Miscellaneous

Smuggling and Smugglers
Let me introduce my place of study. I live in a small village on the South Devon Coast, with a small but largely unexplored history of smuggling. Across the estuary the diary of a smuggler called John Evens proves insightful (Sayers 1997) whilst three miles in the other direction, tales of murder and violence towards customs officers abound (Jamieson 1992). However, it is important to note that the smuggling trade was, by necessity, a malleable and non-situated trade; by 1799 much of the trade had moved North West to Cawsand near Plymouth (Waugh 1999). Since the introduction of the Smuggling act in 1746, distribution was made significantly more difficult. For example, the activities of the famous East Devon Smuggler Jack Rattenbury and his Cornish contemporary Harry Carter became largely erroneous by the early 19th century. Cole (1975) outlines the multiple times at which lapses in duty led to a reduction in smuggling over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries.
This does not, however, dull the fervour of tales village co-operation and daring. Eckett-Fielden (1937) conducted an oral history of Devon in which such tales proved an important part not only of individual memory, but also memory of place. In this vain, many places retain a level of fame thanks to past ‘encounters’ with smugglers: the Pilchard Inn on Burgh Island is still renound as the Haunt of Elizabethan Smuggler Tom Crocker (see Graham 1986). It was not unknown for the spires of church steeples and the basements of inns to be used as hideouts and hiding places for contraband (Farquarson-Coe 1975). Although smuggling was no doubt successful at many points over the years, the possibility of collusion with revenue officers cannot be ruled out (see Ramsay 1951; Platt 2007)
The smuggling trade in Devon also lends itself to such a study. As Coxehead (1956) describes, many smugglers were able to mobilise whole villages to act as land smugglers (as well as large angry mobs against preventative officers (Gribble 1963). In fact, many villages acted together, in order to provide different services to the smugglers (Newcombe 1989), creating working relationships that emphasised each other’s strengths

Responses

  1. Small piece of context I wrote for a university piece. As always, this is only a small example of what is available.


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