Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Thames Mudlarking: A good day for clay pipes + more

Last Saturday, I have to admit I was really looking forward to mudlarking – hadn’t been down for over two weeks, it felt like longer. Jumped off the bus at Bank this time, accompanied by one very reluctant teen and our good friend Patsy.

As we made our way through the narrow streets toward the Thames, the lights inside St Stephen Walbrook caught our eye. Pasty and I couldn’t resist a quick snoop – much to our young companions dismay. Neither of us had a clue what it was, a kindly gentleman on hand as part of the ‘celebrate the city’ enlighted us. One of Wren’s creations, some say his finest, planned in the 1670s just after the fire of London. I strained to remember which bits from the Thames would have been knocking around at the same time, bartmann jugs and delft came to mind, Pipkins and bone nit combs added when I returned home. The church was just breathtaking. Amusingly with Henry Moore altar in the middle, surrounded by tapestry kneeling cusions by Patrick Heron,  causing predictable consternation when installed in the 1980s.
St Stephen Walbrook with Altar by Henry Moore
It was a beautiful day a gorgeous combination of rain filled smoky grey clouds and bursts of sunshine and blue sky. The river was slithering out fast as we descended to the boulder strewn foreshore, the tide a really low one. Spotted my first washed up fish, a long glistening, silvery eel. We were only down there for an hour, as much as my teen could tolerate, between the three of us we gathered up  some lovely things. Top find has to go to our teen, a decorated clay pipe probably from 1840- 1910. I’ve been looking for one of these for ages.

Decorated Clay Pipe frm 1840-1910 found Mudlarking on the Thames
I also picked up a small fragment of  imprinted pipe stem ‘138 Bemondsey’ one side, ‘...aull’ on the other. A good day for clay pipes.
Imprinted Clay Pipe Stem found on the Thames. 

Another combined nit/comb caught my eye. It doesn’t look finished to me as the teeth just look too close together. This time the material looks like wood rather than the expected bone and it’s darker than the other two I’ve found.  Underlining  the teeth are thin golden looking lines.
Nit/comb found on Mudlarking on the Thames Foreshore
Other bits and pieces below,  include a vibrant large chunk of polychrome delft found by Patsy, porcelain, medallion from Bartmann jug, sections of medieval roof tile, mocha wear, shards of more refined plates and cups, another heavily finger printed fired clay scrap and yet more glass pieces we couldn’t resist.

Thames Mudlarking Another Day's Finds

A perfect London day was replete with lunch at the  Tate,  a quick canter through Damien Hirst with shark, inside of the cow and beautiful live butterflies fortunately momentarily capturing the teens approval, and a walk along the northern Thames path towards London Bridge to catch the bus home – noticing the shard is nearly complete. An irritating interruption to minecraft for others. 

Friday, 22 June 2012

Derbyshire Stoneware Ink Bottle

I don't often find glass or pottery with writing on. Over the last few months mudlarking these are probably the best examples. Nice to find sufficient writing to help trace precise origins. ‘VITREOUS STONE BOTTLES WARRANTED NOT TO ABSORB J.BOURNE PATENTEE DENBY & CODNOR PARK POTTERIES NEAR DERBY’ was stamped onto these 150 ink bottles, produced by a Derbyshire pottery between 1833 – 1850

Large fragments of Derbyshire Stoneware Ink Bottle 1833-1850

The Bourne company was set up in 1806 by William Bourne, a local entrepreneur,  who heard about the exceptional clay found  during construction of a Derbyshire  road. He purchased some of the land and started production in 1809. He appointed his son Joseph to run the pottery. The "J. Bourne & Son" mark was not used until about 1850.

The clay used in making the stoneware bottles was a coarse, sandy and heat-resistant quality. When fired at a high temperature it became very hard, dense and non-absorbent. These bottles are referred to as salt-glazed pottery; salt glazing was a popular method of decorating stoneware in the mid 1800's. Common salt was thrown onto the kiln fires when the embers were at their hottest. The salt vapor combined with the surface of the pot to produce a shiny brown surface coating. The process for producing these salt-glazed wares was patented as noted by the stamp at the base of the bottle below the J. Bourne & Son company name.

The complete Ink Bottle from Museum of London 

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Debased Scratched Blue & White Stoneware 1765- 1795

I keep thinking I'm going to run out of things to blog about, but every week there seems to be another type of pottery or object to investigate. 

