Pub Signs- The Mudlark

What is a mudlark? A mudlark is a British term referring to one who made their living by searching for coal, bits of copper, or anything else they could sell to get by. This was a profession long ago.

This sign is from a pub near the Thames River in London. The Thames fluctuates around twenty feet between high and low tide. People go out and search the mud for items. They have to pay attention as they search as the tide comes back in quickly.

Today people who mudlark are hobbyists. They are searching for Saxon items, ancient coins, Roman or Bronze Age artifacts, etc. One may find a blackened roof tile from the Great London Fire of 1666 or a clay pipe. Mudlarks of today are required to get permission and report anything of archeological value. This includes items that may qualify as treasure or human remains. Some prison transport ships to Australia left from London docking along the Thames River and some executions long ago took place near the river.

If you walk along the Thames at low tide, you may see some people busy Mudlarking. You could always join them. You never know what you could find.

Information on getting permission to Mudlark: https://www.pla.co.uk/Environment/Thames-foreshore-permits

5 thoughts on “Pub Signs- The Mudlark”

  1. Really interesting history! I love stories about word origins. Did you go mudlarking?
    When Kensico Reservoir was extremely low years ago, you could find remnants of the town of Katonah. Buildings were placed on logs and pulled by mules to their present location when the reservoir was built as a drinking water source for NYC. We had our own version of mudlark historians.

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    1. They’ve drained the Sprain Brook Reservoir. I think they would only find golf balls in there. No, but I’m glad I found out you need permission. You can only pull out what you see on top. You can’t dig in the mud. I’ve always seen people down there at low tide. I may just join them in the future.

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  2. There’s a darker side, of course. Some mudlucks were paupers. I remember kids fishing for pennies in the silty slush around Portsmouth Harbour as recently as when I was growing up in the 60s. They were known as ‘sandboys’ – and I think they were mostly boys, but it was hard to tell because they all looked pretty much the same, caked in mud. Richer people would toss coins for them to find; changed days.

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