Mud Men (TV series)

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Mud Men
Genre History
Presented by Johnny Vaughan
Steve Brooker
Nick Stevens
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 30
Production company(s) ITN Productions
Release
Original network History
Original release 27 February 2011
External links
Official website www.history.co.uk/shows/mud-men.html

Mud Men is a British television series on the History channel. The series follows members of the Mudlarks Society as they hunt for items on the River Thames foreshore that may have changed the course of history. The series is presented by Johnny Vaughan[1] and Steve "Mud God" Brooker, chairman of the Mudlarks Society.[2] Since season 3, Nick Stevens aka "Rock" has become a series regular. The show has currently run for three seasons. A fourth season has yet to be confirmed, although Johnny references a fourth numerous times during the third season.

Show Format[edit]

The first half of the show is spent with the lads down on the Foreshore scouring for all things historical and interesting. After the search, they are joined by their expert around the finds table who then appoints them their historical research "mission" based on what they have found.

The show has many comedy elements to it, such as Johnnys constant desire to become one of the 'inner circle' of the Mudlarkers and his jealousy of Steves knee pads. Johnnys comedic and random outbursts of excitement are prevalent throughout series. Season 3 sees Steve obtain a stalker, resulting in the lads having to escort their expert to a secret meeting place in order to inspect the days finds.

Season 1 Episodes[edit]

Episode 1 – Guns[edit]

Johnny Vaughan and Steve Brooker hit gold on day one, as they mudlark on the holy grail of Thames foreshores at the Tower of London.

While Steve investigates the military origins of a mysterious golden trumpet, Johnny re-unites a 250-year-old musket ball with the Brown Bess gun that fired it. Together the boys go ballistic as they head to the firing range and try out the guns that have shaped 200 years of British Military history.

Episode 2 – Tough Trades[edit]

Johnny Vaughan and Steve Brooker take a journey into London’s historical trades via the Thames at Wapping.

Steve’s on a quest to find out about London’s historic alternative coinage and return an ancient trading token to its original home while Johnny gets to grips with the murky world of tobacco.

Together they try out some very smelly 17th century trades and get a bit more than they bargained for with a gutsy sheep as they learn how to make condoms in the style of the 17th century.

Episode 3 - Tudor Beer & Witchcraft[edit]

Digging on the foreshore at Greenwich leads Mud Men Johnny Vaughan and Steve Brooker back to the time of Henry VIII. Johnny gets his hands on some massive jugs and finds out about how the Tudors used beer bottles to ward off evil witches and Steve discovers the secret of how the Tudors drank beer morning noon and night yet somehow stayed sober. Together they embark on an investigation into the witch hunts that led thousands to their death and Steve gets a dunking as the finger of suspicion falls on the Mud God.

Episode 4 - Georgian Gentlemen[edit]

The Thames foreshore at Limehouse reveals a rich collection of Georgian finds and leads Mud Men, Johnny Vaughan and Steve Brooker, on a dandy adventure. Steve goes tops of the fops with a gorgeous Georgian makeover and Johnny uncovers the seedy world of 18th century London prostitutes. But things get personal as the finds lead the boys to investigate the 18th century gentleman’s obsession with duelling.

Episode 5 - Prisons[edit]

Today’s penal finds on the Millbank foreshore, site of London’s largest Victorian prison, result in Mud Men Johnny Vaughan and Steve Brooker looking at life inside. Johnny gets banged up in the secret remains of London’s oldest surviving prison while Steve experiences solitary confinement as he explores the Victorian idea of rehabilitation. And it’s a painful experience for Steve at the hands of enthusiastic rooky interrogator, Johnny, as they get to grips with rough justice in the form of torture

Episode 6 - WWII[edit]

The foreshore at Silvertown is the location for the Mud Men’s dig today. Infamous as the site of the largest explosion on mainland Britain in 1917 when the munitions factory blew up, the remnants of two world wars litter the banks of the river. Johnny Vaughan liberates an anti aircraft shell case from the mud which leads our intrepid Mud Men on a journey back in time to World War Two. Johnny discovers what it was like on the front line of London’s top secret defences, whilst Steve Brooker experiences the Blitz through the eyes of a survivor. And the Mud Men join the crew of HMS St Albans on an intensive experience of life as a raw recruit in the Royal Navy.

