Hidden Histories from the River Thames


The first illustrated book on mudlarking that tells the captivating stories of forgotten people through objects recovered from the river Thames


ISBN: 9780500024225 Category:

Malcolm Russell


‘Beautiful and poignant’ The Art Newspaper

‘Absorbing… a magnificent book’ Mail on Sunday

The first illustrated book on mudlarking that tells the captivating stories of forgotten people through objects recovered from the river Thames.

Combining insights from 200 eclectic objects discovered on the Thames foreshore, meticulous historical research and contextual illustrations, Mudlark’d uncovers the hidden histories of forgotten people from all over the world. Beginning in each case with a particular find, Malcolm Russell tells the stories of the people who owned, made or used such objects, revealing the habits, customs and crafts not only of those living in London but also of those passing through, from continental Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australia.

In the 18th and 19th centuries London was the busiest port in the world, exchanging goods, ideas, people and power with every continent. The Thames long acted as London’s water source, shipyard, thoroughfare and rubbish dump. Its banks have been densely packed with taverns, brothels, markets and workplaces, and scavengers – known as mudlarks – have scoured them since at least the 18th century. Consequently, the Thames today offers a repository of intriguing objects that evoke ways of life long forgotten. A delicate bone hair pin uncovers the story of Roman ornatrices – enslaved hairdressers. A counterfeit coin reveals the heritage of millions of Australians. Glass beads expose the brutal dynamics of the transatlantic slave trade. Clay tobacco pipes uncover the lives of Edwardian women parachutists and Victorian magicians. A scrap of Tudor cloth illuminates the stories of Dutch and French religious refugees.

The book also includes a primer, giving step-by-step advice on how to mudlark on tidal rivers and how to identify commonly made finds.

Additional information

Weight 872 g
Dimensions 26.2 x 18.7 cm
Publisher name Thames and Hudson Ltd
Publication date 21 April 2022
Number of pages 224
Format Hardback
Contributors Photographs by Matthew Williams-Ellis
Dimensions 26.2 x 18.7 cm
Weight 872 g


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Malcolm Russell studied history at the University of Sheffield where he was also more recently an Honorary Research Fellow of the history department. He first started unearthing objects from the past thirty-five years ago while excavating Victorian household tips. He now connects with his passion for the past through mudlarking on the foreshore of the River Thames. He is one of the most popular mudlarks on social media, and has contributed to publications such as Treasure Hunting, The Searcher and Beachcombing. He lives in east London.