247. A Visual History of K&P’s Churchwardens

247. A Visual History of K&P’s Churchwardens

The churchwarden is an intriguing, almost unsung pipe in Kapp & Peterson’s catalog, especially for a shape that spans well more than half the company’s history. Since its inception almost eighty years ago it’s never been out of production, often with multiple bowls and of late with some amazing stem bends, as you can see in the banner.

The ancestor of Peterson’s churchwarden is the Reading Pipe, seen here in its only catalog appearance in 1906. The longest of these shapes is the 104 T seen at the bottom, at 8 5/8 “. Truett Smith, Lead Copywriter at Smokingpipes.com, makes a helpful point here: “the Germans,” he writes, “translate ‘Churchwarden’ as Lesepfeife, which literally means ‘reading pipe.’” German, of course, was Charles Peterson’s academic language (the one he was taught in school in Latvia) and it’s quite possible he named these pipes. Like the later churchwardens, the name is really a category for several small-bowled shapes with long stems and shanks. Unlike the later churchwarden, the Reading Pipes all had bowl numbers.

(used by permission of Bill Burney)

Bill Burney, creator of the classic ASP Pipe Parts Charts, defines churchwardens as having 9″ to 18″ inch stems and small bowls than standard shapes. K&P’s churchwardens run between 10 ¼ ” and about 10 ¾ “. Looking at other current-production churchwardens, Savenelli’s are about the same length, Vauen’s around 12 ¾” to to 13″ and Ropp’s around 10″. While there are some expensive churchwardens out there, even from artisan-makers, the marques just mentioned all offer their standard lines at between $75 and $100 or so.

The Vauen “Auenfield Friddo”: a far cry from Peter Jackson’s paper mache mockeries

As with many pipe shapes, the lore behind how the churchwarden got its name is in need of demythologizing. The fable usually told is a mish-mash typical of that recycled by the late “Pete Nut” Jim Lilley in his churchwarden article at Pipedia.org. Lilley posits to its origin to early clay pipe styles (“tavern pipes”), its introduction by King William II (1650-1702), its earlier name as an “alderman” (a political councilman) and its being used by the local church official known as a “churchwarden” in the Anglican Communion who either (a) stuck it out of church window so he could smoke in church or (b) used it to help stay awake during his security-guard duties at night. Take your pick, mix-and-match.

The National Pipe Archive, a nonprofit dedicated to European clay pipe research and based at the University of Liverpool, can at least give us a whiff of academic authority in their glossary as regards the two names of the shape:

Alderman  The historic name given to a pipe with a long stem, some of which were certainly curved.  The name was probably used interchangeably with ‘Churchwarden’.

Churchwarden  The name given to a type of pipe with a long stem, some of which were certainly curved.  The name was probably used interchangeably with ‘Alderman’.  During the nineteenth century churchwarden pipes typically had stems of 16″ or more in length but, from the mid-twentieth century, the term was increasingly applied to shorter lengths right down to about 9″.

from the 1945 “Red” Catalog

However it came about, the first churchwarden—a canted, slim Dublin shape—is  found in the 1945 catalog in its new group of “Specialty” lines, one of the most important additions to the K&P shape chart since the Patent era. The original churchwarden obviously exceeded the company’s hopes, as it was made available with eight different bowls by 1947. In addition to the Dublin, K&P offered a billiard, bullcap, apple, pot, ringed bullcap, prince and panel prince for the next decade or so. All of these bowls except the original Dublin were also available in Classic Range, traditional-length shapes, and even the Dublin would enter the Classic Range later on as the 124, a number it retains to this day.

Demand continued through the 1950s, as seen in the detail above taken from the 1955 London & Dublin catalog. I wonder if the sustained interest in the churchwarden / Lesepfeife didn’t have something to do with the end of World War II. Just as earlier Peterson smokers came home from traumas of Great War I to be greeted by K&P’s “Contented Man” icon, so the servicemen of WWII’s horrors perhaps came home and wanted to do nothing so much after the work day as burrow down in a favorite easy chair with a pipe evocative of an earlier time. The name and style may have reinforced a deep need to just sit and be quiet. Human beings seem to operate under the assumption that life was always simpler and gentler for earlier generations.

from the 1975 catalog

By 1965, the demand seems to have quieted and the eight shapes were reduced to the Dublin, billiard and bullcap. In 1975 the bullcap was dropped in favor of the prince—which as a shape was extremely popular in the 1960s and 70s—and a sandblast version was added. By 1983 the billiard shape was dropped, leaving only the Dublin 124 and the prince.

from the 1997 catalog

The next change in the churchwarden production came with the 1997 catalog just at the five-year mark of the Dublin era, when an ebony, sterling mount version was added to the Dublin and prince bowls.

In March of 2015, three new churchwarden shapes were added to the Dublin and prince, made possible by the release of the D15, D16 and D17 in March of 2015, released in red, green and the short-lived gray.

The churchwarden reached a new height in 2018 with the release of the green sterling spigots, which expanded the range to the shapes seen above. The D6 was also, if memory serves, christened the “Zulu Queen” by some retailers in Europe.

Not too long after Laudisi assumed K&P, the two smallest shapes of the Specialty quartet shapes were recruited for the churchwarden line: the Belgique and Calabash. The D6 has all but vanished, although a friend at SPC points out there are still a few of this decidedly Danish shape around.

