Friday, 26 April 2013

Another Days Finds

Not the best day for finds, but here they are. Find of the day is a rather worse for wear clay pipe. It's taken me a long time to figure this one out as the details are so smudged out. Looked like it was a royal something with that preserved crown. I could make out three fleur de lys on the central shield, mottos circling and ribboned at the bottom and on the sides the buttocks and tails of a couple of animals presumably holding the whole thing up. 
Mudlarking Find Clay Pipe With Royal Coat of Arms
A couple of trips we just happened to plan for the next week helped out in my quest. As we entered the gates of Hampton Court with Janey and Megan I spotted the coat of arms on the gates of Hampton Court was a bit similar, and concluded the line and blobs on the bottom left of the pipe's shield were probably the woman's  curve on the Irish Harp and perhaps its top. 
Coat of Arms atop Hampton Court Gates
On our trip to the Victoria and Albert Museum with Gerry later that week, a great bunch of enthusiastic arty people were handing out drawing kits to kids so they could design their own coat of arms and on their stall was a book of heraldry. Interested in the mystery clay pipe from the Thames they worked out that it was probably the royal coat of arms, but which one? Having never been particularly interested in this previously, I didn't appreciate there was more than one. 

It's likely to be George III, the most recent monarch to include the French Fleur de lis, my history isn't good enough to throw light on why there is French  representation, it disappeared when George IV took the throne in 1820.  The red lion rearing in red border represents Scotland linked with England in the 1707 Act of union. My only reference point are the small paper flags  stuck into the sandcastles of our childhood. 
Royal Coat of Arms 1714- 1801 George II

The two beheaded rampant animals are probably the English Lion on the left and the Irish Unicorn on the right.  The writing is impossible to read, I assumed it would be Latin  but in fact its probably French. The words in the circle are likely to be 'Honi Soil Qui Mal Y Pense' 'Shamed be he who thinks evil of it' sometimes reinterpreted as 'Evil be to him who evil thinks'. 

George I  ( 
Decorated pipes became more common from the 1770s and the arms of George II were one of the common designs, so says one source anyway. 

Other finds are far more straight forward. A lovely pipe with minute perfectly rendered oak leaves running over the backbone of its bowl. 
Clay Pipe with Oak Leave 1830 -1900. 
Another Lion, this time it would have formed the centre of an armourial medallion on the side of german stoneware produced from between 1500- 1700. 
Mudlarking Find Lion from Freshen Stoneware 1485- 1700
Bartmann Jug with Lion and Crown Medallion Freshen 1551 - 1700 (Museum of London) 
My guess is the quickly hand painted top of a Chinese House which sat at the bottom of a bowl, is pearlware, but I could well be wrong. 

Mudlarking Find: Handpainted Chinese House decorating the bottom  of a  bowl
The next is definitely German Westerwald Stoneware, possibly from a small globular mug as shown below. The 400 year old rosettes in their sea of cobalt blue looking as though they were cast yesterday. 
Mudlarking Find:  Fragment of 17th C German Westerwald Stoneware 

17th Century Westerwald mug with moulded and applied rosettes (Crocker Farm) 
Finally my one of my favourites, naive hand painted delftware, the end of each leaf still marked by the brush that left it perhaps 400 years ago, maybe it wasn't such a bad day for finds after all.
Mudlarking Find: Delftware shard 1571-1800

Friday, 19 April 2013

St Giles Without Cripplegate

This was the find I was so pleased with a couple of months ago, I suspected it would lead me on an interesting journey & so it did.

It's a button, solid copper possibly originally silvered and likely to be a livery button, part of a uniform. The inscription ‘Firmin’s London’ on the back dates it to 1897 – 1904. The premier button maker Firmins was established in 1655, ended up supplying royalty and still holds contracts with the military in the UK and beyond to produce their buttons and badges.

Depicted on the front of the button is the now demolished Cripplegate, one of 7 gates set in the London wall, this one gave access to Islington. It began as a gate in a Roman Fort built in 126 AD, its northern and western walls were incorporated into the first London wall built a little later by the Romans. Cripplegate was rebuilt in medieval times, modified thereafter and finally pulled down in 1760 so the street could be widened. Controversy surrounds its name. It could be from ‘crepal’ the Anglo-Saxon term for an underground passage or covered way, others believe it originated from a monk’s claim that disabled beggars were cured as the body of St Edmund the Martyr was carried through the gate in 1010 on its way to Bury St Edmunds. It’s the more romantic later tale which people seem to have adopted, the only just perceptible person in the gateway on the button has crutches. 
Location of the old London gates (

When I first entered the clear as anything words circling the button ‘St Giles Cripplegate without’ into google, up popped a church with the same name. We finally made it down there with Jen and Tian last week. Quite a find in itself, an old gem sitting amid the posh Barbican estate and surrounded by city high rises.

St Giles Without Cripplegate Church

Certainly a church with a history, over 1,000 years of it, imprinted on a stone tablet within the Church.
The 1000 Year History of St Giles Cripplegate
It tingles with 17th century names even I am familiar with, Oliver Cromwell married here,  Milton author of Paradise Lost is buried here and John Bunyan author of  Pilgrims Progress attended the church. The Church was damaged by fire during the Blitz in 1940 which decimated the surrounding area, hence the building of the Barbican.

St Giles without Cripplegate a lone survivor in 1955 (colinspics)
As the name suggests the Church was built outside the walled city of London and the name ‘St Giles without Cripplegate’ is both the name of the Church and one of 25 wards in the City of London.

Inside the Church we met David Freeman who kindly showed us around. The exact same design on the button appeared on silver ‘badges’ and also topped a staff displayed in the Church. 

Perhaps the button belonged to a parish official, an Alderman, Ward Beadle the oldest elected office in the City of London or a Ward Clerk.

