Monday, 8 February 2016

A 'Mudlark' at Heart!'

Last night, I watched a programme called 'Treasures of the Thames'. It was about people who search the bank (foreshore) of the river Thames, (in this case) for historical artefacts, like coins, jewellery, pots, or anything that might be important.

They purchase a licence to search and then go along with metal detectors or trowels to see what they can find. Obviously it can be dangerous because of the tides, and potential for catching illnesses like Wiles disease. I was totally fascinated!

It fits with my love of history and of all things abandoned. I rang a friend of mine, Mike, who has been metal detecting for years. everywhere from beaches to Roman villas, and civil war battle fields.

We had a really long chat about all the things he'd found - and I got butterflies in my stomach. He reminded me that there are the remains of a Roman villa fairly near to us, where they have done regular digs, and you can still see some of the colour on the mosaic tiles!

Unfortunately, it's only open to the public at certain times but I told hubby I was determined to go again. I went once when I was very young so I've only got vague memories of some very long grass and a birds nest.
Anyway, back to the programme. These treasure hunters are known as 'mudlarks' - (it sounds like they should be some sort of bird, doesn't it)?

Anything they find that they think might be over three hundred years old, they have to take to the Museum of London to register it, and have it valued. If the museum thinks it is 'special' enough or something they don't already have, they will buy it from the Mudlark or hope that they donate it.
There are drawers and drawers of things that have been found - from rings to pieces of clay tobacco pipe. One of the most common finds are dress pins from the eighteenth century. Apparently the people of Britain used millions of them, - as hair pins, dress pins, or general fastenings - before the days of buttons, zips and safety pins.

One of the most amazing things that was found during the filming of this programme though, was a medieval cannon ball. I think was found on the foreshore area just in front of the Tower of London. People aren't allowed to search there often and definitely not allowed to use trowels,spades or metal detectors because the erosion of the bank in that area is already particularly bad so they don't want to chance making it worse with modern tools. You have to search with 'eyes only'.

Ooh, I was so excitable! I watched it totally transfixed, willing them to find something new and important.

They were ecstatic over the cannonball and dated it as medieval. It's amazing what you can find washed in on the tide! Tiny, fragile things that you'd think would be easily broken up and long gone into the mists of time. still there - and often still in one piece!

The Mudlark's say it's not about the money, -it's about the chase. They say that so much is down to being in the right place at the right time. Due to the movements of the relentless tide, you could miss something by seconds. I think it's all about luck It's luck, with a few educated guesses thrown in - a bit like life is sometimes.

I can see how that might become addictive. Similar to how I used to feel in old record shops, car boot sales and second hand book stores. The feeling that something might be there just waiting for me to find it.

I ended up thinking I'd LOVE to do it - but I'm glad, (due to my Cerebral Palsy and being unable to walk or stand unaided) that I can't.

I dread to think what I'd bring home - and according to hubby I already own enough 'clutter'!  'Oi!'...I replied, 'What you call 'clutter', I call CD's, books, and gorgeous, pristine, beautiful notebooks! They are like treasure to me, but 
I've decided that I'm a 'Mudlark' at heart...!

Mudlark -Wikipedia Page:

Image: Lino print - Globe, Tate Modern, mudlarking -via 'Pinterest'


1 comment:

  1. Helen, I think you are an old spirit. One who has been here on Earth before, maybe many times. I share your fascinations as my family know only too well. I used to love auctions when I could get around. I used to buy the boxes of old junk nobody wanted for £1.00. It was like Xmas when I brought them home to sift through. Boot sales too were a passion. Maybe this year my hubby will take me to one in my wheelchair.