Friday, 8 March 2013

Mudlarking at Greenwich

I’ve been meaning to get down to Greenwich for ages for a mudlark and got my chance with my sister Laura a couple of weeks ago. Find of the day has to be the best clay pipe I’ve found so far, with roses on one side and thistles on the other, no doubt representing England and Scotland. The pipe makers letters are in relief on the foot possibly a J and an A.

Mudlarking Find: Rose and Thistle Clay Pipe
I believe these highly decorated clay pipes were produced from the 1850s onwards. Rose and thistle pipes seem to have been made across the UK and I’ve found references to pipe makers in Portsmouth and Scotland who made them. Greenwich University mention that a rose and thistle pattern (sadly no picture) was made by a pipe maker in Deptford, just round the corner from this find, perhaps it originated there?

The Greenwich shore we visited is so different from the ones we usually graze. Much more beach like with large patches of sand and shingle. The same occasional piles of animal bones are found,  which always seem to congregate with lumps of coal and river rounded bricks.

We met a delightful man who has been metal detecting for years. He explained that up until a few years ago the beach was covered in mud. The mud has been washed away by the Thames clippers, which continue to erode the remaining mud banks, washing all that history into the Thames. Good job there are a few mudlarkers who regularly sweep this stuff up and take anything important to the Museum of London. This guy was full of interesting snippets of information and finally revealed he had found the Rochester cuff link , among the top 50 archaeological finds discovered by members of public and featured in this recent TV series. 

What a place to mudlark though, those beautiful Wren buildings as a backdrop and classical music wafting about the place from the poshly named Trinity Laban Music Conservatoire.

Wren's Buildings at Greenwich (Wiki) 
 We came across several small pieces of bellamines, those German saltglazed stoneware jugs from Tudor and Stuart times.
German or English Salt Glazed Stoneware Relief Patterns 1550 - 1700
And only the second piece of gravel and slipware I’ve found, probably made in Staffordshire
Mudlarking Find: Shard from a Slip and gravel  Jug 

Slip and Gravel jug 1840 (Martyn Edgell) 

And that was it really. We finished off our morning with the perfect post mudlarking meal, traditional pies with mashed potato,  parsley gravy and hot tea.
The Perfect Post Mudlarking Lunch
Then it was on with the rest of our day. Like two excited teenagers we grabbed the front seats on the DLR train and journeyed  to Bank through that fascinating but bewildering array of pools and towers of glass and steel that make up docklands. We treated ourselves to a cream tea in the stunning 1860 Gamble Room at the V&A, the first museum cafe in the UK.

Then over to the Natural History Museum to see the wildlife photography exhibition, as wildlife is to my sister what smashed bits of pottery are to me. As we left, the afternoon light on the buildings whispered spring and was so beautiful I just had to take a pic. Great to be a tourist in your own city. 
The Natural History Museum and the V&A in spring sunlight

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