A mudlark is someone who looks through river mud to find interesting or valuable items. Through history, most mudlarks were poor and unskilled and searched through city sewage to make a living. The modern mudlark is more likely to use a metal detector for treasure hunting as a hobby. Nicola White was mudlarking and found a brass luggage tag with the name F. Jury on it, with an address. That was the beginning of the journey to find F. Jury.
Occasionally, a seemingly innocuous find in the River Thames such as this, can be compared to opening up a glorious story book. It is no secret that it is the hidden stories behind the items which I find washed out by the Thames tide, which fuel my passion for mudlarking. With the help of a lot of people on twitter, (after I posted a picture of F. Jury's brass luggage tag last Thursday 27th August), I was to find that this small, muddy object was to conjure up a whole family of people from the past, with their lives opening up before me like an intriguing novel. These people and their very real dilemmas have lain forgotten for years (especially in this case, as there seems to be no living close relatives). So here is a brief outline of the very worthy life of Frederick Jury, the owner of the luggage tag, discovered in the Thames mud on 27th August 2015 at Enderby Wharf Greenwich.
The luggage tag turned out to be older than he imagined. Frederick Jury was born in 1873. With help from strangers and historical records and resources, White uncovered his story. Not only is it a glimpse into the everyday lives of some turn-of-the-century British folk, but the account follows Jury through World War I and afterward. White even went to search for Jury’s gravesite. The story is not only fascinating, but well told. White makes us really care about one person, as well as his family, who lived and died so long ago. -via Metafilter