Let us take you back a step, into the rich history of the Astleys brand…
It’s 1862, and the American Civil War rages across the Atlantic. The first ironclad ship, as well as paper currency and income tax, has just been launched.
In distant China, the Dowager Empress has taken the Dragon Throne, and on the Continent, Frenchman Victor Hugo prepares to publish his historical novel Les Misérables, while watch maker Adolphe Nicole of Switzerland has patented his invention, the chronograph.
In the United Kingdom, Harry Lamplugh has won the Grand National with his mount The Huntsman, and the now iconic Westminster Bridge has been unveiled.
It’s also the year William Astley opens his first pipe boutique at 109 Jermyn Street, at the heart of London.
It was here that WM Astley & Company sold bespoke pipes produced by the most esteemed craftsmen of the British Empire, including Charatan, James Upshall, L&JS, Bill Taylor of Ashton pipes, and Dunhill, who created specialist pieces that lived up to Astley clientele’s ever lofty expectations.
Coveted both for smoking and for collecting, Astley’s pipes ranged from 19th century pieces by Viennese masters through to bold, contemporary pipes for the era’s modern gentleman.
The pipes of WM Astley & Company were coveted by high society and always demanded the highest prices.
The Jermyn Street boutique of WM Astley & Company was the quintessential English pipe emporium, specializing in meerschaum and later briar pipes, but it was so much more than just a store selling beautifully smoking instruments.
Little did he realize, but Astley’s store would come to represent a fraternity of like-minded gentleman, both from London and from distant points around the globe.
His pipe boutique would become a place of retreat and commentary, a destination for discovery and discourse, and a social benchmark in luxury and workmanship that was cherished by its esteemed and loyal clientele.
When WM Astley & Company was finally forced to close its Jermyn Street enclave in the 1990s, its treasured inventory was snapped up by passionate collectors on either side of the Atlantic.
The closure marked the end of an era and pipe aficionados thought this once great British luxury brand would be lost to the tides of time.