Highways and Byways in Sussex - online book

An illustrated appreciation, of the most interesting districts in Sussex.

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XXIX
HALF-WAY HOUSES
277
all. They sailed as near the shore as might be and then sank the tubs, which were always lashed together and kept on deck in readiness to be thrown overboard in case of the approach of a cutter. The position of the mooring having been conveyed to the confederates on shore, the vessel was at liberty to return to France for another cargo, leaving the responsibility of fish­ing up the tubs, and getting them to shore and away, wholly with the land smuggler.
An old pamphlet, entitled, The Trials of the Smugglers . . . at the Assizes held at East Grinstead, March 13, 14, 15, and 16, 1748-9, gives the following information about the duties and pay of the land smugglers at that day :—" Each Man is allowed Half a Guinea a Time, and his Expenses for Eating' and Drinking, a Horse found him, and the Profits of a Dollop of Tea, which is about 13 Pounds Weight, being the Half of a Bag ; which Profit, even from the most ordinary of their Teas, comes to 24 or 25 Shillings ; and they always make one Journey, sometimes two, in a Week." But these men would be underlings. There were, I take it, land smugglers in control of the operations who shared on a more lordly scale with their brethren in the boat.
On all the routes employed by the land smugglers were certain cottages and farm-houses where tubs might be hidden. Houses still abound supplied with unexpected recesses and vast cellars where cargoes were stored on their way to London. In many cases, in the old days, these houses were "haunted," to put forth the legend of a ghost being the simplest way not only of accounting for such nocturnal noises as might be occasioned by the arrival or departure of smugglers and tubs, but also of keeping inquisitive folks at bay. Only a little while ago, during alterations to an old cottage high on the hills near my home in Kent, cor­roboration was given to a legend crediting the place with being a smuggler's " half-way house," by the builders' dis­covery of a cavern under the garden communicating with
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