Grave Goods – Lara Maiklem

Grave Goods is a series of interviews in which the participant is invited to choose an item to accompany them to the afterlife from the following categories: Tools of the Trade – a tool/implement without which you’d be lost, whether it’s a pen, trowel, notepad, bottle-opener or scanning electron microscope. Food for the Journey – a favourite portable snack, or a portion of something from your funeral feast. Memento Vivere – a memento of a companion/event to bring you cheer (can be an image). Ex Libris – the book or text you are least likely to tire of reading. Lucky Deposition – a bonus selection chosen by the guest – can include transport. A Message from Beyond the Grave – an entirely discretionary option – leave a note for a future generation to find.

Lara Maiklem. Image © Jonathan Ring
Lara Maiklem. Image © Jonathan Ring

This week it’s Lara Maiklem’s turn to choose. Lara is a licensed Mudlark with over 15 years experience of searching the Thames. She has amassed quite a collection of unusual lost and discarded objects, including an Iron Age pot, Roman hair pins, a medieval pilgrim badge, Tudor shoes, 17th century children’s toys, scores of buttons, hundreds of clay pipes and even a glass eye. She began posting on social media in 2012 and her first book, Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames, was published by Bloomsbury in 2019. It became a Sunday Times Bestseller, Radio 4 Book of the Week and it won the Indie Award for Non-Fiction 2020. Lara has written on Mudlarking for the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Financial Times and Spectator magazine, she wrote a short mudlarking series for BBC Radio and last year she was invited to do a TED Talk. She is probably the best-known mudlark in London.

See the bottom of the page for Lara’s social media links.

Tools of the Trade

A selection of clay pipes
A selection of clay pipes

Knee pads, I feel naked without them. I average about 5-6 hours every time I go mudlarking and much of that is spent on my knees staring at mud. If I ever pop down to the foreshore for an impromptu quicky it’s always the knee pads I miss, it’s painful and soggy without them. I’m hoping the afterlife will involve a lot of river time, so I’ll need my kneepads.

Food for the Journey

I avoid eating on the foreshore because there’s raw sewage in the river and I don’t want to risk another bout of ‘Thames tummy’. I am a creature of habit though and my pre-lark coffee is a ritual I indulge whatever the time of day (or night) I’m catching the tide, so I’d take some good coffee.

Memento Vivere

A picture of my wife and children, because they have made my life complete and they always make me smile.

Ex Libris

This is a difficult one because my shelves are groaning with beloved books, but since I would only have one book to last me a very long time/eternity I would choose one with lots of pages and lots of pictures. I’ve spent an entire career working with illustrated reference books and I really blew the budget when I bought Amsterdam Stuff: A Catalogue of Archaeological Finds from Amsterdam’s North/South Metro Line. Six hundred pages crammed with every kind of find you can imagine, it is the most beautiful reference book I have ever seen and I will never tire of looking at it.

Bottle stoppers
Bottle stoppers

Lucky Deposition

A toothbrush… ha, not this time. I would take my bicycle. I love cycling, not in a Lycra speedy way, just in a pootling from A to B kind of way. I grin madly when I cycle and want to be happy on my Awfully Big Adventure.

A Message from the Grave

‘Don’t make the same mistakes we did’. Human beings have always been disgusting messy creatures. The fact that the river has been a dumping ground for 2,000 years is is one reason I find so much, but by comparison our ancestors rubbish is harmless. The bone, wood, shell, leather, pottery and metal waste they left behind will mostly return quite harmlessly to the environment, but what we are leaving behind is toxic and enduring. Being on the river all the time, I have become very aware of what our throwaway plastic lifestyle is doing to the environment. From the tiny bits of microplastic in the mud to the swathes of floating waste on the Estuary and the islands of wet wipes further upstream that are actually changing the geography of the river, we are destroying our home and if we don’t stop soon the effects will be irreversible. So my message would be simple, stop now!

Mudlarking, by Lara Maiklem

Lara can be found at:

Facebook: @LondonMudlark

Instagram: @London.Mudlark

Twitter: @LondonMudlark

1 thought on “Grave Goods – Lara Maiklem”

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