History of Smuggling
Smuggling in the past is a subject that attracts universal fascination stories about it have been heavily romanticised and distorted. However, a wealth of factual information exists from official records. Goldhanger has a particular historical interest in the subject as the village is located in a prime position to have been part of the Free Trade and the stories that have been passed down, together with official records, confirm that the village and the Blackwater were renown for being involved. The Coastguard cottages, built in 1822, still stand as a lasting legacy to that involvement.
Much has been written about smuggling and there are two primary sources of material: Collectors of Customs were not only responsible for collection of revenue but were also responsible for recording all smuggling activities, and were meticulous in their documentation, which remains archived in county record offices. These reference books used extensively this source of information and are quoted in the article:
Smuggling in Essex, by Graham Smith, 2005,
The Smugglers Century, by Harvey Benham, 1986
Goldhanger - an Estuary Village, by Maura Benham, 1977
In contrast authors of fictional works from the Victorian period onwards saw smuggling as an ideal basis for adventurous, heroic, romantic stories. The violence involved was also portrayed in these stories, such as in the semi-fictional History of Margaret Catchpole. More surprisingly perhaps, the smuggling association with violence was seen a suitable subject for children stories, such as in Goldhanger Woods. These books are typical of this approach:
Mehalah, by Revd Baring Gould, 1880
Goldhanger Woods, by M & C Lee, 1887
Mistress of Broad Marsh, by Alfred Ludgater, (a friend of Baring Gould)
History of Margaret Catchpole, by Revd Richard Cobbold, Suffolk,1847
Cargo of eagles, Margery Allingham 1966
It is uncertain if the children` novel Goldhanger Woods is directly connected with, or based on, the village of Goldhanger. However, it is known that the authors, Catherine & Mary Lee, had connections with, and stayed at Tiptree Priory, which is on the edge of Heath and well know for its association with smuggling.
Tiptree Priory in 1911
Although there is no direct reference in Goldhanger Woods to either Goldhanger or Tiptree as we known them, there are several possible associations within the book:
o The `big house` in the book is set on edge of a gorse covered common used by gypsies.
o Smugglers traded on the common (see later many references to Tiptree Heath)
o "Goldhanger" is referred to variously in the book as a village, not just as a wood.
Margery Allingham wrote her last book entitled: Cargo of Eagles in 1966 with a smuggling/romantic theme: Detective, Albert Campion sets out to plumb the secrets of Saltey, an ancient hamlet on the Essex marshes (said to be based on Tollesbury). Once the haunt of smugglers, now it hides a secret rich and mysterious enough to trap all who enter - and someone in the village is willing to terrorise, murder and raise the very devil to keep that secret to themselves. With the help of a love-lorn historian, and a one-woman avenging army, Campion uncovers murder.
In the days before photography the adventurous image of smuggling also made it a fertile territory for the artists of the time. . .
Smugglers Unloading Contraband by George Morland
Moreover, there are an abundance of paintings and drawings of revenue cutters, as revenue officers were very enthusiastic about acquiring the latest and fastest vessels and were equally keen to record them in artworks which can still be admired today. . .
Vigilant Revenue Cutter on the Thames
In the past a surprising number of goods had excise duty placed on them that resulted in these goods being smuggled, at over the centuries they have included:
Imports: Alcohol and tobacco, salt, tea, coffee, sugar,
nutmeg, pepper, silk, lace, leather, soap, Bayes & Says (Baize & serge wool)
ship parts: bowsprits, sails
Exports: wool & flour
Coastwise Traffic: coal, slate, marble, oysters, salt
During wars and the immediate post-war periods many rationed goods were also smuggled.
The relationship between smugglers, the authorities and the public was always strained, and for various reasons those in the rural areas appeared to have sided with the smugglers. . .
o Perhaps through poor communications many people didn`t understand why goods were being taxed or for purpose the money raised was being used for.
o At the time of the peak smuggling activity there was very little government support for those in rural areas, ie no welfare state, state pension, little road maintenance, sanitation, etc.
o In fact, most of the money raised was spent on fighting wars overseas and developing the colonies in the New World, so if ordinary people knew, they probably would not agreed with it. Some of the major imports from land acquisitions the New World such as tobacco and rum were subsequently heavily taxed on import, with the consequential increase in smuggling.
o In the middle of the 15th century laws was passed requiring all import and export goods to pass through a small number of recognised ports that had a resident Revenue Officer. Maldon was the only port in the Blackwater that qualified. Many workers in other coastal locations resented their livelihood taken being away in this manner.
