August 2014

They were throw-away items used daily by the pensioners who used to live at the Royal Hospital for Seamen, Sir Christopher Wren’s twin-domed riverside masterpiece. Now they have been turned into exquisite items of jewellery by designer-maker Jane Parker of Amelia Parker Ltd.

Created in the late 17th century as the Royal Hospital for Seamen (now The Old Royal Naval College one of the UK’s leading tourist attractions) Sir Christopher Wren’s buildings used to house old, retired and injured sailors. It’s a well-known fact that the pensioners who once lived out their days at the Hospital used to regularly smoke clay pipes in and around the site, and over three hundred years later remains of the pipes still regularly turn up on the Thames shoreline. The truly unique pieces of jewellery have been created from the remains of pipes eroded and coloured by the time and tide which Jane has found in and around Greenwich.

"Thanks to my mother I have always recycled, and I enjoy using unusual unwanted and found objects to create individual one-off pieces,” explains Jane. “When I found a handful of nicely worn and coloured pipe stem fragments I felt they would be perfect to use as beads for a necklace, and this was the beginning of a range that has since expanded to include earrings and bracelets."

“There is something very special about designs that link tangibly to the history of the Old Royal Naval College site,” says Rachel de Ridder ORNC Retail Manager. “Also, because each piece is hand made from remains of different pipes, no two items are the same making each design completely unique.”

The clay pipe range jewellery, which includes chokers, earrings, bracelets and necklaces is now on sale in the Shop at the ORNC with prices ranging from £19.99 - £38.99.

Learn more about the about life as a Greenwich Pensioner - including what the sailors ate and drank, punishments for breaking hospital rules and stories of the Battle of Trafalgar - by joining a special ORNC Navy Days tour (every Tuesday) or catch an appearance by pensioner seaman Joe Brown in the Painted Hall. 

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