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Oral History Transcript
Interview with: Si and Terry
Date: 14th July 2019
Interviewer: Denni Morrison
Q1: This is an oral history interview with Simon Bourne and Terry Seddon by Denni Morrison on the 14th of July 2019. Also present is?
Q2: Eva Tausig from Thames Festival Trust.
Q1: The interview is taking place at Terry’s house in Billericay as part of the Thames Festival Trust’s Foragers on the Foreshore Heritage Project. Okay, start with Terry, could you state your full name please.
TS: It’s Terry Seddon.
Q1: And your date of birth if you don’t mind?
TS: Yeah, 24th of the 4th of 1959.
Q1: And where were you born?
TS: I was born in Romford.
Q1: Romford. And where did you grow up?
TS: Harold Hill, which is classed as Romford I guess.
Q1: And what sort of things were you interested in at school?
TS: School? Not very interested in much at school, school-wise. I was just a lad who just liked to be out larking in the woods and, yeah, not schoolwork [laughs].
Q1: Okay. So Simon, could you give us your full name please?
SB: Yeah, Simon Bourne.
Q1: Okay, and your date of birth?
SB: 16th of August 1981.
Q1: And where were you born?
SB: I born in Rush Green, Dagenham.
Q1: Okay, and where did you grow up?
SB: I grew up around Upminster.
Q1: And what sort of things were you interested in at school?
SB: At school I was more into design and technology, that was where I excelled. I was quite good, my dad was a builder and carpenter and so that sort of creative hands on thing, passed down well to me, also art and design. Art and design and, yeah, design and technology were my favourite things to do at school, not a lot of interesting history really. I actually took geography when we had a choice but maybe that’s why now I’m more into it because at school I didn’t really do much about it, so now I can get more hands on and it sort of it’s more appealing now from, you know, being an adult looking at going out there and finding the stuff physically as opposed to learning about it at school.
Q1: Yeah, and a question to both of you, how long have you been mudlarking?
SB: I think it’s going to be eight years for me.
TS: We were discussing this the other day funnily enough and when I come up with the dates that I started dabbling on the foreshore it was nigh on 40 years ago, probably 1978, that sort of, 1979. Which is a bit of a shock, but that’s when I used to dabble, I didn’t really know what I was looking for or doing but--,
Q1: So what was your first experience of mudlarking?
TS: Really Tilbury bottle dump was like a must because there was some nice looking bottles and pots, but also I had a little few trips to Woolwich, just kicking stones around, looking for old clay pipes and the occasional stoneware bottle, that sort of thing, but I really didn’t know what I was looking for, but that I enjoyed.
Q1: And Simon, what was your first experience?
SB: I actually took a bike ride to Rainham, which isn’t too far from Tilbury really, that area of coast, and I went down to the foreshore just to see what was down there and found bits of broken pottery and things like that and I was intrigued to think what could be, what else could be out there to find. And being eight years ago looked on the internet and see what other things, you know, were being found on the Thames, and that’s why--, that’s how I found out about Thames and Field, the club that me and Terry go to. At that time it was more of an open door policy, everybody could go and, you know, learn about mudlarking and things like that so I’d popped along one day on my own and just met a group of friends, well future friends that you’d go out with and things like that, and it sort of grew from there. Going out occasionally and starting off at Rainham, going down there just finding odd coins and loads of rubbish, scrap metal that you, you know, looks interesting but turns out just to be industrial toot, then you slowly sort of learn where the better places are to go just through, you know, seeing other people go out and learning from other people really. So it’s a little community you kind of get involved with and that if you’re, you know, if you like the hobby it sort of grows and grows and becomes an obsession like it is today.
Q1: And what’s the experience like of being down on the river?
SB: It is lots of ex--, lots of emotions really. First, you know, it’s nice to get out from, ‘cause I work in the office from day to day so I look forward to going out at the weekends and getting hands on with everything. It can be quite tranquil, quite quiet, but I kind of like going with other people as well, having a social side of things and talking to people and see what they’ve found, other times it’s nice just to go on your own and experience the river for what it is. You’ve got beautiful scenery, all the London buildings, there’s not as much industry as there used to be but you can still put your mind back, there’s places like Wapping for example, you go down there and you can see all the old cranes and structures and old buildings and warehouses. And then you go down the foreshore, you might see big old anchors and the remains of a wall, so you can kind of imagine what it was like back then so it does, you know, emote some curiosity I suppose, to sort of see what it was like back then. But yes, it’s a great place to be and we go down there all weathers don’t we, go down there in the rain or whatever ‘cause we just--, you get addicted to that fix of finding stuff, and that, you know, you’re always trying to get better than you did previously, but even so if you don’t find anything it’s not the end of the world ‘cause it’s a beautiful environment and there’s always something to find or something to see ‘cause it’s London after all so it’s a vibrant city with loads of stuff going on.
Q1: And Terry, is there any particular time of day you prefer to mudlark?
