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

Friday, 30 November 2012

Flow Blue 1820s onwards

Type flow blue into a search engine and page upon page of material springs up, so much more than other types of pottery I’ve researched. The reason – the States. In the 19th century onwards the US couldn’t get enough of this stuff,  so the pre conditions for a collectors market were fulfilled, large quantities of old things in different forms which in turn has created demand for information on the internet.
Mudlarking Finds: Flow Blue Pottery Shards
Flow blue is not uncommon the Thames foreshore. I do rather like the effect, rather more romantic than the bog standard transfer ware or perhaps its relative scarcity attracts.
Mudlarking Finds: More Flow Blue
Flow Blue is a type of transfer ware. As the name suggests it’s where the blue of a transfer print bleeds or ‘flows’ onto the white body of the object, caused by adding lime, chloride or ammonia to the kiln whilst firing. The origins are not clear. Some claim discovery was accidental others an intentional development by Staffordshire potters, with Josiah Wedgewood credited with its invention.
Wedgwood Flow Blue 'Chapoo' Platter (live auctioneers)
It’s usually applied to earthenware although sometimes to Porcelain. The blues varied with the most popular being cobalt blue, mulberry was also used. Flow blue was applied to the full range of objects from full dinner service to tea ware to bedroom wash sets.
Flow Blue Tea Pot, Shapoo Pattern by Thomas Hughes 1860-1870
The degree of bleeding varied widely. When first introduced the flow was limited, later some flowed so much the original design was completely obscured. It had the advantage of hiding defects in the application of transfer or faults in moulding or glazing.
When introduced flow blue was a popular product in Britain but demand apparently quickly diminished perhaps due to the sniffy attitude of some contemporary pottery commentators with this later illustration
N. Hudson Moore, wrote in his 1903 edition of The Old China Book, "There is a certain style of design known as 'flow blue,' which has nondescript patterns, flowers, geometric designs, and which has nothing whatever of beauty or interest to recommend it..."
After WWI the States began their own industry..... The English production of flow blue hugely reduced once the export market to the US dried up after WWI, a result of the States producing their own versions.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Mudlarking: A Days Finds

Last Friday the unmistakable signs of an imminent migraine were not enough to dissuade me from catching a particularly low tide. The weight of traffic prompted abandonment of my preferred bus journey & I joined working London on a crammed tube.  As I walked down to the Thames I was met by the army of silent pacing city workers spewing from suburban trains. It was good to arrive at my otherworldly destination. A familiar regular was already searching for illusive complete bellarmines. I dived down to my favourite patch and for the first time caught metal. The first 1.5cm in diameter is certainly lead. I suspect it is a lead cloth seal from  19th century.
Mudlarking Find: Lead Cloth Seal Possibly 19th Century 

The second is a copper alloy pressed button produced between 1850 - 1950 and consequently considered modern by archaeologists. Etched on the surround is 'suspender' apparently the name for this type of button in America.
Mudlarking Find: Copper Alloy Button 'Suspender'
My trip  was characterised by relief patterns on stoneware, my first find was  a 300+ year old beard from a Bartmann Jug, used to hold beer or wine and probably imported from Germany. 
Mudlarking Find: Bartmann Beard

Bartmann Jug 1501- 1700 (Museum of London) 
The small oak (?) leaf below led me on an internet journey which uncovered rather beautiful German  jugs with a botanical theme. Most likely produced in 16th Century Cologne Germany and imported via Steelyard, a German trading post in London where Cannon Street Station stands today whose Merchants were painted rather wonderfully by Hans Holbein in the 1530s. 

