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A guest post by John Hawkins. This article was first published in London Historians members’ newsletter from December 2014.


 

In 1855, members of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society visited the Inner Temple, taking time to admire its collections of paintings and prints. Referring to one of the engravings in the old Parliament Chamber, the report of their visit that was published subsequently said:

A bird’s-eye View of the whole of the (Inner and Middle) Temple is also here, engraved by R. White in a large plate (35 by 18½ in.), which was published in 1671, when Sir Heneage Finch, Attorney-General, was Treasurer of the Inner Temple. In one corner are his arms, and in the other those of the Duke of York, with the Holy Lamb and Pegasus, the emblems of the two Temples, and in the margin several other shields of the Benchers. From this print a copy was made at the expense of the Society of the Inner Temple, in 1770 [see Ill. 1], but without engraver’s name. It is of the same size as the original, and intended for a facsimile, but is not quite faithful in some minor details. The same view had, however, been previously copied in Stow’s Survey, edit. 1720, and it is identical with that of which a reduced copy in Brayley’s Londiniana, vol. iii. [1829], is entitled ‘The Temple Buildings in 1720’, and with a print published by Laurie, 1831, entitled ‘The Temple in 1722’. Also in Strype’s Stow, dated 1755. (1)

templepanorama500

Anon. after R. White: The Temple in 1671, re-engraved 1770.

‘R. White’ is presumably Robert White (1645-1703), who is generally believed to have assisted David Loggan with the engravings for Oxonia Illustrata between 1665 and 1675 and would therefore have been very familiar with the bird’s-eye views of buildings that were used extensively by Loggan at Oxford and later at Cambridge. White also produced engravings of other London buildings at around this date, for example Bethlem Hospital in 1677. If we can believe the report of the visit, the 1770 version (36 by 19 in) is indeed similar in size to the lost 1671 version. It is regrettable that the report does not itemise the changes ‘in some minor details’.

Although the report’s author did not say so, versions of the Temple engraving had also by then appeared elsewhere. (2) From the end of the seventeenth-century, a number of illustrated books on London were published, arguably reaching their high point with John Strype’s 1720 edition of John Stow’s Survey of London. Four of these publications contained very similar engravings of the Temple, of which the two earliest are almost certainly based on the lost version of 1671. A significant difference is immediately noticeable between two late seventeenth-century engravings (from Delaune’s London, c.1681 and Morden & Lea’s Prospects, c.1687) and two from the early eighteenth-century (from Strype’s Survey, 1720 and Bowles’s London Described, 1731), which is the change in the layout of the gardens. By the early 1700s the western and middle gardens were planted more formally than they had been in the late 1600s and the eastern garden had apparently disappeared entirely. The fact that the less formal, but more extensive, garden is shown in the 1770 re-engraving of the 1671 print suggests that this reflects a real change that occurred towards the end of the seventeenth-century. That the less formal garden was also present in the 1671 version is supported by the fact that the report refers to changes in minor details compared to the re-engraving of 1770, but not the major change that would have resulted from a complete redesign of the gardens. The catalogue of the Guildhall Art Gallery, which holds the Corporation’s collection, lists seven versions of the Temple print, those listed above, plus two others of probably later date derived from them. (3)

The size of the 1671 original engraving suggests that it was not intended as an illustration for a book, but for use as ‘wall furniture’, an increasingly popular use of larger prints at this time. Evidence for this is provided by the complete absence of any references to engravings of the other Inns of Court made to a similar scale, or as early as 1671. This being the case, the mortality rate of prints in such use tended to be high and it would not be surprising if only a limited number of copies survived. In this case, however, it would seem that there may now be no surviving copy at all. This may well have resulted from a short print run. Although copper plates, when treated with care, could be used for making several hundred engravings before a deterioration in quality became noticeable, the limiting factor in this case was more likely to have been the specialist interest of the subject matter. It is very unlikely that White would have produced the plate (or, more likely, plates – there would probably have been two) speculatively and he probably received a fee from the Society for the considerable amount of work involved. This was around the time subscription lists for books and engravings of various types were becoming common, but no advertisements for the 1671 engraving have thus far been identified in the contemporary press.