TS: Relatively early in the morning, but always nice once the clippers start moving around because they will move any mud about that’s gone the gloop on the foreshore, ‘cause that’s the pain, having the gloop in the way. But yeah, once the clippers move that’s when I like to go in. Yeah, a lot of people like doing night mudlarking and things, it’s not really for me, I like my bed.
Q1: And any particular time of year?
TS: All year, I don't mind, it is--, yeah, all year.
Q1: And what was your most memorable experience of mudlarking?
TS: Most memorable, what, find-wise? I’m guessing find-wise I was quite thrilled to come up with the Roman ballista ball there, or possible cannonball, but I think it’s a Roman ballista ball, that was quite a thrill. But yeah, the scenery, wherever you go is always good for a photograph, so there’s no particular place.
Q1: And Si, your most memorable experience?
SB: Well the most memorable that I can remember with Terry, us together, was finding the hand grenade. That wasn’t necessarily on the Thames, but it was still river mudlarking because we like to explore other areas as well, ‘cause as treasure hunters we like to kind of explore new areas sometimes. And yeah, we were searching at Battlesbridge, which is in Essex, and underneath the bridge there we found a live hand grenade, and we didn’t decide to do anything straightaway ‘cause we knew that if we called the police and everyone we’d get turfed off, so we left the marker on it, we did our searching, found a gold ring on the same day which was quite good.
TS: Very good.
SB: Terry found a load of bullets as well, which we thought were probably dumped in there over the bridge, you know, get rid of any dodgy ammunition from whatever it was. So yeah, we finally called the police and they came down, cordoned off the entire road, leading to the antiques centre, which meant that no one could get through, so there was a lot of angry people turning around and going back the other way [all laugh], massive tailback and it was all because we’d found this hand grenade.
TS: Yeah, we wasn’t flavour of the month that day [laughs].
SB: But after about two or three hours of waiting around and, you know, seeing what would happen finally the bomb squad turned up, from Colchester I think they were, with a massive bomb disposal vehicle and, yeah, one of the guys, one of the squaddies jumped out, ran down there, just picked it up like it was a tennis ball, ran back up again and said, yeah, it’s a Mill’s hand grenade, not sure what the date was, a number 33 or something like that wasn’t it, or 35, whatever it was.
TS: Yeah, something like that.
SB: And we’re going to run down the road and detonate it. It’s like brilliant, okay, what we do, you know, we--, they run off, they chased off in their cars to go and talk to a farmer which they’d already--, the police had already spoken to and then we, me and Terry had to leg it down the country lanes, there was no room in the police car for us, they said, “No, there’s no room, catch us up if you can,” so there’s me and Terry legging it down the country lane eager to see this bomb get detonated, and yeah we finally made it. And we helped them with all the sandbags as well, because they only had a couple of guys and a couple of policewomen that, you know, they could only take one bag at a time so me and Terry were like more with more sandbags. ‘Cause it was getting dark as well so we wanted to hurry things along. And then, yeah, after putting out all the detonating cable and things like that it was like stand back and they, yeah, climaxed with a humungous boom and they detonated it in the field. So yeah, quite a memorable day I think.
TS: It was, it was a good day and a big bang.
SB: Yeah, it was great.
Q1: Any other particularly hairy situations you’ve got into?
TS: Hairy moments, not for me, no, Simon’s your man for hairy moments.
SB: Yeah [laughs].
TS: No, I’ve never been cut off fortunately, which is a bit of a risk for all mudlarks.
SB: Yeah, I’ve had a few close shaves, getting cut off, because you’re in the element, I mean you’re down there and what happens is obviously the tide comes in quite quickly, and you only get a few hours down there so you need to be sure where your exits are. And sometimes the tide can come in quicker than what you expect, and there’s only a few access points on the Thames, it’s not really a touristy place to go. And yeah, that you’re not really, you know, just got to be careful, have your wits about you, so if you do find yourself in the wrong area at the wrong time you can come back with, you know, very wet feet, or even worse, which has never happened to me touch wood, is be rescued by the RNLI or whoever happens to be the coastguard, whoever happens to be around at the time. But it does happen quite frequently people getting rescued, but it’s not generally mudlarkers, it’s tourists that go down there walking and then they just realise actually we’ve walked half a mile and there’s no way to get back up and they’re stranded on a little island. There should be better signposts really to say, you know, enter at your own risk because it is a treacherous place, there’s deep mud where you don’t expect it, it can look lovely and gravelly and you walk across thinking I’ve seen something over there and then next thing you know you’re up to your knees in mud, or one knee ‘cause then--,
TS: Yeah, I’ve got to say that did happen to me once, that was embarrassing more than frightening [all laugh]. Up to my knee, welly just disappeared into the mud and trying to get out for ten minutes, exhausted after the ten minutes, and fortunately he wasn’t close enough to film me, it was a way up the foreshore, and the other guy that was with me didn’t think to film me, which was nice.
SB: So there’s no evidence of that.
TS: No, there’s no evidence of it.
Q1: Is there any preparations you make before you go mudlarking?
SB: In terms of equipment or just generally safety-wise, in--,
SB: First of all--,
TS: Wellies are a must.
