Treasures from the River Thames

Malcolm Head talked to his audience about how he spent his working life working on a dredger keeping the River Thames and tributaries free flowing and from silting up or becoming otherwise blocked by debris of all kinds to prevent flooding.
Many artefacts were brought up to the surface in the dredgers buckets that had been discarded by their owners over the centuries. He had these set out on two tables and worked his way along them holding each archaeological find up and recalling how and where it was found, together with what he had learned about their origins.
These ranged from Stone Age flint axes, a tiny Roman oil lamp to a seaman’s sextant circa 1900 that came to the surface at Datchet. Although complete in its original mahogany box the brass plate on the lid engraved with the owners name was lost otherwise the owner might have become known. Amongst his collection were tiles from Chertsey Abbey (a Benedictine Monastery), stone hot water bottles and foot warmers, a marmalade pot complete with silver spoon and marmalade, which had long since degraded and was quickly discarded.

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Malcolm displayed a number of bottles, one of which he informed his audience was made of Roman glass. Other bottles were from a much more modern time; The Codd-neck bottle which was designed and manufactured to enclose a glass marble and a rubber washer/gasket in the neck. These bottles had once contained carbonated fizzy drinks that gave its name to the expression codswallop. The bottles are filled upside down, and pressure of the gas in the bottle forced the glass marble against the washer, sealing in the carbonation.
Another very old artefact was a ceramic weight used by Viking Weavers to give tension to the warp and weft threads on their loom, together with a smaller ceramic weight that had been used by silk weavers of a later time for the same purpose.
Report written by Dave Rich

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