A Smugglers’ Pub

Turfcutters Arms, a Hampshire Smuggler’s Pub

From a new book by Terry Townsend called “Hampshire Smugglers’ Pubs”, published by Pixz Books 2016

“The straggling village of East Boldre was originally a hamlet known as Beaulieu Rails. this earlier name reflected the fact that the settlement had grown up alongside the wooden railings defining the western boundary of the Manor and parish of Beaulieu. In 1834, five years before East Boldre became a parish in its own right, the residents were described in a parliamentary report as “for the most part smugglers and deer-stealers”.

This New Forest squatters’ settlement dates to at least 1700 and the records of its early history are inextricably bound up with those of the parent parish of Boldre. East Boldre is surrounded by the New Forest and the area has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Over thirty Bronze Age barrows lie within the parish boundaries. During the smuggling era, turf (peat) was harvested here as an important source of fuel. The Boldre turf was an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter unique to natural areas like the peatlands or mires found in this part of the Forest.

A persistent smuggling story relating to East Boldre tells how, when a tub of brandy fell from a horse and smashed on a rock, the whole party of free traders drank their fill using their shoes as improvised cups. “Pitts Deep”, on the marshy Hampshire foreshore, lies due south of East Boldre. Local author Walter Frank Perkins, writing in 1927, described the smugglers activities: “The kegs of spirits, roped together, were sunk and marked with a float, about one quarter mile from the shore, in the Pitts Deep stream, at a spot known as Brandy Hole. The kegs were floated ashore by punts, as by this way it was easier to sink them if a coastguard arrived. The kegs were carried from the shore by a gang of local men to carts which were waiting a short distance away, but if dangerous for the carts to load up, the kegs were slung across the shoulders, generally one in front and one behind. The pay for a tub man was 2/6d per keg carried. To assist the coastguards, a mounted man called a Riding Officer, lived in a cottage near Pylewell Home Farm. The smugglers did not mind this man as he could easily be watched.” The small, dimly-lit, and warmly welcoming Turfcutters Arms is a traditional pub situated in the real backwaters of the New Forest about 5 miles south of Beaulieu. The name of the pub originates from the ancient rights of “Turbary”, which applied to the chimney and hearth of a property to cut a certain amount of turf for use as fuel in that hearth alone. The pub still retains a collectin of turfing irons.

The unpretentious Turfcutters Arms is beautifully chaotic with lots of beams and pictures, sturdy tables, rugs, bare boards and flagstones. It has the perfect all weather pub combination of a large beer garden and log fire and offers accommodation in the recently renovated barn where there are three beautiful self contained apartments with modern bathrooms, and kitchens and personal patio areas. Some good heathland walks from here would have been trudged by smugglers hauling laden contraband carts from the shore around Pylewell Point. It seems fitting for the New Forest setting that in addition to local Ringwood Ales The Turfcutters Arms also serves Gales country wines produced from a blend of grape juice and fruits from the garden, hedgerow and countryside.”

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