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Oral History Transcript
Interviewees: Judy and Phill
Date: 13 August 2019
Interviewer: Nicola Slavin
Q: Okay, this is an oral history interview with Judy and Phill Hazell by Nicola Slavin on Tuesday 13 August 2019. Also present are:
Q1: Vicky Annand as the note taker.
Q2: And Eva Tausig from Thames Festival Trust.
Q: And the interview is taking place in Upper Norwood as part of Thames Festival Trust’s Foragers of the Foreshore Heritage Project. Please could you state your full names?
JH: Judith Hazell.
PH: And Phill Hazell.
Q: And how old are you both?
PH: Over 21 [laughs].
JH: I’m 59.
Q: Where were you born?
JH: Upper Norwood.
Q: So where did you grow up, in London?
PH: Yeah, yeah.
JH: Yeah, grew up in London.
PH: North London until I was eleven, and then South London from eleven onwards. Then met my wife in the ‘70s.
JH: Yeah, ’79.
Q: What subjects were you interested in at school?
JH: Mine was art, anything creative.
PH: Science I think mine was.
JH: I loved anything to do with your hands, making anything was my thing, cooking, stuff like that. Academically, no. Maths yes, but English no. But I love reading.
PH: Mine was science and chemistry really, biology, chemistry.
Q: And have you always been collectors? Did you collect as children at school or anything like that?
PH: Yes, one thing or another.
JH: Yes, from a young age I was classed as a hoarder [laughs], had bits everywhere.
PH: We’re now still classed as hoarders, our children think this is rubbish. We’re giving it all to them.
Q: How did you meet?
JH: At a party in Loughborough Junction, in 1979.
PH: I think it was a friend’s birthday party wasn’t it?
PH: And I had alcohol and Judy didn’t so she befriended me.
JH: [laughs] And that was it, and two years later we were married.
PH: And in two days’ time it will be our 38th wedding anniversary. 38?
PH: It’s a blur [laughs].
Q: Moving forward a bit, what does a typical week look like for you with mudlarking but just generally?
JH: I work three days a week, Monday to Wednesday, and Thursday I generally go mudlarking on my own because Phil works on a Thursday. We do as well look after our grandson normally from Wednesday to Thursday. Then if I can I try to make a point of getting out at least twice mudlarking. If I can get out four days I will, but things in the house need doing. I have to tidy up occasionally [laughs].
PH: Same here really, I mean Friday’s a definite mudlarking day and if we can, Saturday and Sunday. But Sunday, because you’ve got work on the Monday and then because I work afternoons I can go out in the mornings, so we’ll try and sort of get as much as we can in.
Q: And what do you do for work?
PH: I’m a child--, oh I don’t know what it’s called now really, a play worker, at the local school which is a couple of doors along.
JH: I’m a health and safety officer but I’m also an ICT support and admissions officer. Quite a varied job [laughs] in three days.
Q: And talking a bit more about mudlarking, so how long have you been mudlarking both individually and together?
JH: Four years.
PH: Together four years.
JH: We started four years ago, we just went down at Queenhithe one day, we were up in London visiting museums and we just went down, and brought home countless bones because it was amazing--,
PH: Sacks of the things.
JH: And then it progressed from there, and that was it, we thought oh we’ll go out next weekend.
PH: But the good thing was, even though we collected so much initially, now we can come back with a bag, a very small pouch of items, more selective. We don’t collect so many bones now unless they’re sort of apple corers or engraved.
JH: Yeah, but that was how we first started.
Q: What kind of drew you to do that the first time?
JH: It was just so interesting, I had never seen so many bones and so many things all lined up, because on the foreshore it was all just lined up perfectly, there was like tiles there, there were bones there, there were shells there, I thought this is amazing, I didn’t realise it did this. I knew at the beach you’d get certain things but I didn’t realise the Thames did it as well. I mean I know it’s tidal but I didn’t realise it was... and I just--, but some of the bones were just so lovely, you know, smooth and shiny, and it’s just what attracted me. And I just kept thinking oh that’ll look nice in the garden [laughs].
PH: Well I played on the Thames in the sort of mid-70s when I lived at Vauxhall and it was just playing, throwing stones and things, mudlarking didn’t even come into my mind then. But we sort of just did it together and that was it really.
JH: And because we work at a school we had six week holidays so we just thought the next weekend we’ll go somewhere else. So then I started looking at Google Maps and places to get down.
Q: Can you cite the experience of what it feels like to be down by the river when you’re mudlarking?
JH: Bliss, it’s absolute bliss.
PH: Zen mode.
JH: You’re in a world of your own.
PH: You’re sort of transfixed, focused.
JH: It’s just... my mum passed away a couple of years ago and my mother in law in the same year, and I went out mudlarking a couple of days after each one and it’s like you could get all your thoughts together and you felt like calm. And it really does... it’s almost making me tearful [laughs].
PH: Well because you’re in central London and London’s busy all around, when you’re on the Thames there’s no traffic, like you can hear the noise in the background but you tend to... the waves just lapping back and forth and then you sort of find a little spot and you have a little scrape and things and you go, “Ooh...” and you just, yeah you’re there in that little zone.
