July 15, 2019
St Clement’s Caves were formed more than 15,000 years ago. And since then they’ve seen some dangerous and dubious goings-on. Smugglers and pirates are just the start. From royalty to The Rolling Stones, our caves have welcomed people from all walks of life. If only walls could talk… well, here, they can! More than 70 realistic, life-sized smuggler characters are waiting to meet you down in our warren of wonder – if you dare!
Smugglers, or ‘free traders,’ as they preferred to style themselves, started plying their nefarious trade around the Sussex shoreline in the 13th century, sneaking wool out of the country and making a tidy profit from avoiding the King’s taxes.
Yet it wasn’t until William III’s war with France in 1689, when he raised customs and excise levies to pay for his army, that smuggling turned truly seedy. Much filthy lucre was to be made by ruthless gangs who wanted to trade goods without paying these levies. In fact, in the local area, theses gangs became known as ‘cut backs’ after one terrible encounter where a Dutch sailor was brutally chopped in two with a sword.
Many of Hasting’s lords, landowners and Sheriffs had their pockets lined by these cunning smugglers, and that made them near untouchable by the law. And for those who refused to take a bribe? Well, a fate similar to the Dutch sailor awaited… indeed, many an informer or government worker met an untimely end around these parts. Some simply vanished into our very own caves, never to be seen again…
And all the while, the smugglers of Hastings grew richer and richer, hiding their loot and illegal goods in graveyards, secret passages, and, yes, their favourite hideaway of all… St. Clement’s Caves.
In fact, it wasn’t until the 19th century that the navy were able to bring the smuggling trade to their knees. Though it’s said that if you pay a visit to Smuggler’s Adventure, you might still meet one or two lurking in the shadows…
Our Smugglers Adventure Experience is your chance to immerse yourself in this murky world of smuggling – right here in our mysterious natural caves. The infamous smuggler Hairy Jack will be your guide as you delve into the lives of the pirates, smugglers and bootleggers who made their fortune, and our rich history, around Hastings.
Our cheeky pirates and sneaky smugglers are ready to shed light on their dark lifestyle down in our caves. They’ll show you where they stashed their cash, laid their loot and hid their hooch, all whilst laughing in the face of the law! They’ll also let you get hands on, with all sorts of interactive displays, games and activities along the way. There’s even a Smuggler’s Quiz for you to download, designed to bring their true shifty shoreline shenanigans to life. But make sure you don’t cheat, that’s for the smugglers to do!
It’s a great day out (and in…) for all the family. Sometimes spooky, always fun, it’s a swashbuckling adventure waiting to be had in Hastings.
Why not take a leaf out of the smugglers’ book and avoid paying full price by getting your tickets online here »