In the introduction to the first volume of his calendar of the Inn’s records, Inderwick refers to ‘a drawing of the Temple in the possession of the Inn … dated 1563’ and a ‘drawing … published in 1770, by the Hon. Society of the Inner Temple, describing the Inn as it appeared in the year 1671, when the Duke of York, afterwards James II., was made a bencher, and before the great fire which occurred in the Temple in 1678’. He does not explicitly refer here to the 1671 version of the engraving and it is thus possible that by 1898 it was no longer in the possession of the Inn. However, in his introduction to volume three he refers to ‘a map [sic] in the possession of the Inner Temple … “as it was in 1671, when the king and the duke of York dined with the treasurer” Sir Heneage Finch’, which could be a reference to the earlier version. (4)

Given the subject matter, there are several collections that might be expected to hold copies of the 1671 engraving, including those of the Corporation of London and the Royal Family. Unfortunately neither of these do, and a copy is similarly absent from the collections of the British and Bodleian Libraries, the British, Ashmolean and Fitzwilliam Museums and the Museum of London. The fate of the Inn’s own copy is unknown. It is possible that it was the ‘map’ referred to when Inderwick wrote his introductions, but even if this were the case it does not seem to have survived the bombing of 1941. Will a copy ever resurface? It is not beyond the bounds of possibility and would certainly fill an important gap in the history of not only the Inner Temple, but also of seventeenth-century London. ‘Let diligent search be made …’
______________________________

1) Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, vol. 2 (London: J.H. & J. Parker, 1856), pp. 66-7.
2) John Stow (ed. John Strype) Survey of London 5th edn. (London, 1720); 6th edn (London, 1754/5).
3) I am grateful to Sir John Baker for pointing this out.
4) Frederick Andrew Inderwick (ed.) A calendar of Inner Temple records 5 vols. (London: Inner Temple, 1858-1936), vol. 1, p. xxx and vol. 3, p. xxxi.

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A guest post by LH Member Laurence Scales, @LWalksLondon. 

Review: The Royal Society and the Invention of Modern Science by Adrian Tinniswood.

royal society_I possess another book about the Royal Society (RS) but it is a bit of a doorstop and more of a collection of essays. I have been surprised not to find before this moment a clear and straightforward book on its history because even my most unscientific of London Historians friends would probably put the Royal Society or, to give it its full title, the Royal Society for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge on a pedestal with the label: National Treasure. Why? – because, well… Sir Christopher Wren and Isaac Newton, innit? Nice to know it’s there. Wonderful heritage, and all that.

Not many of us know why it is still here today. Is the RS a fresh flower or a crumbling fossil in the modern world? Since the late 1700s there have grown up many learned societies devoted to scientific specialisms which supplant the original role of the RS to gather knowledge from experiments and invigorate understanding of the natural world. The RS claims today that it promotes excellence in science. Few of us who are not professional scientists can judge it on this territory. It does stage some public events, outstanding among which is their Summer Science Exhibition held in their modern headquarters and then, beside the new research, you may get to see a few relics on display.

So, Adrian Tinniswood has given us something handy. Books, such as this one, in the Landmark Library series are placed in the market perhaps as a more giftable alternative to the spartan but, in my sampling, excellent Very Short Introduction series (but that series has no equivalent book about the RS). I stage my own unofficial and mildly iconoclastic Royal Society Unofficial Tour and Tinniswood has added some detail and nuance to the knowledge that, without such a book, I have gathered for myself over the years.

Tinniswood is a historian and writer without a previous track record in science history (he has previously tackled Sir Christopher Wren) but that might be an advantage for the general reader. Look what Bill Bryson (RS Fellow), neither an academic historian nor a scientist, did to popularize science with A Short History of Nearly Everything. But historians discussing science, and indeed scientists writing history, are inevitably breaking cover.

We are given some of the RS’ cultural and human back story including Francis Bacon and the ‘invisible college’ of natural philosophers, some of whom eventually founded the RS. There is a useful appendix on the founding individuals. I was amused to deduce from this book that despite the emergence of coffee house culture at this time, the early RS perhaps owed more to the beer house. London Historians members who attend its pub meet-ups may take heart.

