Dastardly smugglers and Dr Syn, a tale!

Here in Kent, the Garden of England, lies the seaside town of Dymchurch, some twenty minutes from our Folkestone summer centre. With its huge, sandy beaches, it’s very popular for sunseekers, families, and ice-cream connoisseurs every summer. But of course, it has a dark, hidden past for those who wish to find it.

Dr SYn and the smugglers

26th March 2020 — Back in the 18th century, Dymchurch and Kent were on the front line of the war between gangs of ruthless smugglers and the government (and sometimes even the army), playing Cat and Mouse, landing their ships on deserted beaches in moonlight, and fighting night battles to smuggle expensive items like brandy, teas, rum and tobacco from Europe into England. The smugglers, often depicted as romantic, dashing swashbucklers, operated from pubs such as the Mermaid in Rye and hidden networks of seaside caves and cellars where they hid their goods. In reality, these gangs were less like Captain Jack Sparrow, and more like vicious criminals and killers. When caught, they were usually executed...

In literature, some of these smugglers became heroes, fighting the corrupt government like an 18th century Robin Hood. One, called Doctor Syn, was a Priest by day, and a smuggler by night, riding his great black horse, Gehenna, in the disguise of a scarecrow in the company of his Night Riders, whilst during the day their horses were kept in a hidden stable looked after by Mother Handaway, a local witch! Of course, it didn’t end well for Doctor Syn, but the places featured in the books by author Russell Thorndike can still be visited. The local miniature Romney Hythe and Dymchurch railway have named one of their steam engines Doctor Syn, and the train which runs across the countryside (and through some of the villages) is the best way to see many of the places mentioned in the book, as well as some of the real life locations!

Want to know more? You can listen to an entire book, BBC’s the Adventures of Doctor Syn...

Check out the railway...

Find out more about the Smugglers of the Romney Marsh form the Bald Explorer’s at...

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