SB: Yeah, wellies, hmm. Check the tide times obviously so if you know the low is at say 10am then you need to be down there for eight minimum, you can get down a little bit earlier. So you just work out the timings first so you can work out, you know, where you’re going to park your car, where you’re going to go to, that sort of thing. Yeah, equipment-wise, wellies, trowel for scraping, detectors usually as well, but pretty basic, finds pouch to take away any, you know, any, say any crud, ‘cause me and Terry do metal detecting as well and when you detect you want to take away any rubbish.
TS: You take the rubbish away as well as your finds, dispose of that.
SB: Yeah, take away yeah any plastic that we find, although it does seem to be a never-ending task ‘cause it just seems to be everywhere. And as soon as you tune your eye into the rubbish, ‘cause mudlarking is a lot about getting your eye in, you look for the human or the handmade, you know, the, yeah, the manmade items as opposed to rubble and sand and anything else. You’re looking for the unusual colours and things like that, so you start training your eye to look for these sort of things, and then if you suddenly switch your brain to litter all you can see is rubbish, so I think at the end of a mudlark if we’re walking back that’s when we do the tidying up and take a few bits with us, ‘cause you’re sort of taking stuff from the river anyway so it’s nice to sort of help out the environment, give a little back so to speak.
TS: That’s right.
Q1: Is there any particular place you go to?
SB: Personally I go all over.
TS: Yeah, try to vary really.
SB: I like to mix it up because, yeah, change of scenery and change of finds as well, sometimes there’s areas where there’s more clay pipes for example, there’s more bottles in other areas, or there might more small finds or older finds, busier places as well. Sometimes you don’t want to be stuck in the centre of town ‘cause you know you get a lot of other people hanging around so you like to have a little bit of solitude perhaps, and the more people search in one particular area means there’s slightly less chance that you’re going to find stuff because other people are, you know, it’s a busy spot so if you see a load of people you might avoid them. But generally speaking I think yeah, one day we might go to Vauxhall, we might go to Westminster, or you might go further out and go to somewhere like Chelsea, but generally speaking ‘cause we’re East End of the, you know, London, we’d tend to go places like Wapping, Limehouse, Rotherhithe, Isle of Dogs, places like that.
Q1: And how long will you spend down there on the river?
SB: Yeah, tends to be four hours roughly, two hours before low tide and two hours after, and then you’ve got no choice, you have to go back.
Q1: And is there any one thing that you’re more interested in collecting than anything else?
TS: No, not particularly, just something of like historical value, you know, something interesting. I mean as we’re doing the double act at the moment, for an example it’s the barge plate, barge padlock plate, and which is something I have found and Simon being a whiz with the computer done a nice bit of research and that’s come up with a cracking bit of social history.
Q1: Could you explain what a barge padlock plate is?
TS: Well it’s the face plate of an old padlock which was used to lock up the barges to stop anyone thieving, stealing, and this one belonged to a particular chap and it’s even got his address on printed onto the front of the padlock, and yeah, he had a fascinating life.
Q1: Excellent, excellent.
TS: Which we could tell you more.
SB: Yeah, it’s the personal artefacts isn’t it, that’s what gives it a third dimension, ‘cause not only are you finding a really cool item, if it’s got a name attached to it, and with it being what it is there’s so many records out there that it’s relatively simple to find if there is anything about the person plenty of, you know, documented history, and takes you down another avenue. So not only do you find it once, you can then go through another phase of, you know, exploration when you find the item again, you know, online and you can read all about its history. Terry, do you want to tell them about the padlock?
TS: Well I’ll let you read off the facts of the guy because that not all of them are in my mind, but his name was Henry Duddin?
TS: Dunnin, Duddin, Henry Duddin, yeah?
TS: Henry Duddin. [Leaves area to find information]
SB: Yeah, address is 2 Horsley Down.
TS: That’s right, 2 Horsley Down.
SB: There you go, yeah, so he was 76 when he died which is a good age, born in 1776 to 1852, so early Victorian, you know, late Georgian, early Victorian padlocks, it’s quite early really for that sort of--, a lot of padlocks tend to be a bit later, he married in 1800 to a Charlotte Whittle, and had a daughter who was also called Charlotte, and sadly his wife died two years after they were married, and then daughter also died when she was 14, in 1815. So Henry was left on his own, but then he remarried a lady called Elizabeth Round in 1816, and they went on to have five children, Henry, probably named after him, maybe the first son, Elizabeth, James, Emma and John. And we found a transcript of Henry that he gave to the Houses of Commons I think it was when there was a dispute over the--, how the corn was weighed out, because where they harvested it they then put it into sacks and the sacks went onto a barge and then the barges came to London and it was measured out again and so there was a bit of dispute about how can you be sure that the weighing is the same as it was when you weighed it back then and is everyone getting a fair amount of corn, you know, things like that. So there’s this long transcript about he was in the House of Commons, I believe it’s the House of Commons, proving that it was all fair and that the way that they measured it was correct and everyone was, you know, relatively legal and honest, and if there was a little bit short they wouldn’t mind topping it up and things like that. And I’ve read it all out from the two points of view, from Henry’s point of view, his voice, and also the person who was questioning him about it, so all that went for evidence so that in the future they could be sure that all the corn was being weighed out properly and there was no discrepancies and things like that. So the fact that even remains and it’s all got to do with Henry and it was all found from a padlock that could have quite easily been overlooked, but a lot of mudlarkers probably wouldn’t have taken that faceplate because they like the complete items, but we know that on a lot of padlocks there is a name and sometimes an address, maybe just the area, might just be Rotherhithe or Wapping. So we knew that there was a good chance there’d be some information on it and at first it was hard, I was cleaning it and there was not a lot on there, but finally you get through to another layer of rust and then you can see some letters appear and it’s like, brilliant, got a name, and then just goes on from there. So from one faceplate reveals a lot of information.
