Saturday, 21 June 2014

Farewell to mudlarking passion

Well it's confirmed, I've lost the mudlarking bug. A few months ago I got up at 5am to catch an early low tide. Showered and dressed, suddenly the prospect of spending a few hours closely scanning patches of mud and stone was no longer more attractive than a few more hours in bed. On that occasion bed won out and back upstairs I went. 

Last week I'd failed to tempt my husband on a day trip, so was consoled with a mudlarking trip, family and art. I took along a huge bag of finds to return to the Thames.  As I descended to the stone filled beach I realised I'd left the bag on the train, so my first task was to ring the British Transport Police to try and avert an incident!

The water was much higher than I'd anticipated so I had to make my way precariously along a thin ledge with the Thames deep and lapping to the side. I conjured up remnants of balance and courage from my youth. Fortunately I didn't fall into the muddy murk. 

I was pleased to see Jason who manages to cover the foreshore in a flash and never seems to fail to spot the best treasures. For the next few hours I stooped and looked closely for the small and metal, but it's no good, I really can't spot them and spending hours with my head a few inches from the rubble isn't how I want to be spending my time. Perhaps if I struck lucky more often I would feel differently. It was the beach combing I loved, the gentle ambling along the shore, when pottery is your reward. 

Despite my grumpiness I did find a few nice pieces beginning with this magnified mouth end of a clay pipe stem, still retaining a bit of red from the red wax which would have tipped it. 

Mudlarking Find: Mouth piece of pipe stem with trace of red wax

I suspect this is a piece of Roman pottery. 

Mudlarking Find: Probbly Roman 

An oyster shell with what looks like a worked hole, for what purpose I do not know. 

Mudlarking Find: Oyster shell with a hole made in the middle 

Find of the day was probably this, one of the largest  and nicest delft pieces I've ever found, it's almost the size of my palm 

Mudlarking Find: Delftware

and an unusual piece of delft tartan style 

Mudlarking find:Tartan Delft

Half a Bartmann beard and growling mouth

Mudlarking find: Beard and mouth of Bartmann jug

Centuries old iridescent glass

Mudarlarking Find: Iridescent Glass 

A lead cloth seal , with my clumsy attempt to show the markings by wetting them. The top row is D O and second row Z and I think F and then 16 at the bottom 

Mudlarking Find: Cloth Seal 

Onto the more modern, a section of black clay pipe stem with lettering 
Mudlarking Find: Black Clay Pipe Stem with writing -C--MAU
This English stoneware, possibly a ginger beer bottle was made by Burton's Codnor park Pottery, so it must predate 1833,as the business went bankrupt in 1832 and was then bought by Joseph Bourne. 
Mudlarking Find: English Stoneware 'Codnor Park Burton Superior'

Pre- privatisation railway tableware 

And a few bits of flow blue and transferware which were all just too cute to leave behind. 

After almost 3 hours mooching along the waterside, I made my way over the Millennium bridge to the Tate, where I was to meet my clan. Each of us delivered via different nodes of our transport system, Blackfriars, London Bridge and Moorgate names rooted in centuries past. It was the third time I was coming to see Matisse. His cuts outs and paintings are so joyous they never fail to lift my spirits. A lovely morning was finished off with lunch looking across the Thames to St Pauls and the city. 
Matisse Cut outs at the Tate Modern Until 7 Sept 2014
It is rather sad that my passion for mudlarking is over, it was a wonderful feeling to be so enthralled.  My heart would start to pound with the first whiff of mud, as I wondered what I might find this time.  It has been a fantastic way of learning about London's history, without it I'd know nothing about ceramics and I'm delighted the different periods of history are now finally embedded in my head.  I shall miss being in the heart of London and beside the river so frequently, but I'm sure I'll return to mudlark every now and again.

I still have a few more posts to write, so the blog will trundle on for a bit longer and perhaps it will turn into something slightly different, depending on what my next passion is... 


  1. I think many people will miss your wonderful posts, I have been entertained and educated by the excellently researched and well written pieces.
    Perhaps after a while the call of river will be too much to resist again but what ever your new passion is I hope it gives your as much pleasure as your blog has given to many of us.

  2. Oh dear, I think you have just hit a slump because your mosaic period is over. Just go with the flow, you will get your mojo back. I do the same thing when I finish a quilt, do something different for a while, it helps to have many hobbies!

  3. I, too, will miss your posts, but wish you all the best for whatever path tempts you away next. Thank you so much for your posts. They've been fascinating and always a pleasure to read!

  4. To live in Florida and have only mudlarked once, and to find 19 pipes in an hour and so much more thanks to your help, it saddens me to read this. You have such a history in your backyard that I hold an enthusiasm for like so many people must hold an enthusiasm to pick Florida oranges when they spot their first orange tree when driving into my state. I've loved the posts you've written. I have a feeling you aren't done yet based on the blog you have and the passion you show for mudlarking. Sometimes we all need a break. Having been a skateboarder for 26 years, I sometimes stop for a year and passionately return. That's just how it goes.

  5. Thank you for sharing your passion with us all. I loved your blogs and waited impatiently for your weekly updates. I used your research to identify my finds and wished I had your dedication and determination to drive me. I grab moments on the shoreline when I can but never seemed to find such wonderful pieces of history as you. I hope you enjoy your next project as much and am sorry that we never met on the banks of the Thames.

  6. Julia - have loved reading your exploits and adventures...but move on to something else and we shall follow accordingly to share in your passion! Nelly loves seeking treasure in our garden and finding bits of old porcelain!

    Louise ...( v old friend! )

  7. Julia, your blog is excellent. My kids and I love mud larking but only go down to the Thames a few times a year, for the last few years. We have lots of stuff we'd love you to pop over and see! Matt (School House ... NHP)

  8. Thank you everyone, I'm touched. Matt sounds like you've got more stuff than me! Julia

  9. Julia, it was great to see you on the foreshore. I'm so, so sad that you have lost the bug. . . maybe it's because you have found everything! I have learned so, so much from your blog and love reading your poetic and well-researched posts. Although I enjoy reading about the history of the objects, I also like reading about your journey to the foreshore on the bus and descriptions of London at dawn. You have really captured the essence of mudlarking . . . from the restless nights waiting for the alarm to ring . . . to the adrenaline rush when spotting an unusual artefact in the murky mud. Hope to see you back on the foreshore (or in the Tate Modern exhibiting your mosiac) very soon!! Jason

  10. The lure of the foreshore will come back to you. Your blog site and reference material has been a god send to all. Without it I wouldn't know anything of what I have been privileged to pick up off the rivers edge. Your blog even inspired me to start my own blog site showing my finds with friends and strangers alike. I have a feeling that when the next really low tide comes along we will see you once again scouring the foreshore for shards of Londons past.
    Good luck on whatever your passion is now.
    Tim...An American Mudlarker in London

  11. I just wanted to say how much I adore this blog! Every bit of it is oh so visually delicious, and the the writing incredibly informative. Wish you hadn't stopped.

    1. Thank you Ann, I'm glad the blog is still being read and helpful to people. My mudlarking years were certainly a wonderful time in my life and I did love blogging too.

  12. I was surprised today as I googled clay pipes and a picture of the clay pipe I have in my hand is the same one you have found. Yours is in much better condition, so its amazing to see what mine would have looked like and some history behind the design. Amazing huh!