Anna Borzello Photo credit: Hannah Smiles
Guest: Anna Borzello
Anna Borzello has been mudlarking along the River Thames since 2015. She gives talks about mudlarking in schools and colleges and has shown her finds at three mudlarking exhibitions organised by the Thames Festival Trust. She recently co-curated an exhibition of mudlarking finds on the theme of ‘Women at Work’ with the Thames Discovery Programme. Anna previously spent ten years as a BBC radio correspondent in Uganda and Nigeria.
Instagram @foreshoreseashore | Twitter: @mudlarkanna
Hazel Baker is an active Londoner, a keen theatre-goer and qualified CIGA London tour guide.
She has won awards for tour guiding and is proud to be involved with some great organisations. She is a freeman of the Worshipful Company of Marketors and am an honorary member of The Leaders Council.
Channel 5’s Walking Wartime Britain(Episode 3) and Yesterday Channel’s The Architecture the Railways Built (Series 3, Episode 7). Het Rampjaar 1672, Afl. 2: Vijand Engeland and Arte.fr Invitation au Voyage, À Chelsea, une femme qui trompe énormément.
Georgian London – Mudlarking Finds
[00:00:00] Hazel Baker: Welcome, dear listeners, to another fascinating episode of the London History Podcast, where we delve into the vibrant and diverse past of this great city. I am your host Hazel Baker, a qualified London tour guide and founder of www.londonguidedwalks.co uk Whether you’re a born and bred Londoner or a curious listener, join us on a journey through time as we explore the city together.
Each episode is supported by show notes, transcripts, photos, and further reading all to be found on our website.
If you enjoy what we do, then your love, our guided walks and private tours that we offer throughout the year, all bookable online ar londonguidedwalks.co.uk
Subscribe now to never miss an episode, and if you enjoy the show, please leave us a review and rating to help spread the word to other history lovers.
Joining me in the studio today is Anna Borzello, who is a Mudlarker, and today we’re going to get into Georgian London and the fantastic things that Anna has found herself along the river Thames. Hello Anna. Hi.
[00:01:14] Anna Borzello: Thank you for having me.
[00:01:15] Hazel Baker: Oh, it’s, we haven’t done a mudlarking one and I’m not quite sure why, but I think it’s a good one to start off with in terms of questions: What is mudlarking?
So historically, mudlarks were anyone who went down to the river and they scavenged or searched for objects that might have been lost or dropped, dumped, thrown away or richly offered sometime in the past, sometimes since London was established 2000 years ago. And I think most people were just looking for things they could sell.
They were scavenging. And then maybe in the Victorian times, people would go down there maybe to look for antiquities that they could sell onto richer people. But nowadays, I’d say for the last 50 years, we’re mainly scavenging for objects that tell a story about London’s past. And there’s a huge array of objects.
Anything from a hairpin that was dropped by a woman in. Roman London to a buckle that fell off the breaches of a man as he was escaping from the fire of London in the 17th century. So that’s part of the fun really, isn’t it? That you never know really what you’re going to get.
[00:02:21] Anna Borzello: Yeah. It’s got this wonderful lucky dip quality.
So there is a correlation between what you find on the riverbed or the foreshore. And what went on nearby, but it’s not exact cuz there are all sorts of layers and reasons why things are being muddled up. And also the river has its own little sorting pattern. It doesn’t sort by intent, it sorts by shape and weight and size.
So you might get two little objects which weigh the same right next to each other that are separated by centuries. But there is a sort of rough correlation. I think one way to think about the times. I think of it as the heart of London, but also it’s a massive archaeological trench filled with water that gets exposed twice a day when the tide goes in and out, it’s gotta breathe in and out twice a day and reveals its secrets.
[00:03:10] Hazel Baker: Oh, that sounds wonderful. It astonished me when I went down how quickly the water comes in when you are so immersed in what you’re looking for.
[00:03:17] Anna Borzello: Yeah, definitely you have to keep an eye on it. I think sometimes people get caught out and you do learn your little pinch points. I’ve got little areas where I’ve had to wave through it at the last minute, but you do have to try and avoid that cuz it’s not a good idea to get the water police involved.
They’d thank you for that.
[00:03:33] Hazel Baker: And also it’s worth mentioning that nowadays we do need a license in order to mudlark.
[00:03:38] Anna Borzello: Absolutely. You need a license. You can pay for it from the Port of London authority or you could, until very recently, cuz about two months ago they suspended the licenses. So at the moment, the best way to go mud Laring is to join one of the.
Tour groups like the Thames Explorer Trust or the Thames Discovery Programme organized trips, and you can go down with them. And then I think when the Port of London authority reviews what’s going on, they may reopen licenses. But I think what happened was that over lockdown and because of some books that had been written, mudlarking became very popular and it went from a few hundred people to about 4,000 people in a very short period of time.
[00:04:15] Hazel Baker: Yeah. And there are certain rules and protocols as well in terms of treasure and also, you never know what you’re gonna find. But also sometimes, even if it’s in your hand, you don’t necessarily know what it is you’ve found.
[00:04:27] Anna Borzello: I have a whole memory bank of things that I’ve thought, oh, I won’t take that.
That’s rubbish. And then I’ve gone about two years later, I’ve thought, oh my goodness me, that was I just thought it was rubbish. Because you to learn to recognize patterns and one way to do that actually is. There’s a big community on Instagram, which I’m a part of, and people share their finds and you get to see what other people have found and then you think, ah that’s what that looks like.
Yeah. And then, in the future, when you come across something, what it might be, but it’s still a process of discovery. You find it, and you think, what is this? You research it, and then history is revealed.
[00:05:04] Hazel Baker: Fantastic. And we’re looking to reveal some history today. You’ve got a number of pieces that you’ve found.