Q1: Excellent. And once you’ve found these things, what do you do with them then, do you just put them in a box or--,
SB: Well first, if they’re older than 300 years old we record them with a PAS system that’s a Portable Antiquities System and we make an appointment with the [Flow? 00:19:49]. I’m a full mudlark so I get to see the [Flow? 00:19:51] once every couple of months that the mudlarks, at the Society of Mudlarks meetings, he comes in and records everyone’s finds. Which is voluntary, so it’s not, you know, it’s not the law, but it’s the right thing to do ‘cause it then creates this great database where, you know, future generations can see the sort of things that are being found. And you know, currently they build a bigger picture of what sort of things have been going on in and around London based on the things that are dropped in the Thames. In terms of displaying things, Terry’s got a lovely little display, he puts stuff on, I’m a little more haphazard, I’ve got things in boxes and shoeboxes and stuff like that, but anything that is rare or quite interesting obviously try and preserve it as best I can, and put it in maybe little suitcases, little, you know, little briefcase coin boxes and things like that, and I’ve got a dresser just full of odds and sods that I’ve found [laughs] just getting more full up every day.
TS: Yeah, you end up with so much you can’t kind of display everything, so yeah, things do get put into cupboards and boxes unfortunately.
Q1: And do you share your finds with anyone, you know, are you on social media?
TS: Definitely, yeah, I like to share the pictures of finds, yeah, a lot of people are most interested.
Q1: Why do you share them?
TS: I use Instagram, that’s my thing, but yeah, that’s a good picture sharing thing, that’s what it’s about, and yeah, yeah, I enjoy it, not showing off, but showing people what’s around.
Q1: Yes, yeah, and Si?
SB: Yeah, YouTube is my outlet, I try and make videos of every hunt that I have that’s successful anyway, you get a few that are duds and you think that was not very successful hunt, but they can’t always be, you know, successful, but the ones that there is an interesting find I will make the effort to put a video together. ‘Cause it’s interesting that, you know, it’s prosperity as well, you know, you look back at these times and when I’m an old man I can look back and think they were quite good times actually. And there’s so much information, of all these things it’s hard to remember it all, and I quite enjoy the video editing ‘cause I’m a graphic designer and it’s easy for me to use that software and to create, you know, graphics for it and do the editing and, you know, do the camerawork and film work and things like that, and annotation and audio and stuff like that, and it kind of helps me with the work I do as well, so it’s all good practice for that. And yeah, it’s good to get the feedback off people as well ‘cause a lot of people enjoy the videos so when they sort of relive the time that I’m down there, a lot of them say that they feel like they’re there with me at the time when I find and stuff, so it’s great, you know, and it’s to share the experience with people, and that’s Si Finds on YouTube if anyone’s interested [all laugh].
Q1: And you said you sometimes do metal detecting, you’ve also done something called magnet fishing, what’s that?
SB: Magnet fishing is you get a very strong magnet, which you can only buy online, I don’t think you can get them in B&Q or anywhere, and they can take up to, anything up to 200 pounds of weight. You attach it to a very strong rope and you find a canal or anywhere where there’s water, launch your magnet in, put it in and hope that there’s something on the end of it. The only downside to magnet fishing is it only attracts iron, you know, iron and steel objects because gold, silver, copper, bronze, and pewter and that isn’t magnetic, so you’re limited to what you can find, but it’s still quite a--, makes quite a nice change from mudlarking and it is literally like fishing ‘cause you never know if you’re going to catch anything or not. But yeah, it’s more for the fun really I think magnet fishing ‘cause you just throw it in and you find lots of knives, phones, anything with any metal, you know, any iron in shall we say, get picked up, but it’s hard work because for every sort of ten or 20 casts you might get one thing, you get a lot of nails and tools and stuff like that. And I haven’t really had a great success with magnet fishing, I’ve found a few nice bits, like phones like I said, padlocks, but the only trouble is as well if you pull out a bike or a shopping trolley then you’ve got to try and--,
TS: You’ve got to get rid of it [all laugh].
