the clay pipe was very inexpensive back in the day, and could be bought by the gross for pennies.
They were in essence considered a disposable item and not meant to be kept long.
I guess you could say they were compairable to todays cigarettes.
I have 6 clay pipes, and I must say, they all smoke wonderfully.
They are similar to a Meerschaum in their function, since the clay absorbs the moisture like meerschaum.
Their only real downsides are that the bowls get red hot, (dont use your finger for a tamper, learned that the hard way), and they are fragile.
Why would they be concentrated in one small area like that? Perhaps there was a county border or ferry crossing, and a tax on any pipes or tobacco brought across? Instead of paying the tax the traveler may have just finished his smoke andthen tossed his pipe in the river. "Sod off mate, and a pox on yer tax collector!"
Or a battle in the area, and these were collected from the dead? Boots over here, belts over there, and pipes over here...
Just found this post...oddly whilst sitting here smoking one of my Dwaugh clays.
You have a beautiful collection there...one to be proud of. Sad that so many more are forever buried under tons of concrete! I know that there are a lot of folks here (me for one) who are a bit envious of those. To know that you are putting them back in service is heart-warming....thank you. Smoke them in good health!