English porcelain doll’s head, 19th century | I am particularly attached to this find as it has a great story behind it. It was found by accident in Oxfordshire after the Thames burst its banks in 2012. I was having a walk on the Thames path and nearby fields when the water receded and it was just lying at my feet. This is my only non-tidal Thames find, I love to think of the river giving me ‘river blessings’ even when I am not looking or taking a break from larking. It also reminds me that most of my favourite finds are from the Victorian period.

Listen to the Story

English porcelain doll’s head, 19th century | I am particularly attached to this find as it has a great story behind it. It was found by accident in Oxfordshire after the Thames burst its banks in 2012. I was having a walk on the Thames path and nearby fields when the water receded and it was just lying at my feet. This is my only non-tidal Thames find, I love to think of the river giving me ‘river blessings’ even when I am not looking or taking a break from larking. It also reminds me that most of my favourite finds are from the Victorian period.

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Oral History Transcript

Interviewee: Lucie Commans
Date: 21 August 2019
Interviewer: Duncan Wood

Q: This is an oral history interview with Lucie Commans by Duncan Wood on the 9 August 2019. Also present are...

Q1: Clare Selby.

Q2: Eva Tausig.

Q: The interview is taking place at Bayston Road, Stoke Newington as part of Thames Festival Trust Foragers of the Foreshore Heritage project. So could you please state your full name?

A: I am Lucie Commans

Q: And what is your date of birth?

A: The 3d of April 1978.

Q: Whereabouts were you born?

A: I was born in northern France, near Belgium, in a city called Douai which is near Lille.

Q: And whereabouts did you go to school?

A: So that was also in northern France, in Lille.

Q: And, when you were at school, what were the subjects that you were particularly interested in?

A: So I was particularly interested in French literature and English. I was interested in history. I was not so good at it in school, strangely. I learnt German at the time as well. And art and history of art were a specific subject I studied for many years as well.

Q: So what was it that brought you to London?

A: So when I was a child I was attracted to the UK and I went on school trips. And I was 10 years old when I first visited London, and the first time I saw the Thames. And I became incredibly fascinated by the river, which was at the centre of the city. So I moved as an expat in 2010 to work in London. And I haven't moved back since then.

Q: So what does a typical week look like for you at the moment?

A: Oh, well, I work full-time in a university, in student administration. So it would be mainly work. And when I have time off, I travel, because I've moved to Liverpool, I still visit London to be on the foreshore once or twice a month. The ideal and typical week would be sharing my time between work and the river activities. And on weekends I would be larking on the Thames or up north, sea combing or trying to find other treasures in different places as well.

Q: So let's move onto mudlarking. So how long have you been interested in it?

A: So it all started in 2010. So when I moved to London I did an evening course about daily life in medieval London at Birkbeck University. So part of this course, we had workshops at the Museum of London. And they showed us amazing artefacts that were found on the Thames foreshore. There were some medieval bone ice skates that were found in the river. So one thing leading to another, I went to an archaeology conference the same year. And there was an inspirational talk from the Thames Discovery programme, and Gustav Milne. And he was looking for volunteers for the FROG Programme, which is the Foreshore Recording and Observation Group. So I joined a waiting list, and in 2011 I did my training as a FROG. So it's inter-tidal archaeology, where you wait for the low tide and you look at all the different structures. So timber structures, you have jetties,causeways, the river wall. every year, on a regular basis they just monitor all these features. And with the erosion, you only get the full pictures after a certain number of years. So they would measure and draw and get some interpretation of the features on the foreshore. So I started as a FROG, as a volunteer archaeologist, which is mainly about the port of London and maritime archaeology. Ship breaking, ship building, lots of timbers. So, in parallel, in 2011 I got my permit to search for finds. Because the Thames Discovery programme was focussed mainly on the context and the history of the structures that you still find on the river. And I just wanted a link with the artefacts. They don't really collect artefacts with the Thames Discovery programme. So that's how I started going on my own during the weekend and looking for finds, really.

Q: Can you remember your first experience down on the foreshore?

