Tales of Cornish smugglers sit alongside those of notorious highwaymen and outlaws throughout England’s history of crime and punishment. A certain folk hero status may be assigned to the smugglers of Cornwall. Were they the free traders of their day, or common criminals out to trick the excise men for no more than personal gain?
The isolated coves to north or south, with wild, windswept, sparsely populated moorlands separating them from rich trading routes to France and beyond, makes Cornwall one of the most active area for smuggling in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Jamaica Inn, built in 1750 and possibly gaining its name from the illicit trade in smuggled rum, was then, as now, an ideal place to take shelter and sustenance en route from the Cornish coasts to Devon and beyond.
Watch 1929 archive footage of ‘rum running’ from Havana, Cuba. The title reads: “Rum running! Pathe cameraman secures unique pictures of problem now exercising British and American Governments following dramatic sinking of Schooner “I’m Alone” and capture of dauntless Captain Randell and Crew.”