Tuesday, 3 November 2009


I had always been tempted to discount the tales of smuggling in the Estuary. In my village there are tales of hidy holes and tunnels and sliding panels galore. It seemed to me that no one would make a landing up the Estuary when it was so much easier to land contraband on the seacoast. At Exmouth was a gallant naval officer commanding a preventive cutter and it seemed unthinkable that contraband goods would come up the channels of the Exe.

Well I was sort of right but I was very wrong. I was reading Mr H J Trump’s book about Teignmouth when the following quote leapt from the seventy third page:

Coombe Cellars had always offered a safe and easy means of Transit for Tobacco and Tubs landed anywhere west, the smugglers passing over Lower Haldon… and from thence by bye roads to Powderham, where Boats have been in readiness to tow the Goods…to Lympstone on the River Exe at any time after dusk, tide permitting. Lympstone is as free and open from Contrabandists as any smuggler could wish… consequently a notorious haunt of Smugglers who are in constant communication with groups at…. Teignmouth, Coombe Cellars, Bishopsteighnton and even the Bristol Channel.

It was an eureka moment! The sbove was written in 1857, towards the end of the days when smuggling was rife. The Inspecting Commander for the Exmouth District was writing to the Board in London. No goods were being landed up the Exe but they were certainly being given a safe conduct across the Estuary by way of the ancient passages from Powderham to Parsonage Style and to Sowden End, thence on their way up country.. The hidy holes and sliding panels and perhaps even tunnels of Lympstone, that NOTORIOUS HAUNT OF SMUGGLERS, helped them on their way.

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