SB: You’ve got to get rid of it, you know, if you throw it back in it’s a bit naughty because you tend to--, I suppose you’re littering again. So yeah, it’s good fun, and yeah, you could always pull out something amazing, but again there’s going to be a lot of trash, but yeah, just another element of treasure hunting really.
Q1: And on the River Thames, has the foreshore changed at all since you’ve been mudlarking, have you noticed any changes?
SB: In terms of erosion that’d be the biggest thing, it’s not down to mudlarking, it’s down to the clippers, because they go up and down umpteen times every day and you know, it’s give and take really because they obviously are creating erosion, which is, you know, you’re losing the foreshore, it’s getting undercut and then parts of the foreshore are getting replaced by rubble because the embankments are becoming unstable in places. And so then, it’s places like outside the Tower of London is one, Greenwich is another, loads of places, and the authorities have had to put down aggregate, large aggregate stones to support the embankment because of the clippers are washing away the mud. ‘Cause the mud’s only mud so it’s not going to last very long. So I’ve noticed, yeah, quite a bit of erosion, the finds have changed, I think that’s as well because there’s a lot more people are doing it these days and I mean even just in eight years it’s gone up, substantially, the amount of people that are looking for stuff.
TS: But do you not think that is the super sewer works are changing things a lot, do you not think?
SB: Only in the way that they’re taking out areas, I can’t really--, I don't really notice anything--,
TS: Yeah, but the next area around will now become a swamp of mud where it kind of edges around it, that never used to be mud but it is mud now, but hopefully that will change again when they stop all these works and it all supposedly returns to normal.
SB: They’re still going to have those huge [inaudible 00:26:10] aren’t they?
SB: They’re not going to be taken away. So yeah, either side of the [cofferdam 00:26:14] you’re right it does become gloopier, and large areas have been--, are now out of bounds because they’ve filled in or they’ve created a [cofferdam 00:26:24], use it for their ventilation tunnel or whatever tunnel it is, access tunnels and things like that. Yeah, which is annoying really because they’ve taken out huge sections of the river, that’s because inland I suppose it’s just far too expensive to buy up any land.
TS: You can understand why they’ve done it, but it has spoilt our fun over it all.
SB: But yeah, that is definitely a good point.
Q1: And Terry, can you tell me something a bit more about Thames and Field?
TS: Thames and Field has been going, I don’t know how long ‘cause I’ve only been a member for, let’s say five years possibly. Just a bunch of likeminded people, good bunch of people, always someone there willing to invite you out for a mudlark session somewhere along the foreshore, you know, ordinarily I will go with Simon most times but there’s always someone willing to go out with you from that crowd, very friendly. Run by Steve Brooker, how long has it been going Simon, this place?
SB: Well I went there in about 2011, 2012, something like that, and it’s got to be a little while before that, so it’s only ten years I think, yeah, it’s got to be ten or 12 years.
TS: There’s a few really nice kind of older members who don’t get to go there now, which is a shame ‘cause their health won’t allow it or they’ve moved away a bit, there’s three in particular isn’t there? There’s John Webb whose health is failing, he was a nice guy, very, very up on everything, we still visit him, but he doesn’t get to the meetings anymore. And you had Ken and Bruce which sadly have all drifted away a bit haven’t they?
TS: All very knowledgeable people, and they really need to pass that knowledge on before they go anywhere.
SB: But it’s a chance to show each other our finds in person, you can put stuff on Instagram and stuff but it’s still nice to handle other people’s finds.
TS: Yeah, a bit of show and tell.
SB: Yeah, and we sort of put the finds out on the table and sometimes have a little competition see who’s done the best, or who’s got the find of the month, that sort of thing, but it’s all very friendly and, you know, that sort of thing. We just go to a pub and have a beer and a chat really, it’s very informal.
Q1: Is it all men?
TS: Definitely not, no.
SB: No, no, there’s, yeah, I’d say it’s actually--, do you know what, I was going to say it’s even, but I think just the last one we went to there’s only one of the girls turned up didn’t they but that’s random because--,
TS: There’s got to be six regulars though.
TS: Ladies, yeah.
SB: Yeah. It’s probably more--, probably like 70/30 wouldn’t you, could you say, just thinking of all the people that are not regulars but there’s a healthy number.
TS: Healthy number, yeah.
SB: Which is good.
Q1: And there’s something called the Society of London Mudlarks, and you’re a member, so--,
SB: Yeah, yeah, so that basically gives you, you have to have at least three years previous experience and have been recording with a museum, preferably more than 50 items I think, or be recording for those three years, and have a good relationship with other people on the river, of other mudlarkers and stuff like that, and then you can, you know, you get voted in. And that’s--, the privileges of being a mudlark are combined with a responsibility as well. We’re allowed, because we’re sort of a bit, been--, what’s the word I’m looking for, you know, been notified I suppose that you’re doing the right thing, you’re responsible, it’s been highlighted that, you know, responsible mudlarker, so they give you that extra privilege where you can now search on the north side. Because the whole of the north side from roughly Westminster all the way through to the start of Wapping is eyes only for a standard permit holder, but a full member of a society can detect there down to three inches, give or take, there’s a few other funny patches. Like Cannon Street for example, you can only use it, go eyes only and things like that. Also you’re allowed to dig down to 1.2 metres I think it is, whereas a standard permit holder is only allowed to dig down to three inches. So you get that extra responsibility of, yeah, that they know that you are going to be, you know, not plundering the place and you’ve been doing it long enough that you can--, but there’s only 50 members or 51 members, it’s ‘cause they don’t want everybody out there digging at the same time as it’s just going to cause havoc.
