecaries. By 1600, as demand increased, specialist tobacco shops opened and tobacco was also sold in inns, grocers, chandlers and drapers shops.