Northern Briars, hand-made by Ian Walker. Ian Walker's grandfather, George Walker, founded Northern Briar Pipes. George Walker started working for Duncan Briars ( makers of ) in England in 1922. In 1958, he left Duncan's after 36 years and having been head forman in charge of production, and started Northern Briar Pipe Repair Service, with his son Peter. They repaired pipes for most of the quality pipe shops in the United Kingdom.
In 1972, Ian Walker left school and joined the family business. Ian Walker started as an apprentice, like everybody else at the factory. Sweeping the floors, making tea and later he was allowed to polish some pipes. In the evenings, at his Grandfathers shop, he learned how to make silver bands from sheet silver.
In 1983 Ian Walker’s parents bought a local tobacconist shop in Heaton Moor Stockport. Ian was doing all the repairs by then, and was the foremost repairman in the U. K. He thought that he might give it a go at making pipes himself for the shop. This went well. Ian then decided to start making pipes for the local shops. Soon after he met Bill Taylor of Ashton fame. Bill encouraged and helped him.
An interesting aside is that Ian lives with his wife Katrina on a canal boat. His work shop is on the boat. Under British law he can only be moored at one spot for two weeks. So every fortnight Ian moves his house and workshop to a new location on a canal or river in the England.
In 1999 Ian Walker started going to most of the English shows. In 2005 he was honored to be the maker of the 2005 British Pipe Smoking Championship pipes, numbering 50 in all. In 2006 he went to the Chicago Pipe Club show where his pipes were well received. In 2007 Chicago he sold out.
Ian Walker uses Italian briar from the same source as Bill Taylor. Every pipe is totally hand made by Ian Walker and all have hand cut stems. Bill Taylor says that Ian Walker does the best stem work in England. His pipes are in the best tradition of classic British pipe making.
N.B. Ian is now stamping his pipes using a Group sizing based on the tobacco chamber size. So 5 is roughly a Dunhill tobacco chamber Group 5.