Wednesday 4 September 2019

Join #HistoricalFiction author, Johanna Craven, as she takes a look at Life in the Time of the Cornish Smugglers #History #Cornwall Johanna Craven @JohannaCraven

Life in the Time of the Cornish Smugglers
By Johanna Craven

It is just past midnight. A sliver of a moon reflects off the sea. There is just enough light to show you the way.

It is 1750, and you are waiting on the cliffs of a tiny fishing village in Cornwall, on England’s southwest tip. Though smuggling is rife throughout the country, owing to exorbitant taxes on imported liquor, nowhere is ‘free trade’ more flourishing than among Cornwall’s maze of coves, caves and near-inaccessible beaches.
A member of the smuggling syndicate’s landing party, you have been tasked with the job of carrying the spout lantern; a lamp specially made by local craftsmen that allows you to shine a beam of light out to sea, without it being seen from the land. The smuggling vessel is due to return at any moment, having made its latest run to Saint Peter Port, in Guernsey, where un-taxed French liquor is sold by the gallon. The ship’s captain will be watching the cliffs, waiting to see your light.

Like all free trading gangs, your syndicate has its own language when it comes to communicating via lantern-light. A steady beam tells the captain it is safe to land. A flash tells alerts him of the presence of the revenue men. 

A blue flare rises suddenly from the water. The smuggling vessel is in the bay. One of the crew has fired an unloaded pistol to tell the landing party they have arrived. You can just make out the inky shape of the ship on the water.

You wait. Listen. Watch. There is no sound of riding officers on the nearby roads. No customs cutter prowling the bay. And so you light the spout lantern and send an unbroken beam of light out to the waiting ship. It is safe to land.

With the lantern still in hand in case the revenue men should appear, you make your way down onto the beach with the rest of the landing party; a group of farmers and miners, eager for a cut of the sizeable proceeds the smuggling haul will garner.

In the faint light, you can see the boats gliding towards the shore, loaded with crates and ankers small enough for a man to carry slung over his shoulders. In the past, when the riding officers have shown themselves, the captain has been forced to send the contraband to the bottom of the bay, tied to a marker barrel for collection the following night.

But tonight the landing is smooth. No one is watching. The landing party begins its weary trudge up the steep hill from the beach. Some men are on horseback, others carry goods by foot. The contraband will be hidden throughout the village; in barns and tavern cellars, in the empty well by the village green.

Tomorrow, the goods will be distributed. There are shipments of liquor to go to local taverns. Tobacco for the local magistrate, new lace gloves for the earl’s wife. Children will fill their pockets and scurry up the lanes. Women will carry ankers beneath their skirts, pretending to be heavy with child. And undertakers will load their hearses with contraband, taking their liquor-laden carts right beneath the revenue men’s eyes.

The first hint of dawn is lightening the sky when the last of the ankers are hidden away. In a few hours, you are due to start work at the tin mine. But there is just enough time for a celebratory drink. You trudge upstairs from the tavern cellar with the rest of the landing party. A few of the other villagers have come to meet you. In these parts, there is a decency to smuggling. It is seen as a trade that gives power back to the people. The noblest of trades. And so it is with a sense of pride that you sink exhausted in a chair and toss back a glass of French brandy, watching out the window as a new day arrives.  

The West Country Trilogy

By Johanna Craven

Bridles Lane

Cornwall, England. 1740.

They say only the brave ride Bridles Lane at night.

Vicar Richard Dodge speaks of ghosts and demons, conducting elaborate exorcisms in his churchyard overlooking the lane. And with the villagers sheltering in fear, local smugglers carry their haul up the road to be hidden in the safety of the church.

Isaac and Scarlett Bailey have spent their lives hiding contraband in Talland church. Forced into free trade by their father's mistakes, they want nothing more than to escape the smuggling syndicate and build a life above the law.

When a seemingly abandoned ship is wrecked in Talland Bay, it sparks a wave of hysteria among the superstitious villagers. Among growing unrest, the mystery of the wrecked ship deepens, unearthing long-forgotten secrets that will tear a village- and a family- apart.

Hills of Silver

Scarlett Bailey has left home with a knife in her hand, to search for the father she has grown up believing dead. Determined to punish him for abandoning his family, Scarlett finds herself drawn into the world of a local press gang, where smugglers rub shoulders with naval officers and the revenue men are full of surprises.

Scarlett's brother, Isaac, is making his own plans to escape Talland and release his family from a life of free trade. Behind the back of syndicate boss, Charles Reuben, he conducts dangerous smuggling runs that will see a bullet in his chest if he is caught.

When the truth of their father's disappearance finally comes to light, it will have far-reaching implications for Scarlett and Isaac. And while they both fight the allure of dangerous love, their enemies will do anything to stop their escape from succeeding.

Wild Light

Isaac and Scarlett Bailey’s attempts to escape the smuggling syndicate have left their lives in pieces. Isaac’s children are missing, and Scarlett’s battle with the darkness inside her has just become far more difficult.

As the search for the children escalates, long-buried truths begin to surface, blurring the line between myth and reality, enemy and friend. Home is no longer safe and risks must be taken.

Their only option is to escape— no matter what the cost.

Pick up your copy of

The West Country Trilogy


Johanna Craven

Johanna Craven is an historical fiction writer, pianist and film composer. She has lived on three continents and currently divides her time between London and Melbourne. She loves ghost-hunting, cooking (and eating) and plays the Celtic fiddle very badly.

Johanna released her first novel Music from Standing Waves in 2015 before signing with Endeavour Media for her second novel The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Her most recent project, the West Country Trilogy is inspired by true events from 18th century Cornwall and is available now.  

Connect with Johanna: WebsiteFacebookGoodreads.


  1. What a wonderful post, and series! Thank you, Johanna.

  2. I adore the cover of your trilogy — It is certainly going on my to-read list!


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Mary Anne xxx