Episode 7 - Thames Shipping[edit]

Rotherhithe, the home of shipbuilding on the Thames for hundreds of years, is the venue for the Mud Men’s mudlarking today. Steve Brooker delves into the rich history of shipbuilding and trade on the Thames and discovers the sad demise of the industry today. Johnny Vaughan and Steve then venture deep under the Thames to get some Victorian pleasure and reveal the secret origins of the London Underground. And there’s mutiny in the ranks as the boys get to grips with a 19th-century steam ship.

Episode 8 - Medicine[edit]

The Mud Men, Johnny Vaughan and Steve Brooker are mudlarking on the historic north Thames foreshore at Cannon Street. Their finds have a distinctly medicinal theme and lead them to discover the gruesome evolution of surgery and medicine in the 18th and 19th centuries. Steve gets to grips with some painful medical equipment while Johnny is in a graveyard to discover the ghoulish practice of bodysnatching. Their quest takes them deep into the very smelly bowels of the city’s sewers before Steve draws the short straw as the Mud Men investigate the Victorian obsession with death.

Season 2 Episodes[edit]

Episode 1 - Surrey Quays[edit]

This episode is all about bottles of booze, as Mud Men Johnny Vaughan and Steve Brooker get stuck in the mud at Surrey Quays. Home to London’s oldest and largest dock it’s no surprise when the boys start pulling up Victorian bottles of beer, but much to Steve’s irritation it is Johnny who pulls up their favourite find - an almost complete 19th century torpedo bottle by J. Schweppe.

Following his superb find, Johnny discovers the evolution of bottles while Steve puts his hot air to good use blowing glass bubbles to make his very own torpedo bottle. Then our Mud Men find out about gin soaked 18th century London and learn how to make the perfect Victorian cocktail.

After finding out about the evolution of the British pub, it’s the Mud Men versus the locals as the boys try they’re hands at a tournament of 19th century pub games.

Episode 2 - Fulham Palace[edit]

Mud Men, Johnny Vaughan and Steve Brooker, mudlark on the foreshore by Fulham Palace Park, the summer residence of the bishops of London from the Middle Ages until 1975.

The boys finds on the foreshore include a piece of masonry that Steve is convinced comes from the original palace and a beautiful medieval tile which take them off to sample the life of the bishops in the Middle Ages and Tudor times, and find out how the English became the elite fighting force in Europe. Johnny and Steve speak with award winning author and Tudor historian Philippa Gregory about the luxurious life of the bishops, and the not so luxurious life of his lowly yeoman.

Their quest then takes them deep into the hierarchical world of Tudor England, as they learn the art of falconry. But things get competitive as the boys find out about archery and battle it out to impress their teacher, world famous actor and authority on the longbow Robert Hardy, to find out which of them could have been an archer in the indomitable English army.

Episode 3 - Isle Of Dogs[edit]

This week's Mud Men comes from the Isle of Dogs which lies on a loop in the River Thames in the East End of London, between Limehouse and Blackwall. During World War Two it was badly hit, as Germany tried to bomb the heart out of Britain’s trade and shipping network.

It’s not long before Steve Brooker and his trusty side kick Rock God, start pulling up the remnants of two world wars but it’s Johnny who liberates a 1911 German Mauser handgun sending the boys off on an explosive quest to learn about firearms and firepower in the early 20th century. It wouldn’t be Mud Men without a trip to their favourite place the National Shooting Range at Bisley! Johnny and Steve pit themselves and their weapons against each other in a WW2 shoot out.

Then it’s off to the world’s largest armed forces fair- War and Peace- to find out about the iconic artefacts and vehicles of WW2 and a chance to tear up the track in a drag race – Tank style.

Episode 4 - Westminster[edit]

This episode comes from the foreshore at Westminster, the epicentre of political power and the heart of our capital city for nearly 900 years. In their hunt for medieval finds linked to the palace, Mud Men, Johnny Vaughan and Steve Brooker are joined by keen mudlark and antiques expert, Geoffrey Munn who shows off a remnant of the original medieval palace he’s found.

Their finds range from rare trade tokens, medieval brass strap-end and book clasp to a piece of controversial chainmail and which send Johnny and Steve to the Tower of London to discover whether Steve’s mail is original and how valiant knights dressed ready to fight for their country and honour.