There is a colourful chapter on experiments, and an appendix including a handful of write-ups of early experiments and curious observations like Robert Boyle’s encounter with a neck of veal which, in the absence of a refrigerator, had become luminously putrid.

One difficulty that the RS presents to our judgement is that because some individual did some good work and was rewarded by election to this club, that might just be a case of the club basking in some reflected glory. Was the RS more than the sum of its gifted fellows? The RS has been attentive to PR in its 360 years, such as when honoring Humphry Davy with a Rumford Medal for his miners’ safety lamp, as if it was some triumph of natural philosophy. George Stephenson, unschooled, less clubbable, came up with something very similar at the same time. In the distant past the RS has had its National Treasure status periodically called into question by detractors as illustrious as Jonathan Swift and Charles Babbage. Happily, Adrian Tinniswood gives us a chapter on those entertaining spats.

What did the institution achieve in its 360 years? The book has a subtitle, ‘The invention of modern science’ which could both focus us on (1) what we now know, but it should also concern itself with (2) the evolution of the process by which we came to know it. The book is compact and, probably wisely, Tinniswood does not attempt to address the first point, and he deals with the second quite briefly, dealing with the publication of the scientific record, Philosophical Transactions, but not really later improvements such as peer review. The RS did much to help to invent the scientific method, a considerable legacy, as it provides our comforts and protects us from snake oil salesmen, if we care to listen. But it took hundreds of years about it. Its first female fellow was only enrolled in 1945.

So, we have a useful, attractive and entertaining book, and not one of those rather dull administrative histories that sometimes emerge from august institutions from the pen of a devoted insider. I would like to have seen more context, comparison and insight. We had our Francis Bacon, but it was Rene Descartes who influenced the course of science on the other side of the channel. Rather than just assume that the RS’s National Treasure status is deserved, we could be told what happened in other countries and in other younger British institutions such as the Royal Institution and the Society of Arts. What role, if any, did the RS play in the industrial revolution? There we have subject matter enough to fill another book.


The Royal Society and the Invention of Modern Science, 208 pages, by Adrian Tinniswood, is published by Head of Zeus, lavishly illustrated. 

Mercurial Mayhew

Review: London Vagabond – the Life of Henry Mayhew by Christopher Anderson. 

lvApologies, this review is almost a year late. More overdue than this by far is a proper treatment of the life of Henry Mayhew (1812 – 1887). Thankfully Christopher Anderson spotted this sorry oversight on everyone’s part and set to the task almost 10 years ago resulting in this biography.

Mayhew was a prolific writer, most famously of his magnum opus London Labour and the London Poor (1861). That was a book derived of journalism, but ‘Harry’ Mayhew was also a begetter of comedy, satire, novel and play. In his pomp, he was as well known as his exact contemporaries Dickens and Thackeray. But ultimately – like Dr Johnson – he was remembered more or less for one work when there was so much more. Frequently impecunious, he would often complain that his early play The Wandering Minstrel attracted £200 per annum in royalties for decades after he sold the rights for £20.

punch1The one other thing for which Mayhew is well known (if at all), is as the founder of Punch magazine, in 1841. Some would add founding editor too, though this is something which some of his contemporaries dispute. Certainly, it was his brainchild, having a few years earlier also started its less successful predecessor Figaro in London, with his friend Gilbert à Becket. His relationship with Punch was short but fascinating. When moneyed, respectable owners had to be found to save the magazine, one of the conditions was that Mayhew was jettisoned; he was just too unpredictable, too much of a loose cannon: the magazine needed stability, a word nobody could associate with the mercurial writer.

A constant theme in Mayhew’s life was trouble with money. While he knew what he was worth as a writer and frequently pulled down substantial earnings, more often he was in debt, a bankrupt. He spent at least three spells in debtors’ prisons, others in the sponge house (the staging post to debtor’s prison). Self-imposed exile in Wales, Paris and Germany to avoid his creditors, the bailiffs and the law. Sometimes but not always, he was bailed out by family, friends or – humiliatingly – The Royal Literary Fund (he applied to them twice). His long-suffering wife Jane and children Amy and Athol had perforce to share these hardships. Worse, on one occasion he allowed his younger brother Gus to take the rap in the debtor’s prison on his behalf.

