9 August 2017

Larking About on the Thames


The history of mudlarking goes back hundreds of years when people, particularly children, would scour the shore looking for anything to sell on or use themselves.  For me it was an opportunity to connect with the past - to hold something that was once in a Victorian home, or perhaps even a pin that held a young girl's hat in place.

In less than an hour on the shore of the Thames I found a handful of bits and pieces lying among the pebbles.  As each wave rolled in and out, making an almost chiming sound as bits of rock went back and forth, my eye was drawn to something new.

Over the past few weeks I've spent some time trying to find out more about my bits of treasure.  What I initially thought was the broken lip of a bowl (lower right side) turned out to be a horse's tooth!  The bit of shoe leather I thought might be no age at all, is possibly over one hundred years old.  There's a saying that clay pipe stems littering the foreshore are the cigarette butts of the seventeenth century - so true.  But it's fascinating to hold a piece of clay that once soothed someone in a moment of leisure.

The button has a brass pin shank and I'm still trying to figure out if it's Bakelite, celluloid or lucite.  I don't think it's casein because that doesn't hold up well in water.  In any case, it's quite likely my button was holding a garment closed at some point between 1930 - 1950.

The piece of brown pottery at the bottom is quite pitted and only glazed on one side (not showing).  Initially thinking this was a bit of roof tile, a bit of digging around on the internet has shown it to possibly be a bit of medieval pottery.  You can't help but think of the person who formed it, carted it about, and what it was used for.

The threaded piece at the top looks like a bit of piping.  When it dried and I took a closer look, it's more like tooled leather.  I have no idea what it could have been used for...as decoration on a trunk?  And the very ugly green bit of glass to the right of that....when it's wet you can see through it, but what was it from?  Perhaps it wasn't anything - a piece of melting glass cast off as waste.  Anyway, it looks like an old slug.

My husband and I have a glass container for the lake glass we find while playing with the dogs over the years.  The difference between the shores of Lake Ontario and the Thames are a world apart - literally.

13 comments:

  1. You found so much treasure, Darlene! I'm glad you had such a brilliant haul. It's amazing how it's all just lying there, isn't it? I must go back again myself and see what I can find - you've inspired me by making your finds into such a lovely work of art!

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    1. There are some incredible mosaics made from buckets of tile and odds and ends. Images of fish seem to be a popular theme. I'm envious that you can pop down to the shore at will, Rachel!

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  2. I have seen jewelry made with treasures from the sea like these, just need a little hole and a silver ring to put on a chain! Have you tried heating the button? if it is bakelite it will smell

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    1. If I found a coin I would probably do just that. And I did read about test for bakelite...dropped into a tablespoon of very hot water there was a bit of a sulphur smell but I wasn't sure it that was just the river!

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  3. That is brilliant, Darlene - and well done for finding so much information about your finds.

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    1. The detective work is pretty rewarding, but somehow the hours just slide by.

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  4. That is a pretty collection, I like to hear the stories of the pieces people find.

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    1. Thank you, Terra Hangen...there are plenty of stories and just as many mysteries.

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  5. What a lovely collection, it all has meaning, and you have laid it out so attractively. Have you considered having it framed as a souvenir?

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    1. At this point I still like 'playing' with my bits and pieces but framing everything is a lovely idea. A shadow box leaning on a small easel would be perfect for passing around. Thanks for the suggestion, Michelle!

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  6. I showed this picture to my mum, and she wrote: the button in the middle of the picture (white) is the kind that doctors wore on their white coats. They were removed for the washing, sterilizing and ironing of the coats. The button had a loop at the back and there was a mini hair grip in brass that would hold it in place on the wrong side of the coat. I think there were 3 buttons to each white coat. My dad had 7 coats ... one for every day of the week!! The buttons and grips were kept on his dressing table in a tortoise shell dish.
    Dad wore his white coats from the 30's until he retired in 1969.

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    1. I've sent you an email to say how appreciative I am for your wonderful information, Gabriella! It gave me goosebumps to know exactly what my button was used for and to have the mystery solved. Thank you again for your interest and sharing this bit of history!

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  7. It's a pleasure :-) If you have sent me an e-mail can you please send it to gabybrunini@libero.it ... I have no idea of how this :-(

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