Smuggling of all manner of items was rife in Cornwall during the 17th and 18th Century. Tea, tobacco and alcohol being the popular favourites. We Explore the historic Smuggler’s coves and secret passageways on a Newquay Coasteering session.
Exploring the Tea Caverns
There are many notorious smuggling locations in the Newquay area, but the Tea Caverns, located on the headland between Fistral Beach and the Newquay Town Beaches were the most renowned. The Tea Caverns are named for china tea, a much prized commodity would reap rich rewards for smugglers. Brandy, wine, silk in fact any other valuable booty was worth the risk of harsh punishment.
Smuggling was not as adventurous as Hollywood movies would like us to think. In fact most of the local population had some involvement in the profession as it brought with it a better standard of living. The largest operational smuggling vessel could hold 3,000 Half Ankers (Small barrels of around 4 gallons) of spirits. As well as 10 to 12 tons of tea!
On Sundays it was a common sight to see 100 horses waiting on the cliff tops to move the contraband. You can see the exposed tunnels in the cliffs today.
The Tea Caverns – Coasteering in Newquay
The Lookout for Smugglers
On the top of ‘The Gazzle’ headland you will see an unusual eight sided building, this was the coastguard lookout station. From here the preventative Men, employed by the port of Padstow, could keep a watchful eye for smugglers, sometimes known as Freetraders, engaged in their illegal pursuits.
If you look back towards the Huer’s Hut you will observe that there are many hiding places in the rocks where smugglers could hide their ill-gotten gains. These and many other such caverns dotted along the coast are the result of mining excavations. We shall discover that Newquay has an extremely long history of mining dating as far back as 3000 years BC.