o Working people didnt have a vote or have any other contact with authority and the law makers.
o Working class people werent used to being taxed. There was no income tax or PAYE, purchase tax or VAT, as in a cash and bartering oriented society the collecting and policing such taxes was impossible. Taxing imported goods at a port was a practical solution for the authorities and smuggling was effectively tax evasion and a direct consequence. In the 1600s there was a Hearth Tax and in the 1700s there was a Window Tax, but these only affected the better off who had more than one hearth and more than six windows.
o In the later part of the 1600s a salt tax was introduced, with local Salt Officers appointed to collect the tax and control salt production. This which substantially increased the price of salt and led to much smuggling of salt around the coast and in the blackwater. (see. . . Salt extraction in the Blackwater)
o Smuggling was classed as unpaid tax by the authorities and a debt not a criminal offence so the police were not involved.
o Most people, including the poorly paid farm workers and fishermen, knew that a proportion of the fines imposed was being shared amongst the revenue officers: "half for the king, half for crew". Author Charles Lamb wrote: The "Honest Smuggler robs nothing but the Revenue". Even parish churches were frequently used to temporary storage of contraband, so priests, if not involved, "urned a blind eye".
As excise duty and the number of goods effected increased over the centuries, smuggling became an ever increasing problem to the authorities, and the preventative measures, organisations and legislation progressively evolved to keep up, but probably always lagged behind the scale of the problem. In an attempt to control smuggling stringent shipping laws were introduced over the centuries:
o All imports & exports were required to pass through a recognised port
o Boat hovering close to the shore became illegal
o A Salt Tax and Salt Officers were imposed to control salt production and collect the tax
o A legal limit was set for the length of bowsprit to ensure Revenue cutters were faster
o No more than 4 oars to a boat permitted
o Half a ship's crew had to be British
o A licence was required for all vessels, only issued if the owner had not been connect to smuggling
o Lighting fires on the coast was made an offence
o Smuggler's boats were impounded, burnt or cut in half
The authorities advertised rewards for information that could lead to seizures. . .
The revenue men needed to be armed with the latest weapons and the swivel gun was state-of-the-art for the Kings Cutters. . .
At the same time the smugglers developed their own tools to help them avoid the revenue men, such as this special lamp that only projected light in one direction and was used for discreet signalling..
A Spout Lantern used by smugglers
Smugglers caught at sea made ideal impress candidates as they already had experience of the sea. Revenue cutter crews were rewarded with 'head money'. The Impress Service, or more commonly called the press gang, was employed to seize men for employment at sea in British seaports. Impressment was used as far back as Elizabethan times when this form of recruitment became a statute and later the Vagrancy Act 1597, men of disrepute could be drafted into service. In 1703, an act limited the seizure of men for naval service to those under 18, although apprentices were exempt from being pressed. In 1740, the age was raised to 55. Impressment was last used at the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815.
Smuggling on the East Coast
The pattern of landing and distribution in England along the east coast changed over the centuries with evolving policies of prevention. The Suffolk coastline was well-supplied with good beaches which suited the open landing of contraband, a technique that worked well in the 18th century, while the Preventives dozed in the distance, or were open to bribes. As the net tightened in the early nineteenth century, smuggling then intensified in the estuaries and creeks of the east coast, where the activity was less easily observed, and where tubs, also called half-ankers, could be secretly sunk in the murky waters, for later collection.
From the Chelmsford Chronicle of 10 September 1779. . .
A correspondent informs us that a few days since, a large smuggling vessel passed through Burnham river to Hullbridge, where she unloaded her cargo; she mounted six carriage guns and 18 men, had on board 1,700 halves, and a large quantity of dry goods; since then carts and horses have frequently been seen passing through Danbury, Chelmsford, &c., loaded with goods. The Maldon custom house officers had a skirmish with some of the smugglers, but they proved too strong for them. We hear one of the smugglers is since dead from a wound he received in the skirmish.
Smuggling was associated with violence
The length of Essex coastline, with many inlets and estuaries and damp misty conditions meant it was ideal for smuggling goods to and from the Low Countries. Also the Essex reputation for being a source of the ague (malaria) kept both the authorities and the wealthy away.
Smuggling around the Blackwater
An extract from the Maldon District Museum Newsletter, Spring 2008. . .
