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Fowey Harbour Heritage Society


Smuggling, importing items to avoid paying taxes, has been in existence for many centuries. Different goods were smuggled at different times and the ways of smuggling have changed. The eighteenth century was notorious for smuggling and Cornwall, notably the south coast, was a major location. The wider Customs Port of Fowey, which covers the area from Mevagissey to Looe was a hot spot. There were several well known organisers of smuggling in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Zephaniah Job in Polperro and Captain James Dunn in Mevagissey operated up to 1805. Small fast cutters were built to bring the goods from the Channel Islands and elsewhere. In Fowey itself the mayor was at one time accused of smuggling.  

 On 30th July 1824 the West Briton newspaper reported the seizure by Fowey customs officers of a French cutter L'Union enroute from Brest to Bordeaux on suspicion of smuggling. Some silk was found on board and the master of the French vessel was said to be a friend of Mr Bennett, the Mayor of Fowey. The Customs officers then proceeded to follow Bennett to his house and there found French wine and brandy in one room. On exploring further they discovered Bennett hastily breaking open more bottles of spirits and pouring the contents out of the window. Strangely no proceedings were brought against the Mayor.  Quiller Couch later used this as a basis for his book the Mayor of Troy.


Helen Doe, 'Sir Arthur Quiller Couch and the Sea', Troze; the Journal of the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Vol 4, Issue 2. 2013

Helen Doe, 'The Smuggler’s Shipbuilder', The Mariner's Mirror, Vol.92, No.4 (November, 2006), 427-442.

Jeremy Rowett Johns, The Smugglers Banker (Polperro Press)

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