Rubbish or Ritual, Medieval Treasure in the Thames, talk

John Clark. past Curator Emeritus, Museum of London

St John’s Church, Leytonstone

Leyton & Leytonstone Historical Society members free, others £2

A Leyton and Leytonstone Historical Society event.

Over 2600 medieval objects now in the Museum of London have come from the River Thames along its 40-mile course within the Greater London area. A study of this material seems to reveal clusters – preferred locations, dates and types of object. Are these significant? Do they represent accidental losses at dangerous crossing points or the sites of battles, or simply the ongoing use of the river as a convenient way of disposing of rubbish? Or were certain types of medieval object ceremonially thrown into the river? Comparisons with prehistoric ‘votive deposits’ may be relevant. For example, did returning pilgrims throw their souvenir badges into rivers at crossing points ‘as a propitiatory gesture’? David Stocker, in a study of finds from the River Witham, has proposed a ‘ritual’ explanation for the presence there of fine 13th- and 14th-century swords. Do the many sword finds from the Thames fit this pattern?