As early as 1300, East Anglian wool was highly prized was being exported and taxed. While it is usual to think of smuggling in luxury goods from France, this British luxury was so desired that it was frequently smuggled to France, and smuggling of this nature certainly occurred in the Maldon district.
One, somewhat dubious, civic dignitary involved in smuggling wool was Thomas Fumes who moved to Maldon in 1572. He became a freeman of the town and from 1576-1585 was Head Burgess, then Alderman and three times the borough bailiff.
He became involved with another bailiff and native Maldonian clothier Thomas Clark and they were both accused of smuggling wool to the Low Countries. Fumes was tenant of the Blue Boar where he appointed a manager to run the inn while he traded as a bona fide wool factor to cover their smuggling activities.
The Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, Rector of East Mersea from 1871-1881, chose Mersea Island and the Blackwater as the setting for his classic novel "Mehalah" which is based on smuggling and intrigue. The novel is set at the beginning of the 19th. Century and uses names of people, places and buildings that still exist to-day.
Revd. Baring Gould
In Mehalah we read:
The mouth of the Blackwater was a great centre of the smuggling trade: the number and intricacies of the channels made it a safe harbour for those who lived on contraband traffic. It was easy for those who knew the creeks to elude the revenue boats and every farm and tavern was ready to give cellerage to run goods and harbour to smugglers. Between Mersea and the Blackwater were several flat holms or islands...and between these, the winding waterways formed a labyrinth which made pursuit difficult.
In addition to its characters, Mehalah also provides the 20th century reader with a romantic picture of the days of smuggling, when every inn had a false cellar and coloured lights at night were an almost obligatory sight. A classic portrayal of both Essex and 19th century life the novel was described at the time as being 'as good as Wuthering Heights'. Fortunately the area which Baring-Gould knew, and in which his characters spent their fascinating lives, has evaded development . The Ray, where Mehalah the heroin lived, is now a National Trust property and the Strood over which she went looking for employment at the nearby Peldon Rose Inn, is still frequently subject to flooding.
The Ray as seen from the Strood today
The Revd Baring-Gould wrote:
"The villages of Virley and Salcott were the chief landing places and there, horses and donkeys were kept in large numbers for the conveyance of the spirits, wine, tobacco and silk to Tiptree Heath, the scene of Boadicea's great battle with the legions of Suetonius, which was the emporium of the trade. There, a constant fair or auction of contraband articles went on, and thence they were distributed to Maldon, Colchester, Chelmsford or even London. Tiptree Heath was a permanent camping ground of gipsies, and there squatters ran up rude hovels; these were engaged in the distribution of goods brought from the sea."
In 1975 BBC-East made a short programme about smuggling at Salcott-cum-Virley in which the late Eustace King describes the smugglers haunts and routes through the village, and showed and described the pond where contraband was hidden. The pond had a "wooden bottom" so it could be drained to recover the goods. In more recent years Eustace King became well known to the residents of Goldhanger and other villages locally as the undertaker, carpenter and sailor. The programme is now in the East Anglian Film Archive and can be seen online at: http://www.eafa.org.uk/catalogue/694 (3 minutes long)
Tiptree Heath was long known as the notorious haunt of gypsies, fugitives from justice, squatters and smugglers. It was reputed that smuggled goods were stored there in shallow holes dug in the sandy soil and then covered with turf and brushwood. Furthermore, smuggled goods were said to have been auctioned during Tiptree Fair, which during the late 18th century was alleged to have lasted for a month. Baring-Gould described Tiptree Heath as 'the emporium of the trade'. Many 'safe' houses in the area were used for storage and the large brick windmill at Tiptree was reputed used to hide contraband. A pond at Paternoster Heath, Tolleshunt Knights, was used to conceal half-ankers of spirits. (Early maps show that both Tiptree and Paternoster Heaths were once much larger areas of heathland than they are today). It is said there was a tunnel from Tiptree Priory all the way to Layer Marney Towers, which is a distance of about 7 miles, but perhaps it was a tunnel through the woods.
An extract an article in The Daily Mail of 1977, written by James Wentworth Day. . .
My grandfather was one of those that did in the Revenue men in their long boat one night more than 100 years ago, an ancient fisherman and wild fowler confided to me. The Revenue men had a watchboat, other side of the river by Stansgate Abbey, Wedgwood Benn's place. Nearly all the fishing chaps from Maldon, Tollesbury, Mersea, Goldhanger, Bradwell, Steeple and Mayland were in the Free Trade smuggling. Those Revenue men were after them day and night. So one day. the smuggling boys held a meeting in the Old Victory on Mersea island, and planned to do in the Revenue chaps. They set a rumour that a big cargo was to be run ashore on the seaward end of Osea In a creek they've called Death Creek ever since. Nobody knows what did happen that dark night, but next morning they found the Customs long boat drifting on the tide In the creek with 24 dead Revenue men aboard. And nobody was ever caught. Those were the bad old days, we don't want murders again.