Clearly, Henry Mayhew was a careless man, irresponsible to say the least, amoral even. But talented, hardworking, naïve, deeply amusing and the object of devotion from a very small group of friends and admirers. He always had a plan up his sleeve to get him out of the soup. More often than not, these failed. One is reminded a little of Mr Toad.

Something of a polymath and like many Victorian men of affairs, Mayhew was deeply interested in science. A devotee of Humphry Davy and in particular Michael Faraday, he conduced many a dangerous experiments at home, primarily in the pursuit of creating artificial diamonds. Like many a Mayhew pursuit, these literally turned to dust.

I hope you can see so far that this is a lively biography which succeeds in bringing the real Henry Mayhew into our lives. We are also introduced to his rather large family of siblings, in-laws, wife and children, interesting individuals themselves, in particular brothers Horace (Ponny) and Augustus (Gus), who both became writers like Henry, much to the chagrin of their terrifying father Joshua (like Dickens, Mayhew bore a deep antipathy towards the legal profession). Ponny carved out a long and successful career at Punch while Gus frequently wrote in partnership with Henry as the Brothers Mayhew: the name was a strong brand at the time.

London Vagabond connects us to the creative world of the mid 19th Century London intellectual scene. Mayhew worked directly or rubbed shoulders with writers, illustrators, publishers, printers, actors, playwrights, radicals, Chartists; Dickens and Thackeray as we have seen, but also Douglas Jerrold, George Cruickshank, Mark Lemon, George Sala, Henry Vizetelly, Joseph Paxton and dozens more; plotting, scheming, drinking, laughing, networking. The titles for which Mayhew wrote at one time or another were almost uncountable, but the author’s meticulous research has revealed them, along with Mayhew’s improving books for children (e.g. biography of Martin Luther) and unclassifiable genres all his own. I found particularly interesting some of his late stuff on Germany: 1) Hilariously intemperate travel guide involving living among the Saxons 2) Dangerous reportage of the 1870 Franco-Prussian war – Mayhew was a fearless reporter.

henrymayhew

Portrait of Mayhew from London Labour and the London Poor, 1st Ed, 1851, aged about 39.

One senses that the author has read every piece of Mayhew writing he could lay his hands on, both by the man himself and other parties. He quotes substantially and frequently. I would estimate that possibly as much as 20% of the text is quotations. They are always apposite and enriching.

Sometime I hope to catch up with Mayhew’s other major London work, the Great World of London and indeed some other of his now forgotten writing which sound marvellous.

This is an excellent Life and I would warmly recommend it to all, whether established Mayhew fans like myself or indeed those coming across him for the first time.


London Vagabond – the Life of Henry Mayhew is written and published by Christopher Gangadin Anderson. 409 pp (of which 46 pp are index, bibliography, end notes etc.). It costs around £10.

 

2018: Our Year

As 2018 draws to a close, here’s a snapshot of some of the things we got up to. Quite a lot when laid out like this. Even I’m surprised.

MEMBERS’ MONTHLY NEWSLETTER
These provided the usual superb range of original articles throughout the year from our members, in chronological order as follows:
Caroline Rance on the anatomist Thomas Cooke.
David Long on London Docks.
Anne Carwardine on Suffragette demonstrations in London.
Ian Castle on German air raids in WW1.
Laurence Scales on the Royal Society of Arts.
Lucy Inglis on the history of ethnic cuisine in London.
Drew Gray on Police Magistrates and the Poor.
Stanley Slaughter on the Temple Coffee House Botany Club.
Brian Cookson on Kingston Bridge.
Rebecca Walker on Fred Tibbs, police photographer.
Martyn Cornell on London vat manufacturers.
Gary Powell on the 18C American merchant Stephen Sayre.
Lissa Chapman on Aphra Behn.
Stephen Coates on the ‘lost’ bridge of Vauxhall.
Roger Williams on London freemasonry.
Mark Mason on London ‘seconds’.
Catharine Arnold on Ruth Ellis.
Brian Buxton on William Tyndale in London.


