In Victorian times, when it was low tide on the River Thames in London, it was a common sight to see groups of dirty, ill-clad, barefoot young boys and the occasional girl foraging on the muddy, slippery foreshore of the river. Moving on calloused feet they scavenged for anything brought up on the river that they could sell. They were aptly named Mudlarkers. Their booty might be merely wood, coal, rope or bones, truly rubbish, but if they were lucky, they could find something of higher value, perhaps buttons, coins, objects of historical value, and very occasionally, precious metal items.
Mudlarkers belonged to the poorest among society, maybe homeless orphans or children of large, destitute families. Sometimes they were joined by the elderly, also penniless, who hoped to find enough to pay for a small meal or for alcohol. Mudlarker kids were still active on the Thames until early in the 20th century. Modern day Mudlarkers go mudlarking as a hobby. They explore the muddy, shoe-sucking shores of the Thames better clothed, well shod and use metal-detecting and other sophisticated equipment to help them make their finds.