Corpses, brothel tokens, tropical fish and a 300-year-old ball and chain are all things discovered within the murky waters of the Thames. Reporter HELOISE WOOD plumbs the depths to discover more.

A NEW scheme has been launched encouraging people to explore the state of the 215-mile long river Thames.

Charity Thames21 unveiled the three-year programme last week (FEB 17) to get a "true picture" of the health of the Thames. 

While the river has improved massively over the last 60 years and now supports a huge number of fish, it remains polluted with millions of tonnes of sewage which pour in when it rains.News Shopper: PICTURED: The secrets of the Thames

Early neolithic flint leaf-shaped arrowhead (4000-3000 BC). Courtesy of Museum of London

It also contains an incredible array of artefacts, many of which will remain forever hidden.

Senior curator at the Museum of London Docklands, Georgina Young, said: “The Thames is a huge part of the city’s growth and prosperity.

“It’s so recognisable, from the EastEnders credits to the opening lines of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

“It has existed in its current form for around 450,000 years. Before that it was in Norfolk but it got squeezed into this position by ice sheets

“You get all kinds of things including beautiful flint arrowheads, a well as things like pilgrim badges to coconut shells.

“Some things, such as these arrowheads, were thrown in as offerings.

“Mudlarks, who are people who trawl the foreshore for finds, often take things to our designated finds officer who identifies them.”

News Shopper: PICTURED: The secrets of the Thames

A Roman copper alloy token, known as a spintria, probably 1st century AD. Courtesy of Museum of London

For more information, visit


A Thames21 spokesman said "It isn’t easy to get a true picture of the health of the tidal Thames.

"While the river has improved massively over the last 60 years and now supports loads of fish, it still looks brown, and we know it is dirty and polluted with millions of tonnes of sewage which pour into the Thames when it rains.

"Thames River Watch aims to dispel myths about the river by engaging volunteers right at the water’s edge."

News Shopper: PICTURED: The secrets of the Thames

The project will work with individuals, partner groups, schools and businesses to gather data about water quality, litter and wildlife in the river.

For more information or to get involved, visit


A Roman brothel token depicting a couple having sex was uncovered near in Putney in 2012. Nobu pastry chef Regis Cursan found the coin while searching with a metal detector on the banks of the Thames. Historians believe the coin is the first of its kind to be discovered in Britain and was used in brothels staffed by sex slaves.

Countless dead bodies wash up along the foreshore every year.

Random body parts which have been discovered include a nose, a chin, a left forearm and a pelvis.

A 300-year-old ball and chain was discovered washed up in Rotherhithe in 2009 and was briefly displayed at the Museum of London.

More than 550 medieval pilgrim souvenirs have been found on the Thames.


The amount of water flowing through the Thames this January was the highest recorded for that month since records began in 1883, data from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology has revealed.

A controversial new super sewer is planned by Thames Water for Deptford Church Street, Lewisham, which would see around three years of building work.

In the 19th century, Erith was particularly famous for its yachting facilities on the river.

When barge races started on the Thames in 1863, they began and finished at Erith.