Friday, 8 February 2013

Mudlarking Another Day's Finds

A late January Monday morning. The whole of working London is joining the city's transport arteries, iron filings and magnets come to mind. It wasn't 8am and already queues of orange lights stretched into the distance. A bunch of commuters were gathering at each bus stop. The bus was going to take too long, so reluctantly I joined the tube, god it was foul, completely packed. Not what I wanted to be doing on my day off. 

As I stepped down to the Thames intense sun lit up the foreshore rubble, almost blinding me. It seemed the sun hadn't been there for months. It was meant to be a low tide, but it didn't look as though it was going to go out that far today, maybe all the rain is to blame? 

Find of the day is a first for me, a glass seal, I suspect from a wine bottle. A similar one on the Portable Antiquities Database is dated between 1650 - 1750 and was found in Southwark London, not far from where I found my one. Both seem to be painted gold, their irregularity shouting handmade. 

Mudlarking Find: Glass Seal  17th - 19th Century
Glass Seal 1650 - 1750  (Portable Antiquities Database)

Wine bottle with seal 1711- 1730 (Museum of London) 

Three letters I, S and E surround what looks like a Tudor rose. It's good to find something completely new. 

From the 18th Century some pipe makers advertised their brand by using moulds which imprinted their business signature on the foot of their pipes. On this trip I found one with 'W' on one side and 'I' on the other and another with 'P' and 'S'. Unfortunately  I haven't been able to trace either of these to specific pipe makers. 
Mudlarking Finds: Clay Pipes 'feet' with lettering 
A sizeable chunk of a 17th century delft drug jar circled with paint brushed prints  and lines of cobalt blue. 
Mudlarking Find: Base of a 17th Century Drug Jar

London Delft Drug Jar 1650 - 1700 (Christies) 

I couldn't resist two rather magnificent chunks of course pottery probably from the 16th century.

The first is a pot rim and  boasts a very common thumbed decoration. I usually pass these by but this time the rim piece has a return, perhaps the top of a large bellied pot. The inside is coated with a thick dark deep green glaze. 
Mudlarking Find: Thumbed redware rim
I've picked up a nifty shard chart from the 'historic royal palaces' which allows you to work out the size of the plate or pot by matching the curve of your shard to a series of lines, which also give you the percentage of the rim it represents, in this case 17%. If I've got this right the diameter was 47 cm  pretty big. A Thames Discovery guide told me they thought these type of thumbed rim shards, so common on this stretch of the foreshore, were from vats and the remnants of a local Tudor dying industry. 

It was the thick yellow glaze and a thumbed end of a handle that prompted me to sweep up the second shard. Is it from a large jug? On examining it more closely at home I noticed a line of stamped decoration ending at the top left of the handle base. 

Mudlarking Find: Redware with yellow glaze
It was good to meet a new mudlarker, a vivacious French guy who'd been an archaeologist but had turned to corporate life to up his salary. Recently installed in a company flat overlooking the Thames he'd wondered what those souls wandering around the foreshore were up to, so he donned his boots and went down to ask. That was in December, now he's a regular as he says 'I've got the virus'. 

Finally the eccentric inscription ' our own make' earns this little pressed copper alloy button its place. 
Mudlarking Find: Pressed Copper Alloy Button 'Our own make'. 


  1. Oooh! I picked up a very similar piece of yellow glazed red ware. Couldn't work it out. Two finger shaped depressions and confusing layers of glaze and clay. Back glazed with slight parallel ridges. My piece very flat so I was thinking tile. I can see that big pot an handle could be a reasonable alternative though. Thank you so much for your blog, I keep checking on a Friday I until I see what you have found. Dreaming of the treasures I may find on my next trip to London - though sadly last time all my spare time was at high tide. Sarah.

  2. More great finds Julia, thanks. I have been keeping a Facebook page of my own finds (London Mudlark), if you're on Facebook feel free to 'Like' to follow it. I have also found some unusual bits of Tudor pottery I was wondering if I could ask your opinion about... Lara (Greenwich)

    1. I'm not brilliant on Tudor pottery but ask away,my email is if that is easier. I've liked your site - love it. Julia

  3. Hi Julia
    The initials on the heel of the pipes would be SP & IW, as the first initial is on the left of the pipe holding it as if smoking it.
    It's not always possible to make a definite identification by these marks as there can be several makers with the same initials for the era of the pipe.
    S p is the most common I've picked up , Solomon Price is listed for the right period may be the maker but there are a few possible names to choose from for I W and I was used for a j as well. Regards Richard

    1. Thanks for all your contributions Richard, did you see this MOLA event in June? but then you probably know all this stuff anyway! I'll be putting an order in for the book you recommended. With best wishes Julia.

  4. Hello Julia
    I Hadn't spotted that event, I booked my place immediately I saw your post so thank you for pointing it out.
    It should be very interesting, I would never think I knew all there was to know about clay pipes. there's always something new to learn. I hope you find a copy of the book although it was published in the 60's, the dating of London pipes is still based on the classification of pipe shapes it contains.
    Regards Richard