The Götheborg of Sweden, Hooper Struve, and Totally Thames Festival 2022

The Götheborg of Sweden, South Dock, Canary Wharf

How are you all doing? If you’re anything like me, you’ll be relieved to see the back of the recent heatwave. I love the sunshine but excessive temperatures are too much and, coupled with a lack of rain for weeks on end, are definite signs that the climate is changing. Thankfully we’ve now had some extremely welcome rain in London, its gardens and green spaces looking uncharacteristically parched and dry for some while now. And, of course, we’re now braced for Thames Water (who waste so much of our precious water themselves by not repairing millions of gallons of leaks promptly) bringing in a hosepipe ban this week. Tant pis, as they say in France.

But, in spite of this, August has been busy and I’ve been grateful to have had the opportunity to go mudlarking a few times this month. In addition to this, another highlight of my summer was the visit of the stunning ship, The Götheborg of Sweden.

View of The Götheborg from the stern

The largest ocean-going wooden sailing ship, this is a replica of the original Swedish East Indiaman Götheborg I, launched in 1738, and which tragically sank just off Gothenburg, Sweden, on 12th September 1745 while approaching the harbour. Mercifully, all the crew on board were rescued.

The Götheborg is currently undertaking a long expedition to Asia, recreating her original 18th century voyages and sailing to various destinations in Europe before reaching the Asian continent in 2023. En route she’ll be stopping off at various ports and docks to give the public a rare opportunity to come on board.

Close-up of carvings on the stern

This ship is a wonderful example of maritime wood carving as seen in the figurehead, quarter galleries and stern decorations. The two-galleried stern measures over 20 feet across and is decorated with a variety of carvings including a cockerel (bottom left), plus central crest, fish and sea nymphs blowing conches. These are in French Baroque style, as commonly seen in Swedish ships of the period.

View of the figurehead at the bow

My favourite carving though was the magnificent beast of a lion at the bow (see my photo above). Figureheads are meant to make a statement, and this one definitely does. Standing 15 feet tall, the lion started out as three tons of timber before the expert hands of a master wood carver gave him shape and form.

The Götheborg of Sweden spent nearly five days docked at Canary Wharf before sailing to Bremerhaven, from where she’ll be setting sail on the next stage of her voyage on Monday 22nd August. I wish her and her crew Godspeed and a fair wind.

Top Nine finds from the Thames Foreshore in August

I’ve avoided the foreshore during the extreme temperatures we’ve had this month – there isn’t anywhere to shelter on the river when it’s baking hot – and when I’ve gone out to the Thames it’s been either early morning or when the temperatures have dropped. It’s been a great month for some lovely finds.

As you can see from the image above, marble finds have featured quite majorly, from Victorian striped chinas (used in games of carpet boules), to mocha swirls, codd bottle marbles and a large clay marble that might have been used for industrial purposes but may also have been played with by a Victorian/Edwardian child before tossing it naughtily into the river.

I’ve also found some early medieval shell-tempered ware pottery fragments (which might even be Saxon), a fragment of medieval floor tile covered in moss green glaze, a Charles I rose farthing, an 18th century bone button form and a lot of bullets. (NB: important health and safety note regarding bullet finds on the river. The Thames has an abundance of rogue military material that often gets washed up on a low tide – much of it is World War Two ammunition but some of it, like my recent bullet finds, are reasonably modern, possibly dumped as a result of criminal activity. If you find bullets of any description, don’t take them – they might still be live and therefore dangerous if allowed to dry out. It’s recommended that you put them carefully in the river where they will remain stable. On no account take them home with you, however tempting.)

But this beauty below is my favourite find of the summer.

Hooper Struve mineral water bottle

Spotted with the base sticking out of Thames mud was this mint condition Hooper Struve mineral bottle. When I pulled it out, I was sure it would be smashed but, praise be, it wasn’t. It’s only the third complete vintage bottle find I’ve made on the foreshore in seven years of mudlarking. The river flows fast in London and many old bottles are inevitably unable to withstand being tossed about over the centuries, emerging chipped and broken at low tide. A complete one, such as this, is a rare treat and an added bonus is that it makes a very cool little vase too.

Hooper Struve & Co Ltd mineral bottle – ‘TO H.I.M THE KING – BY APPOINTMENT’

Beautifully embossed with the words ‘TO H.I.M THE KING -BY APPOINTMENT’ and the name ‘HOOPER STRUVE & Co LTD’ on the other side of the bottle. It’s not clear precisely which King it refers to but the style of bottle dates from 1901-1936 so it’s likely to be either Edward VII or George V. It would also have had a vulcanite-style screw top to keep the fizz in.

I’m indebted to the Brighton Argus for providing some backstory to the history of the company that made this bottle, and the link to Brighton itself.

In the early part of the 19th century, spas became fashionable all over Europe. In 1825, Friedrich Struve, a German chemist from Dresden, invented a machine that reproduced the characteristics of natural mineral water using chemicals. This enabled him to set up the Pump Room of his German Spa in Brighton, which had no natural spring of its own.

Aquatint of Struve’s Pump Room, drawn and engraved by M.U. Sears & Co of Warwick Square, London. Circa 1835

His curative waters received huge patronage from the fashionable and wealthy classes, including King William IV, who flocked to Brighton to ‘take the waters’ for the benefit of their health.

As often happens with fashions, they quickly become unfashionable, and by the 1850s the practice of taking the waters had begun to decline resulting in the closure of the Pump Room. Brighton could not compete with the more established natural spa towns of Bath, Cheltenham or Baden-Baden in Germany.

Photo image of the neo-classical frontage of the Hooper Struve & Co Ltd Pump Room, courtesy of the Brighton Argus

After his death in 1840, Struve’s family continued to sell his mineral water and in 1891, a soft drinks firm established by London chemist William Hooper, merged with Struve’s. The new company took the name Hooper Struve & Co Ltd. They continued production in Brighton until approximately 1963, after which the original Pump Room becamed derelict and a magnet for vandals.

It was eventually demolished by Brighton Council leaving only the neo-classical frontage. A nursery school now exists on the site.

On a sadder note, searching the Company’s records on the GOV.UK Companies House website this week while digging into its history, I found this recent entry, dating from just a few weeks ago. It seems that whatever had existed of the original Hooper Struve business was now no longer trading, and going through the legal process of being struck off the Companies House Register.

Final Companies House Records for Hooper Struve & Co Ltd

A sad end for the makers of my Thames-found mineral water bottle. But I’m grateful that spotting this on the foreshore opened a door to a piece of social history I knew nothing about. This is why I love mudlarking; the sheer pleasure of discovering the story behind an artefact spotted on the foreshore.

On a final note, as August grinds slowly to an end, I’m looking forward to September and this year’s Totally Thames Festival, a month long celebration of the river organised by The Thames Festival Trust.

There’ll be mudlarking exhibitions, walks, talks and so much more throughout the month, click on the link below for the full schedule of events. I’ll be displaying some of my favourite medieval and post-medieval finds at St Paul’s Cathedral on Saturday 17th September, entry is free.

Do come!

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