Inspired by the world of the medieval knight, Johnny and Steve delve into the complexities of heraldry and Steve learns how to make authentic armour. Finally, their courtly quest takes them deep into medieval battle, and Johnny finally fulfils his destiny and becomes a knight, but it’s Steve who has to prepare for the Joust.

Episode 5 - Folkestone[edit]

Our Mud Men Johnny Vaughan and Steve Brooker leave the Thames behind them and head to Folkestone to switch the foreshore for the seashore.

Our Mud Men meet the team of archaeologists racing against time to excavate a Roman villa before the cliff erodes and the remains fall into the sea. Joined by eagle eyed GM and Rock God, Steve and Johnny search for all things Roman and discover rare Roman quern stones- used to grind wheat to make bread- before heading off on a quest to find out about life after the Invasion for both the Roman invaders and the local tribes.

They find out about the diet of a Roman soldier, grind wheat using quern stones and sample some delicacies such as fermented fish guts. They adopt the typical dress of a Roman centurion and an Icenian tribesman and discover that the Romans kept the locals under control with entertainment in the form of chariot races.

Then Johnny and Steve swap horses for horse power as they compete in a modern-day chariot race

Episode 6 - Billingsgate[edit]

The Mud Men, Johnny Vaughan and Steve Brooker are getting down and dirty at one of the oldest trading sites in the heart of London – Billingsgate Market. With all that trading going on it is not long before the boys are digging up some choice finds including a 15th-century bone dice, a 1602 portcullis halfpenny, ancient fish hooks, a Roman coin from Constantine 1st and a medieval reckoning counter- a jeton. Their hoard of finds sets the boys on a trading quest.

At the British Museum they discover all about how the medieval traders kept their accounts and tallies and Steve heads off to New Billingsgate Market to find out about the ordinary men and women who worked in the market and exactly what went on when the original fish market was the most important trading-place in the City.

Their fishy quest leads Johnny and Steve to make a 19th-century London food favourite, jellied eels. Then it’s every Mud Man for themselves as the boys practice their trading patter and compete to sell their products at modern day Brixton market.

Episode 7 - Deptford[edit]

The Mud Men go back to Brooksey’s old stomping ground in Deptford. A stop off for pilgrims travelling to London and later a major shipbuilding dock.

Steve and Johnny pull up some fantastic finds, including a rare 17th century trading token and an 18th-century fake guinea used in gambling. But it’s not long before Johnny and Steve set the standard with a 17th-century mortar cannonball that may have fallen off a war ship in the boat yard 400 years ago.

Their explosive 17th century find sends Johnny and Steve on a quest to discover more about the English civil war and its weapons, but first they must leave their mortar cannonball at the National Army Museum to make sure they aren’t carrying around a dangerous bomb.

Then finally, it is time for battle as our Mud Men experience life as a pikeman and a musketeer in a 17th-century civil war siege.

Episode 8 - Regents Canal[edit]

The Mud Men are dipping their toes into different waters. They’ve drifted away from the foreshore to explore what lies beneath the surface of London’s Regents Canal. During the Industrial Revolution Britain’s canals were the motorways of the day. Sleek man-made waterways were the fastest way to get you - and your stuff - from A to B. Dipping their magnets into the canal, it’s not long before our larkers start pulling up all things industrial, from padlocks to iron chains and even some Victorian jewellery.

It’s time for a Mud Men road trip as the finds send Johnny and Steve to the home of the industrial revolution, the West Midlands. The heartland of heavy industry, Birmingham and the Black Country have a lot to offer the boys. Steve heads off to find out more about making padlocks, his personal obsession.

Then the Mud Men do what they do best, and learn all about Birmingham’s greatest exports- guns- at one of the oldest manufacturers who still make all their guns by hand in a process that can take 2 years!

Finally the boys head off to the canals to learn about working on the canals and become canal bashers.

Episode 9 - Blackwall[edit]

The Mud Men are in Blackwall, a stones throw from London’s financial district. Although these days it’s most famous for its tunnel, in Blackwall’s heyday pilgrims, explorers and shipbuilders rubbed shoulders with emigrants and convicts waiting for passage to the new world. And that means the boys are hoping for finds going right back into the medieval history of London. Access to the foreshore at Blackwall is by invitation only and hasn’t been touched for years, so today our Mud Men are joined by a whole crew of mudlarks lending their eager eyes to the search.