A: Yes, it was a visit at Putney with TDP. And I was really fascinated by the organic features. You can find prehistoric peat. So we walked along the foreshore to the site of an early Anglo-Saxon fish trap. So there's not much left, it's just round timber posts, basically. But I was so amazed that it would have survived for so many centuries. And having this guided walk on the foreshore. And one of the volunteers next to me found a prehistoric flint, and it was stunning, so it was quite an inspiring first experience on the foreshore at Putney. And there were lots of pottery, from Roman times to post Medieval. So, yes, I think I will remember this day for the rest of my life. It really changed my life.

Q: When did you--, when was the first time that you went by yourself? Or do you see mudlarking as something that you like to do with other people?

A: I'm more of a loner, if I'm honest. I know some people do enjoy going there in groups. But in the beginning, I was having my lonely walks on the foreshore. I thought it was really an extraordinary place to be on your own. I'm a daydreamer, and it was good, the perfect place for me for contemplation. And picking up objects and imagining stories of past Londoners. So I keep meeting people on the foreshore, and we have a chat and we exchange experiences and stories. We show what we’ve found on the day. But most of the time I go on my own.

Q: So, when you go mudlarking, do you have a--routine, how do you prepare? Do you have like certain rituals that you follow?

A: Well, as a volunteer archaeologist, I must say that health and safety is very important. I will always make sure that I know the tides and my exits, the access stairs. I have this ritual of cleaning my wellies and making sure I have everything. So, when I know it's a very muddy patch of the foreshore, I will have over trousers, not to get too dirty when I get out. Other than this, I guess I have a habit of maybe visiting certain spots more than others because they're more close to my heart or I know where I'm going and this is where I feel the most comfortable.

Q: Do you have a particular type of artefact, again, a kind of object that you're particularly interested in collecting? Or is there something that you'd really like to find, that you haven't yet?

A: So, when I first started, I had absolutely no interest in pottery. I didn't know anything about pottery. And I've spent so much time with archaeologists and learning about pottery, this is now something I will collect every time I visit the foreshore, the ones that are decorated. And if I can find Delft pottery, that's always an outstanding discovery. I enjoy tobacco clay pipes. I guess most people will tell you that it's quite addictive when you find one. My dream artefact would be to find a sword or a shield or something related to jousting or tournaments. But I don't think it will happen in my lifetime, anyway.

Q: Have you found anything close to a sword or to do with jousting?

A: Hmm, I just found one ring of chain mail in nine years. It's not much, but it was quite an exciting day.

Q: Could you describe your method of mudlarking?

A: Right. So I think I will clarify that I don't dig much. And one of the reasons I'm on a standard permit. And when I started as a volunteer archaeologist, we would just clean the timbers and what is exposed by the tide. And I have been extremely lucky to have most of my finds by eye search. And I mainly pick up what I see when I walk. So I would just walk and stop and contemplate and look what's around me, at my feet. And this is how I made the best discoveries in the nine years, really. Just stopping, looking around, staring at a corner and see what I can spot or find. So I don't really dig. I think, personally, it's not necessary for me, I've been lucky as it is.

Q: How long do you tend to spend by the river each time you go?

A: Quite a long time, to be honest. I start one hour and a half before low tide, sometimes two hours when it's a good tide. And I stay until the tide comes back. So I can stay three hours and a half, sometimes four hours if I'm lucky, if it's a good low tide.

Q: Have you had any hairy experiences? Have you ever been trapped by the tide or anything?

A: No. I mean, there was this one time I got a bit surprised by the tide. And I think it's because of the Thames Barrier that was open. But I'm quite cautious, I like to know my exits and not venture where I'm not sure where I'm going. I got stuck in the deep mud up to my knees a couple of times. That was not too pleasant, but it was alright.


Q: Aside from that, do you have any other memorable experiences of mudlarking to date?

A: I think I have a few, and it's mainly a personal experience with one of the artefacts or objects you will find on a specific day. So I think, there's probably like my top five finds, and I will always describe the experience as the best day of my life, ever. And, yeah, so I guess that would be it.

