Thursday, December 29, 2011

All the Crew are saved

Culver Hole
The remote Gower coastline was a lucrative haven for smugglers during the late 18th and 19th centuries. 

Beneath the cliffs at Port Eynon is a cave called Culver Hole.  Set between two rock faces it has a masonry wall and a staircase leading up four floors.  

Culver Hole is believed to have links with the legendary 11th century castle of Port Eynon.  In more recent history it was used as a safe hideaway for contraband.

Various smuggling gangs operated under the very noses of the establishment making the job of the customs officials particularly difficult.  Farms at Great and Little Highway occupied by William Hawkin Arthur, the self-styled smuggling king, were the centre of operations.  Seemingly invincible, it was customs officer Francis Bevan (an ancestor of both Silvanus and Ann) who in 1804 seized some 420 casks of spirits from a concealed cellar in both farmhouses, causing the collapse of this particular gang’s operations. 

This incident illustrates just how dangerous the work of customs officers could be as to get the casks into safe keeping over night Francis had to contend with a mob of some 200 people.  He was forced to allow them to have a couple of casks just to keep the peace.  Guarding the haul proved equally difficult and by the time the consignment reached Swansea it was found to be 17 casks short.  In a subsequent report Francis explained how he had given up some of the cask to secure the safe transferral of the bulk of the shipment.

Official figures state shipwrecks along the Gower coast occurred at the rate of one every two years but the Bevan letters would indicate that they were much more frequent than this.  In a letter to George dated 23 January, 1879 Ann writes:

Overton Jan 23 1879

Dear George

I am glad to say Sill is better but not able to get up from bed he [he] will have been in bed three weeks next Saturday he is now out of pain but very weak the Dr says he may try to get [get] up on Sunday next if he goes on well.  

Hannah & Ellen have had bad colds & had to stay in bed some days they are better & able to sew & nit by the Parlour Fire you Father feels the cold weather very much.  I have just been to see your Aunt Harriet she has caught a severe cold & is laid up in bed.  I hope she will soon be about again & I hope you will try not to take cold as the weather is very trying.  

Last Monday night a Norweggian Barque came on Shore under Slade Cliff Laden with Indian Corn, Maize all the Crew are saved & are at Porteynon the men round here have got work getting out the Cargo. Frank has been up seeing the wreck this afternoon. 

We have heard from George Bevan that you are coming home Saturday week Bring all your clothes with you that want mending.  I am getting Stockings ready for you your Uncle promised me some packing cloth & a Basket but perhaps he has forgotten them you must write to let uss know when you can come home weather Saturday or any other day.  

Dear George it is getting late I must conclud with our kindest love & may God bless & keep you form every evil from your affectionate

                                      Mother A. Bevan

Image - courtesy of the National Trust

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