Mud Men Johnny Vaughan and Steve Brooker are on a muddy historical adventure, mudlarking along the banks of the Thames and beyond as they take their search for hidden history further afield like never before. Our intrepid team hunt not for buried treasure, but artefacts that could change our understanding of the past forever.
The Mud Men are always up for the challenge as their quests see them tackle British history by getting hands on with anything, whether it’s firing canons, driving steam trains, looking after sheep or facing petrol bombs. Nothing is beyond the Mud Men as they always seem to encounter some rather unexpected, often unpleasant, challenges, including ghost hunting, creating a football from a sheep’s bladder and making cloth using stale urine. Whatever the topic, whatever the challenge, the Mud Men dig history like no-one else.
Johnny is one of the UK’s best known and well loved broadcasters. Since the start of his career he has risen through the ranks across the media industry with his television and radio work, comedy writing and weekly columns for the biggest daily newspapers in the country.
In 1994, Channel 4 first recognized his TV potential and gave him a slot hosting the cult show Moviewatch, followed by his own weekly chat showHere’s Johnny. His first major role was presenting The Big Breakfast, where his madcap humour and on-air chemistry with Denise Van Outen helped restore viewing figures, and Johnny earned critical acclaim.
In 2003 Johnny was recruited by BBC3 to help launch the channel – a unique 2-year deal, giving him the freedom to work across a range of different projects.
In 2004 Johnny made a return to writing comedy with his dope drama – Top Buzzer.
His production company Worlds End is thriving having recently had success with Katie Brand on ITV.
Today Johnny is best known as a host on capital from 2003 – 2011 and continues to enjoy a career in television, most recently as a team captain on The Best of the Worst and presenter of Car of The Year for Dave.
Photographer and Mudlarker of 4 years has been a member of the Society of Thames Mudlarks for almost 2 years.
Probably my best and most interesting find was the skull of a young girl. Found whilst I was out with Stolli one evening it was carbon dated to be from around 1730 AD.
A year later I found and recovered the rest of the body and in total recovered approximately 95% of the bones. There are still some questions to be answered about this poor unfortunate person and I hope to one day find out more.
One of my personal favourite items to find is the humble fly button. If you look closely they will often give the name of the tailor and the address of his premises.
I recently unearthed a fly button with the address as being Brick Lane in East London. This is where I live and although it is now famous for Indian restaurants I know that somewhere 150 years ago this guy had his little shop making clothes.
My oldest find is a Mesolithic stone hand axe which dates from approx 8500 years bc. It still blows my mind to think of who the last person to handle it was before I found it. This type of axe has been nicknamed the Thames Pick as it can only be found in the Thames valley. This stone tool would have belonged to one of the earliest 'Londoners'.
I love Mudlarking because it is hands on history and there is always the chance that you could change history with a unique or rare find.
I also love the excitement when venturing out as you never know what you might find and the River is ALWAYS full of surprises.
Steve Brooker is 6ft 5in, a former professional skateboarder, a sub three hour marathon runner, a survivor of multiple strokes and most importantly the self-appointed tutelary spirit of the Thames.
Steve is a member of the Mudlarks, a society of amateur archaeologists who are licensed by the Port of London Authority to scavenge the banks of the Thames for historical artifacts. Because of Brooker's oversize frame and his talent for major discoveries he is known by admirers as the Mud God.
Britain is crawling with so-called metal detectorists, who make a hobby and often an obsession out of unearthing treasure from the country's rich past. Occasionally they strike gold, but mudlarks, who consider themselves élite archaeologists, tend to view treasure seekers with disdain.
While anyone can obtain a permit to search the five or so miles of the river's southern foreshore between Westminster and Wapping, the 51 licensed mudlarks are the only people allowed to excavate the historically rich north side of the river, which since A.D. 50 has provided docking points for Roman, Saxon, Viking and Norman occupiers and, more recently, for British trade boats and royal ships.
Mudlarks follow a strict code of conduct. All objects more than 300 years old are taken to the Museum of London to be logged. Thames mud is particularly dense, and its anaerobic environment aids preservation.
In August 2009, Steve made global headlines by unearthing a 17th century ball and chain minus the leg it had once encased belonging to an escaped or drowned prisoner.
Stolli is a Black Labrador and is now 8 years old. Stolli is short for Stolichnaya which is a brand of Vodka. She was the runt of a litter of 12 and all her brothers and sisters were named after brands of Vodka as her Mum was called Vodka.
Her main occupation (other than beloved family pet) is as a tester for my wife's dog products company - Creature Clothes Ltd. Every trip to the river she is usually sporting a new design of collar that she puts through it's paces.
She always comes out with me and enjoys her own style of MudHounding. Her favourite things that she likes to find are tennis balls and sniffing out dead Thames crabs to eat. She also loves rolling around in the mud as it ensures that she will get a nice bath when we get home. She likes being out in all conditions and is good at getting herself out of a pickle. She prefers to be exploring rather than staying in one place, however in the summer you will often see her asleep on a nice bit of warm sand.
The greatest thing we have found together was the Skull of the girl from 1730 and I have to say I am glad she was with me as it was quite a spooky moment.
She really is a top dog!!
Stol has also started tweeting... @StolliMudHound