JH: Yeah, that’s all you’re thinking of. And it’s nice, you can chat to people who have got common interests and it’s nice telling people what you’ve found, people who’ve never done it, you know like people come down with children. One came down yesterday and I found a clay marble and I gave it to the little boy, he was over the moon, just for a clay marble.
Q: Do you have a favourite time of day to go mudlarking?
PH: When the water’s out [laughs].
JH: No, I like it early afternoon, I don’t know why, I think it’s just because things are winding down then, you don’t get quite so many boats and things. So I like it early afternoon, sort of like one or two o’clock-ish, that’s my time.
PH: I quite like the night larks though because there’s nobody else down there and you are focused by that head torch, you can just see what you are looking at. Although it’s quite eerie in different places, but you just--, I mean we were down at Alderman’s once, one night lark, and Judy said to me, “Did you see that 55 inch telly?” I said, “No,” but I was finding minute pins and things, I missed the 55 inch telly which appeared on the foreshore.
JH: Like they do [laughs].
Q: Can you tell us about a particularly memorable experience you’ve had whilst mudlarking?
JH: The goat.
PH: Yes, yes. We were on the foreshore again at Alderman’s and a furry thing bobbed past--,
JH: We thought it was a body first of all, like we thought it was the hair.
PH: Thought it was a body, and it turned out it was a dead goat.
JH: A whole goat, horns and all.
PH: We asked at Surrey Docks Farm if they’d lost a goat, which they hadn’t, so we were starting to think how the hell did this goat get in the water, where did it come from? It was too far to actually reach, because obviously, you know, if you wanted a nice little goat’s head skull it was there.
Q: Interesting. And when it comes to mudlarking and finding things on the foreshore, how would you say it’s changed--, well I suppose if you’ve only been doing it four years, but has it changed in that time, the river?
PH: It’s changed because there’s more erosion in different areas. We’ve noticed in the limited time we’ve been doing it that certain areas unfortunately become out of bounds because of the Tideway project. We used to love going to Chelsea and things like that--,
JH: And Vauxhall.
PH: And Vauxhall, now those are two main areas where the Tideway is so we’re limited there. Even we wrote to Thames Water asking them if we could go down there--,
JH: With hard hats and hi-vis, and they said no.
PH: And they said no because it’s a health and safety issue. But the erosion itself, different parts are good, different parts are bad. Certain areas are disappearing and--,
JH: Rotherhithe about three weeks ago, it was like stripped, the foreshore, it was just sand and hard packed clay. But now it’s all pebbles again, so it looks like it did a month ago. So it’s like even though it’s wearing down it’s getting covered up again, so it’s not wearing down as in dropping, it’s just moving about. But it has changed in certain areas, a lot more clay.
Q: Do you have a preferred location of where you go mudlarking?
JH: I like Rotherhithe and a place called Alderman’s Stairs which is at St Katherine’s Dock.
PH: I don’t really mind, wherever, as long as we’re out looking and it’s not an illegal area.
Q: And can you tell us how you came to start mudlarking together, if you did?
PH: We tend to do everything together, I mean our other interests are sort of mushroom hunting which we do together. Just we’re a couple, you know, we just go and do things together jointly, share interests.
JH: Yeah, we’ve got the same interests. Phil used to be a technician on anatomy, I used to like anything to do with bodies and dead--, I used to read stories on dead people and so that was like a shared interest as well.
PH: So I can identify bones.
JH: Yeah. So there’s not a lot we don’t do together, you know, I always said if he pegged out I’d be alright [laughs].
PH: Yeah, she knows how to murder me because she’s read all the books you see.
Q: So have you had any scary moments when you’ve gone mudlarking?
PH: Scary? Well I think the funniest thing, one of the funniest things, we were at Surrey Docks Farm and I heard a little voice going, “Help, help, help...” and I looked back and Judy was up to her knees in mud. So I got back as quick as I could and just before I reached Judy I went, “Oh look, Westerwald” and I just picked the Westerwald piece up--,
JH: That’s the bit I was going for.
PH: She said, “You so-and-so, that’s what I was after” and then I had to sort of vacuum press her out of the mud [makes sucking noise] and she popped out of the mud. But I had the Westerwald [laughs].
JH: Oh, and there was a bit where you fell down the stairs at Greenwich and I thought he might have really hurt himself. He slid down the stairs and sound was like a seal, you know clapping? That was the sound I heard, and as I turned round I could see him going all the way down the stairs.
PH: Well you turned around as I passed you, sliding down all the stairs from top to bottom.
JH: He was, and covered in mud head to foot literally. But I couldn’t stop laughing, I was in hysterics, it was one of them, you know when you keep laughing all day long?
PH: And I took my coat and hat off to wash it, laid it on the foreshore, and a clipper boat went past and my coat lifted up and went [makes sucking noise]. But I managed to grab it. But we got a seat on the way home on the bus.
JH: Nobody would sit near us [laughs].
PH: And I didn’t find a thing.
JH: That was quite scary though because I thought he’d have really hurt himself.
PH: And a lady came across and said she’d got a plaster.
JH: She’d got a plaster, it was just so funny.
