I met my sister Pam in London for ten great days. One of the best parts about traveling with family members is that you’re guaranteed to do things you’d never have thought of on your own. Like, going to meet the mudlarks….
Pam follows several mudlarks on Instagram and she was beyond excited to learn that the Museum of London Docklands was hosting the city’s mudlarks for two days when we were there.
Pictured here is mudlark Sean Clark, who takes part in a long-standing (and previously grim) activity. The term ‘mudlark’ is from the Victorian age. Early mudlarks were poor and hungry Londoners, almost always little kids, who combed the riverbanks for items they could resell. They darted up and down the shore like mudlark birds. Now they’re history buffs finding objects that reveal how people here lived, some items going back to the Romans!
Sean offered us a wax imprint from a 17th Century Matrix Seal. I was holding the imprint of a stamp that had rested in the water for four hundred years until Sean found it.
It could have been made in Shakespeare’s time.
York Museums Trust has this to say: “Seals were a common part of everyday life of Medieval England. They were used by a variety of social classes to authenticate documents such as land agreements, business exchanges, official court documents or charters, which needed a proof of identity or a royal seal of approval. They could also simply be used to keep a document or letter sealed or closed. Therefore owners of businesses, merchants, farmers, members of the clergy, government officials and kings all used seals, which they would imprint using their own unique seal matrix.” 
Sean discovered this wonderful seal on the foreshore of the Thames River. As a registered mudlark he gets to keep whatever he finds after reporting it to an official, historical registry at the Museum of London.
Pipes prefilled with tobacco were sold and then tossed away after being smoked. Now mudlarks find them on the foreshore of the Thames. For more on the clay pipes, go here: Mudlarking-the-art-of-smoking.
Mudlarks are an exuberant bunch. They aren’t allowed to dig into the banks of the Thames, so finding an exposed object is really a fun event. Every lark we talked to was more than happy to tell us about their finds and let us examine the objects more closely.
NOTES: ©Jadi Campbell 2023.  the-world-of-the-matrix-and-medieval-seals-in-york/. I’m sorry my mudlark photos aren’t clearer. For more info and better pics, go to thamesfestivaltrust.org. To see Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.
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