Sunday, August 31, 2014
Many, many (many) years ago, when I first began doing research into London history, I was intrigued to learn about the Mudlarks of London, people from the poorer classes, typically children and the elderly, who scavenged along the banks of the River Thames at low tide looking for anything remotely valuable - clothing, coal, coins, pottery, items that had fallen off of ships and barges, etc etc. - that they could turn around and sell to the rag and bone man in order to earn enough for a meal. Mudlarking was considered to be lowest rung on the scavenger's ladder, so it was with great surprise, and a lot of pleasure, that I found myself actually mudlarking during my jaunt in London.
Having roamed the streets and gardens of London proper and venturing as far north as Hampstead and as far west as Windsor, my daughter, Brooke, and I turned our attention one day to the area of London south of the River - to Southwark, that once desperate area known for being the den of drunken sailors, thieves, prostitutes, cut throats and the Clink Prison - now a really tacky tourist trap.
As we were walking along the River on the Queen's Walk, a pedestrian promenade located on the South Bank of the River between Lambeth Bridge and Tower Bridge, we came upon stone steps leading down to the River. The tide was out, exposing what appeared to be a rocky beach of sorts. We made our way down and, uncertain as to whether or not we were actually allowed down there, tentatively began to walk towards the shore.