It is great fun stepping out of the crowds on London’s South Bank onto the freshly revealed Thames shoreline at low tide. It is a lot quieter there. Not many people venture into the territory. It is a very other-worldly experience. From the embankment it doesn’t look very interesting but once you have found a gate in the wall and climbed down the stone or wooden steps, the history of the great city is found lying beneath your feet. It takes the form of millions of fragments from objects used in everyday life from the past. Each part of the Thames foreshore at low tide has its own characteristics. Sometimes that has to do with the way the water currents tend to move and deposit items according to their weight and buoyancy. Sometimes it is to do with the land based activities of the past in a particular locality.

In these pictures if you look closely you will see natural flints and stones, mixed with worn pieces of bricks, tiles, pottery, coal, shells, and a lot of animal bones (especially in the fourth image down Urban Beach 2.4). These bones were thrown in the river by the slaughter houses, butchers, and leather-workers based on the south side of the river in earlier centuries. These trades were often forced to carry out their business on the south side so that the residents of the city proper on the north bank did not have to suffer the dreadful smells and nuisances of their activities.

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