Q: What do you do with your finds?

A: Well, if they are of significant interest, I would show them to archaeologists or get them ID'd. But the valuable ones, I display them in my flat. So I guess I have things everywhere now. And, if it's broken fragments of pottery, I've started to try to be more creative, do maybe mosaic all that kind of projects, or drawings. So maybe decorating furniture with some of my finds.

Q: So is mudlarking, to you, a bit of a creative outlet for you as well?

A: It was not at the beginning. And over the years, I've been more and more inspired by what I do. And I try to incorporate it in my daily life. So it has to be everywhere, I guess.

Q: And if you're not--certain, so if you're not sure about something you find, how do you sort of go about ascertaining what it is?

A: The easiest way is doing research. So I do a lot of research online. You can contact some experts or specialists on tobacco clay pipes. Or if it's a significant find, you can show it to the finds liaison officer. I know some people go into forums and talk to each other. I don't really do this myself, for some reason. I enjoy searching. I go to local libraries as well. And there's a lot of specialist subject books about pottery. So, yeah, that's what I do, a lot of research.

Q: Do you engage a lot with social media and share your finds that way?

A: Not too much. I've only recently started on Instagram, because I think photography is quite a strong and powerful media. And I don't really go on forums or—fb groups, I'm quite limited to Instagram and the visuals of the river.

Q: Okay, well maybe we could start to look at some of the objects you've brought today.

A: Yeah

Q: So would you describe object number one to us in a few words?

A: Okay, so that's a porcelain doll head, 19th century.

Q: Oh, wow!

A: This find is slightly different from the others, it has a great story to it. I didn't find it in the tidal Thames, but it was when I was living in Oxford at the time with my partner. And I was having a walk around the non-tidal Thames, it was in 2012, there had been some floods that had quite drastically flooded the city. So, when the water was receding, I found this object in a field not far from the river. It was just looking at me, so I picked it up. And, I'm guessing it's probably from like a dump, like it could have been like a bottle dump and with the flood it just resurfaced. And it was just there for me to pick up. And I think it has something quite romantic and derelict to it.

Q: Who do you think might have owned this object?

A: I would guess it would have been a toy for a child and they must have lost it somehow. Or it got broken and they chucked it down. I'm not sure [laughs].

Q: What does it feel like to hold? Is it quite heavy for a doll's head?

A: It's, I guess it's fairly light, because it's not so big.

Q: And what is it made of? Is it china?

A: Yes, yes, it would have been China, and this would have been English porcelain china.

Q: Did you recognise what it was straight away?

A: Yes, it was obvious, it was just lying on its face, when I found it. It was on the back, but you could clearly see it was a doll's head. And when I turned it around it was quite a pleasant surprise.

Q: Do you have a picture in your mind of the little boy or girl who would have owned this?

A: Well, I'm not too sure. Knowing that it was Oxford, I would expect someone quite elegantly dressed and probably having a play around in nature, surrounded by trees.

Q: So this would still have been found, you said it was in Oxford, but this still would have been found in—the river, it still would have come from the Thames?

A: Well, it was really close to the Thames. So I'm not sure if it was someone playing along next to the river. Was it in the water and with the flood it ended up in the nearby field? But I still consider it as a river find because I was walking along the Thames at the time and it was really close to it. So, if I had not been there...

Q: So why did you choose, because it's interesting this was the first item you took out and picked, so I just wondered, why did you choose this object today?

A: I think it's because, in nine years, for some reason most of my finds are 19th century or from the Victorians, and I think it's quite representative of what I find. And I believe that the river always gifts people with what I call river blessings, and it's always something personal. So it's a certain object that represents my experience with the Thames and just going back to the Victorian times

Q: Great, okay. Maybe we could move onto item number two.

