In 1929 the Member of Parliament John Burns famously described the river as The St Lawrence is water, the Mississippi is muddy water, but the Thames is liquid history With 2,000 years of human possessions being lost to the Thames there are plenty of artifacts to uncover each with its own story to tell Here Lara Maiklem describes releasing bottles, pins, knives and even a deceased s ashes, from their liquid incarceration each piece treated with dignity and many with a story to tell Part memoir part mudlarking manual weaving the history and personal insights of the river which has shaped the world s greatest city, this book is destined to become the seminal book on one aspect of the Thames, its foreshore.
What a little gem of a book this is A wonderful discovery much like the artifacts and treasures of the past that can be found after being revealed and unmasked by nature at low tide on the foreshore of the tidal Thames I remember many years ago when working not far from the site of the present Globe Theatre being fascinated by the sight of men there were never any women digging and scavenging away on the mud at the river s edge Fast forward to a few weeks ago and near my present residence I encountered the same sight but this time it was on the banks of the Forth Estuary Who are these people, what are their motivations and what finds can be made Now Lara Maiklem has provided answers to these questions in a book that reads like a love letter not only to her beloved pastime but perhapsimportantly to The River Thames which is intrinsically linked to the development and pre eminence of the UK s capital city Divided into chapters devoted to various mudlarking locations from Teddington Lock to the isolated Kent Marshes of Magwitch fame we make a journey into the past through the objects of that time Roman coins, pewter medieval toys and Georgian pipes provide an intimate portal to another time These were mainly personal objects and each tells a story Whether it be a Roman soldier far from his native land on guard near the City Walls or a convict about to be transported to the other side of the World There are many captivating stories to be found here relating to the finds which incredibly included a Victoria Cross The writing is clear and lucid and connects to the reader on an emotional level If you have ever read Rachel Lichtenstein s Estuary or like the work of Iain Sinclair then I m sure you will love this book as much as I did A must for all London lovers whether residents or exiles.
Mudlarking is not a topic I know anything about and my knowledge of the geography and history of the Thames is patchy at best Fortunately, prior knowledge isn t necessary to enjoy this book This isn t forensic study of the art of mudlarking nor is it a dry historical non fiction The focus on the daily lives of the people who have lived worked on or near the Thames for centuries and the changes to the river life over that time make it feel like a biography of the Thames a living thing with an enormous supporting cast from throughout the ages It is also partly a memoir with events in the author s life connecting to her time spent with the river is just as interesting and engaging as thehistorical aspects.
It is an easy, enjoyable read with lyrical, evocative language You can feel the wind, hear the water and the boats and the people, taste seaweed and hints of salt from the North Sea, and smell the scents of the river both good and bad With thanks to netgalley and Bloomsbury for the early copy.
I don t read a lot of non fiction, though I go through phases where I just want to read something different, but this looked interesting when I was on Netgalley so I requested it and here we areFor folks who don t know, mudlarking is the term used to describe people who go looking for items left behind in the mud by tidal rivers, especially rivers like the Thames where people have been living for a very long time Our author is a hobbyist mudlarker, having turned to it when she was struggling with her mental health and life stresses, and the book is based on her experiences of various parts of the river.
While it s a story of what she has found, from the macabre to the everyday, it s also set in the context of the development of London and the changes it has experienced I didn t really come across much in terms of the historical content I wasn t already aware of, but then I ve always been a history nerd so maybe I m not quite the target audience for those sections In general terms, it s an interesting book and opens the doors on a hobby I hadn t really thought about before I ve been to a number of museums in London and seen stuff recovered from the river, never really thinking about who found it and how The slightly obsessive nature of it all comes across well but it s also the one minor downfall of the book at times it devolves into lists I found this and this and this and I found myself rolling my eyes, not to mention dropping it from five stars to four There s also an entire paragraph that is just repeated from earlier in the same section, though that might be a formatting error along with the odd formatting in general of the ebook version I received I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Review copy received from W.
W Norton through Edelweiss This was a great tour of both the Thames and of the history that surrounds it Maiklem takes care with each stretch of the river and each item to give us a connection to the wider story of London s past as well as a personal look at the lives of the individuals who owned, worked with, and personalized the items she finds While her descriptions are lovely, I was really missing photographs and maps throughout, which I think would have enhanced the text.
Fascinating A book like the river Thames itself meandering, full of surprises, and covers a wide breadth.
Some of the detail is fascinating, but sometimes it can get a little bogged down in the mud, so to speak While the author s speculation about who might have owned these things is fun, I felt like there could be a littledepth into some of the objects she describes Maybe those were just the ones that caught my attention I had a Netgalley copy, so I m not sure if it was something caught be editors, but the paragraph about the founding of the Old Royal Naval College is repeated twice, which is jarring.
Definitely a fascinating read about an unusual topic.
Mudlarking is the act of scavenging in the mud for items mislaid or discarded by previous generations in this books Lara talks about her mudlarking adventures along the many miles of the banks of the Thames.
I was fascinated by stories of the other mudlarkers she shared with usand how Lara finds the hunting the most enjoyable part of mudlarking, as opposed to others who search for items to take home, and of course, hope for something of monetary value She talks about items she has found, including rings, the fossilised remains of ancient creatures, a box containing someone s ashes which she returned to the river to continue its journey , ear wax removing spoons, tooth scrapers, buttons, bones and so many other things She also talks of mudlarking legends such as the thousand bits of printers type thrown into the Thames by T J Cobden Sanderdon, a 19th century going under The word treasure must surely be one of the most provocative in the English language, for there can be few of us who have not at some time in our lives dreamed of finding buried treasure Ivor No l Hume, Treasure in the Thames 1956.
I really enjoy the quotes Lara introduces each chapter with, which remind you of the attraction of treasure hunting in all its forms Sadly there are no pictures in my digital eArc but hopefully there will be in the finished book as that would really enhance it.
This is an absolutely fascinating book for anyone interested in history, archaeology, or London, it is engagingly written, never boring and I highly recommend it.
This book is released on 22 August I received an eArc from the publisher via Netgalley, but this review is entirely unbiased and the words are my own.
Long Heralded As A City Treasure Herself, Expert Mudlarker Lara Maiklem Is Uniquely Trained In The Art Of Seeking Tirelessly Trekking Across Miles Of The Thames Muddy Shores, Where Others Only See The Detritus Of City Life, Maiklem Unearths Evidence Of England S Captivating, If Sometimes Murky, History With Some Objects Dating Back ToAD, When London Was But An Outpost Of The Roman Empire From Medieval Mail Worn By Warriors On English Battlefields To Nineteenth Century Glass Marbles Mass Produced For The Nation S First Soda Bottles, Maiklem Deduces The Historical Significance Of These Artifacts With The Quirky Enthusiasm And Sharp Sightedness Of A Twenty First Century Sherlock HolmesSeamlessly Interweaving Reflections From Her Own Life With Meditations On The Art Of Wandering, Maiklem Ultimately Delivers For Anglophiles And History Lovers Alike A Memorable Treatise On The Objects We Leave In Our Wake, And The Stories They Can Reveal If Only We Take A Moment To Look