Smuggling in Romney Marsh

In a very entertaining talk to CHAS members, Blue Badge Guide, Sue Duckworth, explained how smuggling in Romney Marsh can be dated back to the early 13th Century when King John imposed export taxes on wools, and how the Romney Marsh sheep were highly valued for the quality of their fleece. With successive governments imposing taxes on alcohol, tobacco and many other products, smuggling continued for much of the next 6 centuries until levies were reduced in the mid 19th Century. Sue described how various gangs used certain pubs as their headquarters and how, in many instances, much of the community was involved including figures of local authority such as the vicar or magistrate. Indeed local churches as well as pubs could often be used as staging posts before the contraband arrived in London and other markets. The authorities tried several methods to curtail smugglers, and those found guilty could be hung or deported to distant colonies. However the smugglers often seemed to evade the coastguard, dragoons and revenue men. Sue’s talk included photographs of several pubs and churches, mainly in East Kent, and illustrated how beautiful so much of the county of Kent still is. A few illustrations from Sue’s talk are included below. CHAS members who missed the talk can see a recording on request by emailing

Click on the images to enlarge. (with thanks to Geograph)