Wanted to know what the River knew,
Twenty Bridges or twenty-two,
For they were young, and the Thames was old
And this is the tale that River told:”
― Rudyard Kipling
I wish you much love in your lives.
Happy Valentines Day
“TWENTY bridges from Tower to Kew -
Wanted to know what the River knew,
Twenty Bridges or twenty-two,
For they were young, and the Thames was old
And this is the tale that River told:”
― Rudyard Kipling
I have tried to work out what it is that keeps me going back, in all weathers, to prod around in the muddy foreshore of the River Thames. It is not as if I have ever found anything resembling treasure, or gold, or even remotely Roman (oh, apart from some Roman pottery, so yes, I did find something Roman - but not a Roman coin!). What I have found though are long lost possessions, faded and rusty, worn by the River, whose owners are probably long long gone. They are pieces of evidence of past lives. A tangible piece of history. It is that, that keeps me going back, and they make getting covered in mud and acquiring a stiff neck all very much worthwhile. These little pieces of history fascinate me and evoke stories in my imagination of Victorian ladies, children playing with lead toys and marbles, sailors and lightermen smoking clay pipes.....I can spend hours just imagining who last touched that object, who owned that button and who wore that glass bead that was once part of a necklace. Over the past few years I have found several tokens of love in the River Thames, and it is these I want to concentrate on now, as of course, it is Valentines Day, and so it seems appropriate. Below are just a few of the symbols of love I've found - and I think you'll agree, they all have their very own story - which we will never know in all probability.
Of course, you can't help wondering who wore these pieces of jewellery and how they ended up in the River? What is their love story? The bracelet below, engraved Peter and Lesley is a mystery too. Did Lesley drop it by accident, or was it hurled in the River after a break up by Peter? Where are they now?
There are countless fragments of the Willow Plate design on the Thames foreshore - depicting the two lovers, who were turned into doves for daring to pursue their forbidden love! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willow_pattern
There are countless pieces of pottery in the River Thames depicting lovers and love stories, both happy and sad.
Here are some once loved toys clutching hearts, that somehow now find themselves lost and forlorn by the River!
And lastly, of course, there are many messages of love that have floated down the River Thames. I have written about some of them in my message in a bottle blog here on this site, but here a few.
So now I think I know one of the reasons why I keep coming back to the River to search the shores. It is so full of stories to think on. In what seems like a difficult world at the moment, with all manner of sad happenings going on - the River Thames that flows through the heart of our City here in London, has many love stories to tell. Sad stories or happy stories, the fact is, love is eternal.
I wish you much love in your lives.
Happy Valentines Day
When mudlarking along the River Thames foreshore, we often find old bottle stoppers (screw stoppers). Sometimes they are still embedded in the broken glass neck of the bottle they belonged to, and other times, they are poking out of the mud on their own - presumably not far from where they were last tossed by whoever opened the bottle. There is something appealing about these black screw stoppers, especially the ones which are imprinted with names of old breweries, or have an old logo on them. When we recently realised that we now have well over 200 of them at home - but knew very little about them, I was motivated to do a little more research into them. I embarked upon a mission to find out as much info as possible– and so have used a variety of web-based sources, notably the Kent History Forum to whom I am grateful for the wonderful pictures. If any of the details are not correct then apologies in advance.
It was Henry Barrett, in 1872, who invented this particular type of screw stopper – and they were subsequently used then for well over 100 years until the 1970s. Henry actually patented the design in the early 1880s, and he was also the person who designed the internal screw thread for the interior of the bottle neck. The stoppers themselves are made from hard, non-elastic, India rubber, also known as vulcanite. The process of “vulcanisation” involved heating rubber to 115 degrees Celsius with sulphur and also linseed oil – thereby converting it into a more durable material. The stoppers are also sometimes described as being made from ebonite, which in fact was the brand name for the vulcanised rubber – patented by Charles Goodyear in 1846.
Wrapped around the stopper is a sealing washer of pink India rubber.
These screw stoppers took the place of corks on most beer bottles and the popularity of bottled beer really took off! Stoppers often carried company names and trademarks. Below is a gallery of some such screw stoppers. Each stopper has a little history of its own, and many of these companies/breweries are of course now defunct.
In 1885 a chap called Riley brought out the "new improved" chisel shaped thumb screw stopper which was designed to be easier to grip with the fingers, or in a bottling machine. He also bought out, in the same year, the first machine for screwing and unscrewing the stopper whilst the bottle was being filled.