PH: But I was covered from my backside to the back of my head in mud, and it went up my t-shirt, it was just--,
JH: It was everywhere.
PH: But those stairs I have ventured down again, carefully.
JH: With trepidation.
Q: So can you describe how you go about preparing to go mudlarking, for example particular clothing, items you take with you.
JH: You tend to have a lucky--, I know it sounds silly, like lucky perfume. It used to be Angel, I used to wear Angel, but then I ran out and I thought oh I’m going to have to choose another one so then it was Alien. I’ve gone through so many bottles of perfume. Now it’s Valencia [laughs].
PH: Has to smell good.
JH: I’ve got this thing, you know, I have to put make up on and things like that, have to do my nails. It’s just strange things, because even though it’s mud and everything I still want to look nice [laughs], but I’m not a girly person. I know it sounds silly, I’m not a--, going out, like if I was going out I’m not really bothered, but with mudlarking, and I tend to wear jeans until they literally, like these, wear out. Then I’ll get another pair exactly the same.
PH: And it has to be the same because it’s the luck syndrome you see.
JH: Yeah, I have a lucky bra [laughs]. Because I know when I bend over it’s not going to come off my shoulders. Because certain bras do when you move around, it’s just the silly things like that.
PH: Well it’s like your trowel and things, I mean I’ve had a trowel, broke it, I had it repaired and it’s just a lucky thing. It’s not lucky as such but it’s just what’s comfortable in your hand.
JH: Yeah, and you know you’re going to feel right when you’re there.
PH: I mean I’ve been through four pairs of wellington boots that leak because I’m sort of going across metal and bricks and glass and god knows what else that they’ve just had holes piercing them, I can’t find the hole until you go in the water and it’s [tuts] I’ve got a hole in these boots and then you get sort of trench foot syndrome. But I’ve got a new pair at the moment.
JH: But the night before, if we know we’re definitely going the next day, the night before we get the bags on the chair, put all the bits in, right we’ve got chocolate bars in there, crisps, drinks, that’s it. So we know we can literally just go.
PH: Phones charged.
Q: When you’re out there are there any particular objects that you are looking out for, your particular interests?
PH: We used to at one stage start off thinking right I’m going to find a blah-blah-blah, and now because whenever you go down there you could find absolutely anything we don’t think of anything, otherwise you tend to get focused on an object. If you say to yourself I’m going to find a clay pipe you’ll focus on that shape and you miss other things. So now it’s just whatever.
JH: I like buttons, I’ve got a thing about buttons because I think they’re quite personal, and things like cufflinks. But the buttons, because I like to look--, if they’re decorated, try and find more about them. So buttons is me.
Q: And can you describe what your method of mudlarking is, if you have a particular method?
PH: Jude goes left, I go right.
JH: You tend to do a big area.
PH: I tend to go quite zippy and try to cover a much of the foreshore as possible, but there are key areas that I’ll sort of hit. If I see a sort of clay-y area or a metally area I’ll stay around that.
JH: I’m a bit of a, a bit like when you go gardening, you always think the next bit’s going to be better. So I tend to sort of jump from place to place, and so I only do a small patch, just move a few rocks and then move on.
PH: The thing is, because the tides do different things to the sort of foreshore there’s no area that you can’t look, whether it be the back wall, the front if there’s a sort of pit, an erosion area things may get caught there. You start thinking of how a coin would float or how a pipe would roll or how a piece of china would move and you can actually read the foreshore. I’m not saying I’m an expert at it but you look at certain areas and you see a sort of black line of coal, so that’s where the tide’s come up and left things. So you might find smaller items in that area.
JH: Lightweight items.
PH: So you’d sort of have a little sift in the black zone and then you look at the black wall if it’s been a high tide because things would have been slapped against the back wall and gone sort of down a couple of feet away. It’s things like that that you tend to sort of pick up with experience. And listening to other mudlarks. They may tell you something, oh don’t forget so-and-so, or low tide look at this area here, so you pick it up as you go along and that’s part of the fun. You don’t know everything but you learn. One time you may go there and it’s great, then it’s covered in mud and you think oh I wanted to look there. Okay if you want to sift through the mud, but you just find another area.
Q: How long do you typically spend when you’re down there?
JH: From when we leave home--,
PH: We’re looking at seven hours, six or seven hours.
JH: Yeah, four hours there, so we normally go two hours before and two hours after, but the whole thing is about seven hours including travelling. I’m one of these people that tend to literally wait until the water’s lapping my ankles before I leave the foreshore. You know, I’m sitting on the steps drinking my drink as it’s on the steps, and I’ll just go up a few steps each time [laughs], I don’t like leaving the water. If I could I’d be there every day.
PH: If you’ve only got limited time there you want to get as much in as possible. I mean we’d left one place the other day because we were both absolutely worn out, back was aching, neck was aching. We could have stayed there for another hour.
JH: But we were gutted because there was a lot of foreshore left and we were just annoyed with ourselves, you know, we wouldn’t normally have left it. But... age.
