Cornwall is renowned for its smuggling … so a-smuggling shall we go …
|Grublin Games Publishing|
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In England smuggling first became a recognised problem in the 13th century, following the creation of a national customs collection system by Edward 1 (Edward Longshanks) 1239 – 1307.
From this period onwards taxes were required to fund extremely expensive wars with France and then with the United States …
|iphone photo of a postcard on Cornish highlights|
from a David Hobbs illustration
Medieval smuggling knowledge has been based on official sources – which as a researcher commented ‘the trouble with these is they only detail the activities of those dumb enough to get caught’; wool, hide, grain were smuggled out avoiding tax …
The high rates of duty levied on tea, wine and spirits, and other luxury goods coming in from Europe, Asia and the Americas made the clandestine import of such goods and the evasion of duty a highly profitable venture … and for a while unrecorded …
|"The Harbour, Polperro" by|
Edward Frederick Ertz
… the smuggling industry was more economically significant than legal activities such as farming and fishing.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Kidnapped” commented: “Few places on the British coast did not claim to be the haunts of wreckers or mooncussers”.
Cornwall suited the trend … its long rocky coast, with tiny coves, creeks, inlets, wide bays and beaches all ideal for thwarting any revenue men who might be around …
However early on smuggling involved the local gentry, who might turn a blind eye, or get fully involved and reap the benefits. Cargoes were landed on shore … goods were dispersed … tea, brandy, gin, rum, tobacco and even pepper … spice being a highly valued commodity.
Ships would drop anchor off-shore and sell china, silk and cotton goods free of local tax to the local seafarers …
After 1800 the Revenue became more organised, which is when the tactics changed … smuggled goods were dropped off at remote locations and picked up again when the coast was clear.
Tunnels and passages were dug out of the rocks to expedite the dispersal of the contraband … much of which went up country … a rough journey in the days before tarmac.
Jamaica Inn is one of the staging posts well known today as the setting on Bodmin Moor for Daphne du Maurier’s novel … where perhaps the bleak setting, the grey thick mists hanging heavy, the lure of the wind whistling across the bruised and craggy landscape … added to the myth and truth about the smugglers – innocent fishermen, or villainous smugglers, thugs or chancers …
The risks were high ... transportation to the colonies, or worse: hanging, or hanging and left as an example to others …
There are some horrendous stories of famous smugglers and their families … some so cruel it almost beggars belief: the exertion of power and control.
Smugglers’ beaches are a-plenty … on the north coast .. is Pepper Cove … Hell’s Mouth … as long as there was a landing space, a beach to unload, a way up the cliffs … where they were unsighted from land or sea …
|Smuggling characters form the Grublin Games|
Trencrom Hill, Lelant … had a granite cottage, which was used as a 19th century kiddlewink (a beer shop): smugglers excavated a cave alongside for the concealment of contraband.
|I found the photo .. now cannot find the beer|
A smuggler drove a cart load of silk up to the Angel Inn pub, but the landlady warned him of a party of searchers awaiting his arrival. The smuggler’s son was sent off with the cart, while the smuggler walked into the bar and bought the revenue a round of drinks to keep them talking … his son meanwhile went off and hid the silk, so when the cart was searched the provisions were all legal.
|Another Museum for you:|
Polperro Heritage Museum of
Smuggling and Fishing
Wreckers ensnared ships to the coast by tricking them with the use of beacon lights, which were purposely installed … once the ships foundered they were looted by the wreckers, with the contraband being quickly dispersed along the bridleways and lanes of inner and coastal Cornwall.
Numerous type of hideaways were used, cliff caves, dug-outs, mine shafts, secret tunnels, safe houses, pirates’ dens … the wreckers operated along the Cornish coasts … with Cornwall being very aptly described as the “haven of smugglers” in view of its topographical features of “rocky coves, sheltered bays, tumultuous waves and wild and untenanted landscapes”.
|Some of the towns and areas|
I've mentioned in the posts
Smuggling villages, settlements ready for some smuggled contraband ….
That is S for Seasoned and wizened, Sozzled and Soaked, Salted Smugglers who Seized and Sneaked Supplies from unSuspecting vessels to Seek fair trade with oft-Starving Sufferers in the Settlements abounding the Shores of Cornwall … from Aspects of British Cornish …
A website about Cornish Smuggling
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