Smugglers and Wreckers

In Pembrokeshire, the coastal names of places such as Brandy Brook, Ogof Tobacco and Ogof Whisky (“ogof” meaning cave) testify to the presence of smugglers along the coastline. Offshore islands such as Skomer and Skokholm were major smuggling depots for everything from brandy to tallow.

Other places strongly associated with smuggling, included Manorbier and its Castle, St Bride’s Bay and Solva, whilst the coastline north of Fishguard became a particularly well known haunt of salt smugglers, a most valuable commodity.

In 1770, local smugglers even had the audacity to attack and scuttle a Customs and Excise vessel called The Pelham Cutter off St Davids, plundering everything on board. Various coastal localities are still reputed to have secret tunnels, used for moving and storing contraband. Solva was once especially well known for its concealed stores and shafts.

However the coastline can be treacherous and many boats met their end on the rocks around the coast and indeed south Wales generally was notorious for wrecks and also the wreckers who would deliberately lure boats to their doom.

A classic example locally of deliberate wrecking concerns two fine mansion houses of Scotsborough, owned by the Ap Rice family and Trefloyne, owned by the Bowen family that were on either side of the Holloways Water just outside Tenby. It was said, that they were well known locally to be involved in the terrible trade of wrecking, placing out false lights that would lure unsuspecting ships to sand banks and rocks where they would be wrecked. However their good fortune was due to change. There was only one heir in the Ap Rice household and one daughter of the Bowens. It seems they had been abroad, many said eloped and married. They were returning to their families, who sadly, wrecked their vessel on this dark stormy night, and both lovers were drowned and that after this time, only sadness and misery descended on both families.


Conversely, in Marloes a clergyman was preaching a sermon one Sunday at Marloes in Pembrokeshire, when suddenly someone burst through the door and said that a boat was being wrecked on the rocks nearby. Immediately everyone rose and began excitedly making their way out of the church. The Vicar shouted to his congregation to stop and show some restraint and ‘moderation in all things’, but when he realised that it really was no use-he added that he thought they really ought to give him a head start-since he was no longer as quick on his feet as he had once been!!

It is still possible to see the remains of Scotsborough House on the public footpath from the bottom of Gumfreston Hill and of course  present day Trefloyne is a fine hotel, restaurant and golf course.

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