They find a medieval bounty of finds including a pilgrim’s Canterbury bell, an apothecary’s mortar and a priceless pilgrim’s badge that Dr Michael Lewis claims for the British Museum.

The boys set off on a medieval quest to investigate plague and pilgrimages starting with a visit to a medieval herbalist to try and cure Rock God’s bout of the black death. The boys discover about the link between Plague and Pilgrimages in Medieval Britain with a visit to the science museum and Johnny decides that the only cure for his sins is to send Steve off on a pilgrimage to Canterbury to pray for him.

Along the way Steve learns to make a pilgrims’ badge to satisfy Johnny and learns the hard way, just how seriously the medieval sinners took their pilgrimages.

Episode 10 - Plymouth[edit]

The Mud Men pack up their buckets and spades and head to the south west for a spot of marine larking. Johnny, Steve and his trusty lieutenant Rock have heard about a mudlark splinter cell larking up a storm in Plymouth, and the boys are keen not to miss out on the finds, so they’re waving goodbye to the Thames foreshore and heading to seashore in the Mud Men HQ.

The coast at Plymouth was littered with naval docks, which always means some top finds for the Mud Men, including 18th century brass naval rivets, naval buttons, bullets, musket balls and grape shot.

Episode 11 - Poland[edit]

Mud Men Johnny Vaughan and Steve Brooker are on tour, travelling to Poland to discover the hidden history that lies beneath the ground of one of the country’s most fascinating and ancient cities. Their finds lead them on an adventure into Poland’s rich and heroic history from the Second World War.

Armed with metal detectors and shovels, Steve and Johnny are on a quest to unearth military finds in the woods around the city of Glogow, home to Prussian defensive forts, WW2 bunkers and Napoleonic artillery towers.

In 1945 Glogow was the Germans’ most easterly line of defence. During a brutal 45-day battle the advancing Russian Red Army finally defeated the Germans to take this key Nazi stronghold before sweeping onwards and invading Berlin.

The Mud Men unearth an array of WW2 artefacts such as mortar shells, bullets, personal items such as bottles and mugs and even an unexploded bomb. Their finds lead them to get hands on experience of the weapons the two sides used with a local re-enactment group and a ride in an armoured vehicle.

Then it’s on to Warsaw to hear about the role ordinary Poles played in the fierce resistance to the Nazi occupation and they meet three resistance heroes- former members of the Grey Ranks who were actually teenagers in the scouts and guides. After hearing about the incredible bravery of the resistance Johnny and Steve are put through their paces by modern scouts to experience the kind of training and skills the war time resistance fighter scouts would have had. But will they have the nerve to complete their resistance training and jump out of a plane at 13,000 feet?

The Mud Men are accompanied by Polish amateur archaeologist and mudlark Adrian Kostrom.

Season 3 Episodes[edit]

Episode 1 - Tower Hamlets[edit]

The Mud Men are on the River Thames in the east London Borough of Tower Hamlets, larking along a mile of beautiful foreshore from Limehouse to Wapping.

While Johnny continues his mission to get into the mudlarks’ inner circle, Steve and Rock make a rather grisly discovery. The team also unearth evidence of Britain’s railway history, leading them to discover how the evolution of trains shaped the country we know today. Our Mud Men gang then gets their competitive juices flowing as they put London’s transport system to the test in a thrilling race across the city.

Episode 2 - Bristol[edit]

Our Mud Men in the West Country at the mysterious Purton Hulks, a ship’s graveyard 20 miles north of Bristol. Our fearless team battles against the most extreme mud ever encountered on the show, leading to a dramatic rescue as one of the production team gets stuck.

Despite the action the boys still find time to discover some intriguing trade related items. This leads them on a spooky quest, which somehow sees Steve get naked in a barrel, Johnny find some ghosts and everyone try their hand at being cutthroat merchants.

Episode 3 - Tower of London[edit]

The Mud Men are given special access to search the Thames foreshore by the iconic Tower of London, a symbol of law and order in our capital city for nearly 1000 years.

They discover an historic feast of finds, ranging from a Tudor bodkin, chainmail, a gunpowder keg to early police buttons, sending the boys on an explosive journey into the world of law enforcement. Their quest sees them fire both old and new police weapons at the National Shooting Range at Bisley and experience possibly their most extreme challenge yet, as they take on petrol bombs and bricks with the riot police.

