Going up in smoke

CORNWALL’S COAST WITH its numerous, sometimes almost inaccessible, coves is perfect for smuggling. It is not by chance that Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera is named “The Pirates of Penzance”, rather than, say, “The Pirates of Suffolk”.  When we visited Falmouth, a Cornish seaport, in May 2022, I noticed a souvenir of an era of smuggling, now long past.

Next to the old customs house (now a pub) on the Town Quay, the old harbour of Falmouth, there is a tall brick structure. On a square base, it is built in four sections, each one slenderer than the one beneath it. The tall object bears a plaque inscribed with an anchor framed by a shield and above it a double-headed eagle. Below these symbols are the words:

“King’s Pipe. Formerly used for the destruction of contraband tobacco.”

According to the website historicengland.org.uk, the King’s Pipe was likely to have been constructed in about 1814, when the customs house was built. The tall chimney stands on a base that contained a furnace that was accessible from the courtyard of the customs house. Overshadowing the town and its harbour, I imagine that many of the townsfolk were far from happy when they saw and smelled the tobacco smoke, which they would have enjoyed creating in their pipes, being emitted from the King’s Pipe.

The double-headed eagle on the plaque affixed to the former chimney interested me. Two major families in Cornwall use this mythical creature in their heraldry: the Godolphins and the Killigrews. It is most likely the latter to which the creature on the plaque refers because in the early 17th century (1613), Sir John Killigrew (1583-1633), helped create the port of Falmouth.

Although we had spent several pleasant days in Falmouth a few years ago, we did not spot the King’s Pipe on that visit. It only goes to show that revisiting places can enhance one’s enjoyment of, and interest in, them.

Put it in your pipe and …

ONE OF MY COUSINS, who was on a trip around Europe during his high school years in the late 1960s, met me while he was in London. A keen collector of pipes, he wanted to visit the Dunhill shop in central London’s Piccadilly. We did this together, but I cannot recall whether he purchased a pipe. Since that day several decades ago, I have barely thought about Dunhill or even smokers’ pipes.

Today (8th of February 2022), I was strolling along Uxbridge Street near Notting Hill Gate when I looked at a building that looks as if it might have once been a factory or warehouse. I have often noticed it and wondered about its former purpose. However, it was only today that I noticed a commemorative plaque affixed to it. I am sure that I have never noticed it before; maybe, it was placed recently. The words on it read:

“This building was the Dunhill pipe & cigarette factory 1916-1946.”

Well, that got me interested.

Tim Rich published an article about Alfred Dunhill and his firm in an issue of “The Pipe” (number 2, 1995). Alfred Dunhill (1872-1959) opened his first tobacco shop on Duke Street in 1907. Three years earlier, he had invented a ‘windshield pipe’, which allowed motorists to smoke in draughty vehicles. In 1910, dissatisfied with the pipes he was selling in his shop, he decided to start his own pipe factory. At first, they were made in Mason’s Yard, where today a branch of the White Cube art gallery is located. As business grew, he moved his factory to Notting Hill Gate and later opened another in Plaistow in the East End. The Notting Hill factory “…turned out several thousand Dunhill pipes per week” (https://rebornpipes.com/tag/history-of-dunhill/).

According to Carolyn Hubbard-Ford, writing in a 2014 issue of “The Notting Hill & Holland Park Magazine”, Alfred Dunhill was a major employer in the area. The factory used to be linked by a bridge, now gone, to another building across the road. The bridge was made of metal and low enough for local children to throw balls over it. Alfred’s daughter Mary began working in the factory in the 1920s immediately after she left school. Dunhill’s also had a shop, no longer in existence, close to the factory at 137-143 Notting Hill Gate.

After Dunhill’s moved out of the factory in 1946, the building on which the plaque is attached was converted into offices. In about 2001, the building was again converted, this time to provide residential units.

A puff of smoke

Three students

 

My father gave up smoking when I was about eight years old. As far as I know, my mother never smoked. I had an aunt who smoked, and entertained us by creating smoke rings with exhaled cigarette smoke. Visitors to our home smoked, so I was not completely isolated from cigarettes and so on during my earliest years. 

I was about 13 or 14 when I went on a field trip with other boys from my class. On that outing, I was shocked to see many of my fellow pupils lighting up cigarettes when we were out of sight of our teachers. I did not realise until that moment thay young children smoked.

In those early years, and possibly still today, I was a contrarian. Being that sort of person and seeing my peers smoking made me decide never to even try smoking, and  this situation remains unchanged tosay, so many decades later. It was not for health reasons nor because of economic problems that I have never taken up smoking. I simply did not want to be one of the crowd.

I often wonder if the situation had been reversed whether I would have become a smoker. If no one else had been smoking, would I have lit up just to be different? I doubt it because as a child I was far from adventurous.

Smoking prohibited

No smoking_640

 

A few years ago, it became illegal to smoke in any public place in the UK, be it a place of work or a place of leisure. Other countries have the same prohibitions on smoking.

We spent a holiday in Istanbul in 2010 and noticed that all bars, cafés, and restaurants were places where smoking was forbidden. Yet in one tea house on the Asian side of the Bosphorous, we saw everyone was puffing away on cigarettes, even those who were sitting close to the ‘no smoking’ signs. The picture attached to this blog article was taken in Bangalore, India. It shows how much notice is taken of a ‘no smoking’ sign.

A couple of years ago, we were staying in Goa’s capital Panjim. Our host told us that smoking is forbidden in all public places including on the streets. How seriously this is policed, I do not know.

One of the objects of anti-smoking policies is to reduce the chances of secondary smoking, which is inhalation of exhaled cigarette smoke by people near to a smoker but not smoking themselves. This is a worthy and sensible reason for banning smoking in public places. 

The prohibition of smoking makes pubs far more pleasant, but I have a reservation about restaurants. Having been brought up eating in restaurants where some diners are smoking, I feel that the current absencse of smoking in these places detracts from their ambience ever so slightly.