Friday, 28 December 2012

Colander 1480- 1650

Hesitated before picking up the piece below with holes, now I'm really pleased that I bothered. Below I've carefully  propped it up with a very green English Tomato which was to hand ripening on our windowsill to better illustrate its origin. The shard is as big has my hand and has a shiny brown glaze on the inside and traces of a thin glaze on the outside. It took me a while to work out it was from a colander and that the little protrusion was in fact a foot - it was only when I came across the still life painting below that the penny dropped. 
Mudlarking Find: 16th Century Earthenware Colander
It is probably redware, the texture is quite rough and you can spot large inclusions in the clay. The holes are uneven. I've read that pottery in the 16th century was expensive and only owned by the well to do, the rest using vessels and cooking equipment made of leather, wood or pewter. I wonder how common colanders were? Were they must have kitchen equipment for those who could afford them? 

Still Life with Earthenware colander by Flemish Clara Peeters 1589- 1657
I can't end this post without reference to my surprise that this old still life was painted by a woman. Very little is known about her but she must have been pretty remarkable to have made it in 16th century. Apparently the painting is full of symbolism which is lost on our 21st century sensibilities, the fish represents Christ and are placed in the position of a cross, although I've read elsewhere is just represents abundance and has no moral or other subtext.  

Friday, 21 December 2012

Worcester Porcelain – Dr Wall Period 1751-1783

I had a few moments before I had to leave. The lapping low tide was intermittently granting access to a mud plateau littered with white ceramic shards. Most were undecorated creamware but  a few patterned pieces caught my eye, which I quickly scooped up. Later I noticed two displayed hatched crescent marks– a lead just too tempting to resist, so onto google images. It took no time to work out they originated from the first period of Worcester Porcelain Factory, referred to as ‘Dr Wall’. One very similar to the bottom of the coffee mug (rosecroft antiques) pictured below, but now they are adjacent, I suspect mine is from a tea bowl or cup. 
Mudlarking Finds: Worcester Hatched Crescent
Worcester coffee Mug & Saucer 1780

Worcester Hatched Crescent
Whilst I'd heard of Worcester, no idea where is was - England’s West Midlands and in the 1750s home to the impressive Dr Wall. A doctor, founder of Worcester Royal Infirmary, champion of Malvern water and such a talented artist David Garrick jumped on chairs at Wall’s home to get a closer look at his paintings. In 1751 Dr Wall persuaded a group of 13 business men to pump prime the Worcester Porcelain Factory, a precursor of Royal Worcester and key player in the history of ceramics.

Dr Wall artist unknown (BBC) 
Porcelain had been produced in China since 200 and imported to Britain in large quantities from 16th century. It took until 1710 for Europeans to master the art of production in Meissan Germany. The race was on to develop  British porcelain. It’s said that Dr Wall and apothecary William Davis experimented at Davis shop and discovered a way to make soft paste porcelain, later bringing additional technical expertise by  purchased their rival Benjamin Lund’s Bristol porcelain business in 1752. Securing a supply of soapstone from Cornwall clinched their success. When added to the mix soapstone rendered the finished product heat resistant -  other porcelain cracked on contact with hot water. Business canny and continuing to aim for best in class in 1756 they secured the services of Robert Hancock arguably the most talented copper plate engraver of his time.
Their target was the middle market. Products were tea and table wares. In 1754 they accessed the London market via a warehouse in Aldergate Street and large quantities of Worcester products were decorated in London by James Giles. Initially designs were hand painted. It is claimed Worcester were the first to introduce transfer printing to porcelain and from the 1770s most of their designs were transfer printed. Decorated in blue and white with Chinese and Japanese themes and from the mid 1750s with flowers in the flowing German style popular at this time.  They also produced more expensive coloured enamelled sets. They became the largest producer of blue and white Porcelain, so many of the porcelain shards found on the foreshore must originate from this company. 
I wonder if the other porcelain shards I found nearby are Worcester? German flowing flower style?
Mudlarking Finds: Porcelain Shards - Worcester?

Pattern on reverse of one shard

For some time I've wanted to match designs on my mudlarking fragments to their original patterns and even better linking these to developments in design over the centuries. Apart from the willow pattern up until now I’ve had no success. This time to my delight I thought I’d found the remains of the parrot pecking fruit design, associated with the aforementioned Robert Hancock, this shard has the hatched crescent on its reverse. Sadly on a closer look it's not an exact match, which wiped the very pleased with myself expression off my face. 
Mudlarking Find: Worcester Porcelain not the Parrot Eating Fruit Pattern

Parrot Pecking Fruit Pattern Worcester Mug 1775 (Steppes Hill Farm) 

Ha, found it, the shard above (albeit upside down)  is from the 'fruit sprig' pattern, pic below - smug again. 