EVENTS

Monthly pub meet-up.

monthly1
monthly2
First Wednesday of every month and open to all. Some wonderful evenings as ever, turnout anything between 20 and 40. Info and 2019 schedule here.

Here follows a selection of most of our other events in 2018. 

 

hmp wandsworth

28 Jan,  21 Oct, 2 Dec:  HMP Wandsworth prison & museum.

rcp

Friday 9 February: Royal College of Physicians.

parliamentary archives

Monday 5 March: Parliamentary Archives, Palace of Westminster.

leslie green

Tues 20 March: Leslie Green Stations Tour.

holden tour

Sat 24 March: Charles Holden Stations Tour.

apothecaries

Mon 26 March: Apothecaries’ Hall.

acton depot

27 March:  London Transport Acton Depot Poster Museum.

orleans house

Fri 20 April morning: Orleans House.

turners house

Fri 20 April afternoon: Turner’s House.

army music

Fri 27 April: Museum of Army Music.

abney

Sat 5 May: Abney Park Cemetery Tour.

guildford

Wed 23 May morning: Awayday walking tour of Guildford.

guildford brooking

Wed 23 May afternoon: Brooking Museum.

big quiz

Tue 29 May: London Historians Big Quiz, won by 50 Shades.

barboursurgeons

12 June: Barber Surgeons’ Hall.

cinema museum

Fri 22 June: Cinema Museum.

raf100

Sat 7 July: RAF 100 Walks.

sog

Thur 2 August: Society of Genealogists talk and tour.

baring

8 August: Barings Art Collection.

hitp

Tue 21 Aug, 16 Oct. History in the Pub.

layers of london

Thurs 23 August: Layers of London Workshop.

ian nairn

Friday 24: August Ian Nairn’s Birthday Pub Crawl.

annual lecture

Thur 6 September: LH Annual Lecture, Gresham College. Prof. Tim Hitchcock.

 

fleming

Thur 10 September:  Alexander Fleming Lab visit. 90 years penicillin.

 

55broadway

Thur 13 September: 55 Broadway Tour.

chelsea

20 Sept morning: Chelsea Arts Club & Historic Chelsea tour.

chelsea2

20 September afternoon: Carlyle’s House, Chelsea.

woolwich ferry

Wed 3 October: Farewell cruise on the old Woolwich Ferry.

tooting granada

Fri 5 October: Tooting Granada tour.

aphra behn

23 Oct: After Aphra featuring the Widow Ranter at Watermens’ Hall.

lord mayor's show

Sat 10 November: Lord Mayor’s Show (not a LH event strictly speaking!).

kirkaldy

Saturday 17 November: Kirkaldy Testing Museum.

battle of brentford

Sun 18 November: Battle of Brentford Walk.

tyndale carols

Mon 17 December: Tyndale Society Carol Service, St Mary Abchurch.


If you’re not yet a London Historians Member reading this and you think this sort of thing may be your bag, we’d love to welcome you on board. Please go here!

Thank you to all our Members near and far who supported us through this wonderful year. Also the dozens of London institutions whose time, treasure, knowledge and heritage they most generously share.

Thank you to all readers of this blog.

To everyone, we wish you a Happy New Year and many marvellous things and places to share and explore through 2019.

 

 

A Year of Turner & the Thames by Roger Williams – guest review by LH Member Jane Young.

turnerthamesIt is almost enough to simply say this little book is absolutely enchanting and you should certainly rush out and buy it.

It is a journey, but also a journal, of a year spent tracing the footsteps of Joseph Mallord William Turner. The beautiful narration draws together several threads, charting the life and times of Turner and visits made in pursuit of this, interwoven with entertaining accounts of encounters on the way.

A Tardis of a book, measuring just 15cm square, packed to brimming with inventories and insightful descriptions of collections pertaining to the work of Turner across England. The reader travels with the author, visiting the haunts of Turner and his contemporaries, taking in galleries, museums, archives, stately homes and some rather nice public houses alongside some that are no longer what they were.

