In Pictures: Liquid History – a Dirty Weekend on the Thames

DW Thames Silhouette

At low tide, the River Thames becomes the largest open air archaeological site in London, and with every tide, all sorts of odds and ends get washed up on the shore.

In fact, the Thames foreshore is littered with fragments London’s history and you can find them – if you know where to look. This weekend, DigVentures lead a lucky group of Dirty Weekenders down to the foreshore with Steve ‘Mud God’ Brooker to see what the tide had washed up…

The Dirty Weekenders gathered bright and early to catch the archaeological worm: the Thames at low tide

DW Thames Cutty Sark Group

Heading down to the foreshore was slippery…

DW Thames heading to the foreshore

And muddy…

DW Thames Morning Mud

As soon as we got there, Steve ‘Mud God’ Brooker explained the basics

DW Thames Steve Brooker

Like the concept of ‘finds lines’

DW Thames Steve's Find Lines

And keeping a close watch on the tide

DW Thames Steve explains

And the fact that you really need to know what you’re looking for in order to spot things

DW Thames coin in the mud

Can you see it?

DW Thames Archie BEARE

How about this one?

DW Thames Spot the coins

Soon, everyone is having a go and it’s not long before they’ve got their eye in


Like Karen from Canada…

DW Thames Karen

And Debbie from London…

DW Thames Debbie

And Doug from Spain…


And Ruth from Scotland…

DW Thames Ruth

Soon, we’re finding things all over the place

DW Thames Anna van

Like this coin from the time of George III

DW Thames George III coin

This piece of 16th century salt-glazed pot, which was used for beer (and witchcraft!)

DW Thames Salt Glaze Pot

And this cannonball (whose name is too rude for us to publish)…

Steve's Cannonball

Then there’s this 17th century halfpenny trader’s token, on which you can still make out the words ‘BEARE YARD – GREENWICH’

DW Thames Token BEARE

And even these teeny weeny Tudor pins that were used to keep clothes and hair in place (and were bent and added to ‘witch bottles’ to cause pain to witches)

DW Thames Tudor Pins

When the tide starts coming in, we head to a nearby pub to examine our discoveries with Finds Liaison Officer Kate

DW Thames Kate Sumnall

Over the years, the Thames has washed up all sorts of odds and ends, and each has their own story to tell, like this Church Warden Pipe (so-called because it was long enough that church wardens could keep an eye on things without their view being obscured by a cloud of smoke)

DW Thames Church Warden Pipe

And this ‘muff pistol’ (so-called because they were small enough for 19th century ladies to keep in their pockets…)

DW Thames Muff Pistol

And this gorgeous pipe bowl in the shape of an exquisitely dressed lady (we don’t know if she’s got a pistol in there)

DW Thames Clay Pipe Lady

And this rather dark keepsake from a 17th century hanging

DW Thames Token Hangman

 Together, we collected a range of London’s pottery spanning over 400 years

DW Thames Pottery 400 Years

And lots and lots of other artefacts too… how many do you recognise?

DW Thames Assemblage

By the looks of it, the Dirty Weekenders had an absolute blast!

DW Thames Canon Group Blast

So much so that Debbie even sent us this to say…

DW THAMES - Pipe Thanks Debbie

We can’t wait to see what we find on our next Dirty Weekend!

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Written by Maiya Pina-Dacier

Head of Community at DigVentures, Maiya digs with a trowel in one hand, and a Twitter feed in the other. She reports on all our discoveries live from the trenches, and keeps our Site Hut full of the latest archaeology news. Got a story? Just drop her a line...

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