Saturday, 8 February 2014

Mudlarking Mosaic - 3/4 way through

Visually this pipe section would have looked better if I'd orientated the pipes so they cascaded in a more higglety pigglety way with their bowl mouths open to the viewer, as in Emma Bigg's original mosaic. Instead illuminating the history won out. Lined up in date order lie 50% of the types of clay pipe produced. Starting with the small ones from the 1610 on the right and ending with the large spurred pipes made until the 1840s, positioned so it's easy to see their development over the centuries. Their spurs, different types of feet with or without initials  are all exposed.  I couldn't quite bring myself to cement in any of my decorated relief pipes. 

And then the view from the top, which once on the wall will never be seen. 

Rather chuffed how this line of Westerwald turned out, its deep cobalt blue creating such  a strong impression. The epitome of German domination of 17th and early 18th Century European ceramics, with its precise moulded reliefs and careful incised patterns executed by hand and perfectly glazed.

To the right, purposely included one of the drilled mother of pearl 'shards' I've picked up along the Thames, in this section of iridescent discarded worked pieces. 

The Westerwald shards most likely came from tankards and jugs

Westerwald Jug 1702-1714  with moulded relief design (prices4antiques)

Westerwald Mug 17th C (Crocker Farm) 
Westerwald Jug circa 1730 with incised patterns made by hand (Martyn Edgell) 
Again copying Ms Biggs mosaic, I've included a row of large chunks of 19th century utilitarian English stoneware, the remains of ink bottles and other storage vessels. The impressed writing reveals a Derbyshire bottle produced by Bourne (a longer post on this can be found here) and the neat lettering of Stephen Green's Imperial Pottery in Lambeth, the centre of English saltglazed stoneware pottery from the mid 17th - mid 19th century.

'The imperial pottery in Princes Street Lambeth places Mr Stephen Green amongst the foremost.. The variety of its productions comprises jugs, garden vases and figures, water pipes, filtering machines and vessels for chemical purposes..About seventy persons are employed on the premises; and the consumption of materials amounts to one thousand tons of clay, one hundred of sand, twenty tons of burnt flint and Cornwall stone, twelve tons of salt and eight hundred tons of coal annually...The business was begun nearly 60 years ago' (E W Brayley 1841).

I haven't been able to track down the the origin of 'Waterlow London'. 

Complete Bourne Ink Bottle (Museum of London) 

The hand painted blue and red laced with gold, Japanese Imari porcelain (1650-1750) is scattered through this next section. A previous post about its history can be found here.

and to end - a large chunk of the will be finished in another month or so mosaic. 

Monday, 3 February 2014

Hammered Coins

Finally I seem to be getting the knack of finding the small and metal. It's true what the other mudlarkers say, you just need to get down on your knees and search small patches of foreshore. It was the first time I'd brought along proper knee pads and  this time I made myself search for a couple of hours. Previously I'd got a bit bored, preferring the ambling of beach combing. I'm also shocked by how difficult I find the systematic searching (with my eyes) between all the pebbles and muck. It takes a lot of  concentration. I often find myself drifting off and not really looking, similar to reading the words in a book but not taking in the meaning.

I was rewarded though with this tiny (around 1cm) paper thin medieval silver penny. The surround has disappeared, either eroded over time or slivers of the valuable silver were snipped, a common practice in this era. The surround holds the writing used to date these coins, so I suspect this one is impossible to date. I believe it could be anything from 1300-1500. 

This one is rather worn but you can just make out the crown, face and hair on the left.

Mudlarking find medieval silver penny

I met Nick, mudlarker for 35 years, on the foreshore yesterday who kindly tried to id the coin for me. Apparently up until Henry VIII they didn't go in for likenesses, so a stylised crowned and wavy haired king stares out from the front on all of them. A cross sections the reverse, three dots cluster in each section  (or pellets as they called by the numismatists). In this instance there is a rose shape with a dot in the middle, the 'proper' term is quatrefoil which means 'four leaves' - what a surprise. 

Coins with quatrefoil seem to be less common. I've found a few similar coins on the net and posted a couple below, one is from Richard II another Edward IV, another Henry IV and V and quite a few from Henry VI, so clearly the flower thing doesn't help much in dating. 

Henry V1 1421- 1471 - Silver Hammered Penny (ebay) 
It's difficult to estimate the value of a penny in today's money. However, according to Wiki answers 6 pennies bought you a sheep in medieval times. A penny would buy you roughly what  £10-£15 will buy in today's money. 

Richard II  (1367- 1400) silver hammered penny (historyincoins) 
Hammered coins were produced by hammermen or moneyers who belonged to one of the medieval guilds. They placed thin metal on one die which was usually embedded into  some kind of stand and then whacked it with another. The dies were metal and engraved with the image to be transposed onto the coin.

Detail from a wall in  Rostock (Wiki) 
In the early medieval period each large town had their own moneyer, but as time went on fewer and fewer cities minted coins, until eventually they were all minted at the Tower of London. By the middle of the 17th century hammered coins were no long made, as machined made milled coins became the new currency.