top of page


Griffydam has quite a complex and chequered history. 


In older records, Griffydam is recorded with various spellings such as Griffith’s Dam, Griffithdamm, Griffadham, Griffy Dam and Griffidam.


A number of reasons have been put forward as to how Griffydam got it’s name, but the most likely is that it came from the translation of the Scandinavian words 'Gryfja Damnr', meaning a cleft or valley, with a dam or stream. This suggests that a “small” settlement probably developed as far back as the time of the Viking invasion of 873.


At the rear of the Griffydam Wesleyan Chapel are several allotments one of which is cultivated by David Maltby of Griffydam. Whilst digging his allotment, David found various historical artifacts. The most important of the findings are undoubtedly the collection of flint tools shown in the first photograph. In the opinion of the Leicestershire Museum Service, these were flint tools that had been made some 5,000 years ago by a nomadic group of hunters. Although most likely passing through the area, this prehistoric group had clearly chosen an eminently sensible place for an encampment on a ridge overlooking the valley and close to a spring fed water supply which we can reasonably assume to have been what became commonly known as Griffy Well.

The flints vary between 3cm in length and 2cm in width and could have been used for a variety of purposes such as scrapers, knives, arrowheads, borers, awls etc. Because the flakes are naturally very sharp, they can be used as a cutting tool often without further dressing or modification. As they tend to be quite small, they were often attached to wooden shafts. Flake & blade Knapping will produce many flakes before finding one suitable for reworking into a finished tool. The amount of waste flakes depends on the skill of the knapper & the quality of the flint.


Flint was formed in the chalk deposits in S England, 70 to 100 million years ago when water percolated through the chalk & dissolved the silicon molecules within the chalk. Over the years the silica built up to form layers or nodules of flint. The silica frequently grew around a fossil & this produced the curious shaped nodules. As there is little natural chalk in Leicestershire there are very few large flint stones to be found & most of the flint is in the form of smaller stones which presumably the glacation process would have moved from other areas.



Flint was used as the raw material for making hard tools before any other material, and fortunately it does not decay. The knapping process starts by striking a stone core (see photograph) to knock off the flakes which may then require further dressing to bring them to the desired shape and sharpness dependant on what they were to be used for.



The approximately 5 cm diameter carved round stone shown in the photograph opposite, and discovered in the same allotment in Griffydam as the flints, is a cannon ball almost certainly dating from the Civil War period when Ashby Castle and Coleorton Hall were occupied by the Royalists. A similar stone was found in The Woolrooms, Coleorton. Stone cannon balls were still commonly being used in the Civil War period although cheap iron balls had also been introduced. The British Museum website describes a stone of a similar diameter (1.901 inches) as being a Late Medieval or Post Medieval cannon ball dating between AD 1450-1750. This makes it a correct size for a Falconet cannon. Falconets were invented in the late 15th century and were used throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. Click here to read Samuel T Stewart's publication on the English Civil War In The Local Area.




A number of clay pipes have been dug up in Griffydam as shown in the photographs opposite (dates are approximate). Clay tobacco pipes were made in England shortly after the introduction of tobacco from North America, in about 1558. The evolution of clay pipes took many forms and the bowls made by 1580 had started to become barrel shaped form with a flat heel but had a small internal diameter, about 6mm, due to the high cost of imported tobacco. Stems were some 100-150mm long with a hole approximately 3mm in diameter down their length


As tobacco prices started to fall in the first half of the 17th C, the pipe bowl inside diameter by about 1640 had increased to about 10mm but the stems remained about the same length. After this date, the bowls grew progressively larger and the stems increased in length to 250-350mm. A pointed spur replaced the flat heel and this became the standard for the next 60 years or so. Generally 17th C pipes were plain but occasionally you may find milling or a plain ring around the top with a maker’s mark. By about 1700 the bowls had become more elongated with a further increase in the bowl internal diameter to about 13mm, but the bore down the stem remained at about 3mm diameter.


Pipe designs evolved through small changes, and due to better manufacturing methods, the accuracy and finish improved, meaning that thinner walls on the bowls and more slender stems could be achieved. The diameter of the bowls continued to increase and by the mid 18th century moulded bowls were developed which enabled the makers to introduce fancy designs with in some cases advertising symbols on them such as Public houses, Masonic arms, Regimental badges etc. These were referred to as “fancy clays” or “fancies”. Examples of fancy clays are shown in the preceding photographs.


By the mid 18th C, very long pipes known as Alderman or Straws had been introduced. These were some 450-600mm in length with a stem bore averaging 2.4mm. This was a remarkable achievement for such a long stem


After 1850, what was known as the “yard of Clay” or churchwarden pipe appeared, with stems up to 900mm in length. Decorated pipes greatly increased in numbers, however, the working man required a short stem pipe which could be gripped between their teeth whilst working.


As cigarettes and cigars became popular and more robust meerschaum and briar pipes were introduced, this caused the decline of the industry at a local level, and by the early 1900’s the industry had largely disappeared. Specialist manufacturers continued to produce moulded pipes until 1992 when Pollocks of Manchester finally closed its doors.


© David Maltby

stone core_edited.jpg
Flint knapping.jpg

Flint Knapping Tools

cannon ball.jpg

© David Maltby

Clay Pipes 1.jpg

Found in the area of the Cunneries

© John Bramley

Clay Pipes 4.jpg

Found in a garden on Elder Lane

© Alan Robinson

dates approx

Clay Pipes 2.png

Moulded pipe-After 1750

Found in the allotments at the rear of the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel

© David Maltby

clay pipes 3.jpg

 After 1700

      © David Maltby

bottom of page