If you enjoy reading the mudlarking articles written by Jason Sandy for Beachcombing, you’re going to love Thames Mudlarking: Searching for London’s Lost Treasures. Written by Jason and fellow mudlark Nick Stevens, this book takes you on a journey through London's history through the artifacts found by more than 50 modern treasure seekers.
From a small trading post on the river, London grew to be largest port in the world, with ships and boats crowded along wharves and docks. Warehouses, shipbuilding yards, fish markets, factories, breweries, slaughterhouses, taverns, and public houses sprang up to serve this bustling port and the population that lived there. Over the past 2,000 years, countless objects have been discarded or dropped in the Thames and protected and preserved in the mud of the riverbed.
The incredibly wide range of artifacts dating from prehistoric to modern times are found on the shores of this tidal river today by Jason, Nick, and other modern mudlarks. Members of the Society of Thames Mudlarks & Antiquarians record and/or donate many of their finds in a collaboration with the Museum of London, and we get a chance to see many of them in this book.
Organized chronologically, the book is packed with over 150 color photos of the historical artifacts found by London mudlarks. These objects recovered from the river tell the story of London and its inhabitants over the past 2,000 years, each adding a new perspective to the history of London. It's a beautiful visual history of London, and a fun read.
What is a mudlark?
The first published use of the word “mudlark” was in 1785 as a slang term for a pig. This use may have been a humorous reference to the family of birds called larks, who forage for insects and seeds on the ground, much as pigs root in the mud. The connection to those searching in the mud of the Thames may be more closely tied to the term “skylarking,” which meant running up and down the rigging of a ship for fun. So while some were skylarking in the tops of ships while in port, others were mudlarking under the ships when the tide went out. I like to think the term is closer to the noun lark, which is a quest for amusement or adventure.
You can find Thames Mudlarking: Searching for London's Lost Treasures on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine March/April 2021 issue.