Leaf on stoneware
Cologne jug 1550 (V&A)

Georg Giese a German merchant at Steelyard, Hans Holbein 1532
Established by the Hanseatic LeagueSteelyard was a separate  enclave for 600 years . At one point walled with 400 residents extensive warehouses, residences and churches on the banks of the Thames. In 1597 Elizabeth I expelled the German merchants and steelyard was closed, but seems to have remained an area with German presence, where Samuel Pepys would occasionally hang out  'Up and to the office all day, where sat late, and then to the office again, and by and by Sir W Batten and my lady and my wife and I by appointment yesterday (my Lady Pen failed us, who ought to have been with us) to the Rhenish winehouse at the Steelyard, and there eat a couple of lobsters and some prawns, and pretty merry, especially to see us four together' Pepys diary 1665

It lives on in names only. 'Steelyard Passage'  part of the Thames walkway runs under Cannon Street Station, with a snake of pavement lights marking the meanders of the Thames, kept company by evocative piped dock sounds. 
Steelyard Passage (Londonist) 
The next two finds have rather delicate, refined and carefully executed relief patterns. The first  branches, I suspect from a 19th Century hunting jug and similar to those on Mortlake jugs. I can't find a match for the second shard with vine leaves and grapes on the right. Somehow I think it might be Doulton  but can in no way justify that claim.

Mudlarking Find: Branches from 19th Century Mortlake Hunting Jug 

Mortlake Hunting Jug 1810-20 
I have to sneak in a find from a fortnight ago, a rather ill executed hound who was pelting round a hunting jug.
Fulham Hunting Jug 1874- 1889 (V&A)

 Hound from Hunting Jug 1775-1900

Pleased to find unusually large chunks of delftware and hand painted Chinese export porcelain.
Mudlarking Find; Large Chunk of Delftware 1570-1750
Mudlarking Find: Large Chinese Export Porcelain Shard 16th-20th C
Another mudlarker later observed that the density of porcelain seems to prevent it from colouring so it always looks brand new.

This shard with intriguing magical markings caught my eye, I think it's stoneware
Mudlarking Find: Stoneware Shard
There was one other place I wanted to scour before I Ieft – sadly I was becoming too poorly to take advantage of extra shore exposed by the low tide. The bonus however was meeting two guys who are as passionate about pottery finds as I am. One of whom has been drawn to the Thames for the last 20 years and very willing to share his encyclopaedic knowledge.  

I had planned such a nice day on my own, I was going to finish up with a long overdue trip to the wonderful Museum of London, but sadly the migraine beat me and I had to limp home to bed. 

Friday, 16 November 2012


The Thames foreshore is littered with transferware. I just assumed they were all Victorian but of course many are much older, dating to Georgian times. A stepped change in the development of ceramics, it was a new industrialised process. Eventually transferware was far cheaper to produce than hand painted goods, allowing the middle classes to purchase matching full dinner services to grace their dining tables and wash sets for their bedrooms, with matching basin and ewer, a cup for brushing teeth, soap dish, sponge dish, and a chamber pot.

Some claim John Sadler and Guy Green in Liverpool invented transferware, others Ravenet and Hancock at the York House Battersea factory in 1756. Patterns or pictures were etched onto copper plates, these were inked up and the image was transferred to a special tissue. The tissue was placed on a bisque fired ceramic object  thus transferring the print. It  was removed before more glaze was applied, the object was then fired again. 

There are two types of transferware pattern, the most common are those with a border design and a separate picture in the middle of the plate. The amount of white space between them varied with fashion over the decades. The second type used sheet patterns which covered the whole object. Marble patterns were popular in the 1800s and between 1860 – 1900 floral patterns.
Mudlarking Find: Transferware border design & middle picture
Mudlarking Find: Sheet Transferware - marbled pattern?
The early transfers were fixed on top of the glaze (overglazed) as the earthenware bodies available could not withstand the high kiln temperatures required. 

In the 1760s the Caughley factory in Shropshire produced underglaze printing. Joseph Spode and Wedgwood further developed this technique at their potteries in Staffordshire. This area became associated with this new product and indeed became known as 'the potteries' . Its production heralded the start of the industrial revolution. Churned out in such vast quantities it was one reason why woollen cloth was knocked off the top of England’s export list. America was its primary overseas destination contributing to mainland Europe no longer being the main recipient of England’s goods.