Over the last 8 months I’ve collected a handful of this stuff, gradually clocking it was different from the other blue and white china I’d been picking up. I kept it in my Westerwald pottery box,  realising it was similar but not quite the same. Took me a while to track down what it is, as there aren’t many pictures on the web, but persistence paid off.
 Debased Scratched Blue White Stoneware Pottery Shards Found Thames Mudlarking 
In the 18th century the not so well off found porcelain too expensive, delft ware too fragile. There was a market for cheaper alternatives; German Westerwald decorated grey stoneware filled part of this gap. Some say English potters sought to compete with these products by creating a similar looking but this time white stoneware, rather unfortunately retrospectively named ‘debased' scratched blue stoneware.  I’m yet again struck by the modern looking design of old pottery, in this case  free flowing, incised decoration with quite messy splashes of cobalt blue which bleed over the incised lines,  thus emulating Westerwald to some degree. The products seem to be quite limited, mugs, jugs and chamber pots.  Decorated with sprays of leaves (technical name apparently is foliate) amusingly the chamber pots frequently boasted  spig-moulded raised medallions with the cipher of George III and sometimes a picture of his  profile. Apparently this blue stoneware was only fashionable for  one decade from 1765, with chamber pots remaining popular for a longer period – I wonder why. This flash in the pan appearance doesn’t quite square with how frequently I find this stuff  which seems about as often as I find Westerwald– strange, maybe it was more of a must have or cheaper product hence its prevalence.
Chamber Pot Debased Scratch Blue White Stoneware (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

Georgian Debased Scratched Blue Mug (Denhams) 
Debased Scratched Blue Jug (ebay)

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Thames Mudlarking: Find of the Day and the Rest

Last Thursday I managed to fit in a short trip to the Thames.  The mudlarkers leaving as I arrived remarking how disappointingly high the low the tide had been and attributing it to the strong winds that day. I only had an hour to seek out treasures before I was cut off.

First interesting thing I spotted has to be find of the day.  I slid it into my pocket that night as we left to holiday with  a group of friends 'the millers' on the Isle of Wight –  we all spent a few moments that evening and the next day pondering what an earth this object could be. Delightful in so many ways absolutely covered in clearly discernible finger prints hundreds of years old, so full of life with deep impressions of the fingers that squidged  the clay. A chuck away piece preserved forever and now coveted by its finder possibly half a millennia later. Full of intrigue – it appears to be glazed and fired but would have been squashed before it went into the kiln. Was it an object that went wrong, but why fire it? Jen suggested it could be a rest for another form (the word they seem to use in the archaeological trade) a couple of  small flat roundish areas on the surface supports this theory and are those blackish marks on the bottom  that Moira drew our attention to the result of being at the bottom of the kiln?  One small side section is unglazed Janey wondered whether the clay was pulled from a larger object?  The potters among you may be able to shed more light - click on the photos if you want a better view of finger prints. 
Thames Mudlarking Find of the Day top and bottom. 

As I was leaving the foreshore I came across an unusually large piece of redware, with a type of handle I’d only come across once before. I almost left it, on picking it up discovered rather lovely thick glossy green glaze on the reverse. I suspect it is London redware 1580 onwards.
 London Redware pot handle and reverse found mudlarking on the Thames
Pictured below are the remaining finds,  very old glass which gains an iridescence when over a certain age, a post on glass will surely appear in the next couple of months, the second incisor  I’ve found – is it from a dog? Shards of Westerwald, black basalt (a post to appear soon), a more refined piece of delft than I usually discover, a slither of decorated clay pipe bowl and a selection of more modern pottery shards that caught my eye. 

Thames Mudlarking - a days finds. 

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Blue and Green 'Shell Edged' Pearlware 1780- 1840

Over the months I've noticed quite a few pieces of pottery with mainly blue but sometimes green crinkly edges. Eventually tracked down the name, once I have this the story is quite easy to piece together. I can’t better others descriptions of this pottery.

'Shell-edged decoration first appeared on creamwares. Later, shell-edge became the most common type of decoration found on pearlware. Colours applied to the rims were usually blue or green with red being less common. The earlier examples of the shell-edged decoration are generally well painted, with the brush strokes being drawn in from the edge, which creates a feathery appearance. In later examples (usually after 1800 or 1805), it was common to sweep the brush along the edge laterally, producing a stripe’ St Mary's University

Different brush strokes nicely illustrated in the photographs of my Thames mudlarking finds below, with the green piece showing the lazier more efficient edging ‘line’ and the blues showing the careful brushing downwards. You can see the bluish tinge in the ‘white’ attributable to the cobalt blue added to the glaze, so characteristic of Pearlware. 