During the war, with rubber in short supply, it is possible that an inferior material was used for a while. Also, the scooped out stopper means that less material was used. The stoppers made in this fashion during the war, were stamped with “war grade”.
In the 1890s, yet another improvement! Lignum Vitae wooden top screw stoppers were brought out. The screw was still made from vulcanite, but the top was wooden. The seal was supposedly far more secure!
On a recent trip to India, I was walking along a beach in Gokarna (historically known as an important Hindu pilgrimage destination). I was observing whilst some Hindus were making offerings of fruits and coconuts to the sea, as well as committing the ashes of a deceased relative to the waves. It was interesting to watch the ceremony and I was told by the person I was with, that Hindus believe that all holy rivers join the sea, and that by throwing the ashes into the sea, they will be mixed with all the holy rivers of the world. There were also a huge amount of coconuts washed up on the beach which had been offerings. As well as coconuts and bundles of fruit, I came across some wooden body parts of what I think must have been deities – a tiger’s claw and the forearm of a woman.
Now with London not being a tropical destination, it may seem odd that it was the coconuts strewn on the beach that day in India, which reminded me of the River Thames, where the evidence of many different religious beliefs is also found washed up along the foreshore. We have found many religious artefacts over the last couple of years, including an awful lot of coconuts in varying states of being - from plain hairy ones to beautifully painted ones adorned with coloured silk or sequiny bling, or carefully wrapped in cotton. So this blog entry is dedicated to these discoveries. Please do forgive my ignorance of some of the official meanings behind them. Any extra knowledge or comments would be greatly welcomed and I apologise in advance if I have made any mistakes in interpreting these religious objects.
In India, the most sacred river is the River Ganges, and many offerings are thrown into the Ganges as an offering to Godess Ganga. For the large community of Hindus in London, The River Thames has become a substitute for that holy river, and indeed all rivers are seen as holy by Hindus so I have been told.
It is not just Hindus though that consider the Thames a holy River. Hereafter is range of the statuettes of deities we have found in the Thames, along with other objects of religious significance. We have found artefacts belonging to Hindus, Muslims and Christians. I should add that we have left most of these objects which were deliberately thrown into the river as offerings, where we found them, out of respect for those who threw them in. Below is a statuette of Ganesh, Hindu God of Knowledge and Remover of obstacles. Also, Shiva, who is one of the most important gods in the Hindu religion.
This calendar below, depicting the Hindu holy trinity of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma was found on the foreshore near Greenwich.
This photo was found on the foreshore. Was he someone's guru once upon a time?
This offering was found near Rotherhithe and I believe it is Chinese
There are also many icons and statuettes of a Christian origin to be found in the River Thames. Some thrown in and some almost certainly lost in the River. Below are just a few of the items we have found. This statue of Madonna and Child was found near Greenwich, although the River has worn away poor Jesus! And the little bottle of the Virgin Mary once contained holy water from Lourdes.
Below are other items with a Christian connection, including a St Christopher's medallion, a pendant from the Guild of St Helena, a Catholic icon and what I think is a very old Pilgrim's badge possibly from the 17th Century, depicting a dragon.
I have found a few of these little purses on a string (an amulet called a Ta'wiz, and on this occasion, I opened it to see what was inside). From what I have been told, I think that it is of Muslim or Sufi origin.
I found it under a stone at low tide, and even though it had clearly been in the River for a long time, the accompanying text on paper was so well wrapped up in wax paper, that you can still read it (well you can see the writing, but I can’t actually understand what it says – so I did send it out on twitter to see if I could get some enlightenment). Someone kindly came back to me explaining that it is some verses of the Quran, and one of the reasons it would have been worn would be to ward away evil spirits. There is an explanation on wikipedia here: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ta'wiz
This message in a bottle, contains foreign text and again, through twitter I was told that it contains verses from the Qoran
I also found this mysterious folded paper during a mudlarking expedition,bound with red thread, and it contained a very lengthy prayer about a forthcoming court case.
Each one of these religious objects had a meaning for the person who offered them to the River, or who lost them in there. What a River of Mystery runs through our City, and what a lot of secrets, prayers, dreams and hopes it keeps underneath those swirling currents. Every religion and faith is represented within it! I will continue to be fascinated with each and every one of these finds. By the way, if any of what I have written is completely inaccurate, please let me know!!
