About the site ... and its author
However, when writing, please bear in mind the following points:
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The site is based on a book, The Ordnance Survey Guide to Smugglers' Britain, which was published by Cassell in 1991. This site is not connected in any way with the Ordnance Survey or Cassell Publishers. The book is out of print, but I have recently completed another similar book, Smuggling in the British Isles which you can buy by clicking here.
Places mentioned on the website are not necessarily open to the public unless the text explicitly states this; access and opening times may have changed since the text was written. Any exploration of the places mentioned on these web pages is entirely at your own risk: I take no responsibility if you fall off a cliff or get trapped in a sea-cave.
I took all reasonable steps to ensure that Smugglers' Britain contained no factual errors. If you alert me to mistakes, I will change the site - usually within a week.
Text © copyright Richard Platt 2006. For charity, non-profit, private and educational purposes [See definitions below] you are welcome to quote passages of up to 100 words provided that you do not quote more than 1000 words in total in a single work. Please ask my permission (I won't usually refuse) before quoting longer passages, and for any quotations, however short, published in print or electronically. Please provide a link to this site if you use text on a web page. All print quotations should be attributed as follows: "quoted with permission from Smugglers' Britain © Richard Platt 2009".
I own the copyright on many of the images reproduced on this website. I am happy to supply hi-res scans of them for reproduction, or for film or broadcast. I make a charge for commercial use to recoup the cost of keeping the site up and running. There is no charge for other uses (listed above and defined at the bottom of the page), as long as you include a link to this site.
I am a full-time author, and I have written more than 70 (mostly) non-fiction books. You can read more about me and my writing by clicking here.
Smugglers' Britain was my first book on a maritime subject, but the sea has become a recurring theme: I have since written several books on piracy, men-of-war, and shipwrecks:
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The explosion of import smuggling that took place in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries has been absorbed into the public consciousness leaving only the vaguest of traces. The smugglers gave us phrases such as ‘on the spot’ and ‘the coast is clear’, yet they remain, at least in most people’s minds, shadowy, romantic figures. I became interested in this period of Britain’s history while researching a popular magazine article on the subject, and though I found the story fascinating, I was surprised and disappointed to discover that there were no books in print on smuggling. The Ordnance Survey Guide to Smugglers’ Britain was an attempt to remedy this situation.
In researching the book, I read many volumes that purported to be histories of smuggling. In reality, most of them were histories of the prevention of smuggling, or of the customs and excise services. This is perfectly understandable: historians prefer to work from primary sources whenever possible, and by the very nature of the game, smugglers left few accurate and detailed records of their activities. Their adversaries in the service of the Crown were, by contrast, prolific correspondents, and in the public record office at Kew there are hundreds of thousands of letters and other documents that deal with the minutiae of life in the country’s custom houses. I am not a historian, and early on I came to the conclusion that the story of smuggling is far more interesting than the story of its prevention. I therefore tried whenever possible to write about smuggling from the point of view of those who broke the law, not those who enforced it.
Yarns and hearsay
To find this perspective, I left the carefully-paved and reliable road of official revenue records. I branched off onto the muddy and rutted paths of traditional yarns, folk tales, and recollections of the oldest inhabitant. I hope the result will please those who are fascinated by tales of smuggling and smugglers. It will certainly appeal to those who wish to follow in the footsteps of the men and women who profited from Britain’s punitive taxation laws. By the same token, this site may well irritate historians. I have shamelessly included a great deal of hearsay and many unverified assertions, and for the sake of clarity, I have used a few revenue terms — such as ‘preventive’ — in a rather loose way.
This is not to say that I have accepted as fact every yarn I heard and read. On the contrary, I have more often tended towards scepticism. For example, if every story I've quoted about a smugglers’ tunnel was true, the coast of southern England would resemble Swiss cheese, and most cliffs would collapse into the sea. If a story seemed plausible, I’ve said so.
In the course of my research, I visited and photographed most of the places on the British mainland and the Isle of Wight about which I have written. The exceptions are the most remote areas, and those where I found little evidence of smuggling. Specifically, I stayed south and east of a line drawn between Stranraer and Inverness, and I omitted most of the west coast between Liverpool and Carlisle.
I received an enormous amount of help in writing Smugglers' Britain, but I am indebted to a few people in particular.
The staff of the British Library, then still at Bloomsbury, helped me track down hundreds of obscure references, and branch librarians all over the country responded to my letters with photocopies of their local archives. The staff of the Customs and Excise Library at King’s Beam House helped me in the early stages of my research.
Ilford Ltd generously provided me with film with which to shoot the colour pictures.
Robin Wood provided some early encouragement.
Many thanks also to...
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Private purposes means use in a family, home or social context. If the picture or text are reproduced, then the number of copies is dozens, not hundreds.
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