Smuggling science


Two hundred and fifty years ago Christchurch could lay claim to being the ‘smuggliest’ place in England. Smugglers’ expert knowledge of the local tides, water properties, coastal geography and the changing weather would have been invaluable in helping them to successfully make a dishonest living and evade the long-arm of the law.

Often contraband goods, particularly barrels of brandy and rum, were skilfully submerged just below the water surface when the smugglers ships were unloaded at sea, in order to be ‘rescued’ and brought to shore at night when the coast was clear. One smuggler Abe Coakes was famous, or infamous, in Christchurch as a human tug-boat! A superb swimmer, as strong and supple as an otter, he swam miles out to sea against the current to then guided large rafts of barrels through the Run on a fast-flowing flood tide, down Mother Sillar’s channel and into the harbour to be secretly collected and hidden away. Although this feat was incredibly dangerous and strenuous - swimming in the dark, often in wild weather and with strong tides - Abe Coakes somehow always managed to survive. Until, that is, the day he was betrayed… 

.....Find out how and by whom in our ‘Tales on the Tide’ at the Thomas Tripp on 30th April!
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