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Smuggling on the Marsh

In the 18th and early 19th centuries smuggling was rife in England and no more so that on the Romney Marsh.

Spirits, silk, lace, tea, tobacco and such like were smuggled in while tin, graphite and particularly wool, were smuggled out.
Smuggling on the Marsh was at its height during the period from 1700 to 1840.

The main reason for all this illegal activity was the taxes imposed on certain home manufactured and imported goods and the embargo on the export of others, mainly wool.

It was made illegal to export wool from other than designated ports in an attempt to protect our own clothing trade.

Smuggling on the Romney Marsh coast
Smuggling on the Romney Marsh coast [ack 4.]

As far as Romney Marsh was concerned, its proximity to Europe and London, quite beaches and its local sheep trade made it a focal point for hundreds of smugglers.

Owling, as the illegal export of wool was known, gave rise to many smuggling gangs in Kent, who used the Romney Marsh coast to transport the sheep fleeces, and some live sheep, across the Channel. During the 19th century the ruins of Hope All Saints Church, in the parish of St Mary in the Marsh, were a favourite meeting place for smugglers.

Pictures and Poems

Greatstone resident Anthony Webb has written a number of poems about Romney Marsh, with a main theme of 18th smuggling on the Marsh. All the poems are illustrated by various artists. You can read them at Pictures and Poems.

To learn more about Smuggling in East Kent please visit www.historickent.com.