I first came across the concept of mudlarking when I worked at the Museum of London years ago. I was briefly responsible for meeting the mudlarkers and documenting their finds which would then be photographed and discussed at monthly meetings, to see if the museum wanted to acquire them. It was fascinating meeting the mudlarkers and seeing what they had discovered along the banks of the Thames. I’ve always been fascinated by the history of London so was delighted to receive a copy of Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames by Lara Maiklem to review via Netgalley.
Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames
For thousands of years human beings have been losing their possessions and dumping their rubbish in the River Thames, making it the longest and most varied archaeological site in the world. For those in the know, the muddy stretches provide a tangible link with the past, a connection to the natural world, and an oasis of calm in a chaotic city.
Lara Maiklem left the countryside for London in her twenties. At first enticed by the city, she soon found herself cut adrift, yearning for the solace she had known growing up among nature.
Down on the banks of the River Thames, fifteen years ago, she discovered mudlarking: the act of scavenging in the mud for items discarded by past generations of Londoners. Since then her days have been dedicated to and dictated by the tides, in pursuit of the objects that the river unearths: from Neolithic flints to Roman hair pins, medieval shoe buckles to Tudor buttons, Georgian clay pipes to discarded war medals.
Moving from the river’s tidal origins in the west of the city to the point where it reaches the sea in the east, Mudlarking is the story of the Thames and its people as seen through these objects. A fascinating search for peace through solitude and history, it brings the voices of long-forgotten Londoners to life.
What did I think of Mudlarking?
I really enjoyed reading this book. The book is split into 13 areas along the Thames and is told in a lyrical, storytelling style. It’s part history of London, and part personal memoir, linking the author to her beloved Thames. I liked her style and found the book easy to read. Sadly the digital copy lacked any images and I think this type of book needs photographs to illustrate the story. However, I enjoyed the book so much I can see myself picking up a hard copy to read again. The book is an entertaining read and a great way of finding out about ‘mudlarks’,l the ins and outs of treasures washed up along the Thames, and the history of our great city.
I recommend following Lara Maiklem on Instagram where she documents many of her finds at @london.mudlark
Disclosure – thanks to Netgalley for the review copy. Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames by Lara Maiklem is published on 22nd August.