Current Release

Current Release
The Warrior's Viking Bride

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Blockades and smuggling

One thing that strikes any observer of Regency drinking habits is -- how could so much French brandy be drunk, particularly considering there was a blockade going on.

First of all, the blockades and prohibitions against importing was not universally followed. For example, parts of the French army were famously dressed in uniforms made from Yorkshire broadcloth.
Second, the French had a huge wine industry that was dependant on English consumption. Napoleon wanted to export, but he did mind the French paying English excise. So there was a great trade in smuggling. The smuggling of French brandy and wine had gone on for many years. Basically, certain sections were unwilling to give up their drink despite the various wars. Earlier, Scotland which was not at war with the French during certain periods used to be a huge conduit -- with shipments coming through Lieth. Equally sometimes, brandy was shipped through Portugal as port was by far the most popular drink (see for example the early cellars books and the contents that were considered proper for a gentleman's cellar)

The two coasts are very close and it was easy for ships to sail across. Kent and East Sussex were huge centres for the smugglers. The Mermaid Inn in Rye was used by the infamous Hawkhurst gang. It still boasts of secret stairs -- including one behind a bookcase, priest holes and other delights. It is also one of the most picturesque inns in England and has been an inn since approximately 1156, even though it was substantively rebuilt in 1420. It also reputedly has several haunted rooms. My children were not best pleased when we stay in one. My eldest claims that he did not sleep a wink as something was definitely in the room. The bar and restaurant are lovely.
The best series of adventure stories about smuggling is the Dr Syn stories by Russell Thorndike (the brother of Dame Sybil Thorndike) They became a Disney made for television movie starring Patrick Magoohan as the Vicar turned Robin Hood type smuggler. They were centred on the Romney Marsh area, during the early part of the reign of George III. Well worth a read if you can get your hands on a copy.
Unfortunately, I was less impressed with Dymchurch when we went to visit it as it had the air of a faded seaside resort. But there are a number of interesting churches in the area that were used in the smuggling trade.
However, tales of smuggling are not in my writing plans today as this wip has to do with the early wagon ways. And school is restarting -- my youngest went back today and the other two will go back tomorrow.


Natasha said...

I love Rye. It's one of my favourite places. I think influenced by my childhood passion for Malcolm Saville's books about The Lone Pine Club. I'll have to go google them. I've got my copies on my shelf but I do wonder whether 'the Gay Dolphin Adventure' would have much mileage now!

Michelle Styles said...

I haven't read Malcom Saville's books but I do agree about Rye.
It is great. there is just a certain something about it.

Nell said...

I love Malcom Saville books. I haven't been to Dymchurch for years.