Worcester mug  with the “ Fruit Sprigs” pattern Circa 1770 (

Friday, 14 December 2012

Mudlarking - another day's finds

A couple of weeks ago I unexpectedly found myself on the Thames foreshore. We'd forgotten the youngest had an INSET day so one of us had to stay at home, partly to ensure the French project got done. Our attempt to catch the bronze exhibition was yet again postponed. I'd been going stir crazy at home for the last four days so was grateful to be the one let out. 

Had a really enjoyable mooch despite the rain. An early find was a medieval tile enlivened by the animal that had walked across it 600+ years ago. A Museum of London archaeologist leading a foreshore school group kindly worked out it had decorated the front of a house. Now, I was just going to say the paw print was a dogs as I couldn't be bothered to check out paw prints on google. Passed around like after eight mints after our ‘in the shed’ Sunday lunch, the Millers decided it was definitely not a dogs. Between them they ruled out  cat, rat, squirrel so at the moment we’re left with rabbit. I spent a few minutes on google looking at paw prints but I’m not sufficiently motivated to trawl. Perhaps my animal loving sister who spent her youth plaster casting footprints as we walked around Britain can help us out - Laura?
Mudlarking Find: Medieval tile with paw print
Half the Millers Id Crew Sunday Lunching in the disco shed. 
The archaeologist suggested another find was a Victorian bell – metal seems to be coming my way now. Since Tania Covo suggested I can always pass on surplus ceramic finds for her to craft into more wonderful Thames Jewellery, handfuls of small shards of porcelain, pearlware and creamware found their way into my bags. There is something so satisfying about finding a house, people or animals framed in a shard. The craftsmanship appreciated more when a tantalising fragment of pattern is rescued. 

Mudlarking Find: Small Victorian Bell 

Mudlarking Finds: Houses 

Mudlarking Finds: Flowers
Mudlarking Finds: Patterns
I don't often find a new type so nice to pick up these two shards, which the expert ceramic mudlarker had pointed out to me a fortnight ago. Unfortunately I've forgotten their provenance and no luck on google so far. 

I  left the foreshore bathed in sun and blue sky and made my way to the wonderful  Museum of London. They have a knack of displaying just enough to give a real feel for each period without overwhelming you. Wonderful selection of medieval pots. 
Medieval Pottery 13th-14th Century (Museum of London) 

Friday, 7 December 2012

Lead Tokens

Lead tokens were used in Britain from the late 13th century to the mid 19th century. Until the 1500s most tokens were made of pewter and tended to be small sometimes as little as 11mm. From 1500 size increased to 15-17mm and up to 25mm in the 19th century.

I thought I'd found a led token, but it turned out it was a 19th century cloth seal, I'll update with pictures when I hopefully find one.

Each token was made and used in a specific geographical area, as such there is no uniformity or standard conventions and tokens with a diverse range of markings were produced. They appear to have had a number of functions.

The production of coinage was controlled by the monarchy. From medieval times high production costs meant there was little incentive to produce 'small change', leading to a shortage of smaller denominations, a situation which persisted for centuries. The smallest coin was a fathing, equivalent to a few days wages. Ordinary citizens needed lower value coins for everyday living, so local communities came up with local solutions and created their own unofficial currencies in the form of lead tokens.

Their underground status means there are few records of who made them or how they were used. It is summised that some were used as money, others were used as passes and some could only be exchanged for specific goods or services. Attempts to prohibit their use in the 16th century seem to have had little success, Sir Robert Cotton, lobbied for action in his paper entitled " T h e Manner how the Kings of England have supported their Estates," addressed to King James in 1611
" The benefit of the King will easily fall out, if he restrain retailers of victuals and small wares from using their own tokens ; for, in and about London, there are above three thousand  who,one with another,cast yearly five pounds apiece of leaden tokens, whereof the tenth
remaineth not to them at the year's end, and when they renew their store that amounteth to above .£15,000 ; and all the rest of this realme cannot be inferior to the city in proportion. For the prejudice, since London, that is not the twenty-fourth part in people of the kingdom,
had in it, as found by a late enquiry by order of the late queen, above 800,000, so falleth out to be two pence each person in the entire state ; may be nothing either of loss, by the first  uttering being so easy, nor burthen any with too great a mass at one time, since continual use will disperse so small a quantity into so many hands ; but, on the other side, will be of necessary use and benefit to the meaner sort, except the retailers, who made as much advantage formerly of their own tokens, as the King shall now ; for the buyers hereafter shall not be tynd to one seller and his bad commodities, as they are still, when the tokens
hereafter made current by authority, shall leave him the choice of any other chapmen ; and to the poor, in this time of small charity, it will be of much relief, since many are like to give a  farthing almes, who will not part with a greater sum."  British Num Society