Hands on History
Mudlarking exhibition in St Paul’s Cathedral (Milo Robinson).
Mudlarking exhibitions, walks, and talks
Delve into the fascinating world of mudlarking as part of the Totally Thames Festival. A series of events in London in September provide a unique opportunity to discover the city’s forgotten stories, uncovered by modern mudlarks through historical artifacts they have found along the river.
A series of mudlarking exhibitions take you on an epic journey to iconic venues around London to experience history for yourself.
Company of Watermen and Lightermen, Watermen’s Hall
Starting at Watermen’s Hall, objects discovered by mudlarks reveal the “working river” and personal lives of the Thames Watermen & Lightermen.
Historic Greenwich, National Maritime Museum
The next stop on the tour is the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, where mudlarks display historic treasures which tell the story of the Tudor palace and maritime history of Greenwich.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Upstream, the journey continues to St Paul’s Cathedral, where the Great Fire of London in 1666 comes to life through the objects lost by people escaping the all-consuming inferno.
Roman Amphitheatre, Guildhall Art Gallery
The final stop on the tour is a step back in time to Roman Londinium. Within the ancient amphitheater under Guildhall, you can stand in the footsteps of the gladiators and experience life in London over 1,600 years ago.
Above, clockwise from top left: Mudlarking exhibition in St Paul’s Cathedral (Milo Robinson). Mudlarking exhibition at Chiswick Pier Trust (Jason Sandy). Hands on History display (Milo Robinson).
To accompany the mudlarking exhibitions, guided foreshore tours are offered. Here, you have the opportunity to try mudlarking and discover London’s history for yourself. The Thames Discovery Programme and Thames Explorer Trust give insightful tours of the foreshore, pointing out the significant archaeological features and identifying the artifacts you find along the way. Steve Brooker, aka “Mud God” from the History Channel’s TV show called Mud Men, gives a four-hour mudlarking masterclass. With his decades of mudlarking experience and in-depth knowledge, he will teach you how to read the foreshore to discover the best locations and artifacts.
Roman artifacts found by Ed Bucknall and Jason Sandy.
To complement the exhibitions, a series of informative talks by mudlarks are held in the historic venues. Malcolm Russell (author of Mudlark’d: Hidden Histories from the River Thames), Jason Sandy and Nick Stevens (authors of Thames Mudlarking: Searching for London’s Lost Treasures), artists and YouTubers Nicola White and Marie-Louis Plum, mudlark Monika Buttling Smith, and Andrew Lane (Education Officer at the Roman Amphitheatre) present artifacts found in the river and reveal their historic backstories. There is also an immersive talk at Two Temple Place focusing on the working river, brought to life with themed cocktails and object handling.
British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme (Jason Sandy).
Don’t miss this chance to time travel through London and see history through the lost objects recovered from the Thames.
For more information, visit bit.ly/totallythames2022.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine September/October 2022 issue.