Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Sunday, 30 December 2012

2012, a remarkable year.

2012 has to be the best year on record for coastal finds at Margate thanks entirely to the sea defence works that have taken place throughout the year. Work started about a year ago to underpin the stone pier that result in pile driving and deep digging close to the wall. This included digging up the workings that took place after the 1953 storm on the outside wall. I suppose the significance to this was that most items found around the outside wall had a strong local provenance originating from the original construction of the stone pier. This included sections of the original 1815 balustrade , lead work and other stone work. Some stone work found even bore old graffiti carved into the stone. Most of the metal work found was either the result of marine activity either lost overboard or collateral damage as a result of a storms or accidents. Further along the outer wall behind the droit house for a short period of time fragments were found of the original droit house bombed in the second world. I did find some Georgian and Victorian coins in this area which was remarkable as it was a short window with very little digging taking place. However I did have the benefit of experience from the workings that took place in 1985.
Inside the harbour was a different ball game as some deep digging took place cutting through layers of smelly sand, silt and clay. Also because of practicality the area wasn't barriered  off as work took place so I was able to get up close as digging place. As long as I didn't act like an idiot and observed basic health and safety protocol I knew I would be all right with the contractors and it paid off. As deep digging took place I was able to get up close cherry pick up some good finds before the holes were filled back in.
Some areas inside the harbour were barren of finds which I put down to the post war dredging operation, other areas were very productive with finds dating back to the 1780's. In most cases the finds were related either to harbour activity or coastal trade. I did find complete bottles with the oldest dating back to the 1830's. From inside the harbour I picked up every single thing including fragments of earthenware, crockery and glass resulting in about 2 to 3 hundred finds.
Across the harbour to where the revetment was being constructed things were done differently as the workings were surrounded by a barrier which made access very difficult plus the depth of digging was not as deep as in the harbour. Finds around the revetment were patchy and I found two complete bottles a few clay pipe bowls and stems plus some animal bones on the surface. I doubt if I made 50 finds in that area.
However I was well compensated with the erosion that took place in the center of the bay directly off the main sands on the low water site. It was that good I had too take two buckets each trip picking up mostly shards, clay pipe bowls and stems, bottle stoppers and old stone work .
During the whole time I worked with the Margate Museum a bit like the London mudlarks do with the London museum.The only problem was the Margate museum was they did not have the expertise so I ended up being judge and jury. Bringing items in and telling them what it was and left to them to display it, which they did and held a small exhibition of finds in the late summer of 2012.
I suppose the whole significance of Margate 2012 was that it did come up with tangible items that did tell the story of Margate's seaside heritage. Plus the Museum gained many items for display that I donated. This included paddle steamer shards from Victorian steamers, bits of the stone Pier,  pieces of the Hotel Metropole and pieces of the bombed Droit House during the war , Victorian seaside items and a complete time line of clay pipe bits.
As for myself I retained the items they did not want.This included bottles from visiting coasters into the Harbour  and earthenware shards found in the harbour and surrounding areas. Plus a few Georgian period items I kept for my small collection.
Since late October it has been a case of back to where I started this time last years with finds looking promising, Happy New Year.

Friday, 14 December 2012

A Victorian DFL collection

To find a complete glass bottle from the Victorian era in and around margate harbour and main sands area is something I have always considered to be a bit of an achievement. This week I managed to find two which exceeded all expectations. Both had all the tell tell signs of their time in the sea which all adds to the provenance as a margate found artifact  Even though the origins are DFL (down from London) I just find such finds fascinating as they are a link to Victorian London and a seaside holiday in Margate.
Circa 1870's Whiskey bottle
I was able to date both bottles within a certain timeline as dating bottles is not a precise thing. One bottle was a wine bottle pre 1860 and its irregular shape without a mould seam suggests the bottle may have been free blown. The other bottle was a dark whiskey bottle circa 1870's with a flat bottom base with a dimple that had been dip moulded in a three piece mould with an applied lip. All sounds a bit of a mouth full but to the layman I found a circa 1870's or later whiskey bottle and a pre 1860's wine bottle.
Other finds included a green aqua conical base of a Hamilton glass mineral water bottle embossed "London" "1808"and some other lettering which I need to work on and will be something that will be added to my DFL collection.
Victoria Steamboat Association shard
This week I collected my earthenware collection from the Margate Museum that had been on loan for the beachcomber exhibition. Along with recent earthenware finds this is turning out to be a large collection something I will one day display. I have now given the museum the remaining collection of glass and ceramic to do  with as they please. I have retained only a few small items, one being a Victorian glass bottle embossed J M Taylor Camberwell, a red transfer ware shard with the London coat of arms and Freemason symbols, a vulcanite bottle butterfly stopper impressed "Fred Smith Mile End" and a shard of black transfer ware from the Victoria Steamboat Association . The VSA operated paddle steamers in the River Thames and along the coast to Margate during the 1890's.
At present I have two buckets full of items found over the past month in the Margate area and once I have sorted out the Georgian items and Earthenware items I will pick out the DFL items which I will photograph a collection at a later date.

A close up of the whiskey bottle showing the three piece moulding.