The Parish Beadle with Staff 1820-3 David Wilkie (Tate) 
It’s amazing where a Thames find can take you, David took out his large bunch of keys and guided us through locked gates and into the Barbican estate for a special tour of the remaining sheets of London wall that would have nudged up against Cripplegate  – brilliant!

Remains of the London Wall at Cripplegate 

More remains of the London Wall 

Friday, 12 April 2013

Annular or banded ware 1770s-1840

You'd think it was pottery from the 1950s, with those bright parallel bands of colour, in fact its probably Georgian. There seems not to be a consensus in the pottery world about this stuff, the antiques dealers tend to describe it as mocha ware, the archaeologists as annular or banded ware. 
Mudlarking Finds Banded Ware Shards
I'm not altogether sure all the pieces I've found mudlarking above and below are in fact from banded slipware, but it's my best guess so far. 
Mudlarking Finds Annular or Banded Ware

Annual or banded ware, often not distinguished from Mochaware (Rufus Foshee Antiques) 
The earthenware base could have been pearlware, whiteware or creamware decorated with clay slips. The golden age of banded ware is characterised by vibrant, earthy colours. Colourants were added to watery clay, colbalt oxide for pale blues, copper oxides produced the olive greens, antimony and uranium yielded yellows and ochres, iron oxides resulted in tans and rusts, manganese was used for black and dark browns. Lead glaze amplified the earthiness of the colours. Apparently awareness of the toxicity of some of  these compounds resulted in several being phased out. So later banded ware produced in the 1850s tended to be duller using only blacks, blues, grey and whites. 
Older Banded Ware 1790-1800 (Woolhope Club) 

The more recent: 19th Century jug ( 

Annular ware was factory made, an early product of the industrial revolution and initially produced in Staffordshire. The products were mugs, jugs and bowls. Bands of slip were applied to the vessel as it was mounted horizontally onto a lathe. The introduction of engine turned lathes from the 1770s enabled a variety of geometric designs to be used, checks,dots, fluting, zigzags, chevrons, interrupted lines. 
Mudlarking Finds Checked Slipware 

Slipware Tankard 1800 (Martyn Edgell) 
Banding was often used with other decorative techniques such as the dentric seaweed patterns on mocha ware (covered in this earlier post) or marbleware. 
Mudlarking Finds Mocha ware shards
Mocha ware with slipware bands (Rufus Foshee Antiques) 
Banded ware was the cheapest pottery with colour around, unsurprisingly they were very popular and exported in large quantities to the States. In the 1830s they were referred to as 'Fancy ceramics' although potters referred to them as 'dipped'. 

Friday, 5 April 2013

Mudlarking Again

The sun was shining and it was the first day of the Easter holidays. As I sank into the front seat upstairs on the bus, I could sense my face was crumpled with work stress and my neck was stiff. A mudlark was just what I needed. 

The sunlight was startling after weeks and weeks of grey. London was quiet, people luxuriating in the Friday bank holiday still snug under duvets no doubt. It was still unseasonably cold. 

The bus was on diversion and I greedily took in unfamiliar Shoreditch streets. As we approached Old Street roundabout, I noticed a giant beachball topping one of the lower buildings. The picture below belies its giganticness. The juxtaposition was so marked it left me feeling rather uncomfortable - I like that. 

Old Street Roundabout, London (Webb Yates Engineers) 
So good to walk alongside the Thames again. This whole routine has become very comforting. Find of the day has to be two decorated pipes. The first boasts a Celtic harp, Ireland's national emblem for over 800s years. Played as the Irish went into battle, it was banned by the Brits in the 16th century, when harps were burnt and  harpists killed. Above the harp a ghostly face heads a puff of smoke, the symbolism is lost on me. The pipemakers initials B and P mark the sides of the pipe's foot. Always handy to have a few other mudlarkers around to help with identification, Brian immediately knew the shield on the second clay pipe was part of the the City of London's coat of arms, this time a K and an R on its foot. 

Another Bartmann beard beconed me, the mouldings look so defined and pristine it's hard to remember they are 300 - 500 years old.  I can't find a precise match, the closest is shown below. 
Mudlarking Find Frechen Bartmann Beard 1551 - 1700
Frechen Bartmann Jug 1551- 1700 (Museum of London) 
Over the last year I've picked up a few of these tiny circles of wire, just because they looked so perfectly made. Through reading Lara's mudlarking facebook page, I've found out they were used to hold bundles of expensive handmade brass pins from the 14th - 17th century, covered in this earlier post. 
Mudlarking finds holders for bundles of pins 14th-17th C

Couldn't resist this large and fine example of one end of a medieval strap handle, stabbed and incised to both decorate and stop the clay fracturing as it was fired, the lead glaze made green with the addition of copper and remarkably up to 800 years old. 

Kingston ware type jug 1240- 1360 (British Museum) 
It was unusual to find the decorated bottoms of a couple of Chinese export porcelain tea bowls with their makers marks underneath, is the second a couple of fish? 
Mudlarking Finds, Chinese Export Porcelain Tea Bowls. 

A couple of small pieces of Japanese Imari Porcelain covered in this earlier post, the second shard I suspect comes from the same vessel as one of the pieces in this last post. 

Mudlarking Finds Imari Porcelain 1650-1750
I do like these segments of hand painted pearlware, often surrounded by the very common shell edged designs, there is something about their naivety and modern feel that appeals. This time the shards are curved so from a bowl or chamber pot perhaps, but the one on the left looks like its from the 'Chinese house' pattern.
Mudlarking Finds Hand painted pearlware circa 1800

Below Antique English Pearlware Hand painted Dish 1790s decorated with Chinese House pattern (Ruby Lane)