A modern mudlarker finds treasures washed up on the River Thames banks


Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/11/13/a-modern-mudlarker-finds-treas.html


It’s worth noting, though, that the V&A’s is a dessert spoon and had no ritual significance.

Dessert is not a ritual in Britain, then? I must have misread my Dickens.


Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver opens with a description of mudlarks circa 1665:

Mother Shaftoe kept track of her boys’ ages on her fingers, of which there were six. When she ran short of fingers—that is, when Dick, the eldest and wisest, was nearing his seventh summer—she gathered the half-brothers together in her shack on the Isle of Dogs, and told them to be gone, and not to come back without bread or money.

This was a typically East London approach to child-rearing and so Dick, Bob, and Jack found themselves roaming the banks of the Thames in the company of many other boys who were also questing for bread or money with which to buy back their mothers’ love.

London was a few miles away, but, to them, as remote and legendary as the Court of the Great Mogul in Shahjahanabad. The Shaftoe boys’ field of operations was an infinite maze of brickworks, pig yards, and shacks crammed sometimes with Englishmen and sometimes with Irishmen living ten and twelve to a room among swine, chickens, and geese.

The Irish worked as porters and dockers and coal-haulers during the winter, and trudged off to the countryside in hay-making months. They went to their Papist churches every chance they got and frittered away their silver paying for the services of scribes, who would transform their sentiments into the magical code that could be sent across counties and seas to be read, by a priest or another scrivener, to dear old Ma in Limerick.

In Mother Shaftoe’s part of town, that kind of willingness to do a day’s hard work for bread and money was taken as proof that the Irish race lacked dignity and shrewdness. And this did not even take into account their religious practices and all that flowed from them, e.g., the obstinate chastity of their women, and the willingness of the males to tolerate it. The way of the mudlarks (as the men who trafficked through Mother Shaftoe’s bed styled themselves) was to voyage out upon the Thames after it got dark, find their way aboard anchored ships somehow, and remove items that could be exchanged for bread, money, or carnal services on dry land.



Great series about more modern-day mudlarks:


If anyone is in London and wants to do this, there are groups that have a licence who will take you.

These people for example:



Mudlarker? That’s just an upmarket tosher, isn’t It?


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