I would say it’s a show and tell, but with it being an audio podcast this is gonna be a tell and tell. So maybe it’s worth describing the article itself without revealing what it is to get listeners. A little bit intrigued and then we can have a reveal. What do you think?
[00:05:29] Anna Borzello: That’s a very good idea, but I wondered, just before I started, I was thinking about doing this podcast and I thought, I really wonder what the river was like in Georgian Times.
Just, I was trying to relate my objects to that, and I suddenly realized just how busy and chaotic and crazy it was and why there would be so many fines. Because when you think about it, this is a period. When England, at the heart of a huge empire? Yeah. They all these boats on the river going out to Africa, to America, to Asia, they’re going out with manufactured goods, which might get spilt on the foreshore.
They’re coming back with sugar and tobacco and silks and spices, and then it there, there are no docks at the time, so they’re mooring in the water. Then about 3000 other boats are going back and forth. To pick up goods from the boats and bring them back to the foreshore. Yeah. And then at the same time, they’re all these thieves operating and dodging and diving.
Maybe taking a cut, maybe stuff being pushed overboard so that someone can sell it and then make a cut with the sailor. And then there are all these fairies going back and forth over the river. Cause there’s only one bridge at the beginning of Georgia tonight. Yeah. And then there’s three by the end, but they’re all in the sort of Posha West end.
On the east end, there’s hardly any, so there’s all these ferries going back and forth and all the passengers waiting for the ferries with all the keys they can drop and the, and the broaches they make might drop on the cigarette butts that they might the clay pipes that they might drop as well.
It’s just sort of chaos. Then of course there’s all the naval officers and there’s even a prison Hulk, a boat, a Hulk. On Thes right at the end of the Georgian era, and then ship Naval Shipyards. It’s basically low Now. I wonder why don’t find more? I think, oh my gosh. There was so much activity and that’s why Youn.
[00:07:14] Hazel Baker: Yeah, fantastic. The Canaletto pictures of the Thames don’t really paint the reality of it’s all very pretty in, in his pictures. But as you said, it was a motorway of sorts for people getting to and from places. The streets would’ve been filled with potholes. That grit was being used to fill in those, so people used the water taxis to get them not just from south to north and vice versa, but of course along the river as well.
And so that’s why we had so many stairs, steps going into the water. So you could get a water taxi, a little Uber at the time. And off you go to your destination nice and quick and relatively safe. So of course items are going to be dropping into that water.
[00:07:58] Anna Borzello: I wish I could have seen it. I have to say it does sound rather magical. Thrillingly magical.
[00:08:05] Hazel Baker: So what’s your first Georgian item then? Or without saying what it is first, how would you describe this item and what would it be used for?
[00:08:15] Anna Borzello: Okay, I’m gonna do a sound effect. Ooh. But it’s a lot of them. Actually. I think you should shut your eyes and guess what it is, cuz you’re gonna see otherwise.
Okay. Shut your eyes. Tell me what you think this could possibly be. You’ll never guess
[00:08:30] Hazel Baker: Sound like it’s a, you’re shaking something.
[00:08:34] Anna Borzello: I am. Any idea you caught you? You couldn’t have any idea. It’s a cruel thing to ask you what it’s, so what it is about, I dunno. I last counted three years ago and I had 13,000 then.
It is about an inch long. It has a sharpened point at one end. It has a little head on the other, and it is a dress pin. So I have all these address pins that I’ve picked up from the foreshore one by one. And it is of course crazy when you think about it. And it was one of the first things I was shown on the foreshore.
I went down there, there was black mud, and this woman bent down and she picked one of these little pins, like the kinda pin you might get in a sewing set now. And made of copper. And she said, oh, look at this. It’s a pin. And I thought, what? Why? Why is there a pin in the mud? And of course, as I mentioned, the river sorts by shape and weight.
There was actually a whole clump of them. And I became a bit obsessed and began picking them all up. And that’s why I’ve got thousands now. And then of course you think why are there so many pins? In the river? 10. So it turns out that pins basically held. People’s clothes were pinned together in England for 600 years and when they started in the, about 13th, 14th century, there were really high-end items and they were made in small family groups and it a lot of money.
I once worked out how many you needed to buy a sheep and it wasn’t that many. It was like, only a handful to buy a sheep. There was that sort of equivalence of cost. By the time you get to the Georgian period. Previous to that, there’d be this big competition with the French, constantly.
The French made better pins, they have better metal. By the time we get to the 18th century, England is, the king of the pin makers. We’ve got our metal sorted, and most of all we’ve moved from like little homes where people are making pins and there’s actually factories of pins. Places like Bristol Gloucestershire as well, and they’re making these pins in a kind of production line that Adam Smith, the famous Georgian economist, used as an example of how the division of labour increased productivity.
They used to be on the back of a 20-pound note from a pin factory. So these pins, and this is what I love about them when you feel them, they’re all sharp. They don’t have any part in my life now, but this would’ve been like the basic fabric of a woman’s life. In Georgian England, because she would’ve been using this, not necessarily for sewing, though, she might have used a few for a bit of sewing, mainly to keep together their clothes.
So they have a sort of structure, quite a rigid structure beneath the boning. And then on top, they’re putting on things like caps and lace and modesty, bits of cloth that might cover up their breast. There’s something called a stomach, which seems to be this. Triangle, that point with the point pointing down between your legs and you had to attach a cloth to that.
They had to carry the pins around with them just in case some fell out. And obviously, a lock did fall out. Cause I’m finding them all on the Thames, they were still not cheap at this time. They were still, you didn’t have millions of them and people would carry, sometimes would carry little pink cushioning around with them for emergency repairs, men.
In the 17th century, men did use pins too. But by the time we get to the Georgian times, if you were a man of any substance, you’re not gonna use a pin. You’re gonna use a button or a buckle instead, and you’ve moved up. They’re much classier. And one of the things I really like about pins is that Byron, who comes in at the end of the Georgian era, he’s describing how women are like porcupines.
Now they’re sort of prickly to the touch and what he is describing is a fact. If you grab hold of a woman, I think he did quite a lot of that. They’ve got pins in them, pins are sticking out of them. So it’s a really, they’re such a common object and yet, there’s such an ordinary object, so ordinary that they’re invisible and yet, this would’ve been, if you wanna imagine George Life, These would’ve been everywhere. They would’ve been on dressing tables in clothes. You would’ve felt them when you moved. And I love about the fact that the TEMS throws up these common objects that help you recreate in your imagination, not just the history of an object, but also how life might have felt or looked back in the day.
[00:12:38] Hazel Baker: Yeah, you don’t see it in period dramas, do you? You don’t see them re-pinning something when before Mr Darcy walks into the room or anything?
[00:12:45] Anna Borzello: No, you don’t. I actually wrote to a couple of fashion historians a couple of weeks ago and I asked them where they put the pins and everything.
Cause they’re quite hidden from view, I guess they probably also use them to give shape. It’s quite an easy way to give shape if you want to get it. A tight form, and then by, just as a matter of interest, in the 19th century, this whole process of making them was mechanized and women were pushing them into papers to sell on the street, and they, their value went down.
And nowadays they’re virtually valueless. They really do have not a lot of them, I think I worked out it cost, it would cost you a quarter of a million pins to buy one sheet these days as opposed to the handful in medieval England. I dunno why I got into this whole equating equivalency with sheep, but it quite amused me.
Anyway, that I, that was my first sort of, it’s not just Georgian, but it is, they are Georgian, this is the heyday of pin making in George England. And what are they made outta Anna? They’re made outta some copper and bras copper brass wire that’s stretched out. There was a big kind of debate for a while.
I’ve had to get the pin on. I think in the early days the, sorry, the head on in the early days, they were soldered. Georgen time. I think they’ve got a machine that sort of scrunches it on. And then finally the Victorians worked out how to make a machine that did it all in one.
[00:13:58] Anna Borzello: Anyway, there’s a whole history of life. Say the history of England could be told through a pin. Oh, fantastic.
[00:14:04] Hazel Baker: Yeah. It’s saying that I, I. I, I carry safety pins with me when I do my tours. I just find they’re very useful just in case anything happens. Stick to sort it together. Safety pins and where can you buy them?
Now you have, you go to the first aid section of a pharmacist. It’s very
[00:14:20] Anna Borzello: true. The only role they play in my life now is that I tread on them quite a lot. And you can hear these cries in my house from my children. For the last eight years, I’ve been my lucky eight years. No, I’ve trodden on a pin.
[00:14:32] Hazel Baker: At least they know which period. At least they know exactly. That’ll teach ’em. Oh, fantastic. What a wonderful way of showing the everyday Georgen Londoner.
[00:14:45] Anna Borzello: Yes. So a lot of objects are like that actually. I’ve got more everyday objects I have to say. Good. Cause this is the real stuff, isn’t it?
[00:14:52] Hazel Baker: This is like I was talking to Sarah Murden about Georgian, dentists, how did we, how do we know how people clean their teeth? Because it’s not documented. No. Cause it was just something that they did every day. It’s not now until TikTok with the Get Ready With Me fashion.
Fashion now that we see how each other cleans our teeth now. But back then didn’t mention it
[00:15:14] Anna Borzello: at all. Did you talk about forced teeth? Because of course, after the Battle of Waterloo got, the Waterloo teeth, the soldiers’ teeth dead.
[00:15:20] Hazel Baker: Yep. Yeah. It was a big false teeth battery in yeah, Kentish Town.
[00:15:25] Anna Borzello: I’ve got ion of forced teeth behind me, but they’re beyond your period, so I won’t show them to you. Okay,
[00:15:30] Hazel Baker: Let’s stick within the Georgian period then. What else have you got for us?
[00:15:33] Anna Borzello: Okay. I’m gonna show you another really common object. Which is another thing that new mud luck is like. I don’t, you could probably see some of them on the shelf behind me in that case.
And down here I’ve actually got, I must have about a thousand here. It’s white. Looks, it’s bone white and it looks if you imagine the man smoking a pipe, that’s exactly what it is, but it’s clay. It’s made of Kalin, English, clay very good quality clay. Very hard. And you find them absolutely all over the temps.
And you, they used to be much more common than they are now. I say that and then felt a bit guilty cause I think I probably pick loads of them. Probably my fault, not very many left. Sometimes you can like literally pick them outta the mud, I’ve got, you get an eye for them. You see a little tiny like that and this whole pipe comes out.
And some of them are about, I’m trying to think. I think my longest is 11 inches long. You found one 11 inches on Yeah. It actually pulled out of the mud, like acal, like a sword. It was very unusual vertical on a very low tide. It was very exciting. Ooh. And so smoking, as I’m sure tobacco came from the Americas in 50.
Came to the court and with all, as with all these things, it starts off with the court setting the tone, and then everyone wants to follow cuz they’re the celebrities of yesteryear. Yep. And by the middle of the, everyone was, But, and you can date the pipes by the shape of the bowl. It’s it might look like me, but you get used to it very quickly.
It’s a smaller bowl basically when tobacco’s expensive and the more tobacco there is, which basically means more slaves out there. It’s really depressing thought why your tobacco bowl is bigger. It’s cuz your tobacco price has gone down because of the whole enslavement system.
But by the time you get to the 18th century, the bulls are bigger. Yeah. And so you find a lot of these, in my fairy stages. I dunno why that is a bit like bus stops, find I think, oh, why they’re a lot here. And I think, oh, that was a fairy stage. Often where people congregate, you’ll find them often in outside taverns because people would’ve gone into the tavern men and they would’ve got one of the very long pipes.
They might have shared it around a table and broken off the end as they passed it to each other. Or maybe the tavern owner would’ve given it to somebody. And then when they. Paid for their smoke and got it back. They might break off the end until it was an unpleasant draw. Yeah. So they’re basically disposable when you can’t get a nice draw from them anymore.
[00:17:50] Hazel Baker: Is that 11-inch one that you found intact?
[00:17:52] Anna Borzello: No, they’re even longer and they’re called church wooden pipes. So they have this absolutely wonderful delicate bow-like bend in their stem. I’ve never found a whole one. And my friend, Nicola White, has anyone’s listening. She’s called Tide Line Art on Instagram and YouTube and wants to have a look.
She sees she’s like a pipeline, and she finds these very beautiful long ones.
[00:18:16] Hazel Baker: gorgeous. Reminds me of the workmen that are in Hogarth’s Beer Street. Yeah, they’re sitting there nice and roton with their tools tucked in their waist and they’ve got a quarter, nice tankards of frothy beer.
And then he’s got a really long pipe in his mouth, which of course would’ve been unusual for working men. You want the shorter, thicker stubs cuz they’re gonna last
[00:18:41] Anna Borzello: longer. Yeah, apparently they actually broke off the, they broke the workman, broke them off to hold ’em in their teeth, and I’ve seen a picture of a skull.
Yes, the peep with a hold in the front where apparently they Yes, the pipe.
[00:18:53] Hazel Baker: And they started smoking with children as well. So that would’ve just been, from a child wearing down all the way. And that’s where you would’ve, and that’s how you can tell whether the person would’ve been left or right-handed based on which time the interesting.
So those sorts of things. So I’ve found a few clay pipes as well. And I thought I want to know like you were saying about the size of the head, what can you tell? And so I went to a really interesting talk. It was at Sort Cathedral and basically broke down. The size as you were saying, the smaller the head, the more expensive the tobacco because it’s new and they use the term drinking Inn.
Yeah, not smoking it, inhaling that weed thing. So the actual breathing in afterwards to the 19th century rather large-headed ones that that maybe, I think I found more of them than the smaller ones.
[00:19:49] Anna Borzello: In areas where when the docks are developed, which is the 19th century, so it’s quite specific, but also in the 19th century, they decorated pipes, which they don’t really do that much In the 18th century, in the mid 18th century, you get arm pipes, you get Prince of Wales feathers and you get the lion and unicorn code of arms. Yeah. You also get the occasional one. So I’ve got one. I was thinking about it today cause I was thinking about the Navy. And I’ve got one. There was a commemorating what they believe was the success of Admiral Vernon, who was a very famous, celebrity naval officer, commanding the forces of an English officer, and he won this battle.
I think it was a battle of Portobello against the Spanish in the Caribbean. And then everyone thought he was like, wonderful. And then the news came back to England that he’d won. The battle, I think was a card against the Spanish and they created this celebrity celebration pipe. Commemorative pipe. I’ve got it.
But actually, he hadn’t won it at all. Obviously, in George and England, communications are not brilliant. There’s no telephone. So telegraphs, news mutates along the way. And actually, someone tried to cash in on this celebrity, sorry, not keep saying celebrity. To say commemorative pipe.
To commemorate a win that he never actually had, which I like. Cuz then it, that sort of thing connects you to the mentality of people in the past I find as well. You think, oh my gosh, it’s just like anyone trying to cheat, knockoff, to make a quick buck and they get it wrong.
And that makes you think again about how poor communication was and how missed identities could arise. So I love that too. I think I should also say about smoking, that although everyone was smoking, particularly in the 17th century, by the time we get to the 18th century, It is a much more male thing.
Considered quite low class as well, which is why you might find it in that Hogarth beer street with a workman. Yeah. And that snuff was what you used if you were classy and if you were a woman. And I found an article that was referencing how you shouldn’t subject women. To cigarette smoke and all these new places that were arising, like the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens or the theatre.
It was unpleasant to make women inhale smoke there. So then it was a polite sort of thing to do, was to take snuff instead. So there is a sort of class being associated with smoking at this time. I’ve never heard that.
[00:22:03] Hazel Baker: That’s good to know.
[00:22:05] Anna Borzello: Yeah, I only found it out last night when I was reading. I was quite delighted.
[00:22:09] Hazel Baker: That’s the wonderful thing. I dunno about you, but I do feel that my life has got Velcro and whenever there’s any sort of historical, nod mention, I’m constantly learning and it just sticks to me and I’m just hoping that I’m able to like com compartmentalize it at some point and use it.
[00:22:27] Anna Borzello: Yes. Often it doesn’t sit to me, I often forget, it builds up a, I find that mud larking and these objects, and particularly with these say Georgian objects we’re talking about now, it just helps build up through patchwork a picture of what life might have been like. Oh, lovely.
And it starts from a small bit like, like William Blake and Theia World in the Grain of Sand. It starts small, but you can always expand out into an empire and whatever. Everything tells a bigger story like the tobacco in the slave trade.
[00:22:53] Hazel Baker: Oh, of course. So we’ve got dress pins, we have clay pipes. What is your third item?
[00:23:00] Anna Borzello: So it’s related. It’s a bit of Georgian bling. Ooh. Because of chocolate bling, they loved jewellery. So there’s a lot of it. So I’m guessing that basically it’s become more accessible to the middle classes because the cost’s gone down. So one of the things you get a lot of in this period are cuff links.
I’m gonna show you them. I’ll describe them. They’re lovely little pair of cough links and they’ve got a lovely green glass. It could be emerald green, it could be a jewel. So what they used to do was get these paste jewels, which is glass, and then set it against a foil or mother-of-pearl background so that they glowed and gleaned in the light.
And I’ve got ones like this, some that are the mother of pearl, some that have got little, like they’re metal with decorations. And sometimes you get decorated ones. I’ve got one that I got and near a place where they broke down ships and it’s a, it’s of a ship, it’s of a sailing ship. And my friend got a similar one elsewhere, so I suspect they were mass produced and maybe people who were in some way related to, boatyards to wear them.
And you also ones too, but I just thought Ed mentioned, I’ve got two favourite bits of jewellery. I thought I mentioned it. Yeah. Pleased. I took it to an exhibition that I did about two weeks ago, and I can’t find it sadly, but I can still describe it. It’s very tiny. I found it on an incoming tide in gravel, and it was like, I thought maybe it’s a top of a nail or something, and I picked it up, and actually, it’s tiny and circular and a little bit battered, and it’s got two stick figures having sex against a wall.
I was totally delighted. Cause you know, nothing’s gonna connect you to people’s like raw emotions and feeling what they’ve felt in the past and things like that. Sex or just uhhuh any emotions or feelings. So I, and it’s Georgian and it’s a co-stud. So I like to think that this was a sort of man who would, I dunno, I’m trying to remember what it was called.
You know that in the, in they say that in George and England, 20%, George and London, 20% of women were prostitutes or sex workers. That’s, I dunno if that’s true or not, or how they defined it, but I think that this was a sort of guy who may be liked had a copy of Harris’s list of Common Garden ladies.
Yeah. Cause, was, produced. From, I think 1857 to 1757 up to the 1790s. Listed high-class sex workers or middle-class sex workers. I actually got it, I wrote down a quote for one of them, cuz I, I just find them so ridiculous. One is Mrs I think it’s number two. York Street near Middlesex Hospital.
She’s described as one of the finest fattest figures as fully finished for fun and folic as fertile, fancy ever formed. Honestly, really, I actually, when I read it, cuz I. I did think, goodness me, it’s actually quite offensive because they’re listed as if it’s a slave market, essentially.
It’s a meat market. They are described only in terms of what they give men with no thought to what those women were actually experiencing. I know that there were women who used it as a root of independence, like the concubines. Who really got their own flats and they enterprise society that way. But for most of them, It’s a way of earning a living that, that’s right.
And in my old job, I interviewed quite a lot of sex workers and, it’s easy to con men and make them think that they’re getting that, that you are doing something special for them. And I just think that these men reading this book, I feel like they’re like, that they’re a fool. Yeah.
[00:26:31] Hazel Baker: And that, that magazine good. Make and break a girl’s career as well. Yeah. Yeah, the power of it. All right oh, I’ve got another one actually, which is, I was gonna say you did mention too, and I’m worried about the second one now. What is it?
[00:26:44] Anna Borzello: No, that’s not sexed. It’s rather beautiful. So, I wish I could show it to your listeners.
So this is the most beautiful broach. So it’s an oval broach, about an inch and a half high, and about an inch and a half wide, maybe two inches by one and a half inches. And it’s a copper-decorated floral. Oval Circle. And inside it is an oval of mother of pearl. Now it’s incredible that it survived.
So it washed in on the wave. You can see how fragile it looks. Yeah. Yeah. It washed it on a wave and then it sucked out. And I grabbed it and I think, one more wash and the mother of power would’ve smashed and their two bits would’ve been separated. And would that have been worn by a woman? A man?
So it, I dunno. It’s big, isn’t it? I think this is a woman’s broach. There’s something about it, but I think this was also something that was, Either thrown away intentionally. You sometimes get that with jewellery. Yeah. So I’m thinking love tokens are sometimes thrown away or just like these days, people throw engagement rings in the or when they divorce, they throw in their mar marriage, ring their marriage hand.
So the reason I just thought of that is because one thing it, I was discussing this with a friend and she suggested that. Mother of Pearl, what could they have done with this mother of Pearl? It wouldn’t have just been mother of Pearl. I don’t think that’s too plain for the Georgians. And it’s not thick enough to put glass.
So she wondered if maybe they painted on top of it because they did paint on top of ivory. Oh, and then I looked into miniatures cuz there was a big thing about Georgians and miniatures and also that whole culture that started in the late 18th century. Which was started by the pr, the then Prince of Wales.
And he gave to his lover A picture of his eye, which was painted onto a miniature, and then in return, she gave his eye. And then there was a whole thing for about 40 years after that of people swapping eye broaches or oh, which they might hide. But it was just like a way of basically signalling, I have a little secret bit of you and no one will know your identity, but I know and I wonder something like that.
That’s what I like to think. Ordinary, extraordinary. It’s, and I really love it just because of its fragility and I just think, well done you for surviving.
[00:28:56] Hazel Baker: That’s it with the two pieces. I like the idea of the painting on it as well. Cause there’s, there is something about that, the, as you said, the mother rep pearl with that shine.
Yeah. To add a nice backdrop to something else.
[00:29:09] Anna Borzello: Yeah. My mother’s not a historian. She told me if someone in. In Victoria in the 19th century, they apparently painted their breasts rather scandalously onto one of those instead of their eye. Can’t remember who it was, but I’d rather like that idea.
[00:29:22] Hazel Baker: I don’t think a broach is big enough for mine.
Fantastic. Love that. What else have we got then Anna?
[00:29:31] Anna Borzello: Let me think. Okay, so how about it Run outta fines? I’m sure I won’t.
[00:29:38] Hazel Baker: You mentioned the navel cuff links. Have we got any, anything other navel-themed items?
[00:29:44] Anna Borzello: I mean I do, but I don’t have many stories to tell about these and specifically here’s a jar of musket balls and I’ve got a lot of buttons, like particularly anchor buttons that would’ve come off uniforms.
They’re very common. Cause they were the royal dockyards, I think at, where was it? It’s at Woolford. Woodford, yeah. So you find that sort of information, actually, the story that I’ve thought of about this, you’ve done a podcast on before, so I won’t repeat it, which was, this whole when I was researching something recently for this talk that I gave.
I was looking into cross female cross dresses and the whole tradition of women uhhuh dress, upper sailors, and how that was presented in George and England. Do you know they, they were done wrong and then they go to sea dressed as a man and then they unveil their true sex. And that’s what I thought about that.
But you’ve done an excellent podcast on that.
[00:30:37] Hazel Baker: Thank you very much. And the TV program as well. Oh, it’s in French though, so I challenge people to watch that one. Do you find that you have a particular? Like when you stand there, you are gonna see things that someone else with the same amount of experience is gonna see something else.
Do you find something that gravitates to you more?
[00:30:56] Anna Borzello: It’s not that it gravitates you. I find that these pins, much as I love picking them up, were a bit of a curse because once I saw the line of a pin literally saw them everywhere, and could see them from standing. And what happened was I didn’t see anything else.
I literally only saw the pins. It’s the same with the pipes. So often people say as if by magic, I was just thinking about this yesterday and then I saw it. And you think it’s not actually that surprising because you’ve got the idea in your head sort of shape that might catch your eye. Yeah.
[00:31:27] Hazel Baker: You were talking about that pin line, weren’t you before? Yeah. So
[00:31:30] Anna Borzello: yeah, so I’ve got, there’s, I’ve got a friend who’s a sculpt, and he was saying that he wanted to find a dice. There are very many that die on these. And he actually made a little model of what out of clay and held it in his hand and played with it and looked at it from all angles and then went down to the Thames and found it.
I think it was the next day. Cause it so it’s not that magic’s not you conjure it up. No. But you know
[00:31:54] Hazel Baker: what you’re looking for aren’t, what you’re looking for?
[00:31:55] Anna Borzello: Or have, an idea of I think that there are some objects I don’t see very well and it’s cause I’ve got my visual capacity to rotate shapes in my head isn’t very high.
So I’ve, architects and engineers and artists are very good because they see a sliver and they can flip it, and they can imagine what it looks like. For me, it just resolutely stays in that sport. I have to pull it out and have a look first. Anyway, that’s my theory of searching for things.
[00:32:24] Hazel Baker: You mentioned the men standing outside the taverns. Having a good old puff on the, on their pipes. Is there any other evidence that they were drinking?
[00:32:36] Anna Borzello: Oh yes. I do. I have brought something. I have got something out. Oh, I wish you could all put out your hands, everyone listening and feel this, cuz I love it.
So it’s a stem of a glass called a ballas to glass. I found this and it is so beautiful to hold. It’s about an inch and a half. High. I think that’s about half. It’s it was made in, probably the first half of the middle of the 18th century. It has a bulb with a teardrop of air inside it, and then another swelling, and then you can see the bottom of the glass begin to spread out into what would’ve been the ball, the bowl of itself.
And. These glasses. I didn’t realize that there was an English glass-making industry. I don’t know why that passed me by. And that actually England was the place where the whole idea of adding lead to glass came outside to glass. I had no idea. So it does have that quality to it, that particular sparking sparkle clarity.
I do love them. I dunno if you can see that there’s a massive teardrop in it, I can. Yeah. I love that. Because basically that is, A little teardrop of Georgian air and were I to smash it on the ground, which I’m not gonna do. There’d be a little, and for one minute, for one second or so, that gentleman’s breath or whatever it was, who blew this glass would, would exist in the world in the 21st century before it dissipated?
So it’s got that sort of magical time capsule quality. Now I believe at this time it could have been a wine glass, but they also use these. About this size, a smaller one for gin glasses. Okay. Okay. And that’s why I thought I’d mention it because of course, in the first half of the Georgian period, it was the gin craze.
It was introduced, I think they were trying to get rid of French brandy at the end of the 17th century cuz they just didn’t, no one liked the French and they wanted to stimulate the use of domestic use of grain. So that, yeah. So basically there was unfettered use of grain to make. Alcohol, gin, cheap quality, potent alcohol, and anyone can make it.
And everybody did make it. And it was adulterated and disgusting. And it had turpentine in it. Yeah. And it just made people ill and crazy and addicted. It was like crack cocaine or like an opiate epidemic. It was terrible. And actually, I have noticed, as people called it, mother’s room and there’s this whole thing about how it made women, abandon their children and there’s this famous Hogarth picture where there’s a baby coming to its death and another baby on a spike. I didn’t actually think, I don’t see why women are getting all the blame. I’m sure a lot of women did drink, but I’m sure a lot of mentoring terribly unfair to me that all the sort of moral censorship was gone, moral censor.
Was on women, as ever towards, ever thus, the women get blamed. And I think it was basically for the, I mean it was drunk. Somebody who would’ve drunk out of this glass would’ve had a good quality gin probably imported from Holland. But for the working poor, it was just a way of getting by a way of keeping warm.
That’s go did get horrifically addictive and I think there were eight acts in the ending. We’ve got so outta control, there were eight acts to try and. To control gin. And finally, I think, I can’t remember when it was, I think at about 1750 or so, finally they managed to control it. And then you get your ancy of tea, which is another story.
Instead. That’s when the national obsession with tea happens. Amazing. You can tell that story. One little bit of glass. I think It is amazing, isn’t it?
[00:36:10] Hazel Baker: It’s a beautiful piece of glass as well. I’m thinking about gin and the consumption of it in and around Clark Andwell, which is an area I spent quite a bit in.
There are so many stories of what I, how addictive it was. But when you think about the physicality of life back then, you didn’t have painkillers, you had gin. You had very physical work. Which would tie you out. You’d sleep through exhaustion. You worked seven days a week. If you were going to church on a Sunday you would’ve been really quiet mi your world would’ve been really quite small.
And this would’ve allowed you a little bit of escapism, wouldn’t it? Think of how much other drinks would’ve cost. They said in Clerkenwell that one in 12 houses during the chin craze, one in 12 houses made their own gin and sold it. And they walked around with will barrels of gin.
And there was a little ditty, they said drunk for a penny, dead drunk for two, clean straw for free. So you can imagine, making your own gin and walking around your local streets and as you say, doctoring it, putting a bit of turpentine in, giving it an extra kick. People get used to that and are addicted to it.
It’s. Ticking a lot of the boxes might blank your life out for a little bit as well. You rub it on your children’s gums when they’re going through teething and that. So it’s just, of course with human nature, we often don’t know when to stop.
[00:37:45] Anna Borzello: Yeah. So true. I hate to think of how grim it must have been and also how much I mentioned the statistic.
How 20% of women were said to be sex workers, the idea is a lot of them were doing it to numb the pain of their sex work, but also to Yeah. Feed their addiction to gin. Yeah.
[00:38:04] Hazel Baker: I think that would be a good one. If you think about the term bathtub gin, it’s the women that are gonna be spending the time at home, So that kind of makes sense.
And when you’re thinking about women taking on the weight of society. So is our fault, if you do think of Hogarth Gin Street. You think of that one particular image of a young woman who has got her breast out. She was suckling her child, and the child is nice and pudgy.
So even if it gets a bit poorly, it’s got some enough reserve and the child has slipped away from her arms and breasts into the depths which she’s going past a gin jug. And it’s gonna land on its head. And that is like the future generation is being destroyed because of a mother’s negligence.
But when you look at all the other pictures that are people around that picture, one woman feeding her child gin from a cup is very similar to what you are showing there. But all the others are men. And you’ve got how many, I can’t even think of how many, all of these pictures are men.
But the shocking one the reality check for a lot of people is that mother in the centre of the picture dropped her child and destroying the future
[00:39:20] Anna Borzello: got two more objects. Okay. I dunno how coherently I’ll be able to speak about them, but I’m gonna do my best. So you find a lot of, they’re so tiny little beads on the foreshore.
You probably can’t even see it. Some of them are so small that I can’t even get pinned through them. Some of them are the size of a pinhead. I actually find them really annoying cuz my eyesight’s not good. Do you think? Ah, and I all, they always end up getting Hoovered in my house. There are a lot of them, you very frequently find them.
And so beads are quite a common force you’ll find, and in this period when you find beads, a lot of what the beads are are known as trade beads. So they’re beads that were basically referred to by people as African money that people would go off to places like the Americas or to, the African continent, and they would trade for the goods that they wanted using beads because those beads had much higher value for the people they were trading with than they do for us. For us, there might be a throwaway, but there was no sort of real, there was no glass-making industry. These were really very varied.
They were very beautiful, so they had a lot of status. So if you were giving them to an African chief, it might have a lot of status. It was a kinda object that he might pass down through his family. So I discovered actually that these tiny beans in the 18th and 19th century, They were acting, they were created in, they’re made in Venice, they’re brought to England for the trade.
And they were strung onto these great long bits of string by these women. I can’t speak Italian. It’s something like that. And they used to sit outside in the Venetian shade and they had these prong long prong spikes they held in their hand and a ball on their lap. And they would.
Kind of do swooping motions with their hand and they would string long threads of beads and then those beads were like units of currency that you could use for trade and then different beads. Had different meanings and values. You wouldn’t like to pass off like a blue bead for a group that preferred something else.
So you get the Hudson Bay trade beads. I’ve got one here. And they’re green hearts. They’re red on the outside. Looks like they’re very small, looks like they’ve got a black middle. But if you hold it up to the light, that it glows green. And those are apparently particularly good for trading for Beaver pelts.
And there’s a whole book actually where people try and break down which beads were popular with, which people. And then last night, again, I was reading up on this. I went down a little rabbit hole and apparently by the time you get to late Victorian when people are trying to get goods for beads and they’ve got the great explorers, for example, the different people they’re trading with, the indigenous people they’re trading with have got much more fussy.
It’s we don’t want that one. We want that one over there. Someone’s already given us yellow, we want Kare. And it becomes much, much harder. And they’re even complaining about it. And it’s much, much harder to trade the bees these days because there’s a much more discriminating tell.
Anyway. I find that quite interesting that, you find this litter around and what you’re actually seeing evidence of is exploitation really this. Because it’s a brutal economy. The Georgians really, the fact that all your sugar and tobacco is coming from, all the lives are being lost on their journey from Africa to the Caribbean.
And then the, it’s incredible, but at the same time, it’s incredible. You also think, you know that pattern of exploitation. Is it that much different from fast food, fast clothing outlet, which makes people work in sweatshops in some countries for nothing at all, for pennies, just so they can wear cheap clothes?
And that’s why it was after people just wanted cheap consumerism and in return other people died. So I also find that parallel useful about mud marking. The past is not entirely a foreign country. All these things are a continuum. We, it’s not like they were really terrible then, and we’re really good now.
No way. No way, Jose. It’s a continuum. We’re not that far along it. Yep. And it is rather cynical.
