Mudlarking … Treasures from the Thames

One of the great things about working at Guinevere is the opportunity to meet interesting people. I had heard about mud larks, usually poor children of the 18th and 19th centuries who scavenged in the Thames mud and shingle for anything of value that they could sell for money. It transpires that one of the directors, Florence Evans, of the Weiss Gallery (location of the Guinevere Pop Up in Mayfair) is a modern-day mud larker. Really!? And she agreed to take me along to show me what it was all about.

We met at Barbican Station, crossed the bridge and climbed over a locked gate to get to the foreshore. We were a bit late for the lowest tide, but we had plenty of shoreline to scavenge. It takes a while to develop an eye for the small pieces lurking in the mud and shingle. I despaired until I spied my first piece.

And this is some of what we found:

The bowl of a clay tobacco pipe and a myriad of pipe stems: Photo 1
Photo 2

These pipes were sold pre-packed with tobacco and then were thrown away.
The stems of these pipes are everywhere along the foreshore, but intact bowls, less
so…particularly this smaller bowl variety, which dates from the early days of tobacco
use, between 1580 and 1610. Tobacco smoking became quite a craze, and perhaps Sir
Walter Raleigh smoked this very pipe!

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Bellarmine Potsherd 17th c. (right, sample of intact face from Jug). Also known as a Bartmann jug – German for ‘bearded man’ – it was a type of stoneware from the Cologne region manufactured in the 16th and 17th centuries. It always incorporates a bearded man on the neck of the vessel.

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Brass dress pins, Tudor – 18th c.

Neolithic flint flake (definitely made by human hands fashioning tools).

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Green glaze shards, possibly Medieval

Piece of Roman Marble

Photo 9

Shard of combed slipware pottery. The unfired pot was dipped in liquid clay (the slip) to coat it. And then a pattern of dark lines on top of the slip was ‘combed’ in, like the icing on a Bakewell tart.

You have to keep an eye on the tide though. A few hours later, the area we covered is under water again.

Photo 10