Lead Love


There are many items in the ‘mudlarking starter kit’ (for example, pins, hand forged nails, garnets), most of which I’ve now disciplined myself not to take home. However, there are a few objects that are just so lovely, I can hardly bear to leave them to fate.

Lead tube screw top lids rank in the top echelons of said items, although I do apply some fairly stringent ‘keeper’ rules, for example, how clear and/or interesting the embossed branding is.

Here is a selection of my favourite screw top lids, including Roger Gallet, Crest and my all-time favourite, a chunky number from J.B. Williams Company.

99% of the screw tops I find belong to toiletry packaging – usually toothpaste (or ‘dentifrice’), shaving creme and foam – and are mostly made of either lead, or lead-zinc alloy. From time to time I’ve also found tin and other metal screw tops.

It’s said that toothpaste was first placed in lead collapsible tubes in the 1850’s, although I have seen a contrary source which claims that Connecticut dentist,  Dr. Washington Sheffield, was the first to have introduced collapsible metal toothpaste tubes, much later, in 1892.

This practice, though known to be potentially poisonous, continued though the 1950’s. It also turned out the lead consumed the flouride in the paste, so by the time you got the toothpaste all the flourides were gone.

During WWII, used toothpaste containers were collected so the lead could be smelted to make bullets.

Toothpaste fact: its first use is recorded to have been as long ago as 500 B.C. in China and India!

The maker of my favourite screw top lid, the J.B. Williams Company Inc, was founded in 1849 by James Baker Williams – born 1818, strangely, also in Connecticut. I wonder if he was familiar with Dr. Washington Sheffield?

Williams began experimenting with various soaps to determine which were best for shaving, and eventually developed Williams’ Genuine Yankee Soap, the first manufactured soap for use in shaving mugs.

William’s shaving soaps were sold throughout the United States and Canada, and as a result of rising demand, the facilities were expanded several times in the late 1800s.

By the early 1900s, the company was known throughout the world. In addition to its line of shaving creams, the firm produced talcum powder, toilet soaps, and other toilet preparations.

The company continued to grow, hugely, until in 1977, it finally closed. The original 1847 factory is still standing, and, in 1979, was converted into a condominium complex. In 1983 the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. What a treat to know, this is the original location of my favourite ever screw top lid!

Source: Big Fork Dentist, Intelligent Dental, Bloomberg.com

Occult Inspired Mudlark Folk Art

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Now available to buy  in my online shop, an occult folk art inspired box frame display made from repurposed finds from the mysterious tidal Thames.

Tiny metal objects, my favourite foreshore bits and pieces, include copper, brass, iron, lead, tin and alloys, and feature treasured objects such as hand made Tudor pins and hand forged nails, which can date from 15th to late 19th century.

Other small metal objects used are watch parts, fasteners, clasps, curled metals, sea tumbled items, rivets, nail heads. I arrange the objects in the same way I design sigils, with an intention in mind, to bring luck, and ward off evil.

All of the metal items used in this piece of art was found on the foreshore close to Southwark Bridge. The glass fronted box frame is brand new.

Have a look through the other items I have rescued and repurposed as art pieces. Some of them functional and personalised, like my contemporary take on witch bottles, others wearable pieces. Click here to view Old Father Thames Shoppe.

17th Century Combed Slipware

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❄️Mudlark’s Advent, day 8❄️
Oh, hello, what’s this? A deliciously crumbly, fruity chocolate tiffin, topped with Bakewell icing? No. It’s a lovely, fat chunk of Staffordshire combed slipware, dating from somewhere between 1690-1830.

Combed slipware, an earthenware ceramic decorated in slip, fired, usually, with clear glaze to the patterned side, was popular between 1690 and 1830. While production began in Staffordshire, combed slipware ceramics were also produced in potteries across the Midlands, Yorkshire and Bristol.

Combed slipware has an uncanny likeness to delicious party biscuits and Bakewell tarts, achieved by ‘combing’ through applied coloured slip (wet clay), often finished off at the edges with a ‘crimped’ or ‘coggled’ pie crust effect.

I think this fragment was possibly part of a round edged, rectangular meat plate, as it is so chunky and heavy. Intact loaf or baking dishes, cups and pots are on display at the Victoria & Albert museum, Museum of London and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Jacks, Snobs, Knucklebones, Chuckstones…

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❄️Mudlark’s Advent, Day 7❄️
Jacks, Snobs, Knucklebones, Chuckstones… what do you know it as?

Dating back to before the Greeks, the game of Chucks (I’m going with this name, as China clay dice, like this one I found on the foreshore, were used) has been as big a mainstay in the playground as hopscotch or catch.

It is “a traditional children’s game, played the world over, for which there is no formal organising body. Consequently, rules vary from country to country and place to place.
The game is also known by a variety of names including Jackstones, Chuckstones, Dibs, Dabs, Fivestones, Otadama, Tally and Knucklebones. All that is needed to play the game of Chucks is five small clay squares.”

” The simplest throw consists in tossing up one stone, the jack, and picking up one or more from the table while it is in the air. This continues until all five stones have been picked up. Another throw consists in tossing up first one stone, then two, then three and so on, and catching them on the back of the hand.”

Alternatives to the squares can be pretty much anything of a similar size – originally sheep knucklebones were used.”
Actually the ‘knucklebones’ used were astragalus, bones in a sheep ankle, or hock.

I knew the game as Jacks, but instead of clay dice, metal or plastic spikes connected to a central base were used. My grandmother kept a set in her old bureau. I never really got the hang of the game, but spent hours pinging them along her old chintz carpet, only to spend further hours trying to retrieve them from under the settee.

The game was relatively simple on the surface of it, chucking the squares up and catching them on the back of your hand, but variations of hand positions with names such as ‘riding the elephant’ and ‘sending the people to church’ made things a bit more tasty.

Other permutations including the use of a bouncy ball and clapping ones hands between catches. Not so simple after all!

Victorian Clay Pipe

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❄️Mudlarks Advent, Day 6❄️
Incomplete Victorian clay pipe, bust of Queen Victoria on one side, crown on the other. No other marks but I suspect it was made to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
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According to a Chris Jarrett of the Society for Clay Pipe Research, “a possible pipe maker for this bowl is John Hill, listed in Plumstead, c. 1900-1902. He may have taken over Henry Dudman’s workshop, as early as 1894, when Dudman ceased to be listed in London Directories.”
There is similar information in the SCPR newsletter 65, 31-32.
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Chris also provided photographic comparison with a recorded example of a pipe found in a fireplace in a house in a Brockley, SE4.
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The recorded dates stamped on to the similar from pipe stem are 1837 and 1897.
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Sources: Society for Clay Pipe Research, River Thames Finds forum (@river_thames_mudlarking_finds on IG).

British Made and Anthrax Free

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❄️ Mudlark’s Advent, Day 4❄️

Hog bristle shaving brush, ‘British Made. Sterilised. Free From Anthrax.’

A small yet mighty shaving brush just like this one was once in the firing line for the death of a man:
“At Hull, on September 9, when the inquiry into the cause of the death of Joseph Taylor was resumed, a verdict of ” Death from anthrax ” was returned. Deceased purchased a shaving brush, to which was attached a label stating ” British made. Free from anthrax,” while on holiday at Scarborough.

Medical evidence states death was due to anthrax, but the city analyst said he had been unable to trace any anthrax bacilli in the brush. The jury expressed no opinion as to the source of infection.”

Source: THE CHEMIST & DRUGGIST, SEPTEMBER 20, 1924.