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Interview

Nicola White p3

Artist and mudlark Nicola White recommends some books on history and mudlarking…

READERSVOICE.COM: Do you read a lot of books on history or biography and if so what are a few you could recommend?

NICOLA WHITE: I would highly recommend Henry Mayhew’s books about London and the people who lived there – written in the mid 19th century. It really takes you on a virtual journey through the streets of London – and you experience the costermongers (street sellers), mudlarks and the poor underclass – all described so well by Mayhew. [Titles include The London Underworld in the Victorian Period – Authentic first-person accounts by beggars, thieves and prostitutes] I love Ted Sandling’s book London in Fragments – which he wrote about his Thames mudlarking finds. I’ve recently acquired the wonderful book Treasure in the Thames, by Ivor Noel Hume, about the archaeology of the River Thames. I love history books and am a second hand bookshop fan.

RV: I like the bottles you find and the research that follows, like the Beasley’s Beers bottle, which you found was from a brewer from S.E. London, 1887 -1965. And the C. Howlett, Lord Howick bottle, which you found was from the Lord Howick tavern. Not to mention the White bottle. It’s amazing that they were still in one piece. Do you have favorite types of artefacts, like bottles or pipes, or pork pie ink wells, cartridges, a WW2 pocket watch, or buttons from the military or the Air Raid Precaution wardens?

NW: I am an absolute fan of clay pipes! I love them. They are like little works of art. I also love to find artefacts with a name on them. Something I can research.

RV: There must be all sorts of things at the bottom of the Thames. Does the Thames constantly keep throwing artefacts onto the shores, revealing them at low tide?

NW: Yes, each tide is different. We are lucky that the Thames is tidal so that twice a day we have the opportunity to go down and see what it has thrown out. With all of the civilisations that have lived along its banks, it is no surprise that each day there is something different to find. And there are not just older artefacts to find, but modern ones too. I have found over 130 messages in bottles over the last 5 or 6 years.

RV: What are some of your plans for mudlarking and art work?

NW: Well, I shall continue to mudlark – it is a huge passion. I am enjoying making my YouTube videos about mudlarking at the moment so that is taking up a lot of my time. I would also like to spend more time in my studio creating collages and using some of the boxes of material which I have collected – pieces of metal, glass and pottery. I love to give these pieces a new life in a piece of art. And, then, I am working on my book. This will take some time, but I’ll get there in the end. Researching all these stories made me want to think about my own!

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