Thames beachcombing

It’s amazing what you can find along the Thames. The Londonphile has been beachcombing around Rotherhithe and is developing quite a collection of blue and white china. The Thames foreshore is truly a treasure trove, and the best part is that it is constantly being refreshed as the tide washes in and out twice a day, both bringing with it new items and revealing new finds as the water rolls back. I collected the items above over just two short trips to the foreshore at Rotherhithe (along stretches near the Mayflower pub and Surrey Docks Farm respectively). Here are a few more photos of what I have found so far:

I particularly like the pattern on this one:

This one has almost – not quite – washed away; possibly it’s an older piece:

These pieces are tiny (around two centimetres) but come out well in a photograph (if I do say so myself):

But it’s not just about blue and white – here are some brown and cream items:

Clay pipes are also a popular find along the Thames. These can date as far back as the 16th century and were indeed used for smoking. Jane from Jane’s London makes jewellery out of clay pipes she finds along the Thames. Here are some pipe stems I found:

If you want to do your own spot of treasure-hunting you should check the tide times to determine when there will be a low tide – the lower the tide the better as more of the foreshore is exposed. BBC Weather has a webpage showing tide tables for London, which I think are easier to understand than the one published by the London Port Authority. I would also recommend some hardy gloves, wellies (or at least sensible shoes – the mud can be surprisingly thick) and a bag for finds. Just remember that while you can pick up anything from the surface (i.e. without any digging, scraping or lifting or rocks) without a licence, if you do find anything that may be of archaeological value this must be reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds Liaison Officer at the Museum of London on  020 7814 5733 or flo@museumoflondon.org.uk.

If you don’t feel like going it alone there are a number of groups that run organised walks or fossicking tours along the Thames. Thames Discovery and Thames Explorer Trust run a number of archaeology and beachcombing walks on various sites along the Thames. I wrote about Thames Discovery’s Rotherhithe Winter Walk earlier this year; the Thames Explorer Trust will hold a free Custom House Walk on Friday 22nd June 2012, 9:30am to 11:30am – there are currently seven places left so be quick! Keep an eye on Thames Discovery’s Events page as new walks are listed regularly. London Walks also hold Thames Mudlarking walks guided by an archaeologist. The Surrey Docks Farm holds irregular foraging sessions along their foreshore – there will be one this Sunday 10th June at midday – no booking is required and it’s free.

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2 thoughts on “Thames beachcombing

  1. I have a collection of these too! I made some collages with some of mine – I was going to do a blog post on them sometime. It is amazing what you can find just on the surface but I’m glad you mention the need to report any archaeological finds!

    • That’s great, I really look forward to seeing what you’ve done with yours. Mine is still very much a collection-in-progress, but I do hope to display it in some way eventually.
      It is amazingly easy to find good stuff, but important to report anything of archaeological note!

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