By Alex Jones


INCREDIBLE images from nearly 70 years ago celebrate a traditional British pastime and recall the days where you could enjoy a jar of cockles on your way home from the pub.

A series of stunning images include a hard-working woman stooping low to pick up masses of delicious cockles from a sunlit shoreline, and a pile of her hard-earned spoils.

UK: Passing on tips and techniques through the generations. Mediadrumimages / Topfoto / Retronaut


Joined by two young carefree boys, the captivating images show cockle pickers sifting through the sand with their cockle sieve or bare hands, and a pair of mischievous donkeys being cajoled into carrying sacks of the seawater snack.

The images, taken in 1950, prove that Britain has been enjoying cockles – whether seasoned with salt and pepper or pickled in a jar – since time immemorial. Until relatively recently, it was not uncommon to see a cockle seller offering their wares in a basket as they walked from pub to pub, a tradition which has now all but disappeared.

UK: A woman washes her cockles in the seawater. Mediadrumimages / Topfoto / Retronaut

Collecting cockles is not difficult but great care should be taken by anyone looking to indulge. The small bivalve molluscs leave an impression in the sand which they filter feed through, and in many cases the cockle shells themselves will be visible.

They can be taken by simply digging the cockles out with a small trowel, or even by hand. Larger number of cockles can be gathered by dragging a garden rake or sieve through the sand and removing the cockles that way.

UK: A cockle woman rising a donkey balancing a cockle sieve on her head. Mediadrumimages / Topfoto / Retronaut

Cockle picking can be a deadly business however – in February 2004 a group of Chinese immigrants drowned after they were cut off by an incoming tide in Morecambe Bay. Tragically, twenty-three of the group lost their lives, leaving one sole survivor.

Gangmaster Lin Liang Ren was subsequently found guilty of the manslaughter. Ren, his girlfriend Zhao Xiao Qing and his cousin Lin Mu Yong were also convicted of breaking immigration laws.