A: So this is what I would call my, probably my best find in nine years. So this is a tin glazed earthenware ointment pot, and it's been dated to the second half of the 18th century. And it was only slightly covered in gravel when I found it. So when I picked it up, I knew straight away what it was, because I had seen some examples in museums. And this would have been used as ointment. So most of the time there would be some animal fat in it. And it would have been in containers of different size and shapes. And they would have used this to cure different diseases or maybe skin conditions. It carried on up to the 19th century and, really, most of them, they were pretending to cure things. But most of the time the ingredients they would have in it wouldn't really cure anything. It wouldn't really be beneficial. I picked up this find today because it's a lot to do with medicine and I like the finds that are maybe more gloomy or more dramatic. And also because it's extremely rare to find unbroken ointment pots or pottery, considering it's been for a couple of centuries in the mud or in the gravel. And it's extremely fragile because it's biscuit ware and then you have an oxide that is glazed to it. So I was really amazed to see that it was almost intact and in one piece.

Q: So biscuit ware is Bisque pottery, is that right?

A: It's more to describe the texture and the colour, because it has this soft, sandy texture. And it's quite light as well when you hold it.

Q: So was this a recent find?

A: No, this one I found in 2011. So that was my first year being on the foreshore. And it was--amazing, it made my day, it was quite a good day at the time.

Q: Can you remember what the river was like that day?

A: It was sunny and warm and it was very peaceful. It's a spot in West London that is known to be quiet. You don't really have strong currents, you have a lot of people on boats or doing canoeing. So you really have this relaxing and peaceful atmosphere along the river. You almost feel in front of a lake because it's so quiet. So I think it added to the experience.

Q: Who do you think would have—used it, or who do you think would have been the last person to have owned that pot? Can you imagine what they looked like or what they would have done with their lives?

A: Well, I believe it would have been a woman that would have bought this ointment at a pharmacist for whatever reason. Maybe a skin condition or, I'm trying not to think of something too dramatic, really. And I think this would also have been a good addition in the household after they used the ointment. So I think this pot was kept and maybe reused and she would have kept it as a cherished possession. And then when it got too damaged, maybe it got chucked in the river for some reason. But I'm thinking also, the woman would have been elegantly dressed with a long dress, maybe flowery. And this would have been used to improve her daily life at the time or whatever issue she was experiencing. But I think I'm thinking more of a female than a male on this one, for some reason.

Q: Okay, thank you. Shall we move onto object number three?

A: Yes. So this is my second best find in my lifetime. This is what we call an Hamilton bottle. And this one is Soyer’s nectar. And it's quite rare to find [inaudible 0:26:06] it's one of the earliest one you would find. Alexis Soyer was a French working celebrity chef who moved to the UK. And he worked as the chef at the Reform Club in London.

Q: Oh, where's that in London, or where was it in London?

A: Near Piccadilly. And it's a renowned club for gentlemen and they had flamboyant events for people of the highest society. So this bottle is part of the personal life story of Alexis Soyer. So in around 1848, when he was an established chef, he started to launch his own products. So he started with relish sauce and other sauces for the household. And then he moved to create the—Soyer’s Nectar, one of the first blue coloured drinks. And it was lemonade, in this bottle that is in a kind of long, pointed end shape.

Q: Yeah, so for the benefit of the audience, sort of the tape, what was it? Is it blue?

A: So the glass is kind of clear, clear green glass. But the drink would have been a novelty for the Victorians because t he would have used a blue pigment called lake to make the drink coloured in blue. And the drink itself, it is described in the biography book of Ruth Cowen on - Alexis Soyer. And we know that he used citric acid and lemons. There would have been a hint of raspberry and quince in the drink. And then they would have added carbonated water to make it one of the first coloured fancy lemonades for the Victorians. So it was very popular and a hit for a few years. And then he moved to do other drinks and different things. In the Crimean War he also worked to improve the condition of the British soldiers and he created the first field kitchen for the British soldiers. So he's known as a man of many talents and he's done many things. He was forgotten for many years and only recently there's been a few books written about him. So it's a personal find for me in a sense that I'm French myself and I love my food and drink. And it was quite an amazing experience to retrace the journey of this man through one of the finds that I picked up on the foreshore.

Q: Is there any writing on the bottle?

