Pirates spotted in Wells Next the Sea
Luckily today’s Pirates are more intent on having fun. But the Wells next the Sea Pirate Festival (9-11th Sep) is borne from a more nefarious heritage…
The entire coastline of 18th century England was ruled by major smuggling barons and their private armies recruited from coastal villages. By the 1780’s, smuggling had reached such unprecedented heights that the Government was forced to take a stand, not only to protect its revenue, but also to quell the revolutionary posturing of the smuggling gangs.
North Norfolk was particularly lawless, and was in the control of ruthless operators determined to protect their illicit activities. In 1783, Army Regiments and Naval Warships, returning from the American war, were pitched headlong into a domestic war against the smuggling gangs. A decade of bloody confrontation, violence and death ensued.
The Pitt Arms (now The Hoste) in Burnham Market played a prominent role in suppressing the smuggling gangs, by providing accommodation and stabling for detachments of soldiers and horses from the Light Dragoon Regiments. These disciplined cavalrymen were drafted into the area to assist officers of both The Customs and The Excise to confront the well-armed smuggling gangs on equal terms. The landlord of the Inn was allowed a miserly 4d per day by the War Office for each soldier and horse, and included accommodation, food, small beer, stabling and hay.
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