Saturday, 21 December 2013

Mid winter mudlarking

Almost our shortest day, the sun didn’t rise until after 8am. Son out the door delighted it’s the last day of term and off I waddle in wellie boots with mudlarking rucksack, to lower the tone of the train bearing city workers.

What a glorious day, the reflective light was almost blinding on the foreshore.  

Bumped into Jason and linked up with London Mudlarker. A lovely lead cloth seal, my find of the day,  softened the blow of losing my first ever jetton a few weeks ago. It had slipped through a hole in my bag. That will teach me. The small and metal require  a different storage strategy, the casual bung them in a plastic bag will no longer do.

Fortunately the jetton hadn’t washed away and was found a week later by one of the Thames Discovery crew. So you can fully commiserate with my loss, you can see it in all its glory via  this link.

So, the lead cloth seal. It’s big and complete with lots of clues. A crown on the front, with something else beneath perhaps a shield/coat of arms.  

Mudlarking Find: Cloth Seal possibly from late 15th Century
On the reverse is a small rose and what looks like lettering an ‘A’, ‘H’ – can’t tell. 

Then on the band is a little star or sun (top left hand side). 

I've found a similar one on the portable antiquities scheme site here. It could date from as far back as 1474. The time of all that Renaissance art in Florence. 

Annunciation Leonardo da Vinci 1473-1475

In England the war of the roses was in full swing and and Edward IV was on the throne

Edward IV (Wiki) 
and was the decade when William Caxton established his printing press in London. There were 3 million people in England. 

Earlier I’d found one of those cute tiny money box tops dating from Shakespeare’s time. 

Mudlarking Find: Money box top from 1580 - 1620

They are associated with theatres, many were found when the Rose theatre was excavated in Southwark London.   Entrance fees would be collected in the box. The coins could only be extracted by breaking the pottery money box. It is thought these small globular vessels gave their name to the 'box office'. 
16th or 17th Century Surrey Border ware Money Box (Museum of London) 

It was the also a day of delft. An unusual piece with vivid polychrome on both sides, I suspect this might be Italian Fience (tin glaze) rather than English delft. 

Followed by a plate shard with  crude chequered pattern

And part of a delft picture tile.

And then I came across a little fella

Finally went off to collect more pipes, white china and shell edged pearlware for the mosaic. I hope to spend a few days over the holiday period ensconced in that shed, a hectic period of work having enforced a fortnight’s break.

Met up with Jason again, he had kindly pocketed this hand painted shard knowing I’m a sucker for those smashed bits of pottery.

I also snuffled up a few pieces of a mudlarker’s caste offs, the thin delicate handpainted neck of Chinese export porcelain my favourite.

Then off for a post mudlarking coffee and cake with London Mudlaker, passing the guy who has spent the last year decorating chewing gum with enamels all the way along the Millennium bridge.

As we gazed at St Pauls and watched a traditional  tug boat  pull it’s load of  yellow metal crates up the river, we eulogised about London. We’re both so pleased that this  mudlarking passion pulls us down to London’s  belly so regularly.

I decided to weave  through the back streets and alleys to Moorgate. Slanted winter light misted side streets . Every few minutes I came across another slender white church,  slices of old London preserved between rising walls of ultra modern office blocks. It was busy with city workers on their way to Christmas lunches.  Restaurants were full of large sedate groups, a few brave enough to wear their paper crowns in primary colours. Tables were laid with Christmas crackers and big wine glasses ready to welcome the next party. Enormous baubled Christmas trees stood behind the sheets of curved class which show off those minimalist cavernous company entrances. They almost softened them. Christmas really is the only festival London fully celebrates. Up to now I hadn’t felt the slightest bit Christmassy, but something stirred in me as I wandered through those narrow streets with all the Christmas glitter. Decided to come back one evening to really soak up the romance of  London at Christmas. 


  1. Well done on spotting it was an F and locating the faulty cloth seal ID on PAS. Here are a couple from the Gallery:- and
    and yes please I would like you to email the full size photos for inclusion on the site thanks.

  2. Nice finds and commentary. Just missed you, I was down there on Thursday morning and evening. Glad you showed that picture of the glazed money box top. I've found a few, didn't know what it came from. I posted a few pics of questionable things on my blog if you have time to comment .
    Thanks, tim

  3. As always, I love seeing your finds and hearing your stories. Hope to see you on the foreshore again soon! BTW, the mosaic is looking beautiful. Cheers, Jason

  4. That's Ben Wilson who paints the bubblegum. I saw him here:

    Interesting blog. I love London history and just came across this whilst researching some history for my blog.