Q1: And is that men and women as well?
SB: Yeah, men and women, all ages, things like that. Yeah, it’s a really good group of really experienced, you know, mudlarkers and detectors, treasure hunters, whatever you want to call us, really good bunch as well. And you know, they are, they do take a lot of notice of what’s going on on the foreshore, any law changes, any areas that have become restricted or any restrictions lifted, and they’re involved in that, they talk a lot with the PLA, very close to the PLA, so that they’re sort of like the middleman between, you know, most mudlarkers and the PLA. And so yeah, it’s quite a privilege to become a member. You have to pay more to become a member, but [all laugh] it’s still pretty cool, it’s just again it’s just more knowledge, you know, more information that you can glean off people and see other finds and hear other techniques, you know, you’ve got people, you know, you’ve got one of the guys there he’s a French guy, he goes to Australia, and does gold panning, and yeah, just hears some good adventures that people are having and stuff like that, and there’s quite a lot of older gentleman as well and ladies that have seen a lot of change. And but yeah, it’s really exciting little club, I mean not a lot really goes on there, there’s nothing, it’s not like it’s all cloak and dagger or anything, or anything like the masons or anything cool like that, it’s just meet once every three months, talk about any issues that anyone might have, and then it’s just like the same as any other club, might have a little raffle, a little finds table, people might sell a few things like books and stuff like that, there’s a little auction sometimes. But yeah, it’s nice to be part of that inner circle [all laugh].
Q1: Right, I’ve got one more question for Si, did you go out to Deadman’s Island?
Q1: Could you tell us a little about it?
SB: Yeah, me and my friend Steve have got a hovercraft, and we go out on the estuary, up and down seeing, you know, what sort of things we can find out there, because that the areas out there are so deep mud it is extremely hard place to go mudlarking, but there’s some, you know, potentially some really good finds because that, you know, that area has been eroding for a long, long time and there’s miles and miles of just mudflats basically. So one of the places on our list was to go to Deadman’s Island, we didn’t go onto the island, we went on the foreshore, just before the island, so the mudflats that lead up to it, the tidal area, so the areas that are covered in water basically, are the areas we go on ‘cause we can’t go onto the island itself ‘cause it’s, you know, a place of scientific interest, so we didn’t step onto the island at all, we just explored the areas where everything was eroded onto the actual mud itself. But yeah, there was some human remains there from the prison hulks and we knew that there was stuff there, the BBC went there about a year ago on the hovercraft as well, and that’s the only way you can get there ‘cause it’s again it’s a small island, pretty much, on the Medway. [Distracted by beeping] I’ll carry on shall I, do you know what, maybe that’s the Deadman Island spirit saying [all laugh] enough.
TS: Enough Si, enough.
SB: Yeah, the sound thing made a little bleep, bleep. Anyway.
TS: It’s run out of tape.
SB: No, it’s still going up and down, so yeah, we discovered about half a dozen jawbones, rib bones, fibular, tibular, rib bones, pelvic bones, and also--,
TS: You found femurs didn’t you?
SB: Yeah. And what else did we find, oh, probably part of a metatarsal, all sorts of, yeah, bones that are basically eroding out of the island onto the foreshore, into the, you know, into the mud pretty much. So--,
Q1: Interesting place.
SB: Yeah, very weird, I mean 200 year old skeletons that were rumoured to be the skeletons of the prison hulks, because you know, in 1800 or thereabouts the prisons in London were overflowing, and it was either any criminals got either sent to Australia, got transported to Australia or America. Or if you weren’t so lucky you got put in a person hulk and the conditions were absolutely terrible, these were old warships basically that were decommissioned and were floating out in places like Woolwich and Isle of Sheppey, places like that, and so they would be again overcrowded, and the conditions were pretty poor. Very, you know, very hardly any medical supervision, and once there was a breakout for example cholera or something like that, it could easily spread and you’d get, you know, quite a few fatalities. The rumour is, as I say rumour as I don’t really know if this is true, but I’ve heard that, you know, that they would take money to look after these prisoners, so they didn’t want to reveal that they’d died, ‘cause they stopped receiving money to look after them, so what they would do, they would, you know, dispose of the bodies at Deadman’s Island, and still carry on taking the money for their board, apparently, I don’t know if that’s true or not. And it might not only just be those bodies, apparently they might be prisoners of war that have been captured and they’ve died maybe on the way back from, you know, a war, maybe they’ve got injured, they maybe they were buried there as well but it’s a very mysterious place, that’s for sure.
