I think this man was born two hundred years too early! I’m sure if he’d been born in the 20th century instead of the 18th he could have become an astute business man…but of course living when he did, he didn’t have the advantage of an education to point him in the right direction.
Charles was born in February 1779 in rural Staffordshire to parents Edward and Sarah.. He was the third of seven children and although he’d been taught to write his name and to read a little, his schooling as with so many children at that time, was very limited.
Like most young teenage boys born and bred in the rural countryside, he began his working life labouring on the land, but from reports I’ve read, I’m left with the understanding that Charles didn’t enjoy this work. He was an ambitious but seemingly frustrated young man who couldn’t readily take orders from other people and therefore couldn’t settle at any one job.
Eventually he hit upon the notion to try his hand at setting up a small business of his own - as you will imagine this must have taken some planning with having hardly a penny to his name and no business acumen.
I think Charles must have been a very personable young man because he was able to procure from a Mr Emery a small yard which contained a run-down shed, - this was to become his working premises, and Christmas Day 1824 saw the reality of his cottage industry of making clay tobacco pipes take shape.
…Unfortunately it proved to be too big an undertaking for someone with no knowledge of how to run a business. He could only afford one kiln – and possibly hoping to take short cuts (never wise in business) he started making his pipes from the overspill of porcelain slip from the nearby industrial pottery works. This meant his unglazed clay pipes were porous and therefore of very inferior quality which had to be replaced all too frequently. So it’s hardly surprising that his trade dwindled until he was forced into closing the business on Lady Day 1829.
The popularity of clay pipe smoking was at it’s height in the 18th century, not only the working class took up the pastime, but the middle class enjoyed it too. Many styles were produced with the bowl becoming larger and the stems longer – although for some reason working class smokers still preferred the short stemmed pipes.
… It’s popularity began to wane during the early part of the 19th century and by 1850 it was thought inappropriate for the middle class to smoke these pipes, especially the ladies...although it’s thought a great many middle class ladies continued to smoke them in the privacy of their own homes, while outwardly declaring it *vulgar and disgraceful* to be seen smoking them.
...a clay pipe similar to the ones Charles made
As there was no other work locally he could turn his hand to, Charles decided to make for pastures new and set off for the city of Birmingham, to see if he could find some suitable employment there.
Evidently work was in short supply in this large town for a person with hardly any discernible skill, as December of that same year saw Charles’s finances hit rock bottom and he was served with a Settlement Order in Birmingham…. His total assets were written down as £3…
This Settlement Order meant he obviously no longer had the means to support himself, so would be forced to leave that parish...Maybe it seems a little harsh to oust a person in this way, but at this time in England each parish would only support the needy people who were born and lived in that particular parish
Charles never married so he had no option but to return to his family and village life once more…his idea of hopefully finding a venture which would make him a business man in Birmingham had proved futile.
Whether his family received him with open arms is uncertain, for he would need to rely on their support until he could find himself some kind of local employment….I’m sure they must have been very relieved when he found work labouring at the local Industrial Pottery Works.
It is said that life goes around in circles. It certainly did for Charles – he started his working life as a young man labouring and ended his life once again as a labourer …...his quest for a better richer lifestyle had fallen on stony ground.