Modern Mudlarkers: Foragers of the Foreshore

Free talk and exhibition at Putney Library by Florence Evans and Monika Buttling-Smith

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A talk and exhibition on mudlarking on the Thames is taking place at Putney Library on 27 February at 6pm

Florence Evans and Monika Buttling-Smith hunt through the trash and treasure that the tide has revealed and they will be showing some of their finds at the free event organised by the Friends of Putney Library.

Mudlarking in the 18th and 19th centuries was carried out by those desperate to make a living by selling scraps salvaged from the foreshore. It was a way of earning a subsistence living, and most of the original mudlarks were young boys.

In modern times, mudlarks search for clues about the people who lived here – finds might be bones from tanneries, roof tiles from the fire of London, clay pipes from the 16th century, and Caribbean shells used as ballast on a sailing ship. They are also part of a community sharing those finds online.

“The river arranges everything by weight. This is the pottery beach – over there is metal...”

Modern Thames mudlarks forage out of enjoyment of squelching about in mud, and splashing in the river. They look on their finds as gifts from Old Father Thames, and the good finds come as a reward for taking rubbish out of the environment. It gives Mother Nature a chance to recover. We now have seals breeding in the Thames, thanks to a thriving fish stock and cleaner water. Mudlarks have contributed to this, with every piece of plastic removed.

“It’s also the thrill of the lucky dip. If you do find something, you may think it’s not very interesting, but when you get home and research it, it turns out to be absolutely amazing.”

Florence Evans has been Gallery Director at The Weiss Gallery since 2010. She was a Specialist at Christie's UK in the Early British Pictures and Old Masters department from 2004 to 2010 and assisted curators at Tate Britain and Dr. Johnson's House Museum before entering the commercial art world. Florence studied English Literature at Brasenose College, Oxford, receiving her MA in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art. She has contributed to publications including Apollo Magazine, and has appeared on television as an expert in portraiture and costume for the BBC. She is a member of AWITA, the Association of Women in the Arts. Her rather immersive hobby is mudlarking the River Thames for historical artefacts which she researches and reproduces on her instagram, @flo_finds.

Monika Buttling-Smith is the administrator on The River Thames Mudlarking Finds Page and Thames Foreshore Finds page on Facebook. She has shown her finds, and given talks, at various events, including the 2019 Southbank Foragers exhibition, several historical societies, at various guilds, the Samuel Pepys House, and also at the Tate Gallery.

She has represented the world of mudlarks in – The Joolz Guide to Mudlarking on Youtube, and on Channel 5’s The River Thames, Then and Now.

Reservations appreciated: Call 020 8780 3085 or email

February 24, 2020


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