Thursday, 15 November 2012
On arrival I noticed the low water area that had washed out a fortnight ago resembled the lunar landscape with holes everywhere. This is due to the daily pounding the area receives from metal detector users in their quest for gold as there were also discarded metal items to be seen. The popularity of beachcombing at Margate was also evident as there was a complete absence of the surface finds often associated with the area like the weather beaten shards of patterned crockery for example. I not sure if it is me blogging the fact that Margate main sands are a historical goldmine, but these days I am never short of company something I do welcome. However, I am sure that will change when the thermometer hits the minus and the northerly winds hit the beaches head on.
Today I set out with a different approach as I have been thinking for some time that I am becoming to reliant on surface finds and it is about time I did some proper digging. Digging holes in wet sand mixed with shingle and clay is hard work and I am sure not many people will be following in my footsteps on that one.
Like everything else on the beach, where to dig does take a bit of working out because there is no such thing as a historical layers like inland, so today was dedicated to digging pilot holes. It is surprising that some areas of the beach at low water are not far off from the clay bed from the old creek which makes the prospect of digging for finds in the future more promising.
Today I came across the most common find that can be found on any Victorian site in the country and Margate is no exception. The piece in question being a fragment of a James Keiller & sons Dundee Marmalade pot and everyone who has ever dug a Victorian site has most definitely came across a piece.
I am not sure of the date of this fragment even though it states that James Keiller won a medal of merit for his marmalade in Vienna in 1873. All I can think of is that it must be post 1878 as that was the year when transfer printing on earthenware pots were perfected.
Wednesday, 7 November 2012
Collecting beach shards and researching them is becoming a popular hobby for the few hardy souls who like beach combing in the winter. Recently I stumbled across a London mud lark blog and was amazed at the research detail that is under taken even for the smallest piece. Some pieces from the Thames came be accurately identified to items over four hundred years old. On the Thanet coastline there is no such luck as most of the shards found only go back 200 years and most of that is late Victorian through to the twentieth century.
Most local patterned beach shards are Victorian and Edwardian and they are often collected to make mosaics. The more dedicated collector can even identify certain designs to the beaches they came from. At Margate for example different catering companies that had concessions had there own designs of china.
Serving tea to beach users was big business like coffee shops are today and even the Southeatern railway company got in on the act as shards bearing the company logo are often found on the beach. Many shards found on the beach are from the paddle steamers that used the Harbour like the General Steam Navigation Company, Victorian Steamboat Association and the New Palace Steamers.
Not all shards are associated with tea drinking and the most predominant plate and bowl finds are blue patterned like the willow pattern and other oriental designs. Older shards of the Dutch delft design have been found but these are very rare.
My knowledge of ceramics is limited so I generally research the ones that have or may have local origins and give them to the Margate Museum. Others that have no local provenance I just give to the local arty people to use.
Monday, 5 November 2012
It is surprising how many fragments of large flagon that do appear on the Margate coastline especially in and around the harbour area. So far this year I have only found two fragments that have a clear identity the rest have been unidentifiable.
Sunday, 4 November 2012
Come the end of November the Beachcomber exhibition at the Museum ends and I should point out that my only contribution to the exhibition was to find the stuff. All the work, research, layout and presentation was done by the army of Museum volunteers.
Last week I donated 12 complete Margate bottles to the Museum collection and I am now going through the items the Museum can have for display material or for the permanent collection.
My two pet projects Georgian Margate and Earthenware in general are coming along well and I am learning more day by day about that area of Margate. I have found earthenware pieces of Dutch and German origin and it does come as a surprise that German spring water was bottled in three pint earthenware containers and sealed with cement. Only to be exported to London and then consumed on Margate main sands.
Recently inside the harbour I did find part of a top of a George Barret ginger beer bottle that matched up perfectly with another piece I found in February during the deep digging . Both pieces were found in different locations, something I put down to the excavations.
Shards from George Barret Ginger beer bottles are heading the tally at present but the reason I keep them all is that I can get data about all the different designs and manufactures of the bottles. Something that is becoming clear is that in the same time period there are two distinct quality of bottles used by the same companies. I am now starting to think that this could be down to Victorian snobbery as the mineral water outlets may have deliberately catered for two different class of customers by the quality of the bottles.