Where weary travellers and smugglers would stay...
Built in 1750, Jamaica Inn was a coaching inn - a bit like our modern day service station. Weary travellers using the turnpike between Launceston and Bodmin would stay at the Inn after having crossed the wild and treacherous moor.
Some of the travellers were a little less respectable than most and used the Inn to hide away the contraband that had been smuggled ashore. It is estimated that half of the brandy and a quarter of all tea being smuggled into the UK was landed along the Cornish and Devon coasts.
Jamaica Inn was remote and isolated so it was the ideal stopping place on the way to Devon and onward. It is also thought that the Inn may have got its name because it did a considerable trade in rum!
In 1778 the Inn was extended to include a coach house, stables and a tack room creating the l-shaped main part of the building as it is today.
You can relive the
smugglers' experience at Daphne du Maurier's Smugglers Museum - we have probably one of the finest and most extensive collections of smuggling
artefacts in the UK - and enjoy 'The History of Jamiaca Inn' an educational and historical theatre show that recounts many of the myths and legends associated with Jamaica Inn including tales of wreckers and smugglers over the past 300 years.
Enter into the evil yet romantic era of smuggling in Cornwall and see what is probably the finest collection of smuggling artefacts in the country. Smuggling evolved when customs dues were first introduced in the thirteenth century but there was no form of law and order until the fifteenth century and even then it was negligible. Goods such as silks, tea, tobacco and brandy were more frequently smuggled into Cornwall than anywhere else in England.
Cornish smugglers were not a violent breed, but very cunning. A famous eighteenth century economist defined a smuggler as: "a person who, though no doubt highly blameable for violating those of natural justice and who would have been in every respect an excellent citizen, had not the laws of his country made that a crime which nature never meant to be so".
So smuggling became accepted and most took part in the proceedings - even the revenue men were quite approachable to the odd bribe!
Smuggling around the Cornish coast was comparatively simple as there were few preventive men to enforce the law and even when a smuggler was caught, he was usually dealt with leniently by the presiding magistrates, most of whom were willing recipients of the smuggled goods.
Polperro on the south coast and Boscastle, Trebarwith and Tintagel on the north coast were the most used landing coves for bringing ashore contraband. Talland and Lanreath were regularly used by Polperro smugglers to hide their cargo. Jamaica Inn, in its isolation, provided the ideal premises for storing this contraband on its way up country.