Thames Mudlarking finds 'Shell Edged' Pearlware 1780- 1840
'The 18th century saw the development of a style of tableware, which combined handsome colour and smooth texture of plain Creamware with a moulded and often tinted edging, intended to draw the eye to the food being served. The most popular edging pattern proved to be one, which imitated the random yet rhythmic structure of a scallop shell and Shell Edge Ware produced in vast quantities by potteries throughout England. Inspired by original designs in Leeds Pottery’s 18th century pattern books this new range of Shell Edge dinnerware rekindles the spirit of the Age of Elegance'.world wide shopping

'Such wares were always termed simply 'edged' in potters' invoices and price lists. Next to plain undecorated creamware they were the cheapest items offered for sale and thus although very serviceable, tended to be purchased by consumers at the lower end of the income scale. They were cheap to make and cheap to buy. As time passed many variants of 'shell edge' developed, some with quite elaborately moulded borders'.The potteries

British shell-edged earthenware was produced and exported in such large volumes between 1780 and 1860 that it appears to have been used in almost every American household. In terms of quantity, being the least expensive English earthenware available with color decoration, shell-edged ware was in fact one of the most successful developments in ceramic production during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Enoch Wood’s Burslem pottery works shipped 262,000 pieces in a single consignment. The surviving invoices of American merchants are especially telling: shell-edged products accounted for 40-70% of dinnerware sold in America between 1800 and the eve of the Civil War in 1861, despite the introduction of a number of more fashionable styles during this period.Odyseey marine exploration 2011

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Thames Mudlarking: A Days Finds

As my husband and youngest packed the car to go on holiday caught the 141 bus early to catch the very low, low tide this morning, aiming to return before my eldest teenager woke up. It was lovely down there today, the Thames was almost like a mill pond, although nothing can still that current ripping down towards the sea.

Find of the day has to be a 300-450 year old almost complete salt-glazed stoneware Bellamine face. History and previously found fragments appear in an earlier blog post Bartmann jugs. My sister found one a month ago and I’ve been looking for an example since I began mudlarking, so really pleased to have finally captured this face.

Thames Mudlarking Find of the Day Bellamine Face 
There were only 5 others mudlarking today. I met a lovely guy from Florida, who comes over once a year to mudlark on the Thames, when the tides are at their lowest. As I was leaving the foreshore another guy came over to show us these tiny very old cuff links. He’s been mudlarking for 32 years and had also found a few coins, clearly he has developed an expert ‘eye’. The coins still elude me and my Florida companion.

Nothing else particularly of note was found today, but nonetheless some nice examples of delft, slipware, Westerwald, porcelain and other bits and pieces. Still can’t resist picking up those Elizabethan pins when I come across a scattering amongst the mud. Today’s full mudlarking haul is pictured below
Thames Mudlarking Haul from Today 
Took longer to get home as city roads were closed as the crowds amassed to see the jubilee procession, so had to navigate through the back streets. As I walked up our steep road my phone rang, my eldest had just woken up ready for scrambled eggs on toast. 

Monday, 4 June 2012

Early English Plates: White Salt Glaze Stoneware, Creamware and Pearlware 1720- 1780

The history of English tableware is scattered across the Thames foreshore, something I’ve never been particularly interested in until I started wondering about the origins of the pottery I’d found.

As ever those modern looking ‘finds’ turn out to be quite old, so for anyone else interested in identifying pottery from the Thames and finding out about its history here goes..

In 1720 potters succeeded in producing the white pottery with a glossy sheen people had been hankering after. High stoneware kiln temperatures gave the kaolin clay durability. The first sets of matching tableware were produced and were far cheaper than porcelain alternatives. Less expensive plain white plates, sometimes with relief patterns were the most popular. They were considered very fashionable in their day.

Large amounts of the stuff was exported to the US and Europe, Staffordshire potters had begun an international industry. Whilst there was clear demand, the cost of producing stoneware prevented it from becoming widespread. Consequently potters sought to develop cheaper refined earthen wares.  Creamware was the first mass produced tableware from 1750. Iron oxide in the glaze gave it a yellow cream colour. Very functional, it was the first widely available ceramic that enabled you to cut food without chipping the glaze.  Again the centre of production was in Staffordshire (plus Yorkshire). Wedgewood came onto the scene in 1759 and although not the ‘inventor’, was at the forefront of developing both Creamware and Pearlware. Not satisfied with Creamware, Wedgewood’s letters reveal the search for ‘a white Earthenware body, and a colourless or white opaque glaze, very proper for Tea & other wares’, From 1775 Pearlware moved the industry one step closer. China clay was added to the creamware body and cobalt blue to the glaze, giving it a blue tint  and a whiter appearance– a blueing technique of course still used in our washing powders and clothes manufacture.