PH: We’ve been toying with getting a boat, a little hovercraft and things like this, a canoe, a kayak. Because there’s certain areas you can’t get to unless you have these things. But the Thames is quite an evil sort of current and I don’t know if I’d like to row on it, it’d have to have a power some sort of thing.
Q: Can you tell us typically what you would do with the objects you find?
JH: Well I clean everything.
PH: I leave it in the sink.
JH: He leaves it in the sink and I do the cleaning, especially with like smaller items I love--, once you’ve got bits and pieces off you think oh I didn’t realise this was--, like I found a nail head and you can see it’s got the broad arrow mark on it, but you’ve not seen that when you’ve picked it up because some of the nail heads look like coins so you pick them up anyway, but the broad arrow mark is like the Army mark, no it’s Navy mark isn’t it?
PH: Yeah it’s the Navy mark, yeah.
JH: Yeah, Navy mark. Like three little lines on it. And then you find other bits and pieces. But what we tend to do with ours is we’ve got a button drawer where we keep all the buttons, and we’ve got two coin cases so any coins, lead tokens, lead seals go in them.
PH: And in the garden we have a lead bucket.
JH: We’ve got a lead bucket for my lead, because I collect lead.
PH: We take all the nastiness of the Thames you see, so...
JH: Yeah. In the garden we’ve got boxes of pipes and random items.
PH: China blue, china white, marbles.
Q: And can you tell us a bit about how you feel about sharing your finds? For example do you share them with others or use social media or anything?
JH: Yeah we do, we use Instagram and WhatsApp. Because I’m just so pleased when I find something nice I’d like other people to see it. I don’t share everything because sometimes it’s just I like it but it mostly wouldn’t interest other people so I just tend to share what I think other people might like.
PH: Also it’s a way of if you’re unsure of something finding out more of a definitive thing. We like to do our little bits of research, mystery items that you’ve got and you think oh I don’t know what this is but someone there has got more knowledge. So we’ve got a select group of friends that we know can identify a coin no problem, they look at it and you can’t even see anything on it and they can see one letter and they’ll tell you exactly what it is and you think how did they do that? Because they’ve got experience and they’ve got the books and the resources to look at and they know by the size and the weight what it is. And I bow down to their sort of superior experience.
Q: How has your relationship to mudlarking changed whilst you’ve been doing it over the last few years.
PH: I think it’s more insatiable really. We started off like one day a week and now if there were seven days and the tide’s right we’d go every seven days. But our bodies are getting weaker you see.
JH: I like the fact that we’ve met a lot of new people and stuff like that, so it’s created a whole new social life as well.
PH: Yeah, I mean not only mudlarks, I mean the other night we were at a pub and a couple of the locals who live on the sort of Thames were actually chatting away and telling us about what it was like and what it is like and what’s happening to certain areas, moorings and things. Yeah it’s really nice.
Q: So if you could use one word to describe mudlarking what would it be?
PH: Mmm. I don’t know really, I mean it’s there somewhere but one word, I don’t know. I’m trying to think. Pause for thought.
Q2: You can come back to it, we’ll ask you again at the end.
Q: Okay, I’m going to move on to talk about the objects now if that’s okay?
Q: So could you pick up your first object that you want to talk about.
JH: My padlock.
Q: Could you describe it to us?
JH: As far as I know it’s a medieval padlock because it’s been recorded but I haven’t had the thing back yet. It’s shaped like a pair of knickers, it’s very unusual in the fact that it’s got a long hasp which is quite an unusual design. I love the colour of it, it’s sort of very tactile, I like feeling all the lumps and bumps on it, and you just think who was the last person to use this. And the only example I’ve seen of this padlock is a stock photo that somebody’s put on the internet of a jail, a French jail, on the door. That’s the only photo I’ve seen. I’ve been to all the sites to try and find out about it and I’ve not found out anything. And believe it or not I actually just found this sitting on a rock, didn’t have to dig for it or anything, it was just sitting on a rock like it was placed there for me.
Q: When you say it’s been recorded, can you talk a bit more about that, what that means?
JH: Our items, anything we find that we think may be over 300 years old or that we think are interesting and that the museums haven’t got, we take them up to the Museum of London. And Stuart Wyatt there is the finds liaison officer, so we take our bits to him and he takes them in, finds out what he can about them and then gives them back to us and if they’re going to be recorded he lets us know. We’ve had a few items recorded but we’ve got quite a few more that have been recorded but have not come up on the site yet. This is being recorded but it’s not gone up on the site yet.
PH: This is the portable antiquities scheme.
Q: You mentioned the colour, can you just describe it?
JH: It’s like a rusty colour but not rusty as in dirty rust, I should imagine it was quite spectacular, quite shiny and golden in its day. Reminds me a bit of chocolate [laughs], like a nice chocolate.
Q: And when did you find it?
JH: I found it about 18 months ago.
Q: And you mentioned where it was sat but can you describe a bit more about the day and how you found it?
JH: Well we’d literally just gone down, it was at Wapping, we’d gone down the stairs, well the ladder, gone down the ladder, I was just walking along to my bit that I was going to go to, I wasn’t looking, and there’s like a slab of concrete that comes out from the wall which I hadn’t seen before, I’ve never noticed it down there, so obviously the foreshore had moved bits away. And I was just dawdling along like you do, making my way to my favourite spot, and this was just sat on the rock. And I thought, you know you sort of think, where did this come from?