On Mother’s day this year, we went for our usual long beach combing trek along the Thames Estuary near Cliffe, complete with a large ruck sack for any interesting finds. Well, we were indeed spoilt in so far as finds are concerned. So much so, that today’s blog is dedicated to them. It seems appropriate, given that it is close to Easter, to start with the discovery of a rather curious, large pottery egg which was nestled in amongst the rocks and seaweed. It is about the size of a very large goose egg, and when I first noticed it, I thought it was a coconut. Actually I'm surprised I noticed it at all, as it blended in very well with the surrounding rocks.
On picking it up, I shook it and it rattled. Of course, I almost dropped it to see if it would break so we could see what was in it, but I’ve so far managed to resist the temptation. It is clearly handmade and glazed, but it has no markings on it. Thanks to twitter, I was directed to the diary of a fisherman - an online blog called "Tales by the Riverbank". It's a great blog - really interesting to read. I'd recommend it. http://talesbytheriverbank.wordpress.com/. I have posted the relevant "egg" link below but the author was also capivated by the discovery of more and more of these eggs of various sizes along the River bank, over a period of time. He investigated, and it appears that a few years ago (Im not certain exactly when) an anonymous Artist from Sussex, sent out 5000 eggs into the Thames Estuary, of varying sizes and colours. Some are marked with a number and others are not. http://talesbytheriverbank.wordpress.com/?s=Eggs&submit=Search There is also a short and mysterious film about the project here http://riveregg.wordpress.com/film/ . I realised after watching it, that a small, pink ceramic egg that I found closer to Greenwich some time ago, was certainly also one of these eggs.
The next discovery was not as pleasant, but interesting nonetheless. A few weeks ago, when we were doing the same walk we noticed a trio of short eared owls hunting the waders on the water. It as amazing to watch as they swooped in to target their prey. Happily, the waders didn't succomb and managed to create confusion by flying off in several different directions. It would appear that this poor racing pigeon wasn't quite so lucky. He had clearly been killed by a bird of prey (maybe those same short eared owls), and there wasn't much of him left :(. We rang the owner to share the sad news and tell him where we found his pigeon. (we did spare the gory details though...). He was a racer from Essex and had nearly reached home, but not quite. Sorry little pigeon!!
Discovery number 3 was another dolphin skull! I now have 2 in my collection. I never actually set out to collect skulls - it just kind of happened..... but oh well, there is something very interesting about them. I now have a good collection of sun bleached seabird skulls, and they are beautifully intricate. Does that make me morbid? I'm not sure!! Generally, if you do discover a dead cetacean by the way, you are obliged to report it to the local coastguard, and then to the Natural History museum for their records. I didn't report this find given that it was only part of a cetacean - but perhaps I should do so anyway.....
Ok so this Victorian pottery lid was a beautiful find. There are some very old and crumbling piers along the Thames estuary near Cliffe and as a rule you do seem to often find broken bits of pottery and pipe in their vicinity. This beautiful pot lid was upside down in the mud, and it was a lovely surprise to turn it over and see this. Sooo much nicer than the plastic pots you get in the chemists nowadays!
we had such an eventful walk that day, and it was dark by the time we arrived back at the car. The cranes across the river from the New Thames Port glowed in the sunset, reminding me, as usual, of very large birds that might just start wading across the river....As well as the finds described above, we found pottery galore, 5 messages in bottles, myriad of old and forgotten plastic toys, and some great driftwood. Here's to the next walk, or should I call it a treasure hunt?
Today's blog is dedicated to the Thames Tiger who we came across lolling on the banks of the Thames (at Cliffe Pools in Kent) today - and to all of the beautiful wildlife that lives near this part of the river. When we decided to set off for a walk along the River this morning, we were fully expecting to see plenty of wildlife, and not many people. That is part of the lure of this lesser frequented part of the Thames. But...when I say wildlife, I am referring to the oyster catchers which frequent the old disused piers, and the many waders that stalk up and down the mud, looking for tasty morsels ; the seagulls and terns, and the bright white egrets..... We were not expecting to see a tiger! Neither was Misha, our dog! But, here he is, resplendent. His orange fur blending nicely with the orange lichen to create a crafty camouflage. We quickly turned into wild life photographers :)
The Thames tiger was very cooperative and happily posed for photos without trying to eat us. Once that excitement was over, and we left our tiger relaxing by the water, we carried on our way, and by the time we had covered 2 miles, we had built up quite a collection of plastic characters and other brightly coloured odds and ends. It is somewhat sad that us humans are seemingly unable to dispose of our rubbish in a more responsible way, and although this is a beautiful walk along the river, the detritus and amount of miscellaneous discarded items that we were wading through was quite astounding. Below are a few of the presumably once cherished characters that we singled out from the plastic piles:
And guess who just had to make an appearance, in late November!! Just as we had been complaining about the early advertising of Christmas (it seems to get earlier and earlier each year), then even in the back of beyond of Kent - Father Christmas makes an appearance from beneath a pile of seaweed!!
Once we had eaten our picnic, finished the photo shoot with our new collection of funny/furry friends, we made our way back along the river, back home to Greenwich.
So anyway, on a more serious note, I wonder how much longer our poor planet can put up with this plastic stuff we are inundating it with. Let's spare a thought for the fish, birds and animals that might mistake these brightly coloured inedible morsels for food, and take our rubbish at home.... There is still hope if we decide to look after our rubbish and not throw it in the river!
I will leave you with a picture of some of the other lost possessions picked up along the river banks. And also, here is a great website which I recently discovered. It is well worth a look.
Good bye for now!
Have a great week.
Such a beautiful day today, so we set off down to the river to see what we could find. Well, let me tell you that not being experienced mud snorklers.... we didn't find much at all! So, we just sploshed around in the glutinous mud for fun. Peppa Pig would be in her element! There is a big advantage to having low tide in the afternoon - and not early in the morning as it was today. Not only do you get to have a decent lie in on a Sunday morning, but also, the Thames Clipper boats have been up and down all day creating a wash, which washes away all the gloopy mud - revealing the treasures underneath. This isn't the case if the tide is going out overnight. In the morning you are just left with muddy silt. Infact morning low tides are only really very good for testing out your wellies in extreme mud conditions, and drawing in it - like below:
So eventually, we managed to extract ourselves from the foreshore and took a walk down to the Thames Barrier. We hadn't realised it was the annual closing of the Thames Barrier. Each year it is closed for a full tidal cycle and is tested thoroughly. Not only is it interesting for tourists - but another group of Thames dwellers were having a fabulous time. Seagulls, ducks and cormorants were shrieking, diving and just generally hanging, right next to the barriers - presumably catching some good nosh.
Before taking a stroll back along the Thames path to return home for a bacon
sandwich, I popped down onto the foreshore to see if there were any messages in any of the plastic bottles caught up in the rocks. Amazingly, there was one and so we hurried home to open it. See my message in a bottle blog for more details!!
I'll finish off with this picture of an old decrepit paint brush we picked up under a pier. It just bears such a striking resemblance to a cherokee indian, that we planted him in some rotten wood, with a view over the river, so that he could watch out for cowboys and enemy canoes :)
Enjoy the rest of your weekend XX
Well it's been a while and so I thought I'd do a quick update on recent events. It's been a bit slow going on creating much tidelineart recently due to a heavy workload, but hopefully that will change soon. I did however get the opportunity to go for a lovely long walk in Kent on Sunday and get lots of inspiration as well as picking up some great bits of driftwood.
The first exciting thing we found was an entire dolphin skeleton nestling in amongst the seaweed. It had obviously been there for a good few months. I've reported the find to the Zoological society of London, as per the requirement, but think they will have trouble finding it. The skull is pictured. I also came across a more delicate skull of a bird - the species of which I haven't worked out yet. Any clues gratefully appreciated!
message in a bottle competition - launched from "Seafront" in Zeebrugge in August 2003 - found near Egypt Bay in Kent 10 years later.
