Thursday, 24 September 2015

Mudlarking at The London Apprentice.

This is 'The London Apprentice' in Isleworth, built in the 18th Century but replacing a much older Tudor pub on the same site.

I'm standing on 'The Isleworth Stairs', a jetty built by Henry VIII to link Richmond Place in the grounds of today's Kew gardens to Isleworth by a ferry.

I was there for a spell of 'Mudlarking' because I had an hour to waste and that seemed a very positive way of wasting it.

The 'Mudlarks' were children sent out to work by their parents in The Thames Basin in the 19th century - they walked amongst the mud and silt at low tide, feeling with their toes for lumps of coal that had fallen off barges and ships.

I suspect they sometimes 'helped' some coal fall off a barge but what a way to earn your living?

Here's the mud; 

I should say that I'm not a proper 'Mudlark'; these days you need a licence for that from The Port of London Authority.

This is to protect the rich archaeological heritage of the foreshore. You would be amazed what has been dug up by the Mudlarks - from medieval bullets and swords to leather shoes.

It all has to be handed in.

Maybe Robyn and me should pay a trip to the Museum of London to see some of them.

Anyway, I was just wandering around, checking out the Swans and Geese at low tide, watching the Rowers training.

It was impossible to miss this;

Or this;

Scattered everywhere was a full Indian costume; gold threads and bright beads sparkling in the sunshine.

Some of the nicest items had already been rescued by dog walkers and were laid out on the railings.

Some were still lying around;

Just after I took this photo a family took this, they told me it still smelt of sandalwood;

I was very unhappy about the whole situation although in one way this could be a happy scene.
Rivers are sacred to the Hindhu religion and people often make offerings in this way.
While I was there a couple of Asian men were at the same spot, throwing bread and rice to the birds, as their form of Hinduism requires.
On the other hand, this was a whole celebration costume - Sari, bangles, golden scarves and everything, all washed up in the mud.
Was this a tragic scene - someone so unhappy at something that they wanted rid of the whole costume?
Had someone died and the family wanted to make an offering of a wedding costume?
I know it's not directly about a death, otherwise the clothes would have been all white.
But was it a crime scene I was looking at? An assault or a murder?
Or did someone get drunk?
Or just angry?
Just an accident or a tragedy?
I'll never know but like the dog walkers before me I found it upsetting and haunting.
Oh, I did find a rather muddy 20 pence piece which I don't think I'll be reporting to The Museum of London.
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

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