Episode 4 - Chatham[edit]

The Mud Men go on another road trip as they visit Chatham on the River Medway in Kent. With over 400 years of history at Chatham’s famous naval dockyard, it’s not long before the boys find evidence of Britain’s illustrious military past.

The finds from the foreshore send our plucky team to discover more about training for the Great War. Would our Mud Men have made the grade? We find out as Johnny and Steve are put through their paces on an assault course, taught to handle a rifle and take part in hand to hand bayonet combat.

Episode 5 - Bankside[edit]

The Mud Men visit the Bankside on the south bank of London just opposite St Paul’s Cathedral. People once flocked to this seedy part of town, full of prostitutes and actors, for its unsavory entertainments such as cockfighting and bear baiting.

The only dirt our boys find is mud, but with the help of Rock, GM and Steph, they discover some classy finds, including some 17th-century trading tokens, a rare stone torpedo bottle, a pair of beautiful Victorian sports pipes and a shycock. This leads our adventurers to discover more about the history of sport, which sees them make a medieval football out of a sheep’s bladder, play real tennis at Hampton Court and begin the very first Mud Men Games.

Episode 6 - Alderney[edit]

The Mud Men pack their bags and fly off to the Channel Islands, Alderney and Guernsey, to learn about one of the great secrets of Britain’s recent history.

Discovering a wealth of military gear, the team explore the dark days of the Second World War when these islands were the only part of Britain to be invaded by the Nazis. Our team explore the strange German tunnels and trenches that still exist and find out what life was like for the people who remained during the occupation.

Episode 7 - Blackwall[edit]

The Mud Men are in Blackwall in East London, as the boys mudlark on a foreshore directly opposite the Millennium Dome. Only accessible by boat and untouched for over a year, it’s no surprise when they find a wealth of fascinating history in the mud, with even Johnny proving to be successful.

Their medieval finds lead them on a journey to discover more about the wool industry that was once ‘the jewel in the realm’. Our intrepid duo get up close and personal with some sheep and Steve discovers the dark side of this industry, as he takes part in one of the most disgusting final challenges ever seen on Mud Men.

Episode 8 - Portsmouth[edit]

The Mud Men venture away from the Thames and head to the south coast and Britain’s only island city, Portsmouth. Rich in nautical history it’s not long before the boys dig up some astonishing finds, including their biggest ever cannonballs. Could they possibly be from Henry VIII’s favourite warship the Mary Rose?

The boys investigate, speaking to the Mary Rose experts and visiting the Royal Armouries at Fort Nelson to fire some canons. They then discover about life in the Tudor court of Henry VIII at Cowdray House, where Steve takes on an eating challenge fit for a King.

Episode 9 - London Bridge[edit]

This episode of Mud Men comes from the heart of London as Johnny and Steve search the foreshore by the historic London Bridge. Their finds prove to be hot stuff as an incredible token from Pudding Lane leads them on a Great Fire of London adventure.

Our gallant team discover the fascinating story behind one of London’s most devastating events and learn about the origins of London’s fire service. Inevitably, the boys attempt to prove they could make it as fire fighters, training with the real life heroes. Could our mud men really make the grade as firemen?

Episode 10 - London Bridge[edit]

This episode of Mud Men comes from the heart of London as Johnny and Steve search the foreshore by the historic London Bridge. Their finds prove to be hot stuff as an incredible token from Pudding Lane leads them on a Great Fire of London adventure.

Our gallant team discover the fascinating story behind one of London’s most devastating events and learn about the origins of London’s fire service. Inevitably, the boys attempt to prove they could make it as fire fighters, training with the real life heroes. Could our mud men really make the grade as firemen?

Episode 11 - Abbey Creek[edit]

The Mud Men get really down and dirty in this week’s episode in Abbey Creek, an estuary of the River Lee in east London. Searching next to a sewer outlet built to clean up 19th century London, they discover hundreds of years of history that has been washed down the drains.

A wealth of finds leads them to experience life as Victorian children, with Johnny and Steve struggling to avoid the dunces cap and cane as they go back to school. They discover the harsh realities for those children put to work down the mines and show off their wheeling and dealing skills as they compete to become part of Rock’s gang of street urchins.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Who should resurrect their TV career?, The Guardian, 8 April 2011.
  2. ^ Harrell, Eben: Following in the Footsteps of the Mud God, TIME, 12 October 2009.

External links[edit]