A: So there is just writing at the front, and it's written Soyer’s Nectar, which made it quite easy to identify the find. And I knew straight away when I found it that it was quite an extraordinary find. I found two Hamilton bottles in the Thames and this one is in earliest form and it's quite rare to find one. And there's also a little stamp at the bottom of the bottle, which is like a diamond shape. And this is how you identify that, it is one of the Soyer’s trademark of the time, so...

Q: So who would have been the last person to use the bottle?

A: I've been asking myself this question. So when I found the bottle, it was an extremely low tide in the winter. Normally, always under water and not accessible to anyone. And I went as far as I could on that day. And I was going there mainly because I was attracted by the context, because I could spot a few ship timbers that looked late 18th century. And I was asking myself, oh, maybe it was a place where dockers would have been at the time or maybe there was a jetty nearby. So my first guess was that maybe it fell from a crate they had on a boat. Or maybe one of the dockers or water men was having a drink on a hot day and just discarded the bottle in the river. So my guess is someone working along the river had a nice refreshing drink and just discarded the bottle.

Q: How did you feel when you found it?

A: I cried, to be honest. It was the best day ever. And it was slightly covered in mud and I could just see this shape that is quite extraordinary. And I knew straight away it was something special. And, when I saw the inscription on the bottle, I was so moved. And then I had to wrap it in my scarf, it was winter. I was freezing, I couldn't feel my hands. And all I could think was, on the way back, to make sure I wouldn't break it when it's in my bag. So, yes, it was really strangely--moving, I was very emotional and more moved than I thought I would ever be.

Q: Okay, fantastic. Shall we move onto object number four?

A: Yeah.

Q: Could you describe the object for us, please?

A: Yes. So this a fragment of an English mid 19th century brown, salt glazed stoneware flagon. So, once again it's the history of drinking in the UK, in England. And you can see a number three that has been kind of crudely carved on the handle of this fragment. And the reason for this is, my guess, it would have been a three gallon flagon. It would have been like really, a really big one. And my guess, it would have been a merchant's wine, spirit or maybe cider flagon that they would have had in a public house to entertain people and pouring drinks to anyone. So you have on this (?)handle the number three. As once again, the Victorians, they would have loved to write on the bottles or on the flagons the quantity. So, if you think about it, I guess that would have been an equivalent of 24 pints to serve in this, just one flagon. So it's a shame that it's only a fragment. But once again, it's one of my favourite finds because it really represents a moment of daily life of past Londoners and what they would have done. And I'm guessing it might have come from a pub along the river.


Q: What does it feel like to hold? Is it quite smooth? Is it heavy?

A: I think it's, surprisingly, quite heavy. And I'm guessing, if it had been intact, it would have been quite something to handle. Especially with the drinks and liquid in it. I was also surprised, on the back of it, it looks like there's a crack at the back of the fragment. And, I'm guessing, perhaps at the time they tried to fix it. And then it probably, definitely got broken and then they got rid of it. And that's probably how it ended in the river. But my guess is that it had a life, and they fixed it once and then--reused, until it was the very last of its day. But it's quite--heavy, it looks quite chunky, it would have been quite an impressive and big flagon to serve drinks.

Q: Apologies if you said this already, but do you know what time period it's come from?

A: So this would have been in production around 1840s to 1900. I'm guessing this one is probably the second part of the 19th century or maybe, I'm guessing, 1870s. Mainly because most of the finds in this specific spot of the river are Victorian finds or like 19th century, rather than early 20th century.

Q: Did you have a good idea of what it was when you found it?

A: No. Well, I was really intrigued by this number three on it. And I was like, it's my favourite number, I'm born on the 3rd as well. So it's like a lucky number for me. So it was very personal. And it's only when I made some research and I was trying to understand the shape, it was quite clear that it would have been a serving vessel. And I knew it was not very old, anyway, because of the glaze and this kind of colour, it’s quite typical of the 19th century or early 20th century. But it's only recently that I realised that the number three was for gallons, because I located similar drinking vessels with this number, or like the number five or the number two, which is the quantity of the imperial measure and the quantity of drinks that would have been served with it.

Q: So is this, excuse me, is this a recent find?

