The figure of the smuggler has provided material for innumerable fictional tales of
intrigue and high adventure. In reality the law-makers, who first imposed duties on
exported and imported goods, unwittingly created a climate in the country for the
establishment of serious organised crime.
From the moment taxes were imposed
they were evaded and so began the delicious deception of smuggling.
As the centuries progressed smuggling grew to massive proportions. People from
every walk of life became involved in financing, transporting, hiding and marketing
It has been estimated that from 1700 to around 1850 a quarter of
the country’s import/export trade was illegal. Smuggling flourished because the
majority of people did not consider it a crime. It provided a life-line for those living in
poverty and an opportunity to get back at an unjust and unfair society.
Because of its proximity to France and its large number of suitable landing places,
Kent became established as the main gateway for contraband. In many cases the local
inn became the smugglers’ centre of operations where plots were hatched, arrangements
made and runs commissioned. The smugglers’ pub served as a meeting place,
recruitment centre, secret storage facility, distribution depot and valued customer.
This guide will lead you to a significant number of authentic smugglers’ pubs
distributed throughout Kent. These wonderful old buildings with their low-beamed
ceilings, flag stone floors, inglenook fire-places and secret hiding places are where
you can get a real feel for the desperate days of the free traders.
The events which
actually occurred during the heyday of smuggling provide us with stories every bit as
wild as those that can be imagined.
Retired graphic designer Terry Townsend spent most of his working life in Kent.
He became immersed in the history of the county and has written numerous
articles for county magazines. Terry now lives in Dorset with his wife Carol and
their cat Smudge. His previous book for Halsgrove Once Upon a Pint, is a guide
to the literary inns of Dorset and Somerset.
Imprint: PiXZ. ISBN 978 0 85710 085 6, hardback, 210x148mm, 128 pages. Published May 2014.Reprinted July 2015.