Sunday, March 22, 2009

Smuggling Signals

The Horsey Wind Pump located close to the North Sea was an important instrument in assisting smugglers of wool, brandy and other contraband to avoid the Revenue Men as they scoured the area. The taxes imposed on these items were so high; the local merchants did all they could to avoid paying them and so reverted to smuggling their goods in and out of Norfolk in a clever and ingenious way. If the Revenue Men had been sighted in the area, the wind pump operator was notified and he would stop the sails so they made an X (the Cross of Saint Andrew). When the danger had passed, the operator would put the sails in the sign of a cross + (Cross of Saint George) to indicate the “all clear.” In the absence of wind, a boy would be asked to climb to the sail and his weight would accomplish what the wind could not and the operator would lock the sails in place.
Seeing the coast was clear, the wherry captains who had dumped their contraband overboard and marked the site with a pointer known only to them, retrieved their goods and went on their merry way.
The Horsey Wind Pump is owned and maintained by the National Trust and is in excellent condition. On the site, there is a little tea and gift shop that is open for refreshments.
More on smuggling can be found in my book Extraordinary Places...Close to London page #35 as well as stories on Vikings, kings, queens, ghosts, witches and the witch finder general. ISBN 0-8038-2031-3