A: It was more recent, it was about three years ago. On a spot of the river I haven’t visited in a long time. And I think it was an opportunity of the day, and I didn't expect to find it.

Q: How was the river that day?

A: It was nice, warm, we didn't have any rain on that day. It was, I think, around 20, 22 degrees. And you could have a good look at what was on the foreshore. The gravel was making it quite shiny, so I was wearing my sunglasses not to get too much of the light reflection in my face. But it was a good day.

Q: And have you been by—just yourself, so of all the finds you've brought so far, have you always been by yourself when you found them, or have you been with other people?

A: I've been--alone, I've found other things with--others, during field work with the Thames Discovery programme. Or sometimes we were having monitoring visits, that was a few years back. I've stopped in the last couple of years, mainly because my back is not so good. So for field work and archaeology it's not such a good thing. But, strangely, my best finds have always been on my own. So it's been a very personal experience.

Q: What keeps you coming back to the river? What keeps it interesting for you?

A: You always hope there will be this one find that would be the once in a lifetime opportunity. And that somehow it will change history and it will be something so spectacular that you have to go back to the river. And I think it has become an addiction. It was a hobby, and over the years, the river is like family and is part of my life. And I go there for the serenity, the calm, the peace you have on the foreshore. You have the best views of London from the river as well. So I will always go back to the River Thames. And it's also very—personal?, it can be very emotional and—moving?, yeah.

Q: So obviously you don't live in London any more, so you live in Liverpool?

A: Yes. I've moved up north a year ago, mainly for work, and also because living in London was becoming too expensive. And I didn't really want to be in a house share any more. And it was just a work opportunity to go up north. But I was an adopted Londoner for ages. And I'm hoping to come back as a Londoner some day. But at the moment, it's a good compromise for me to take advantage of north of England. And then coming back, when I don't work at the weekend, without the commutes and the madness, and just enjoy the river and go back home up north. But I do miss the Thames, mainly because I cannot come and have a walk on the foreshore after work or go on a night, evening lark. I have to do this only when I'm off work, so it's slightly different.

R: So how often are you getting to come to the river at the moment?

P: Well, at the moment, the very good low tides are not really matching my timetable with work because they're in the middle of the week. But I pretty much organise my time off in my life around the low tide. So, when I can take a couple of days off, I come back to London just for the low tides and spend some time on the Thames. But it's been--rare, in the last couple of months, because my back wasn't so good, I haven't been around much, sadly. So that's when I've had a play around with my old finds and doing some mosaic or drawings from my finds and sorting my finds. But normally I try two weekends a month .It's a two hour train journey and it's not so bad. Well, when you're not a Londoner you don't mind as much the commute as--much, it's not like taking the Tube, so it's alright. But twice a month I try to have a weekend lark in London.

R: Are there any opportunities to mudlark in Liverpool?

P: No. We have the Mersey River, but there's no permission to look for finds and there's a lot of mud flats and deep mud. And it's extremely polluted and smelly, so you wouldn't really want to try and find things. But mainly, I think London is the only place where you can get a licence to search for finds. And where you have such an amazing amount of historical or significant finds that are quite easy to find when you know where to search and when you have the permission from the Port of London authority. But in Merseyside, I think, I also had a look at trying metal detecting, but there's not many permissions. So it's not the best place to look for things. But I go to, sometimes to the Isle of Man or North Wales, and I have a good walk at the seaside. And I just collect stones and also fragments of broken pottery elsewhere.

Q: Right, thank you. Shall we move on to object number five?