Patterns were initially printed in just one colour. Tricky to find out exactly when different colours were introduced as information out there is contradictory. The most common on the foreshore is unsurprisingly blue which some claim was the only  colour until 1809 and then continued to dominate with dark navy blue being introduced in 1818, developed by Enoch Wood. I have to confess to accumulating a rather large mound of this stuff, not all of it displayed below. 

Green apparently was  used from 1828 and green is certainly the second most common find.

Mudlarking Finds: Green Transferware from 1829
Wedgwood began using brown printing on a cream background in 1835, although I've read brown was first used in 1809. The two brown rim pieces which I realised slotted together were found 5 months apart – I like that. Brown seems to be the third most common find.
Mudlarking Find: Brown Transferware from 1809
Other colours appeared after 1830, English pink, purple, mulberry, yellow and sepia. All of which are less common on the foreshore. Can’t work out when they starting producing transferwares in black, but they too are far and few between. 
There seem to be two ways of identifying whether a piece of pottery is transferware rather than handpainted. Sometimes if you look closely you can seen the small dots that make up the pattern. Secondly the designs tend to be far more intricate and detailed. However, I still have a few pieces where I'm flummoxed.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Clay Pipes & 106 Old Street

Over the last few months I've begun to pick up clay pipes again, with some project in mind. Another one of the "It wasn't until I got home did I realise" stories, I noticed rather nice swirls on one of the pipe bowls and some faint writing. I worked out the second word was 'ROFFE'. Not enough for Google to throw me a lead. Oh for young eyes, it took a bright sunny morning for the first word 'WOOD' to reveal itself. Of course I could have asked my 13 year old - but I was filled with childlike determination to 'do it on my own'. 
Mudlarking Find: James Woodroffe Clay Pipe 1789-1799
Surprisingly there were only a couple of brief entries on the net "He was apprenticed to the pipe maker James Woodroffe on 10 January 1792, for the term of seven years" ( An article by David Wright, reveals his address in Islington "106 Old Street 1789-1799". An ancient route outside the City walls, Old Street was  recorded as Ealdestrate in 1200 and some believe was originally a Roman Road linking Silchester and Colchester. 

As the weeks went by I kept coming back to my delight in finding something I could trace to a familiar London Street. Eventually I decided to go and take a look. 

Ozge Bozyigit and her father Nihat Bozyigit welcomed me with Turkish tea and hospitality to 'The Legend' their barbers shop. Ozge had taken a break from her medical studies to meet me as she was particularly intrigued. 

The little object reunited with its birthplace after 200 years was passed around and considered, and considered again, as Nihat and his staff calmly attended to their customers. Turkish coffee and Turkish delight were delivered, encased in ornate silver metal work, to the men who'd chosen Saturday lunchtime to give themselves up to the full works. The large barbers chairs looked the perfect place to kick back, relax and enjoy the ritual finale, cosseted and cocooned under hot towels.  
Ozge Bozyigit and her brother iphoning Woodroffe's 200 year old pipe. 

Nihat Bozyigit making out the lettering on Woodroff'e's Pipe

One of Legend's customers getting into the history too. 
As I left, the yellow lit barbers looked as though it could almost fit into a 18th century scene. Alas 106 is no longer the pipe makers building - replaced by a Victorian high rise at some unknown date. I snapped a few adjacent buildings, several looked Georgian, so could have been the type of building which stood at 106 in 1789. 

What hasn't changed is James Woodroffe's view - a rather elegant  icing cake church, St Lukes, built across the road in 1733. 
St Lukes Old Street 1733

Since Richard put me onto the definitive guide to clay pipes 'London Clay Tobacco Pipes by David Atkinson and Oswald' 1969, I was surprised to learn there were four Woodroffe's making clay pipes in London, James, John, Jane and Sarah. The design on my find above was in fact John Woodroffe 1799-1832, he's listed later in the appendices as working from 1832-37 in vinegar yard St Giles, a little enclave which has long gone. I wonder where he worked between 1799-1832?