Two women laughing at an art workshop

Watch the Film

Play
Discovering through artefacts | Archaeologist Mike Webber took students from Charles Dickens Primary School on a journey of discovery through handling artefacts found in the Thames and learning how these related to Bankside's industrial history.
Foreshore finds | There was even a trip to the Bankside foreshore, with a guided walk along the way to identify original buildings. Students discovered archaeological artefacts on the foreshore revealing what life would have been like for local residents in the past.
Making moulds | Led by ceramicist Raewyn Harrison, students made moulds out of Mike's artefacts, and some of their own objects, such as toys. These moulds were then fired in a kiln.
Creating casts from the moulds | Students then used more clay to press into these moulds, leaving behind casts in the shape of the artefacts.
Sharing stories and making casts | Workshops were held with elders from Blackfriars Settlement to introduce them to archaeology, clay cast-making and to share stories and memories on how Bankside has changed | Pippa Riddick
Bankside resident memories | "I could see St. Paul's from my bedroom window. I used to love lying in my bed looking at that. I can't see it now - the buildings and that. It's blocked the view".
Recreating the Tudor Causeway | The casts were laid out on the Thames foreshore in front of Tate Modern, from the Mason Stairs to the edge of the river at low tide. The installation was a recreation of a Tudor causeway used when the Tate was a power station. It was a ferry point, taking people and goods, to and from Industrial Bankside for more than 400 years.
Thousands of clay casts were laid out | It was a race against time to complete the installation before the tide came in.
Casts washed away by the incoming tide | The final installation referenced the thousands of objects that have been found in and taken from the Thames. The tide washed away these casts, referencing ancient ritual ceremonies, meaning thousands of artefacts were symbolically given Back to the River.
Previous
Next

Our Project Timeline

Discovering through artefacts | Archaeologist Mike Webber took students from Charles Dickens Primary School on a journey of discovery through handling artefacts found in the Thames and learning how these related to Bankside's industrial history.
Foreshore finds | There was even a trip to the Bankside foreshore, with a guided walk along the way to identify original buildings. Students discovered archaeological artefacts on the foreshore revealing what life would have been like for local residents in the past.
Making moulds | Led by ceramicist Raewyn Harrison, students made moulds out of Mike's artefacts, and some of their own objects, such as toys. These moulds were then fired in a kiln.
Creating casts from the moulds | Students then used more clay to press into these moulds, leaving behind casts in the shape of the artefacts.
Sharing stories and making casts | Workshops were held with elders from Blackfriars Settlement to introduce them to archaeology, clay cast-making and to share stories and memories on how Bankside has changed | Pippa Riddick
Bankside resident memories | "I could see St. Paul's from my bedroom window. I used to love lying in my bed looking at that. I can't see it now - the buildings and that. It's blocked the view".
Recreating the Tudor Causeway | The casts were laid out on the Thames foreshore in front of Tate Modern, from the Mason Stairs to the edge of the river at low tide. The installation was a recreation of a Tudor causeway used when the Tate was a power station. It was a ferry point, taking people and goods, to and from Industrial Bankside for more than 400 years.
Thousands of clay casts were laid out | It was a race against time to complete the installation before the tide came in.
Casts washed away by the incoming tide | The final installation referenced the thousands of objects that have been found in and taken from the Thames. The tide washed away these casts, referencing ancient ritual ceremonies, meaning thousands of artefacts were symbolically given Back to the River.

Creating the Installation

The project culminated on Saturday 9th September 2017 as part of Totally Thames, with thousands of clay casts being laid out on the foreshore at low tide to recreate the Mason Stair Causeway.

This causeway was a ferry point, taking people and goods, to and from industrial Bankside for more than four hundred years. The casts, moulded into the shape of objects found in the Thames, were washed away by the rising tide. This referenced ancient traditions of ritual giving, meaning that these objects which are so often taken from the foreshore were given back to the river.