[00:43:05] Hazel Baker: Yeah. That’s how strange has been
[00:43:06] Anna Borzello: though, hasn’t it? Yeah. I’ve got my last find here. Go on. What is the noise? It’s radio. We need to make noise so that actually, the noise is not dissimilar to the noise of this, which is together, and that causes two of them.
These are complete. They’re quite rare to find complete. They are bone white again they’re a little bit dirty, but they ought to be bone white like a clay pipe. And that’s cuz they’re made of the same clay, probably even manufactured at the same place. Actually. They’re about, I’d say two inches long each.
Different. And they’re like little mini dumbbells, so they swell at either end and they’re flattened. And one of them has the initials wb, who seems to have been a prolific wig curler maker, cuz that’s what these are wig curlers. These are what people use and they didn’t necessarily use ’em for their hair.
These were mainly used for wigs. So in the 17th century, basically, they were wigs around before then, but I think it was Charles, I second came back from exile. After the revolution, Crowell, and came back with the French habit of the extravagant wig. There are all sorts of reasons why he might have done that.
It could have been because the French king was balding and he wanted to hide it. There’s an advantage to hiding. You are horribly scabbed, syphilitic, bald head. There’s an advantage to actually shaving your head and then putting a wig on so you don’t feel the knits. And if you do get knits, they get to the wig cleaner and they can get rid of it for you.
You can just remove your hair. So by the time you get to the 18th century, wigs have become really popular amongst men actually quite throughout society. They’re not just for the very rich anymore. The middling classes are using them as well. Women do have extravagant hairstyles and they do tower high, but they’re, they tend to tease their hair with fake hair and fake flowers.
They make these big constructions. These are literally whole hair pieces that you can take off. Your valet would get them, and everyone wants ringlets, who want straight hair. So your valet would get your wig and he would wind the hair around the heated wig curl to set the curls. I’ve also heard that they would then boil the wig when the curls were when the hair was wound around it boil it.
To heat it up. I dunno what happens to boil hair. Some of it’s human hair. I know that in the 17th century, they were, Samuel Peaks at one point in the 17th century got very annoyed cuz he thought his wig maker might have been using the hair of plague victims. And that freaked him out a little bit.
I assume just like today when there’s this whole question about the exploitation of women in India, perhaps they were using poor people’s hair too, or the hair of the dead. Also, animal hair, if you didn’t have that much money and cause these were really expensive, we’re talking like a minimum of a week’s wages for a good wig, for a reasonably good wig.
Anyway, you’d wind it, boil it. The other thing they’d do was they’d get the wig all prepared up with the curls wound around this hair round, around these wig colours with the curls, and then put it into a pie essentially. Like a pot, put a cross over it and give it to the baker who’ll put it in the oven and the heat W would set the curls.
Presumably, the heat, wouldn’t frazzle it like because it was inside the cake, and that would protect it from the kind of naked burning. I don’t know. I’m assuming that’s how they said this at the curls. Anyway, what I also, have to mention is that they would women sometimes have pink or blue powder on their hair.
So you, you had white and grey powder going on, and also a bit of a pong because you’d have ADEs and oils. I read somewhere that the added weight of, all the sort of dusty powder, which was made from flour and also the oils could add up to a kilo of weight onto top of the wig. So these were not easy things to wear at all times, and men were wearing them.
And then at the end of the. 18th century, you get the Macaronis and they’re like, basically, they’re the precursors of the dandy. They’re these men with these ridiculous towering wigs and very sort of ish behaviour and beautiful clothes, and they get their name, which I didn’t know. Apparently, these are the men who are going on their ground tours as part of their sentimental education when they’re in their twenties and they go to.
Italy and they see these gorgeous silks and they discover this wonderful new food. It’s a hard taste and if you boil it tastes delicious. And it’s called macaroni. So everything was a little bit macaroni if it was new. An ode, so they got the nickname, Macaronis and they had this ridiculous hair and they were caricatured a lot by, in the Georgian press, cuz this is a, I hadn’t quite, again, I hadn’t quite realized how much, particularly in the latter half of the Georgian era, so much of.
There’s so much self-mockery and self-reflection and so many cartoons and, ripping fun out of each other. And the macies were definitely, people thought they were totally ridiculous, essentially. I can see why.
[00:48:01] Hazel Baker: And did you know where the white dust for the wigs was made? In London?
[00:48:07] Anna Borzello: No.
[00:48:10] Hazel Baker: Turnmill Street.
[00:48:15] Anna Borzello: Ah, how interesting. Yes. Using the wheels for, water power from the river fleet. Oh, how interesting. Yeah. Oh, there’s something else about this, which I haven’t, which I only also recently found out, which is why did Wigs end? Cuz they were around for hundred 50 years and it’s, cause there was this tax on this powder that you put on your wigs that were made Terminal Street and I think that’s about 1795.
And it was Exor Exorbitant Tax and they wanted, I think the government wanted it to fund wars with the French and nobody wants to pay it. And the only ones who were exempt were people like judges. And Coachman, the people that you see continuing into the 19th century, actually even today, like barrister is still wearing that rather fuddy-duddy, mean little wigs.
That’s right. The same with
[00:48:53] Hazel Baker: mills. You could see that with the reflection as well. So the mills then turned into bordellos. Did they? Yeah.
[00:49:01] Anna Borzello: How interesting.
[00:49:02] Hazel Baker: Ah it’s all changing of the times, isn’t it? Yeah.
[00:49:06] Anna Borzello: It’s very interesting to piece together London in this way.
[00:49:09] Hazel Baker: Yeah, it is.
It’s always been a fantastic Whistlestop tour of George and London with your wonderful finds from the Thames.
[00:49:18] Anna Borzello: Thank you, I’ve really enjoyed it.