Andy Johannesen and Ian Smith
The Society of Thames Mudlarks: Treasurer
The reason I started mudlarking – other than having grown up in the dereliction of London's docklands and having that as a playground, and the interest in finding things left behind after the warehouses and factories closed – the main reason, was to get away from the wife & kids for a while, and not cost me anything. All I needed at the start was a sharp pair of eyes. Why I love it? More like an addiction, having a moment when you’re at peace with yourself, or with Ian – the competition of trying to find the best thing of the day, which leads to the pleasure of sharing your find with friends and then recording with the Museum of London.
The Society of Thames Mudlarks: Chairman
I started in 1973 after seeing a programme on the telly about a man who searched the Bristol channel for clay pipes. I was a schoolboy living in Battersea, and it seemed like a good idea to have a look on the foreshore there (along with my brother Roger). After 6 months we had found one complete Victorian pipe bowl shaped like an acorn, and a load of broken pieces, all carefully stored in a small set of plastic drawers. We slowly moved towards the city, and eventually we saw a load of people digging. There were pipes everywhere where they had been digging, and we went home with a couple of bag loads! The next weekend we returned and had a go ourselves. My first find was a brass jetton (a token-like coin). I plucked the coin out of the hole and wiped the mud off. From that moment I was hooked! You never lose the excitement of finding something in the mud and wondering who the last person was to handle it. Then there was the second wave of excitement. We'd all meet up in the Samuel Pepys pub. Out would come the tobacco tins which contained our finds. There was always that banter about who had made the most interesting find. Then it was off to the museum every few months. We got to see the curators back then, and it was lovely to learn the history behind all the items. And I think the curators liked our enthusiasm as they were always keen to encourage us. It’s nice to walk around the museum today and recognise some of the Mudlark finds and think 'I saved that, and now everyone can see it'