PH: A double take.
JH: It was like, how has that managed to make its way up to the back wall, the weight of it, you’d think it’d be down the front because it’s heavy, but no, and it was just sitting there waiting for me.
Q: And do you remember what the river or foreshore was like on that day?
JH: It was quite drizzly that day, but it was quite calm because I think it was earlier in the morning and so a lot of the clippers hadn’t started. I know it was a bit silty towards the front, the back didn’t tend to be silty, but it was an overcast day. But a good day for me.
Q: Okay, so can you describe the experience, how you felt when you found it?
JH: I was just overjoyed, I was just like, how is this sitting there, and it’s not like anything I’ve ever found, any other padlock I’ve ever found before, because I collect padlocks. And I just thought it’s just so different. And Phil had already gone off the other way so I couldn’t see him to tell him, and it wasn’t until later when we went back up the ladder I sort of got it out my bag to show him and it was like, oh my, I’ve never seen anything like it. And it was like joy. A bit like sort of doing a scratch card and winning a tenner and thinking, “Yes!”
Q: I think you mentioned about it being medieval, but did you know anything about it when you found it?
JH: No, nothing. All I knew was that I’d never seen anything like it, so this was why I went online and it took me a couple of days even to find the photo because none of them had this long top coming down, yeah none of them had this long hasp coming down. So it was totally different to anything I’d ever seen, and that’s what I like though, I love the research, I love looking trying to find out more about items. So that’s why I took it to Stuart.
Q: How do you picture the last person who might have used it? What does your imagination tell you about it?
JH: I imagine it was either on a boat, even though I saw it on a door it might have been on a boat but it could have been on a strong box, and you do wonder whether the box somehow went overboard or the chain broke and they couldn’t get the padlock open so they just threw it overboard. But, I know it sounds ridiculous but you imagine pirate-y type people? It’s just in your mind you picture what I would like with a hat and the clothes, on like a galleon of some sort, and that’s where I picture this being.
Q: And yet you said that you’d seen a picture of it online, is that right, on a jail?
JH: Yeah I did, yeah. It’s just on a door, it shows a lovely wooden door with bars on the windows, and it’s Almy Stock Photos it’s on, and it’s got one very similar to this keeping the door closed and it says French Jail..
Q: How have you preserved it, and how did you clean it up?
JH: I cleaned it up originally with WD40, just to stop it rusting, and now I’ve found out more I’ve now given it a soak in gun oil. I never thought I’d have gun oil indoors, but I gave it a soaking in gun oil and it seems to have stopped any more rust appearing.
Q: And why did you choose this particular object as one of your ones to share?
JH: I think it’s because it’s so different from anything I’ve ever found.
PH: Nobody else has got one.
JH: Yeah, and it’s just a bit special because it is a bit different, it’s not your standard padlock. I mean I love padlocks, you know the barge padlocks with the names on, I love them, but I think this is just a little bit different, you know so I think it interests people.
Q: And now can you pick up your second object and tell us?
PH: Okay, this one is a china Victorian ointment jar and it’s got written on it, ‘Riches’s Renovating and Sanative Ointment prepared only at the Warehouse, 3 Little Charles Street, Parliament Street, Westminster’. It’s a little jar that’s about an inch and a half high, two inches maybe, olive green with black writing. It was made in the 1830s, the company Riches’s. What I liked about it is it was complete, and apparently it’s one of two. The other one that is available actually says London as opposed to Westminster. 3 Little Charles Street is just behind Parliament Square, it’s not actually called Little Charles Street now, I think it’s called Charles Street, they’ve dropped the Little. So that was warehouses where the government actually operate from at the moment. And what I liked about it, it was just a little bit visible, about sort of an inch with a little bit of green, I thought for a second it was a flowerpot. I left it and walked past it, then on the way back I thought it was still there, picked it up and was chuffed to pieces to actually find it. I put it on Facebook and within seconds somebody was offering me money for it, and I just couldn’t believe it. They were offering I think two or three hundred pounds for it. I was gobsmacked, and I said well it’s not for sale, I’ve only just found it. And more people were offering to buy it. And it’s not about the monetary value, it’s the fact that I’ve never seen one before so I didn’t want to sell it anyway. But it’s just individual, it’s so strange. If I become sort of short of money, and it’s not to be recorded because it’s only 1830, 1850, I could sell it. I don’t want to sell it because it’s just unique. And that’s the whole thing about anything we find, I mean people say, “Oh how much is it worth?” It’s not what it’s worth, it’s the historical side of things. I gave it in to be recorded, I don’t think he recorded it because it wasn’t of that age, but the fact there’s only one, or there’s two I think I’ve seen, it’s just so different.
Q: And when did you find this particular one?
PH: I think it was quite early on in our sort of--,
JH: About three years ago.
PH: About three years ago now.
Q: And where were you?
PH: We were at Chelsea, yeah so it’s not that far away from the actual address, but how it got there I don’t know because you just start putting little stories to things, you think well how did this get to this location. There’s a main sewer there, but why would somebody flush this down the toilet?
JH: It’s also a dump.
PH: And there was a Victorian dump very close by so it’s possible that it could have been thrown out and dumped in the dump and as time and tide has eroded it away it became visible. As I say, I just walked past it at first, I thought oh it’s green it’s a flowerpot, and then I went back that way and thought oh I’ll have a little pick, because in that area there was a lot of little pipes and things that I was quite happy picking away at. And that was it, I was chuffed, and that’s the nice thing about these, you sort of find something that’s so unique or unusual and you think--, or it’s part of a collection, wouldn’t it be nice to find the sort of lid to these type things because some of them are very ornate and have got descriptions. We’ve found others since, not other pots but bits of lid, perfume hairdressers and things, because it’s the sort of Chelsea area and you think oh it’s nice.
Q: Do you know anything more about the address on it or anything?
PH: No, well apart from it was made at the warehouse, so I assume this was a shop that it was made at a warehouse and not--, so the shop was selling the--, I think it’s animal fat it was made of, but it’s ‘Renovating and Sanative Ointment’.
Q: Do you know what renovating and sanative ointment is?
PH: Well I think it helps with spots, pimples et cetera, I mean it’s one of these things the Victorians use for everything, probably like a grease type oil.
Q: Probably made your hair grow too.
PH: Could have done, yeah, put hairs on your chest.
Q: Do you remember what the river or the foreshore was like on the day you found it, weather and things like that?
JH: I think it was quite a sunny day really, you know, just a sunny day. But being down the river I mean it’s pleasant all the time whether it’s raining or snowing.
Q: Did you know anything about it when you first found it?
PH: Nothing at all, absolutely nothing. I mean that was part of the fun trying to find it. I came across I think it was an ointment site on a web page somewhere and started looking for it, and the company Riches’s, somebody put up a little piece about it in 1830 the company and it’s a Victorian company and that’s as much as I knew. And reading the article for the other one which actually says London on the bottom whereas this one says Westminster so I think is a little bit more one up than London because it pinpoints exactly where it is. That was it.
Q: And how rare is it to find something like that intact?
PH: I think to find anything in the river intact is quite amazing, the fact that it’s been churned up over the time, I mean okay this has been in the river since let’s say 1850 so we’re looking at 150 plus years, rolling around in the river, stones, people treading over the area, ships landing on it and things like that and it’s still intact. And people find larger items that are still intact, pipes, bottles, and it’s just amazing. It may have been buried deep and recently become uncovered. Because we can only dig three inches maximum as we are standard licence holders, not that we need to dig sometimes, you just literally scrape within an inch and you find things. Obviously if you find a little lip of something you do go, oh I wonder what that is and you sort of have a little pry with your trowel and it may be broken but you know, nevertheless you just carry on.
Q: And how do you picture the last person who might have used it?
PH: I’ve not really given it that much thought as to who used it, whether it’s a male thing or a female thing. But sticking their two fingers in and sort of getting a dollop on the ointment and rubbing it in. I’ve not really given it that much thought [laughs].
JH: Or where to put it.
PH: Well this is it, or where to put it, I mean there you go. I’ll leave that to your listeners.
Q: And why did you choose this particular object?
PH: Because it’s unique and it’s almost intact, I mean there’s a little chip and a small crack but apart from that it’s different. And that’s the thing, everybody’s got their likes and dislikes, but it’s different.
Q: Thank you. Can we talk about one more?
JH: Yeah. This is a glass seal from a wine bottle. On it is a picture of a boat. It’s got the initials ‘IT’, it’s green-y coloured. And when I found it it was actually up the other way and it looked like an oyster shell where the glass gets like an encrustation on it. Somebody had been metal detecting in the area and obviously they don’t pick up glass because they’re going for metal, and he churned the ground over and this was literally just sitting on the top, no digging, nothing. And I was on my way up the stairs to go when I found it. And we’ve got a friend down the road that actually works for the Maritime Museum, so we took it round to him and he said the boat that’s pictured on it is a boat from before 1745 and he thinks it’s a warship by its design.
PH: Yeah. Spanish or Portuguese.
JH: And it was only two weeks ago I found this. But I’ve never found a bottle seal ever, I’ve never found one, and so to find one like this, I actually found it right near the Mayflower Pub, so you start thinking to yourself was it somebody from the Mayflower or did they used to make their own wine there and this was their design that they put on maybe after the Mayflower left there because it was like a promotional thing, like this was the Mayflower, we’re going to do our own wine. Or it could even be, because the initials say ‘IT’ on it, it could even be somebody who’s quite well off, they used to have their own seals put on bottles of wine that they liked so they either took them home or when they went to their local pub that was their wine that they drink and they could tell by the seal on it that that was their wine. And I just like it because it’s very tactile, if you close your eyes you can actually feel the boat and all its rigging and things like that. It’s small, pocket size. And the fact it’s complete, it’s just got a little chip in the bottom but it’s not affecting how it looks.
PH: The glass is such that you can actually see the rigging, it’s actually a warship because you can actually see the gun ports on it as well. The reason it’s not a British ship is the mizzen deck at the rear is stepped, there is also a split mast at the front so it appears to be a four masted ship but it’s actually three masted with a small mast at the front. And ‘IT’ is also--, I’s were J’s so it could be John, Joseph...
JH: Yeah, we haven’t found anything out, we’ve been looking. We’re going to go to Vintners Hall to find out if they’ve had this recorded in any way, if they know the design. I mean it may be there, it may not be, it could be just somebody did it personally and so it won’t be recorded with them, but it may well be. I mean it was actually found underneath the Mayflower Pub so you do start thinking oh, you know, but it might not have been, it could have been anywhere along the river that it’s come from.
Q: And the Mayflower Pub is Rotherhithe?
JH: Rotherhithe, yeah.
PH: Well the Mayflower was called the Spreadeagle and then before that it was the Ship, but we’ve found the licensees only going back to 17 something but none of the initials match. So it’s a loose thing, you’d like to think it is but you don’t know for sure.
JH: But you do start thinking oh I wonder if it was associated with the Mayflower, you know, the ship went out or whether it was just random that it was there, I mean because there was a lot of pubs along that way.
PH: Well according to another mudlark he said there were at least three or four pubs along that way called the Ship. Now we’re just associating the ship on the glass is the name of the pub, it may not be, but you know, it’s like these things you build a story up.
JH: But it’s just like an interesting little bit of history that I’ve still got to find out more about. This one might actually get recorded because it’s quite different, most of the ones normally just have initials of a name like JC or whatever or they’ve had the name of the pub on it and things like that. I’ve only seen one I think with a ship on.
Q: So it’s less than 300 years.
JH: Could be--, yes it’s less than 300 years.
Q: But because of the interest--,
JH: Yeah because it’s unusual and different than other things they’ve got recorded they may well record it.
PH: Well we’ve had things recorded that are quite modern as well, there was that pin head that looks like it’s Roman but it’s not, but it’s an example of what people mistake Roman things for.
Q: And how did you feel when you found it?
JH: Well, the fact that I was literally coming up the stairs and I thought oh, that looks a bit thick that oyster shell, turned it over and I was gobsmacked to say the least. Because I’ve never found one of these and I always say I’d love to find one when we go out, either that or a prunt which I’ve never found, and I’d say I’d love to find--, and I found it and I was just like, “Oh, oh...” and when I got up the top of the stairs, because he always goes up first and gets me a cup of tea, and there’s two ladies up there that are quite well known mudlarks, they went, “Oh what have you found?” I went, “This...” well one of them was nearly dancing, she went, “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it, what have you found!” and first of all I was like oh my, but then I got really quite excited because it was so different. She was saying, “I’ve never seen one like this,” and she’s been doing it for a lot longer than me. She was going, “Oh my god, oh my god...” it was like the joy [laughs]. And then it was like sort of sinking in, I thought oh it is different, it is really different. Very pleased with myself [laughs].
PH: Chuffed to bits.
Q: Why did you choose this object to share with us?
JH: I think because it’s dainty and it’s just so different from the other item I chose. One’s big and chunky and metal and this is like nice and tactile, and you just hold it and you can make up stories about the boat and the initials, you know, it just feels nice. I like it.
Q: For context can you just tell us a bit about the Mayflower and what the Mayflower ship is?
JH: Well the Mayflower ship left where the Mayflower Pub is now situated, it was the Pilgrim Fathers, they went off but the ship was a bit dodgy so they had to stop at Plymouth first and make their way to America, and this is how the Pilgrims started.
Q: Found America?
JH: Yeah, 400, it’s their anniversary next year, 400 years since the Mayflower sailed. So there’s quite a few celebrations going on about it. I don’t know a lot about it, I’ve watched a film about it, I don’t know as much about it as I should. Sometimes it’s like a lot to take in.
Q: Thank you. Can we talk about another object please?
PH: Yes. Right, okay, this is a metallic object, pewter, that’s like a cushion. It’s about one centimetre in length by about half a centimetre in width. It’s one of these things that I just threw into my little bucket not knowing what it was thinking oh it’s an interesting shape. But when we got back home we actually looked at it and you can actually see an impression on there. So my wife, being extremely resourceful, got a little bit of Blu Tak and rolled it out on the Blu Tack, and it turns out that it’s two hearts with a small crown above. Now this is actually a button that I’ve also got which has two hearts and a crown above. Now this is depicting the marriage of Charles II and Catherine de Braganza which was in 1661. Now why would somebody or how would somebody have the strength to fold this little thing up into a pillow I do not know, because it’s not the easiest thing to try and fold something that small.
JH: We wondered if it’s a love token or something like that.
PH: Yeah well that’s what we came to the conclusion it could be a love token, but that hasn’t been recorded yet either so that’s another one to go to be recorded. Because the buttons theirself are quite sort of nice, but to actually scrunch something up, something so beautiful up into a pillow, it’s just so strange. Why do you do it? If you love somebody a lot and you have extreme strength maybe, that’s why.
Q: So how would you, or can you date that, or is that just for--?
