Clay pipe used to ward off ‘evil spirits’

editorial image

A 19th century clay pipe which may have been concealed in a church roof as protection against harmful spirits has been returned.

The decorated pipe, featuring a bicycle, was found in 1955 by Arthur Sutton, who was working on the eradication of dry rot at All Saints in Priory Terrace, Leamington.

Assuming it to be lost property, he took it home, now his daughter-in-law June has returned it. Fr Christopher Wilson, priest-in-charge of the town centre church, said: “I believe the pipe was left in the roof cornice intentionally as a ‘concealed object’.

“Objects of various types – frequently shoes or garments, but also dead cats or household items – were traditionally hidden around houses and other buildings to protect them from evil spirits. We do not have to accept the superstition to find the practice nevertheless intriguing.

“On a scrap of paper, Mr Sutton had written ‘The bicycle on the pipe bowl is a Velocipede 1865.’ It provides a fascinating glimpse into past traditions.”

Fr Wilson said he was taking advice as to what should be done with it and options include returning it to the roof, although the exact location where it was found is not known. It could also be loaned to a museum or put on secure display within the church.

Fr Wilson added: “It is perhaps ironic that the pipe was discovered in 1955 during works to eradicate dry rot, and was returned to the church whilst further dry rot eradication works were under way.

“Further work is needed to safeguard the building, for which funding is being sought.”