P: Yes. [Pause]. So this is another glass find. And I also found it a few years ago now. It was in Wapping and it was completely covered in deep mud. And it's a 19th century medicine vial. So, when I had a good look at it, I could see that it was a more recent find. It's not like an early glass medicine vial because there's a number that is showing at the bottom. It's slightly broken, but you can see, it would have been machine manufactured. So I'm guessing late 19th century, when, really, like they had mass production of this kind of medicine object, really. And I'm guessing it would have been narcotic-based medicine of some sort, liquid. When I did some research, you have a lot of opium vials that look quite similar. So I chose this find, once again, because it is showing maybe something a little more gloomy about past Londoners and the kind of medication they would have taken at the time. So I'm guessing it would have had a cork on it to keep the medicine in it. So sadly it was not there any more when I found it. And I'm guessing it must have been from a doctor's bag or maybe a personal domestic medicine chest that they would have had in their home. And, once again, my imagination is telling me that whoever took it must have just discarded it in the river. Or maybe it fell from a doctor's bag and ended up in the river. Could it be a doctor that was going on a ferry crossing the Thames or maybe joining watermen, and it fell from the bag or boat]? It is just my interpretation, it could be anything, once again. People were discarding a lot of things in the river regardless of what it was. And it could just be historical rubbish. But, once again, yes, it's one of my favourite...

Q: Does it have any writing on it?

A: No, it's plain. There's no writing or anything that could identify where it comes from. It's just, at the back of it, you can see number two, and I think you can just about get a zero. And this would have been some kind of stamp or number that they would have put during the factory manufacturing. But, sadly, there's no way of specifically identifying where it would have come from. I'm guessing it would have been produced locally, in London. There were many glass works and factories along the Thames, mainly at Southwark. So I'm guessing it would have been a local find.

Q: And how large is it?

A: It's not very high. I'm guessing, [pause] I'm guessing something like 15cm, you have to excuse my French as we measure mostly in centimetres [laughs] rather than inches. I just love it because it's really showing the history of medicine and the kind of packaging we don't have any more.

Q: And, when you found it, did it strike you that it might have some sort of medical use?

A: Yes, I was like, oh, it must be from a chemist or a pharmacist. And this kind of shape, I had been to a few museums where they have medicine finds. Like if you go to the Wellcome Collection or other places, so I was like, oh yes, it looks like it would have had some medication or narcotic form in it.

Q: So how would you say the River Thames has changed over the years, or has it changed over the years, since you've been mudlarking?

A: Yes, it has changed a lot from the days I started. And I'm sure it will change again. Erosion has impacted the foreshore, and I know from experience that some spots of the foreshore have reached the layer, which is the London clay, which is kind of blue, greyish mud. And this is the origins of London, you know that when you see this you can't go any deeper than this. And the prehistoric peat, also, you can, along Central London, things that were covered in gravel nine years ago, now you have big chunks of prehistoric peat with roots and organic tree roots and features. So I can really see it has changed. And also, nine years ago you would have much more finds, tobacco clay pipes and pottery littering the river. And now, some spots in Central London, it's getting scarce, there is less. We can see changes in the landscape as well because of over-building near the river. And you also have the super sewer project, that has changed the river in many places. Places like Bermondsey, where you used to have access to mudlark in some parts, it's now closed to the public, you can no longer access the foreshore there. It's been covered in engineering works. So, yeah, it has changed, and I can see, because of monitoring some features on the Thames foreshore, from 2010 to 2019, you could see, nine years ago, one mooring feature, like a cartwheel from the 19th century. And you would just about guess what it was. You would have the top of the cartwheel showing. And a couple of years later it was completely uncovered, you would see the whole cartwheel showing. And then sadly, over the years it starts to decay, the wood starts to be damaged because it's exposed to air and it's not protected by the mud any more. And I've seen many features, like wooden features on the foreshore disappearing. But it's the nature of the beast, you have the discovery of the finds or the artefacts and they're not there to last. It's liquid history, but at some point it's meant to disappear. So projects like inter-tidal archaeology, they're there to record this feature for future generations. So when it's gone, you still have the photographic records and the drawings. But sadly, you won't get to see it. So my opinion, yes, it has changed drastically and I keep being shocked at how badly it changes and gets eroded. Or you don't get to recognise a stretch of the foreshore compared to five years ago. But you have to accept it, it's part of London life, so...

Q: Finally, then, could you describe mudlarking in one word?

A: Mud. Personally for me, if there's not--mud, if I'm not covered in mud, if there's not enough mud, then it's not a very good day for me.

Q: Fantastic, thank you. Okay, thank you very much.

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