Q1: Thank you, thank you. I’m going to turn to Terry now, you’ve got some objects on the table in front of us.
Q1: You’ve already told us about the plate from the padlock.
TS: Yeah, the barge padlock plate, yeah.
Q1: Tell us what this large round object is?
TS: Well it’s a carved stone ball, well ballish, it’s not that round, and you can see the chisel marks where it’s been hand chiselled into that rough shape, and because it isn’t round it is quite irregular it’s been put down as a Roman ballista ball, which would have been a catapult type ball as opposed to a cannon shot. It’s fairly soft stone also and if that was fired out of a cannon it would just disintegrate into shards I would have thought, so yeah, that the theory is that is Roman.
Q1: It’s Roman.
TS: Which is nice, and they’re apparently not that uncommon down there back in the day, but yeah, I was quite pleased with that. What else have we got?
Q1: You’ve got the little jar?
TS: The little jar, that came from the Tilbury area 40 years ago, and it is, I didn’t know until about two years ago, ‘cause I asked you and you went to Jools, that that is a mercury pot, and on the--, round the neck is a marking of half, and like, you know, a one over a two, and I’m not sure if that equates to half an ounce of mercury or half a pound of mercury, I’m not sure, but they vary in size.
Q1: Who would use it?
TS: Well it would have been used possibly for medicinal purposes, i.e., kind of injections for syphilis, or hatmakers also used mercury, so I’m told, I’m not sure at what point of the process they’d do, but yeah, hat making they used mercury. But other than that I am not sure of any other uses for it. But that the first one being the one that springs to mind, yeah.
Q1: [Laughs] And you’ve got a little metal object there, looks like a pair of pliers.
TS: Yeah, they’re pliers, or nippers, not sure what they were--, they look like when you produced musket balls out of lead, you would pour into a mould. So on the mould you would have flashings around the edge and you would have this which is where the lead was poured in and that sort of tool was used to nip off the spurs and the flashings, but I’m not--, I can’t say for sure that’s what that one was used for, but that is that sort of tool.
Q1: Excellent, thank you.
TS: If it was for pulling nails it’d be a bigger pair, it’s definitely too small for nail pulling out of, so that’s my theory on that. I’ve got a little pot of clay marbles which are Victorian, various colours in there, but that they are from Tilbury area too years and years and years ago. And I’ve got [inaudible 00:40:13] [all laugh]. Yeah.
Q1: Okay, we won’t go through all of them, otherwise we’ll be here for hours.
TS: Yeah, okay.
Q1: We’ll move onto Si, what have you brought to show us?
SB: I’ve got the first one I’m looking at here is a Saxon horseshoe, and it’s got a wavy edge to it, this was found by--, with a detector, and it’s well I’d say it’s of--, a lot of, yeah, it’s the only one found in this condition, it’s basically a type one wavy edge Saxon horseshoe. Yeah, pretty--, might have gone on a horse or a mule, that sort of thing, but it’s incredibly rare because they either don’t survive because they’re made of iron and they’re not found by detectors very often, because a) they don’t last very well in the field, because they’re so old, you find horseshoes quite a lot but it’s quite thin, that example, but the Thames preserves things so well, because it’s got anaerobic mud, and there’s no oxygen can get to it. So that’s why a lot of our finds come out looking quite well, unless they’ve been on the surface rolling out for quite a bit, if they’ve been dug up they’re usually in pretty good condition. I’ve heard back in the day when the guys were digging at places like Queenhithe and stuff, when you were allowed, used to be allowed to do it, they used to pull out Georgian gaming tokens thinking they were gold, [jettons 00:41:35], they thought they were gold. ‘Cause they’d come out, the brass was so beautiful and bright and clean and clear, everyone thinking they were pulling out gold coins, but--,
Q1: Did you know what the horseshoe was when you found it?
SB: I knew it was a horseshoe, because the holes, the rim is in there with that, I mean that it could have been mistaken for a heel of a shoe, because we do find quite a lot of those, ‘cause the dockers would have worn metallic soles on their back of their heels to preserve the life of their shoes, ‘cause it was all cobbles and stuff back then. But after a quick clean I had an inkling it was an early one, and it was my mate John Webb that confirmed that and it’s been recorded with the Museum of London, and one of the guys on there, on the report, says it’s like the best one he’s ever seen in the country or something like that. So yeah, pretty, pretty special find, not only because it’s so old but because it’s very rare as well.
Q1: And you’ve got something there that looks like a coin, what’s that?
