Mackenzie Clay Pipe Makers of Edinburgh

Mackenzie clay pipe bowl copyright GLHG


In June 2014, an archaeological dig was undertaken at Bridgend Farmhouse on the Old Dalkeith Road, Edinburgh, in an attempt to establish if existing old farm buildings are all that remains on the site of a former Chapel built by the Preston Family of Craigmillar. The Craigmillar Papers, housed in the National Registers of Scotland, show that the Chapel was built in 1518 and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The dig by Rubicon Heritage, and financed with Heritage Lottery money, was arranged by the Greater Liberton Heritage Project.


A week’s dig was undertaken and amongst other finds, including a medieval well, a clay pipe bowl was found. The clay pipe bowl bears the stamp of the Mackenzie Clay Pipe Manufacturers of Edinburgh who were Clay Pipe Manufacturers in 19th Century Edinburgh. With the assistance of the Museum of Edinburgh in the Canongate, Edinburgh, and a paper written by DB Gallagher, told us of the re-emergence of the clay pipe making business in Edinburgh in the 19th century. This paper tells us that Big Jack’s Close, off the Canongate, was the home to clay pipe making from 1807 run by a David Sinclair from Broughton. When he went bankrupt in 1815 the factory for clay pipe making was bought by William White, a clay pipe manufacturer from Glasgow and managed by a Thomas White. In the 1825 Trade Directory the business appeared as Thomas White and was to become one of the most prosperous of the Edinburgh pipe makers. Thomas White died in 1847 and left the business to his son who died shortly after his father in 1851.The factory was then managed by Trustees and moved to Bakehouse Close around 1867, behind the current site of the Museum of Edinburgh in the Canongate. In 1867 the company was declared bankrupt, eventually being wound up in 1870.  The valuation rolls for 1857-8 shows that other pipe makers (possibly employees) had rented accommodation from the Trustees. Several of Thomas White’s former employees became independent makers and it is a strong possibility that a member or members of the Mackenzie family were former employees of Thomas White.

Big Jacks Close, Canongate Edinburgh, Copyright NLS maps

So who were the Mackenzies? 

An email response from Dr D A Higgins, Chair of the Society for Clay Pipe Research, advised that there were at least three members of the Mackenzie family recorded as pipe makers – John (I) from 1862 John (II) 1868-1895 and Thomas Cochrane Mackenzie (1893-1915). This could mean that the pipe may date from any time between 1862 to 1915. Using the Scotland People’s website and the family of Mackenzie were found.


John Irvine Mackenzie, the first Mackenzie thought to have manufactured clay pipes was born in 1824 in the Canongate, Edinburgh. In the 1841 census, aged just 17 he was living at Big Jacks Close (225 Canongate) with his occupation listed as a pipe maker. By 1843 he had married Agnes Robertson and over the next 20 years continued to reside in Big Jacks Close giving his occupation as a clay pipe maker (journeyman). He had four sons John, Alexander, Archibald and Thomas and a daughter Jane. By the 1871 census John is listed as a pipe manufacturer, with an address of 3 Dumbiedyes Place. It is of course during this period that the business of Thomas White moved to Bakehouse Close, and then failed and finally wound up by 1870. In the 1881 census John was listed as a pipe manufacturer employing 16 people. John died in 1884 and was then living in Roxburgh Terrace.


John Mackenzie was born in 1847, and was the eldest son to John Irvine Mackenzie and he too entered into the clay pipe making business. He married Elizabeth and had three sons and three daughters and his eldest son William became a clay pipe maker. He ran a business from St John’s Hill and lived at 3 Hill Square. The undernoted advert was taken from the Edinburgh Trade Directory of 1890, from NLS website. There is also a home address of 35 Jeffrey Street listed, however this would appear to be the home of his youngest brother Thomas. A John Mackenzie is also listed as trading from 146 Canongate and would appear to be same person. 


John Mackenzie Pipemaker, Copyright NLS Postal Directories


Archibald Mackenzie born in 1856 and brother to John also became a pipe maker and sadly died in 1884 in a tragic accident as reported in the local papers. 

On Thursday night a pipe maker named Archibald Mackenzie twenty eight years of age and residing at 21 St John’s Hill, Edinburgh, entered the water at West Bank, Craigentinny, near Portobello, along with his two brothers and another young man for the purpose of bathing. All being strong swimmers, they went out beyond their depth, when Mackenzie was observed to be sinking they at once proceeded to assist him and clutched him by the hair, but the tide was too strong and Mackenzie immediately sank and was drowned.”


Thomas Cochrane Mackenzie, born in 1860 and the youngest of the Mackenzie sons is the last recorded Mackenzie to have been trading as a Pipe Manufacturer. The Edinburgh Trade Directories show him to be trading from premises at 49 South Back of the Canongate up until at least 1912, however there is reason to believe this was up until 1915. In the 1891 census, Thomas Cochrane McKenzie and his wife Rachel are living at 35 Jeffrey Street. Thomas Mackenzie and Rachel Robertson married in 1888 in the Pleasance Church; he was living in Roxburgh Terrace and she at Roxburgh Place. Her father Archibald Robertson is also listed at the time of their marriage as being a Pipe Manufacturer, born in Glasgow. An earlier census shows that Archibald and his family were living at Big Jacks Close until around the time the Thomas White factory started to fail. There is no doubt that both the Robertson and Mackenzie families were well acquainted and it may be that Archibald Robertson came through from Glasgow when the White family purchased the factory after 1815. The 1891 census shows that Thomas’s mother Agnes, and Rachel’s father Archibald were now living with them. Thomas’s occupation is listed as a Tobacco Pipe Manufacturer. By the 1901 census they were still living at the same address, with his occupation the same and now with a three year old son Thomas. Thomas Cochrane Mackenzie died in 1939 in Blackhall at the home of his son. 


The Find at Bridgend in 2014 


So who made the Mackenzie pipe found at Bridgend Farm in 2014, one hundred years after the last Mackenzie pipe manufacturer ceased trading? Whether it was the first Mackenzie, son or nephew, a Robertson or indeed an employee we shall never know. We shall also never know who owned and smoked the pipe. 


Alison Macdonald & Jill Strobridge, GLHG
January 2015

Sources and References
1. 1852 map of the Canongate, NLS Maps
2. Postal Directories NLS
3. Scotlands People website