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. 


  1. Hello Julia
    I have just discovered your blog and would like to say it is excellent work.
    My particular interest is clay tobacco pipes and so I would like add a few comments on some of your finds if I may?
    The stamped mark on the stem would be E Spaull 138 Bermonsey street. http://www.scpr.co/PDFs/SCPR14.pdf a paper in this newsletter (page 27) gives some information about her and as you would have noticed i wrote her, she was a female pipe maker . Another interesting thing is that at latter period she moved to Grange Walk Bermonsey(as mentioned in the article) and the house is still there with the name Spaull painted on the side.
    Hope this is of interest to you regards Richard

    1. Brilliant, thank you Richard, I try to research the marks on the clay pipes I find, but usually to no avail, so very generous of you to share this information. It's interesting that several of the clay pipe makers were women, I believe the same goes for many of the early potters too. Best wishes

    2. It was my pleasure Julia, I've found a lot of the information on your blog very helpful identifying some of the bits and pieces I have picked up, which I tend to neglect researching because of my pipe obsession.
      So I was just returning the favour.
      London Clay Tobacco by David Atkinson & Adrian Oswald is a very good source of information with lists of recorded makers, you can usually find a copy on Amazon for under a tenner, The society for clay pipe research website also has lots of info too. http://www.scpr.co/index.html
      Best wishes Richard

  2. I am making a film about Thames sailing barges and need a photograph of a clay pipe complete with stem.... is there anybody out there couild help me????? not larkin' about! thanks,Simon. e-motion@live.co.uk