SB: Yeah, that’s a replicate of probably my best find and it’s not particularly old, but this is a replica of a World War One dog tag, and I found this, I thought it was a 10p coin at first and then I realised it had Mary-Anne on there which is a French, means it’s a French coin, turned it over and the other side had been smoothed flat but we can make out an engraving, and the engraving starts with the Royal Flying Core, and that is the predecessor to the RAF, so that dates it to World War One. And then it’s got the name of the chap whose tag it was, a Nathan Posner, and his number, and the word Jew below that. So in case he died and he wanted a proper Jewish funeral that had been probably his wish. So plenty of information to go on on that, so basically, yeah, started looking up to see what I could find and it didn’t take long to work out that it was a guy called Nathan Posner, the 1911 census told us that he was, I can’t remember his age at 1911, I think he was 18 when he was at 1911 census, so he was in his 20s when the war broke out, and through a bit more research worked out that he lived in Commercial Road, which is in Limehouse which wasn’t very far from where I found it, in fact where I found it now is where a super sewer now sits, so if it had been a bit later it might never have been found. And that’s about as far as I got, but what I wanted to do was try and return it to the descendent, or if there were any descendants around, so I wrote to the local advertiser at the time, and this is all online, so if anyone searches Simon Bourne and dog tag they’ll see the article that was written. And so the article was, yeah, written about the dog tag and within two weeks someone came forward and said, “Ah, that surname is the same as, recognise the surname,” I think that they’d changed the name slightly, but it was still the same name, and he was his grandson that I met up with and returned it to him. And then he gave me loads more information about him and it turned out that he was a tailor, he was a son of a master tailor, so what was he doing in France? So we worked out that he probably was there working on the planes ‘cause he’s in the Royal Flying Corps, possibly making the wings of the plane ‘cause they would have been made using canvas at the time ‘cause these were very, very first planes, so he was probably there helping out and making the actual planes in France. They wouldn’t have handed out dog tags to people like him because he wasn’t on the frontline or anything, there was not a lot of danger from him getting killed, but that we think ‘cause he--, there’s a photo of him and it’s got Second AM written on it so we think he might have been a second airman so he might have been a, you know, backup pilot or something like that so they may have thought well there’s a small chance I might go up in one of them, how about I get one of these just in case I land, you know, in Germany or wherever and at least they know who I am, they can identify me, ‘cause they’re not handing out any dog tags to people like us. But it’s a beauty, he may have even done it, because if he’s good with needles and a skilled person he may have actually designed the actual tag himself. So once I returned it and the guy was called John Silverman, his grandson, the name’s obviously changed through marriages or whatever, but his, John Silverman’s mum is still alive last I heard, she’s in her 90s so there was that, that would have been Nathan’s daughter and she was over the moon to hear about it again, she was like absolutely made up, and I never got to meet her ‘cause she wasn’t in great health, so but she said it made her year having that back in the family, they didn’t know it existed either so it was, you know, great, and he was just doing his--,
Q1: Fabulous story.
SB: Yeah, he was just doing his family tree at the time as well so it was good to meet him, give it back, best ever find, you give it away, but what a better, what not--, you know, what a better place to give it than back to its rightful family.
Q1: And our last object that’s in front of you looks like a brass box.
SB: Yeah, this one. Okay, this is probably my second best find really, I can’t really put them in order because they’re all pretty cool. This is a tobacco tin, and it’s Dutch, so you know, it would have been probably held by someone of quite high esteem ‘cause it’s beautifully engraved there, you’ve got a tavern scene on both sides, it’s a bit like a spot the difference, the lid’s quite fragile, so if you turn it upside down the lid might pop off [all laugh]. Yeah, that was found, there was a--, we did a little sort of group outing with the club and about five or six people walked past that and I just saw the edge of it sticking out and I thought it was a modern, ‘cause we get a lot of Indian offerings down there, so I thought it might have been an Indian offering, or I thought it might have been a World War One tank, it’s got that same sort of shape about it, it was covered in mud, I didn’t really clean it until we got back to the pub [laughs], or before the pub on the foreshores. I said to my mate, “Matt,” I said, I threw it in his bucket thinking it was just modern, and then when we was all like looking at each other’s stuff, I said, “Grab that little Indian offering, I want to have a look at it, or Japanese offering,” I didn’t really have a clue, it just so happened, I mean that was quite early on when I started mudlarking, and there was a guy there who was an auctioneer, and he said, “I know what they are, that’s an 18th Century Dutch tobacco tin,” and it’s, yeah, just beautiful. Again that’s been recorded because it’s quite a unique find, usually you’d know you don’t even record stuff over 300 years old but if something’s quite unusual and they haven’t got a record of it, plus it’s got loads of information on there, it’s actually got some writing on as well but it’s such a--, it’s like in Dutch, 18th Century script and it’s worn away, it’s illegible, but there is one word in there, I think it just means ‘mine’, so maybe it’s part of a little poem or a saying or something like that. But a lot of, there’s lots of them that have calendars and things like that so we know it’s definitely linked to the maritime history.
Q1: And to round all of this up, can you explain mudlarking in one word?
Q1: Fun [all laugh]. Si?
SB: I might have to come back to you on that one, so it’s such a broad area.
TS: But it is fun.
SB: Thrill maybe, for me it’s the thrill of the hunt, and you never know what you’re going to find, but it’s the actual looking and finding stuff which is the best bit about it.
Q1: Excellent, so Simon and Terry, thank you very much for taking part in this.
SB: You’re welcome.
TS: You’re welcome, thank you.
[END OF RECORDING – 00:49:28]