When I first met Jason Sandy way back in Jan 2018, he offered one day to take me down to the Thames foreshore to go Mudlarking with him. Having seen Jason’s incredible collection of ancient artifacts he’d collected over the years, I knew this was something I would really love to you.
Finally, the opportunity arose and on Sunday 3rd November I met Jason by the river at Rotherhithe for what turned out to be a truly wonderful day.
This episode was recorded live as we walked and talked on the foreshore, and as we merrily mudlarked uncovering London’s incredible past, piece by piece. Jason’s knowledge of the best places to go mudlarking, and of London’s history and artifacts, were beautifully enhanced by the sun shining through clear blue skies.
You will hear the wash as it rushes onto the foreshore from passing boats, and the sound of gulls as they fly past. You will also hear Jason providing a beautiful mini tour of the ancient surrounding area of Rotherhithe.
July next year will be 400 years since the Mayflower set sail on the Thames in Rotherhithe on its voyage to the New World and so it was only fitting that we ended our day with lunch at the Mayflower pub dating back to 1550 &, literally overhanging the Thames.
Join me on this fascinating & important historical journey. This is Your London Legacy.
“The original London Mudlarks, the Victorian Mudlarks—they were looking for coal.”
With about two hours of search time, Jason and I begin looking at what the original Mudlarks were searching for: black coal. Victorian Mudlarks would gather coal and sell it immediately on the streets. They were looking for things that could easily be turned around for quick profit, and with the Thames being a working river at the time, worker’s tools were a hot commodity. They would gather lost tools and then sell them back to workers who had just lost them.
Our next stop is Execution Dock—that’s right, the gallows for river pirates in the 1800s. The River Police was the first organized police force in the world, and they would capture thieves and smugglers, parade them to Turks Head Pub for a final pint of ail, and then hang them for three tides where they either strangled, or drowned.
“There were so many boats in this one area that you could walk from one side of the Thames to the other without getting your feet wet.”
Jason shows me a brick wall that shows clear signs of trauma from the London Blitz in WWII. The patched bricks are a reminder of the 40,000 Londoners that lost their lives between 1941 and 1944. There’s no telling how much history was lost and displaced into the river from those attacks, but by sifting through the tide, we can reclaim some of their fragments to remember.
There’s no end to the history and treasure to be found in the Thames. Mysterious garnets that may have been stowed away by thieves; whale bones and skeletons used to reinforce docks and brought in by whalers from Greenland; metal pins used specifically on gunpowder cargo ships as to not cause a spark; and coins, pottery, and relics from the untold thousands of citizens who’ve strolled the banks over the centuries—all the way back to the day of the Mayflower.
We end our romp in the mud at Mayflower Pub with plaques honoring the ship and it’s captain—Captain Christopher Jones, of the Mayflower who set out in 1620 to discover the New World.
Stay tuned for the rest of our series exploring and celebrating the voyage of the Mayflower and all that its inspired.