An added bonus are the author’s own illustrations. Described on the frontispiece as ‘drawings are attempted’ the finely executed sketches and watercolours contained within are accomplished and delightful.

In part biography, part catalogue and part history, all meticulously researched, this story of a year is immensely readable in exquisite attention to detail enhanced with snippets of personal memories that resonate with the places visited.

turner stuff

A book for anyone interested in an introduction to JMW Turner; for anyone who already knows about Turner; for anyone interested in London History; for anyone interested in Art History; for anyone interested in art and illustration; for anyone interested in the Thames; for anyone who would just like something delightful to read and pleasing to look at: This little book is enchanting and you should certainly rush out and buy it.


A Year of Turner & the Thames (216pp) by Roger Williams is published by Bristol Book Publishing with a cover price of £15.

Books of 2018

I hope this will help you with some late-ish Christmas gift choices.

First of all, here are our Members’ newsletter book prizes of the year. All were author-signed and many are by fellow London Historians members.

January: Convicted by Gary Powell (LH Member)
February: Up in Smoke by Peter Watts (2016)
March: London Vagabond: The Life of Henry Mayhew by Chris Anderson (LH Member)
April: Municipal Dreams by John Boughton (LH Member)
May: Sir Thomas Gresham by Valerie Shrimplin (2017)
June: London’s 100 Strangest Places & London’s 100 Most Extraordinary Buildings, both David Long (LH Member)
July: Black Tudors by Miranda Kaufmann (LH Member)
August: The Civil War in London by Robin Rowles (LH Member)
September: Mr Barry’s War by Caroline Shenton (LH Member) (2016)
October: Handel in London by Jane Glover
November: Trico, a Victory to Remember by Sally Groves and Vernon Merrick
December: London’s Docklands by Geoff Marshall (LH Member) and Guildhall, City of London by Graham Greenglass and Stephen Dinsdale (both LH Members).

topbit1

topbit2

Here are the books we reviewed this year. My thanks to LH members who kindly pitched in, the beginning of a review programme which will bloom in the coming years, I’m sure.

Miranda Kaufmann. Black Tudors: The Untold Story (OneWorld Publications 2017)
Stephen Alford. London’s Triumph: Merchant Adventurers and the Tudor City (Penguin 2018)
Tara Hamling and Catherine Richardson. A Day at Home in Early Modern England: Material Culture and Domestic Life, 1500-1700 (Yale, 2017).
All reviewed by LH Member Prof Sheila Cavanagh. 

tudors and triumph

London Docklands: An Illustrated History by Geoff Marshall.
Review by LH Member Roger Williams

The King’s Cross Story by Peter Darley (LH Member)
Review by LH Member Laurence Scales

Bus Fare: Collected Writings, edited by Travis Elborough and Joe Kerr.
Review by Mike Paterson

1st row

London Railway Stations by Chris Heather
Review by LH Member Laurence Scales

Guildhall: City of London. History Guide Companion by Graham Greenglass and Stephen Dinsdale.
Review by LH Member Mark Ackerman.

The River’s Tale: Archaeology on the Thames foreshore in Greater London by Nathalie Cohen and Eliott Wragg.
Review by Mike Paterson

A Year of Turner & the Thames by Roger Williams.
Review by Jane Young

 

second row

Finally, here are some titles which we’ve enjoyed enormously but not managed as yet to review properly. Recommended without hesitation. 

Death, Disease and Dissection. The Life of a Surgeon Apothecary 1750 – 1850 (2017) by LH Member Suzie Grogan.
Trailblazing Women of the Georgian Era by LH Member Mike Rendell.
Trading in War. London’ Maritime World in the age of Cook and Nelson by Margarette Lincoln.
Zeppelin Onslaught: The Forgotten Blitz 1914-1915 by LH Member Ian Castle (review pending!)
The Ravenmaster. My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London by Christopher Skalfe.
Behind the Throne. A Domestic History of the Royal Household by LH Member Adrian Tinniswood. (already shaping up to be a bestseller, this one).

lastgroup

gunnersburyFinally (I think), earlier this year Gunnersbury Park and Mansion re-opened following several years of HLF-funded extensive restoration work. LH Members and leading spirits of the Friends of Gunnersbury Val Bott and James Wisdom produced the official house history, Gunnersbury. It’s excellently researched and beautifully illustrated. You don’t have to visit the house (but do!) to buy a copy.