PH: Well the only reason I’m dating it is because I know that their marriage was 1661, the buttons were made to commemorate it so that would be made after that period. I don’t know for sure that that’s 1661, but the pattern on it is of that. So that’s how I’m sort of giving it a starting point, any time after that.
Q: And what made you pick it up.
PH: Well as usual I’m on my hands and knees having a little scrape and I tend to pick any sort of metally objects up that are curious shapes and just put them in my little jar. Because you don’t want to leave things because afterwards you could kick yourself, you think oh that was a so-and-so because you’ve researched it afterwards. So you tend to bring it home because you’ve got time then and actually sift it or pass it to my expert here who actually sifts through it for me, because I know Jude likes little bits of lead and I thought for a second it was a bit of lead and I just sort of picked it up and just popped it in the little jar, and it was only afterwards that we discovered it was what it is. And that’s the sort of strange thing, you never know what you’re going to find and what size things are either. Normally love tokens would be a coin that’s bent into an S shape, an ordinary sort of penny size coin, old penny that is, not new penny. So that would be it. So the fact that this is in a sort of pillow shape, it’s just sort of unique.
Q: When did you find that one?
PH: That was probably two or three weeks ago as well.
Q: And where was that?
PH: This was at Rotherhithe, amongst thousands upon thousands of nails. And that’s the thing, you sift through these things and you never know what you’re going to find.
Q: And do you remember what the river or foreshore was like on the day?
PH: It was probably glorious sunshine, the birds were singing... no, I mean I think it was like a hot a day, sun beating down the back of my neck.
Q: And how did you feel when you found it?
PH: Didn’t even realise I’d found it, I just picked it up and popped it in the jar and carried on scraping.
Q: So you think it was a love token do you? Can you talk a bit about what that means?
PH: Well I don’t know for sure that it is a love taken but that’s what I surmise because of sort of how it’s bent, it’s not as if it could naturally end up in that shape on its own because it’s metal, I mean it is like a cushion.
Q: And why did you choose that particular object?
PH: Because it’s just different and unusual, and if it is a love taken it just shows you how strong somebody can be and how much they love somebody to bend it into that shape.
Q: Thank you. Can we talk about, this is probably the last object.
JH: Right, this is what I thought was a coin when I found it. And I could see there was some writing on it so when I got home I cleaned it up and it’s a coin size roughly about a George III penny size but it’s got on it stamped on one side ‘William Hay, Dunse’ on one side, and on the other side it says ‘Ceatron Whitehead’. So me being Miss Detective, or nosy, I started trying to find out about this. Well it turns out Dunse, there’s a place called Dunse Castle in Scotland and when I looked back on the records a William Hay was a stableman there. It goes back this coin has been re-used twice, well in fact three times, once as a normal coin, very faintly underneath you can see very fine etching of writing, so somebody has done it then, but then the third time it’s been used is this time where it’s been stamped with the letters on it. And you can see it’s been done by hand because they’re all crooked and the D’s hanging off and it’s got bits all over the place. I like this because it’s actually personal, it really belongs to somebody. It’s most probably a love token, we haven’t found out what the ‘Ceatron’ means, have no idea what that means, but also there was Whitehead, there was people in village called Whitehead so we did wonder if maybe they had a daughter or something and he gave it to her as a love token, this William Hay.
Q: Do you know when was William Hay--,
JH: It was 1790, because the castle I think was build in the 1700s, so it was 16 something that the castle was built. I think it’s not called Dunse Castle now, I think it’s called Duns House now, and it’s Duns. But it is in Scotland, and I just think of him coming down here or she coming down to work as a maid or something like that and then he gave her this as a love token and somehow she’s lost it going across the river or sitting on a wall eating her lunch, you know, it’s just like you think oh I bet she was really upset when she lost it.
Q: When and where did you find that?
JH: I found that at a place called Alderman’s Stairs near St Katherine’s Dock. And it was quite a rough day that day, it was raining and it was early evening so we had head torches, and it was silty, smelly because there’s like sewage outlet there that’s quite smelly, and I remember I’d found a battered George III coin and then I just saw this and it was just sitting in amongst the pebbles. And I had great fun cleaning it up when I got home.
Q: When did you find that?
JH: It was about two years ago.
Q: And how did you feel when you found it?
JH: I was just really surprised because I’d never found anything like it. I’ve found coins and things like that but I’ve never found repurposed coins, I hadn’t found any that have had holes drilled in or anything like that. When I found this I thought ah it’s different.
Q: And again you think it’s a love token?
JH: Yeah I would say, because it’s a full name on it, William Hay, and as I say Dunse was probably where he worked at the castle or something, but the Ceatron, no idea. But the Whitehead could well have been maybe a nickname he had for her or something like that.
Q: And why did you choose this particular object to share?
JH: Because it’s personal, and you start thinking of stories that go with it, you know, you start making up stories in your head of how they lost it. You know, it belonged to somebody personally, not like the padlock, a padlock’s a padlock, it can belong to anybody, but this actually belonged to somebody. And they’ve taken the time to do that, which would have taken a while looking at how it’s done because it look like it’s been all done by hand, no machine, and the letters are all sort of individually stamped. I love it [laughs].
Q: Thank you very much.
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