Billy and Charley - Story of the Shadwell Forgeries

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Billy and Charley - The Story of the Shadwell Forgeries

William 'Billy' Smith and Charles 'Charley' Eaton ( - January 4, 1870) were an enterprising pair of Londoners who made a living by digging on the Thames foreshore and selling the ancient objects they found there to both collectors and dealers.

Around 1857, demand for medieval artefacts had outstripped what Billy and Charley could supply from their excavations on the river bank, so they started making their own medieval pilgrim badges and medallions in workshops in Shadwell, London.

After years of selling their forgeries many people became suspicious, the inscriptions on the items were meaningless scrawls, dates as early as the eleventh century appeared on objects in Arabic, instead of Roman, numerals and the resulting bad press from noted archaeologists and antiquarians of the period put them out of business.

Today, 'Billy and Charley' forgeries are very collectible indeed.

Hopefully, I will be able to get some photographs of Billy and Charley forgeries to illustrate this page, but there is already an excellent site showing many different types here.

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An online gallery of known examples of Billy and Charley's handiwork

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