I was born in Bermondsey. Growing up, I had the joy of playing on the River Thames foreshore, smelling the old Sarson’s Vinegar factory and playing in the old spice warehouse, and boats that lined Shad Thames. This eventually led to me fishing for eels (bootlaces) in the river with friends in front of the iconic Tower Bridge on the old wooden pier (Horselydown stairs), just along from where HMS Belfast is moored now. We would eat our stale/burnt crusty rolls left out for us by the bakery man in Bermondsey street. While looking for lost lead fishing weights I started finding clay pipes and bottles which had stuck in the mud. This is my first memory of what we know as mudlarking on the River Thames. I’ve been mudlarking for over 30 years and I’m still as excited now as I was when I found my first clay pipe as a youngster. It’s an infectious hobby, once it hooks you there’s no going back.
Photo © Hannah Smiles