Photo of Totally Thames volunteer showing a child how to create casts out of the moulds and clay | Photo: Gabor Gergley
People placing clay casts onto the Thames foreshore to create the Mason Stair installation | Photo: Gabor Gergley
Photo of public observing the Mason Stair installation on the Thames foreshore | Photo: Gabor Gergley
Photo of the Mason Stair installation on the Thames foreshore | Photo: Gabor Gergley
Close up of someone creating a cast by pressing clay into a mould | Photo: Gabor Gergley
Previous
Next
Photo of Totally Thames volunteer showing a child how to create casts out of the moulds and clay | Photo: Gabor Gergley
People placing clay casts onto the Thames foreshore to create the Mason Stair installation | Photo: Gabor Gergley
Photo of public observing the Mason Stair installation on the Thames foreshore | Photo: Gabor Gergley
Photo of the Mason Stair installation on the Thames foreshore | Photo: Gabor Gergley
Close up of someone creating a cast by pressing clay into a mould | Photo: Gabor Gergley

Exploring the Industrial History

Artefacts found on the Thames foreshore act as a window in to the lives of Londoners over thousands of years. For over two hundred and fifty years Bankside was packed with factories, wharves and warehouses. Pottery factories lined the Thames for most of this time, and the proximity to the river meant that heavy, raw materials could be shipped in by barge and fragile, finished pots could be gently floated out. Gradually, during the 1970's, the wharves fell into disuse, factories were demolished and high rise, high-end housing developments spread along the riverbank.

Local people, some who worked in these industries, were cut off from the river and its industrial history was soon forgotten as Bankside developed into one of London’s top cultural hubs.

The project Back to the River reconnected local communities and people to the history of the river through a range of workshops and talks led by artist Raewyn Harrison and archaeologist Mike Webber who created a temporary large public installation along the Thames foreshore in front of Tate Modern, with the help of participants and passers-by.

Photo: Southwark Local History Library and archive

Making Clay Casts

Archaeology and ceramics combined throughout this project to trace the changing history of Bankside from an industrial centre to cultural hub. Find out more about how the clay casts used in the final installation were created in a series of workshops with children from Charles Dickens Primary School and elders at Blackfriars Settlement, connecting them with the river that has been cut off from them in recent years.

  1. Discovering the Archaeological History of the Thames' artefacts: Archaeologist Mike Webber took students on a journey of discovery, using objects found in the Thames to tell the industrial story of Bankside, with an emphasis on the thriving pottery trade as a number of factories once lined the river. There was also a trip onto the Thames foreshore to bring this to life.
  2. Making moulds of artefacts: This history was solidified when Ceramicist Raewyn Harrison taught children at Charles Dickens School to create moulds out of these objects, and some of their own, using clay from the Thames. These moulds were fired in a kiln, leaving behind the negative shape of the objects, ready for casts to be created.
  3. Creating casts out of moulds: In further workshops, children pressed clay into the moulds leaving behind a cast of the object, ready for use on the public day to build the installation. Elders at Blackfriars Settlement also had a go, and shared their memories of Bankside from when it was still a centre for industry, and insights into how these developments have changed their relationship with the river.
Collection of artefacts found in the Thames in a glass box | Photo: Gabor Gergley
Creating casts by pressing clay into moulds
Child creating a mould by pushing an object into clay
Creating casts by pressing clay into moulds | Photo: Gabor Gergley
Image of a fresh clay cast
A collection of fired moulds made from objects found in the Thames
Child creating a mould by pushing an old key into clay | Photo: Gabor Gergley
A fired mould in the shape of keys
Previous
Next
Collection of artefacts found in the Thames in a glass box | Photo: Gabor Gergley
Creating casts by pressing clay into moulds
Child creating a mould by pushing an object into clay
Creating casts by pressing clay into moulds | Photo: Gabor Gergley
Image of a fresh clay cast
A collection of fired moulds made from objects found in the Thames
Child creating a mould by pushing an old key into clay | Photo: Gabor Gergley
A fired mould in the shape of keys

Supported by: