Smugglers Tunnels

From Historical Hastings

The soft sandstone that underlies much of the hills and cliffs around Hastings would have undoubtedly led to a large number of fissures being enlarged and either utilised to conceal contraband, or simply provide extra space for storage to properties above. Although much of the stone crumbles readily there are a number of more solid bands throughout the layers and the individuals who dug the caves knew how to follow the stronger layers.

Although St Clements Caves are marketed as smugglers caves, they were very well known even back in the 18th century and unlikely to have been utilised. The caverns at Rock-a-Nore were also generally known of and again can most likely be discounted as a hiding place. Many properties in the Old Town that back onto the hills either side of the valley have basement extensions, possibly utilised as smugglers holes or as above, simply for extra storage. There was a known void in the West Hill that was utilised to facilitate tunnelling for the West Hill Lift, although again, well known was possibly too steep for convenient access.

Tunnel found beneath Collier/Priory Road 2011

One tunnel which would appear to have been custom made to accommodate activities was uncovered whilst drainage works were being carried out in Collier Road and nearby Priory Road in April 2011. The digging was immediately stopped and Archaeology South-East called in and confirmed the find was likely to be a smugglers’ tunnel built in the early 18th Century and used to smuggle goods such as tea, tobacco, alcohol, silk and sugar. In addition to the tunnel, diggers also uncovered a cannon ball and a piece of pottery from the Middle Iron Age. [1]

The St Leonards Caves which had been excavated by a man named Smith in Caves Road were in excess of 400 feet in length and, in addition to being utilised as a smuggling hideout were known to have concealed an illicit still.[2]

References & Notes