Sweltering in the sun, and still excited about the dolphin find, we proceeded to look for messages in amongst the many hundreds of discarded plastic bottles. Amazingly, we found messages - but the most exciting was a message in a bottle from a museum in Belgium, www.seafront.be, which launched some messages 10 years ago when it first opened. We were lucky to be able to read it as there was no top, the plastic was brittle and there was water in the bottle, but we were able to get the gist, and the number of the bottle was 222. I've written to them, but no answer as yet. The person who organised it has probably long forgotten about them, or even left the company! Still, pretty amazing that it survived that long. one of the messages that we found was completely sunbleached and unreadable, so just a tip, if you plan to send one - type it up, or do it in pencil. Ink will not last the weather! So that's it. A good day was had, and if you have not read it yet, here is a great article in the Greenwich Visitor, all about mudlarking and tidelinart http://www.thegreenwichvisitor.com/ . Talking of mudlarking, here is David in the Thames Mud. Apparently it does wonders for your feet. I'll take his word for it! X
Today was the first day of the Blackheath Open Studios, and all in all we had a good day with plenty of visitors. I am sharing a venue with 2 amazing artists - Ann Hillary, painter and printmaker, and Wayne Foskett, who does some wonderful pinhole photography and life drawings. We had a pleasant afternoon, chatting and admiring each other's work, whilst managing to slurp down several glasses of Sauvignon Blanc (not a terrible way to spend an afternoon really so I can't complain!). If you happen to be in the vicinity of Blackheath either tomorrow, or next weekend (4th and 5th May from 12-6), then do pop in and see us at 40 Reynolds Place, Blackheath Standard, SE3 8SX. We'd be delighted to see you, and there are plenty of other venues in the area, detailed on the website here http://blackheathartsociety.org.uk/#/new-events/4560838527
thames bottle fish
I'm very pleased with the new range of thames bottle fish, mounted on perspex. The coloured glass looks lovely with the light shining through.
my first sale was a pottery jug full of clay pipe flowers. All the discarded clay pipes and the pieces of china have been picked up along the Greenwich foreshore.
At the end of the day, we finished off with a little bit of a mudlark down by the river. The light was beautiful. I found a gold bracelet with "peter and lesley" engraved on it. Was it thrown in the river by Peter or Lesley in a fit of temper after an argument? Or did Peter or Lesley lose it.....? Is Lesley a woman..... or a man? I guess we will never know.
Well, it's been a while, so I thought that seeings as I've just had the most wonderful long weekend off work, I would write a few words. I've been busy trying to make a few more bits and pieces for the Blackheath Art Society open studios weekend in a few weeks time, and for that I needed some more seaglass - not of the river glass variety, which is great, but some of the more seaworn type of glass - smaller and smoother - good for fish scales. Below you can see the difference between the 2 types. river glass is very quirky and generally larger - whilst sea glass is smaller and more delicate. There just happens to be a great beach near Dover which is pickled with the sea glass variety. So off we went with a packed lunch and 2 big empty buckets - and after 2 hours we had filled them up. It also happened to be about the first pleasant day we have had all year in terms of weather - which was lovely! Then, back home to make a few fish.
pottery fragment found on greenwich thames foreshore
After a thoroughly enjoyable day, making many fish out of glass - so many in fact that they are everywhere and I really need to find somewhere to store them all, or I am bound to have a disaster at some point when the cat knocks them on the floor - it was time for a walk down the river to see what has recently washed up. As we are on the theme of pottery, here are some pics of the last 4 bits of pottery we picked up. Three of them tell their own stories and are like little pieces of artwork all on their own - and the last one is quite demonic. I think the demon's face is pretty old - but am not sure, so if anyone has any idea of what kind of pot or jug it may have come from, then I'd be delighted to hear from you! i've googled to find out where it could have come from but to no avail.
Anyway - all good things come to an end and so it's back to work tomorrow. Can you just hear that enthusiasm radiating from this page :) Here's to the next weekend!
printer's tray with mudlarking finds displaying mudlarking finds
This weekend, as it was -10 degrees, arctic type weather, and the tides were pretty bad timing wise (ie, low tide at horrendous o'clock in the morning), it was a weekend for doing stuff at home, and time to finally display all our Thames mudlarking finds in the printers tray which I've been stepping over on the lounge floor for the last month! hooray! And so, here it is in all its glory. All theses bits and pieces displayed, including some beautiful coins (the nicest one is a 1799 halfpenny), are treasures which we have found over the last year, washed up along the Thames near Greenwich. Amongst the finds are bullets, live rounds, a voltameter, pocket watch, victorian police whistle, fragments of bellamine, bottles, lead soldiers, glass bottles stoppers..... the list goes on. It is now proudly displayed in the hallway - just like a little museum. Very proud! Thanks David for putting it up - all whilst he was cooking roast beef. Who says men can't multi-task! And whilst David was cooking and polishing pennies to within an inch their lives, I messed around making a few more fish creations - which are pictured here below:
So a very productive weekend, and then, to finish it off, sorting through papers before going to bed, I came across a quote which my late Dad wrote down, by John J Sullivan, which I like, so thought I'd share it:
Here's to not being shallow!!
My name is Nicola White.