Smuggling in the New Forest
The New Forest has not existed solely for Commoners, ponies and witches; it also has a well documented history of Smugglers (or free traders), predominant during the 18th and 19th Centuries. Some of their main contraband was tea, brandy and silk goods.
Maritime smuggling into the numerous coastal coves in the area, Lulworth Cove and Kimmeridge Bay were popular; the forest became a haven for the Smugglers to distribute their goods. They created a network of numerous tracks covering hubs of transfer around places such as Burley, Christchurch, Lymington and Bournemouth.
New Forest Smugglers
In Burley, as well as being famous for the notorious local Warne family (Smugglers’ associates), evidence of Smugglers existence was found when the 17th Century Queen’s Head Public House was refurbished. The cellar revealed a cache of pistols, coins and other goods.
Lovey Warne is a notorious figure and much celebrated New Forest smuggler. She used to wear a cloak on her walks in the Vereley area. If she spotted revenue men, she would turn it inside out to reveal a scarlet red colour which warned the smugglers to avoid the area.
She would also go on board the ships in the docks, undress and then wind yard after yard of expensive silk round her before making her way back to Burley.
Another notorious story of smuggling in Burley is centred on Old House. Apparently a soldier discovered several smugglers near there. The smugglers killed the soldier and disposed of his body in ‘Soldier’s Bog’. But they let greed get the better of them. A soldier saw one of the smugglers with a snuff box from his diseased colleague in the Queen’s Head pub and subsequently the smugglers were caught. They were hung at Knaves Ash in Crow.
Notorious Smuggling Locations
- The Chewton Bunny near the luxury Chewton Glen Hotel on the south coast was often used by smugglers to land their illicit goods. A ‘bunny’ is a inlet from the sea. From Chewton the smugglers made their way to the Cat and Fiddle Inn and then up the Smugglers’ Road in Burley.
- The haunted Angel Inn, now known as The Angel & Blue Pig had a tunnel leading to it under Lymington high street.
- Black House on south coast at Hengistbury Head was notorious for smuggling.