If you've been on the foreshore you might have noticed large shards of orange earthenware with a white slip roughly painted on the inside. these are likely to be broken sugar moulds, which i suspect were dumped by the barrow load onto the foreshore when the bargebeds were being created. sugar refining was big business from the late 17th century, and there were hundreds of sugar houses in london making rock-hard sugar ‘loaves’ in moulds that varied in size. thick syrupy refined raw sugar was poured into the mould and as it slowly dripped through the small hole in the bottom into a collecting pot, it left brown crystallised sugar behind. poor-quality sugar crystallised less easily and was made in larger moulds, while white sugar fetched a better price and was made by slowly dripping a solution of white clay through it to draw out the remaining brown molasses. once the mould was full, the sugar loaf was knocked out and dried in a stove room at 60 degrees celsius.
the shards are usually quite small, but this lovely big bit was found by fellow mudlark mr malarky last week.
I found this crotal bell embedded in the thames mud a while back. it fell off a horse's harness around 400 years ago and had laid encased in mud ever since. it emerged perfectly preserved, with a 'sunburst' pattern and the maker's mark (a tiny bell-founder's hammer) clearly visible. but it wasn't until i took it to the edge of the river and washed the mud out from inside that something incredible happened. the 'pea' inside had survived and instantly a ghostly image of a horse, pulling a heavy wooden cart through london's muddy, stinking, narrow streets flooded my mind. i was the first person in centuries to hear it rattle, i had actually heard history.
Medieval mail, all found on the thames foreshore. there was a large armoury at the tower of london where mail makers toiled, pulling steel or iron wire to the desired gauge and bending it into these neat rings, which they then looped together – four rings on every loop – and individually riveted. this created the metal mesh from which they made protective suits for knights, kings and soldiers.
This is one of the objects that feature in my book (mudlarking: lost and found on the river thames). it's a 19th century stoneware flaggon that was lying in the mud out on the estuary. as i researched it a forgotten world opened up to me, along with the inevitable question: how did it get there?
it is stamped on the neck with the name of the landlord and the pub it originally came from: w may, king's arms, which was located at 61 lower thames street in the city of london. it opened in 1775 and was demolished in 1920. i found the spot where it once stood, buts it's just a busy road now, lined with office buildings and a far cry from what it would have been almost 200 years ago when this bottle was being filled by william may with wine and ale for river workers and sailors.
william may was landlord of the king's arms between around 1835 and 1839. details of his time at the pub are scarce, but from 1851 onwards the censuses told me much more about those who ran and lived there. landlords changed regularly and most had large extended families living and working with them. some were local and others had come to london from other parts of the country - kent, durham and yorkshire - which reflected the general population move to big cities at the time. there were both male and female landlords who employed barmaids, teenage girls as maids and boys to collect the empty tankards and glasses.
what i found most interesting were the lodgers they took in: rivermen, sailors, mariners and stevedores. these men came from far and wide: cornwall, ireland, guernsey, jersey, switzerland and canada – a human ebb and flow that once characterised the river and its surrounds. did such a man leave the king's arms with this bottle and take it with him upriver on an early tide. draining the last dregs of the previous night's ale, he ditched it overboard into the estuary as his ship headed out into the open sea. #londonmudlark#mudlark#mudlarking
2 weeks ago
a replica medieval crowned key made from a lead mould,produced from a brick with an impressed medieval key.!!! this will be on display at the @totallythames foragers of the foreshore exhibition from the 25-29 september at the barge-house oxo tower south bank .
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I was very happy to swap this 18th century tombac button from friday morning’s tide, for a human tooth - found by eagle-eyed @amberbutchart on her first lark....
i’ve retrieved a fair few ‘falsies’ over the years - from victorian specimens with vulcanite rubber gums to nhs early plastics - but never ‘the real mccoy’! thanks amber, our very own 🦷🧚🏻♀️!