Friday, September 16, 2016

The Mudlark

click photo to enlarge
I've done my share of mudlarking as this post of 2010 explains.

The usual definition of a mudlark is someone, often a child, who in Victorian times scavenged the muddy fringes of the River Thames in London in search of anything of value that could be sold for cash. The pub sign in Southwark, London, near the river, that is the subject of today's photograph alludes to these "valuables" in the grubby hand and items shown in the bordering circle.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) shows that mudlark has not always carried the meaning that it usually has today. The first entry from 1785 defines the word as slang for a hog, and we can see how that might transfer to Thames-side foragers. The next entry dating from 1796-1800 describes a mudlark as someone who prowls around ships in the mud, receiving plundered goods from them which they sold. Again the connection is apparent. The 1801 definition most closely matches today's understanding of the term. However, there are others. Apparently in the nineteenth century the Royal Engineers were sometimes so called. This must have been due to their often muddy work being equated with the urchins who searched the Thames mud.

I was quite pleased to see this elaborate, original and obviously quite expensive sign advertising the pub. All too often today the traditional pub sign is being replaced by a cheaply printed glossy advert, or the old design is replaced by a "tasteful" often almost monochrome updated version.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Pub Sign, The Mudlark, Southwark
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 150mm (300mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/320 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.3EV