 

city jaggerStop Press: And how’s this for a stocking filler if you’re really quick? City of London: Secrets of the Square Mile by LH Member Paul Jagger, a man who know the ins and outs of City institutions like no other. Also an expert on heraldry, incidentally. A mere fiver!

 

 

 

 

Plenty there to sink  your teeth into. If there are any glaring omissions, particularly by authors who are LH members, please let me know.

Happy shopping!

The River’s Tale

The River’s Tale: Archaeology on the Thames foreshore in Greater London by Nathalie Cohen and Eliott Wragg.


MoL Docklands One Colour LogoI am somewhat late with this. A year late, to be precise. In mitigation, a year ago I wasn’t a trained FROG (Foreshore Recording and Observation Group) operative, hadn’t been on several related outings, nor joined in the Thames Discovery Programme‘s 10th anniversary celebrations in October.

The Thames Discovery Programme is the organisation primarily responsible for observing, measuring and recording the archaeology of the foreshore of the tidal Thames. Put simply, this runs from Teddington in the west to well into the estuary in the east. Hence it is a massive site, managed by a mere four full-time staff at the most (it has often been just two or three). Through most of TDP’s  short but already illustrious history, two of those have been the authors of this book. The group’s additional responsibility involves – among other things – public outreach and engagement with schools and children’s groups. An impossible task for so few, you may think, except for the aforementioned FROGs – trained volunteers – of whom there are around 500, with about 35 new additions each year.

But interest in exploring the foreshore is not a recent thing. Famously, the Victorian mudlarkers of Henry Mayhew’s acquaintance searched for anything sellable for a living. Their better-off near contemporaries – antiquaries like Sir Montagu Sharp and collectors such as Thomas Layton – paid close attention to the clues which Thames shared with them. But the father and early guiding spirit of modern Thames archaeology has to be Ivor Noel Hume, who from the early 1950s and off his own bat began systematically to observe, survey and map the foreshore, albeit on a short piece of it in the City. ‘Proper’ archaeology of the Thames sites began in the 1990s by the Thames Archaeological Survey (TAS) which ran from 1996 to 1999. After this various organisations, including UCL and the Richmond Archaeological Society, kept the flame alive until the advent of the TDP in 2008.

It’s important to note – as the authors do – that there are other organisations involved in related activity, notably the Thames Explorer Trust ; also a huge and constant presence in the person of Dr Gustav Milne who has been intimately involved in riverside archaeological projects for over three decades, written, broadcast and talked about them and to this day spread the good word with infectious enthusiasm.

Since its genesis a decade ago, TDP has organised hundreds of field trips and guided walks. The discoveries, finds and observations have added immeasurably to our understanding of the historic peoples of London – their buildings, their diet, their lifestyles and habits. Samples and objects include human and animal remains, building materials, clay pipes, domestic objects, tools, nails, wire, crockery, coins etc.

The book continues, chapter by chapter, examining the many different roles of the river. Nathalie Cohen covers fish and fishing; also the Thames as a vast sacred site, both of burial and ritual deposits. Eliot Wragg addresses the river’s industrial role as both a busy port and a centre for shipbuilding, ship repair, chandlery etc. Both writers address the historical topography of the Thames: embankments, bridges, wharves, stairs, jetties and slipways.

The book is richly illustrated with photos of sites, site activities, objects, maps old and new, aerial photos as well as maritime paintings and engravings. There is a good list at the back of Sources and Further Reading.

Thanks to organisations such as MOLA and the TDP, London’s ‘liquid highway’ is giving up some of its secrets. Acquaint yourself with these vitally important programmes through this excellent introduction.


The River’s Tale, (116pp) by Natalie Cohen and Eliott Wragg is published by Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) has a cover price of £15. You can buy it online at MOLA,