A detail from Grace at Table by Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin (1740) Photograph: © Francis G. Mayer/CORBIS 

The introduction of the ceramic plates coincided with a change in table manners, I wonder if they were related?.  'The children learning their table etiquette in Chardin's 1740 painting are in the avant-garde of a cultural revolution. Cutlery, as opposed to eating with your fingers; sitting up straight in a high-backed chair; these were innovations in the way people defined themselves at table in 18th-century Europe'. (Jonathan Jones Guardian)
By 1750 white salt-glazed stoneware had caused the demise of the delftware industry and by 1760 the refined earthenwares, Creamware and Pearlware, were superceding white stoneware.

My initial impetus for returning to the Thames was to collect pottery for mosaic making, not something I’d ever done before I might add. Playing around with blue and white pottery, I soon realised that I’d need large amounts of white crockery to surround the interesting bits. A month ago I therefore collected a bag of white pottery, extremely abundant as I assume no one else bothers to pick this up. Now that I’ve found out a bit about the different types of ‘white’ pottery, I can see that virtually all the fragments I’d picked up were Creamware- which fits with its ubiquitousness. 

From the 1740s  block moulds were used, each imprinting one of several  standard patterns around the plate rim. I’ve found  a handful of these over the past 8 months. By far the most popular was the ‘barley’ or ‘basket’ design. My favourite is the feather pattern,  I haven’t yet spotted any of the  nicely named ‘dot, diaper and basket’.

Clockwise from top R, feather edge white stoneware salt-glaze, creamware, barley pearlware, barley white salt- glaze
When you see the different types of pottery side by side it’s easy to distinguish the creamware from the slightly grey stoneware. The two feather edged pieces illustrating this nicely above. I’ve found it quite hard to distinguish the White salt glaze stoneware from  Pearlware, eventually concluding the easiest way is to catch the salt glaze pitted ‘orange peel effect’ in the light. Although when together as the two barley pieces above show, you can see the pearlware does appear whiter than the stoneware. Apart from the blue and green ‘shell edged’ pottery, to be covered in the next post, I believe I’ve only found two  fragments of Pearlware, one shown below with rather crude enamel overglaze, the bluey tinge created by cobalt blue is really clear.

Thames Mudlarking: Close up of Pearlware Pottery Fragment with enamel overglaze  
Meanwhile my internet ordered box of mosaic materials sits in a corner whilst I'm preoccupied with classifying, sorting, researching, documenting and pondering my finds. Not to mention the still frequent trips to that intriguing river with all its secrets.  It’s going to take a while to get this mudlarking thing out of my system. 

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Mystery Thames Mudlarking Finds

I picked up these two objects last weekend. Both mysteries. No joy identifying via google. Any ideas?

On first sight thought this object was probably plastic, but having almost discarded  very old  objects before, popped it in my bag just in case. Later, on closer inspection concluded it was pottery. A small oval dome 1.5 cm tall and 3cm wide. Did it come from an Egyptian black teapot – some kind of tea strainer? Last Sunday, a guy at the Thames Discovery event at the Tower of London, reckoned it was bone not pottery and that the holes were too big for a strainer. He thought it was probably used for ‘sprinking’ something....

Thames Mudlarking Mystery Find 1 Top above, underneath below

Since posting the pinner's boneI’ve been wondering whether I’d find any bones which have been worked and used as tools. Funny how you tend to find things you've pondered about. This one looks like it’s made of horn. Cut in half with a rectangular notch cut away at the top,  it’s 7.5cm long and 3cm wide. A diagonal section on the right of the horn has been worn away, presumably by a right handed person’s thumb when they used it as a tool – but what did the tool do? 
Thames Mudlarking Mystery Find 2

Friday, 1 June 2012

Nails Found Mudlarking on the Thames

When I got home I laid out the bunch of nails,  I had this time bothered to pick up from the Thames foreshore, I was touched by their quirkiness and imperfect beauty.

Nails found Mudlarking on the Thames 
The pointy ones will have been made between 1700-1800. Each one will have been handmade by nailers or blacksmiths. Heating an iron rod, they would achieve the point by hammering each  side. The nail was then  inserted into an anvil or nail header and the top hammered into a head. ‘Roseheads’ a shallow tent like head with 4 panels were the most common, others were adorned with broad butterfly heads or  L heads.

Handmade Nail with Rosehead found Mudlarking on the Thames 
Nail making machines were  invented in the US at the end of the 18th century. Nails with no point, but a tapered sawn off end are not handmade, instead made in one of these machines.

By the first part of the 20th century most nails were made from steel and the process was fully mechanised. A more detailed description can be found at history of nails

As my good friend Maddy says, we tend to  take everything for granted, never considering how they are made, so removed from their manufacture. Gazing at these small objects, for a moment, offsets this 21st century mentality.