In the next post I’ll share the story of a famous Peterson pipe smoker who smoked a K&P churchwarden, documented by a fellow Pete Geek. For now, if you have experience with these pipes, please drop everyone a line in the comments below. Opinion in the hobby on the smoking qualities of churchwardens—of whatever make and model—is much more extreme than on almost any other shape. Many report this type of pipe smoking hot with gurgling that never seems to stop. Some smoke a churchwarden regularly. Whatever your experience, do think about sharing it as well as your opinion of what makes it a great or not-so-great experience.

Photos of K&P Churchwardens
courtesy Smokingpipes.com

 

 

 

eBAY WARNING

Two fellow Pete Geeks have reported that pipes they’ve bought through eBay’s Global Shipping Program from UK dealers have been confiscated as “possible drug paraphernalia.” Among the lost pipes are two antique Petes, a gold-band 9S DeLuxe (unsmoked), a Supreme and several others. Before you buy from UK dealers, be sure they understand what’s happening and agree to ship via Royal Mail, DHL, FedEx or some other method. Both pipemen had their money refunded by eBay, but what they really wanted, of course, were the pipes.

 

5 3 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
19 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
John Schantz C.P.G.
John Schantz C.P.G.
22 days ago

Serious bummer about the UK shipped confiscations. More lost history🙁

Most churchwardens smoke hot and gurgle (for me). I do have a couple of churchwardens that smoke well (for me). A Johs Freehand Sitter Dublin and a Tanzania Meerschaum Acorn.
I have had my eye on Peterson D15 and D6 churchwardens in various livery, but I have not “scratched the itch”” of my P.A.D. yet.

Martin
Martin
22 days ago

Nice read as always,but this pipes not my cup of tea.Itch my P.A.D.is a very nice formulation.

Al Jones
Al Jones
22 days ago

The Peterson Churchwarden is one shape that I’ve never seen in the flesh, thanks for the history lesson!

John Schantz
John Schantz
21 days ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

Armoire Hobbits?🤔

Stephen
Stephen
22 days ago

I own a Bib Ben churchwarden that I picked up in Riga about 20 years ago. As you mentioned, it has a small bowl. I don’t smoke it much, because the bowl is too small. I don’t know why this is the case, for a pipe designed to be smoked whilst reading. Maybe Peterson should take one of their larger bowl system pipes and make a long stem for it?

Bob Cuccaro/TLIP
Bob Cuccaro/TLIP
22 days ago

I was just thinking about this very topic last week!! Great article again 🙂

Martin
Martin
22 days ago

Thats an good Idea, as we speak i see on the box of my PLATO reads churchwarden too.
Thats a big bowl I can tell you. Big bowl and not so long stem.

Brian
Brian
21 days ago

Hello gang Brian 500 here. I need help bad. I am one of the guys who had their pipes stopped by the GSP. I have a 1903 Peterson sitting in England right now that I need to get to the US. The seller won’t ship internationally any other way then the GSP even knowing it may get taken. I need someone in England that the seller can ship to and then that person ship it on to me. I will pay for all shipping cost and even a monetary gift to the person who helps me with this problem. This… Read more »

Bob Cuccaro/TLIP
Bob Cuccaro/TLIP
21 days ago
Reply to  Brian

So sorry to hear about that Brian! Maybe we should just have them communicate through FB or Instagram and cut out eBay all together.

Brian 500
Brian 500
21 days ago

Thanks Bob I know you from the FB groups. Yeah this is the last pipe I ship through eBay’s GSP. I didn’t notice he was using the GSP until I had paid. But this is a special pipe in my opinion. A 10″+ long 1903 Peterson so I have to have it. I have found a gentleman on eBay that I have done a lot of business with that is going to help me out. Thank God for this guy! I hope I have it figured out now.

Mr Cook
Mr Cook
21 days ago

I purchased a churchwarden (savaneli 404 smooth) about 20 years ago and barely smoked it. I finally let it go to a friend, who also, barely smokes it. I found it was more a novelty than anything. About 3 years ago, my wife purchased a “Bendy Gandalf” for my birthday gift. She managed to recruit several of my friends, including some pipe club members into the project. What she selected was a D16 Grey Churchwarden. While it’s not a pipe I would have desired to purchase of my own accord, it has become a regular in my rotation. It smokes… Read more »

David F M
David F M
17 days ago

Mark: as always, a great read. Unfortunately, I must say that my experience with a Peterson churchwarden was less than stellar. I really do want to say good things about that pipe. I just can’t. A few years ago, I acquired a calabash churchwarden. Now I typically lean toward smaller bowls (a-typical of Pete Geeks), one of my favorites being the shape 65. I mention that to provide scale. Smaller bowls are my comfort zone. The problem I had with that calabash is that the pipe burned hot. Not just hot, but hot-hot-hot. That pipe burned so hot that after… Read more »

Last edited 17 days ago by David F M
Linwood
Linwood
14 days ago

Rather than a full churchwarden length, a “just longer” stem could be offered in standard / generous bowl sizes – to accomplish a “reading pipe”? My experience with churchwardens – small bowls, long drawing stems is that one instinctively draws harder/faster to “get the smoke out”. A pipe similar to, but shorter than, a cw might work just fine, as I have had stems made just 1″ longer for a few pipes and it’s grand! Dunhill offers the “3” length stem for it’s pipes (for example a 4302) that accomplish the desired style.