Records of Laxey Pipes Ltd, The Quay, Laxey

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The content consists of a private order book, order books, notebooks, accounts, purchase order receipts and forms and invoices. Company stock records include stock (store) lists, price lists, packing lists, monthly sales analysis, production plans and production analysis. Staff records such as names, wages, tax matters, a retirement policy and general correspondence (incoming and outgoing) are also present.

Further items include notes on trials of various smoking pipes, notes and diagrams on pipe shapes and stain mixing, promotional leaflets (such as Manx Meerschaum range), copies of competitors' literature (pipe and smoking catalogues and magazines), address cards and newspaper cuttings.

Administrative / Biographical History

Laxey Pipes Limited was established in the mid-1960s on the Isle of Man to manufacture various decorative smoking pipes, based in a historically important 19th century four-storey building on the quay in the east coastal village of Laxey. The building was erected in 1866 by Richard Rowe (c.1823-1886), Captain of the Laxey Mines, as an additional grain store for the Laxey Glen Flour Mill. The building was also used as a storage facility for other material, such as coal and corn, and it was utilised as a base for community meetings and events. The property had several owners before the Isle of Man Government acquired it in the 1960s and leased it to the pipe factory. Other company names such as Manx Pipes Ltd and Man Pipe Co. have been noted but no other pipe producer was active during this time, thus all names must have fallen under the Laxey Pipes Ltd umbrella.

The company specialised in the manufacturing of meerschaum pipes using the mineral meerschaum (sepiolite) mined by the Tanganyika Meerschaum Corporation, situated in the Amboseli basin, Tanganyika (now the United Republic of Tanzania). Meerschaum is a soft white clay mineral, mainly found in Turkey with large deposits also found in Tanganyika, Africa. Meerschaum is a popular material for pipes because its properties allow it to be carved into finely detailed and decorative shapes. It is also porous by nature and can draw moisture and tobacco tar into the stone. Another organic material used by Laxey Pipes Ltd for its smoking pipes was briar wood. Briar is a type of wood that is native to Africa and is abundant the Ethiopian Highlands, the Ruwenzori Mountains and the Cameroon Mountains. It is a particularly good material to use for pipes because it has a natural resistance to fire and it has an ability to absorb any moisture.

Laxey Pipes Ltd produced and marketed their own pipe brands such as ‘Manxpipe’, ‘Manxman’ and ‘Manxland’. Other pipe names indicated various shapes and colours of the Laxey pipe series, for example ‘White Knight’ (unwaxed) and ‘Domino’ (black or lined). The Laxey brands were sold through general pipe retailers but they were also sold through the company’s shop on its Isle of Man premises. Laxey Pipes Ltd also produced meer bowls (the compartment where the tobacco goes in the pipe) for pipe brands such as Peterson, Barling and Nørding from the 1960s until 2001.

As the company entered the 1990s and early 2000s the supply of meer from East Africa was becoming increasingly difficult; Kenya and Tanzania had been extensively mined and places like Somalia was inaccessible due to civil war. The last Laxey meers were traded in May 2001 but the company continued making briar pipes. Changing attitudes to smoking led to a general decline in popularity of pipe smoking. The company closed its doors indefinitely in June 2002.

Conditions Governing Access

A small percentage of this deposit (personnel files) are currently closed due to data protection.

Advance notification of a research visit is advisable by emailing library@mnh.gov.im.

Archivist's Note

The biographical information was gathered from MS 10574's deposit file.

Fonds-level description created by Eleanor Williams (MNH Project Archivist), July 2016.

Separated Material

Separated material held by Manx National Heritage includes one box of photographs of the Laxey Pipe Ltd shop, staff members, manufacture processes and examples of pipes (reference number: PG/8633).