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On 21st of May 2002 the entire collection of pipes and tobacciana belonging to the firm of W.D. & H.O. Wills went up for auction. The auction attracted collectors and proffessionals from all over the world and I was lucky to be living only an hour's drive from Bristol where it took place.

The city of Bristol has always been one of England's major ports and it's association with the tobacco trade a very stong one since the times of the colonies in the New World. The firm of Wills was founded in c.1786 and became one of the biggest and most prosperous in the country.

The collection of pipes and tobacciana included all manner of items and some of the most lavish and rarest designs ever created. There were over 700 lots in the auction including pipes from all over the world and my main interest was in the clay pipes. The auction rooms were open for viewing for most of the day before the event and so I travelled to Bristol to take pictures and meet with other pipe friends.

I wonder who won this lovely lot of ornate clays. It was amazing to see so many pipes in real life and so many of the designs I had read about and seen pictures of. To actually be able to handle them and take pictures was a rare thing indeed but for me the temptation to bid was resisted due to lack of funds! I did not go on the auction day but apparently it was attended by about 60-70 people and scary amounts of money were changing hands. I think the most paid for a single pipe was about 7,800 and some of the top bidders spent between 8,000 and 40-50,000!!!

Here's a nice little lot of miniature bowls. Some of these were actually used a cigarette holders and others for testing tobacco before using a larger pipe. Most were made as novelty items.

This half of a pipe mould is made of cast iron with engraved details and is a typical example of the kind of moulds that clay pipes were pressed in. The mould here has a rooster pipe design.

Even Peter was amazed by the number of pipes on display and spent many hours frantically drawing the ones he needed for his research.

Here's a nice pipe made by the French firm of Dumeril in the first half of the 19th century. It depicts the Duke of Wellington with a soldier thumbing his nose at him. Apparently the Duke did not agree with tobacco smoking.

I hope this page has given you some of the atmosphere of the 2002 event.

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