Death Creek has also been called Cut Throat Creek and Deadman's Creek.
The first known smuggling activity at Goldhanger was in 1361 and that was the illegal export of wool, carried out by 'Owlers'. In the past Goldhanger was sufficiently distant from Maldon to escape the attentions of all but the most diligent officers stationed there. A favourite early technique of Goldhanger smugglers was to float rafts of tubs down the Blackwater, and land them close by at Mill Beach.
In 1898 in the book entitled: Maldon & the River Blackwater, E A Fitch wrote of Goldhanger: One may hear several exciting smugglers tales from the older inhabitants.
A local newspaper article in 1938 referring to Fish Street was entitles: A reprieve for Street Smugglers and text included this phase: home for centuries of families of East Coast smugglers.
In Goldhanger - an Estuary Village, Maura Benham wrote. . .
As the marshes were thought to be unhealthy there were few big houses and thus few magistrates resident near the creeks. People living in Goldhanger have heard tales handed down of their forebears turning a deaf ear to noises at night, and next morning finding their horses lathered and a keg of brandy in the porch. They say the smugglers had a depot at Chappel Farm and bound sacking round the wheels of the carts to dull the sound and over the horses hooves to hide the footprints. The Chequers, the only alehouse listed in Goldhanger in 1769, may have played a part. The goods were often stored for a time, and there are stories of using cellars behind the Chequers, or perhaps in a part of Goldhanger Hall whose whereabouts remain a mystery.
A tunnel linking the Chequers with the creek has also been rumoured, which seems unlikely today, but Maura Benham also suggests that the Creek or a stream leading to it could once have come very close to the Church. 'providing a means to bring goods by water to the church, rectory and tithe barn'. We also know that there was a much longer tunnel connecting the Blue Boar in Maldon to the river near Beeliegh Abbey, so perhaps a tunnel behind The Chequers could have existed, it could even have been a tunnel through the woods to the Creek.
. . . .
It is said there was a passage or cellar under the Pitt Cottages that stood on the grass triangle where the Little Totham Road joins the Maldon road (shown above), and that this was used for smuggling. An Osborne's bus fell into a hole in the road behind these cottages in the 1950s and this could have been the passage or cellar. It was probably one reason why the cottages were demolished. Tiptree Heath was said to be the 'sorting office', and it is said smugglers went from Fish Street up Head Street, Blind Lane and Wash Lane, or landing in Joyces creek would follow the green lane (on the west side of Joyces farmhouse) to Tolleshunt Major to halt at the church, the Bell Inn or Renters Farm.
From Little Totham: The Story of a small village . . .
It is said that smugglers frequently used the route from Goldhanger along Blind Lane up Wash Lane, and along School Road and The Street to Little Totham Plains and Tiptree Heath. This route was probably used by smugglers carrying spirits, Bayes and Says (baize and serge), wine and tobacco. Probably wool and sheep were taken in the opposite direction. Tiptree Heath and Little Totham Plains were lonely, damp and wild stretches of country, with a travelling population. These gypsies worked in association with the smugglers with whom they conducted their business.
In Smuggling in Essex published in 2005 Graham Smith wrote. . .
Like most, if not all, villages along the Blackwater estuary, Goldhanger acquired a smuggling reputation. The village is about 3 miles to the east of Maldon at the head of a small creek and was sufficiently distant and hidden away to escape the attention of those few hard-pressed Customs officers stationed at Maldon. In 1939 Doreen Wallace in Eastern England described it as 'a diminutive earthly paradise ... Tiny though it is. . . a road heading seawards to nowhere. . . it is not to be missed. . '. The village has hardly changed over the centuries, and the Chequers Inn on The Square, listed as an ale house in 1769, was reputed to have been used for the storage of smuggled goods in its cellars situated behind the inn.
Movements through The Square at night
A tunnel-like footpath from the Creek to the village
In an article entitled Smuggling on the Blackwater published the East Anglian Magazine Vol XX (1960/1) Roger Frith relates an interview he had with George Stokes, 'a member of one Goldhanger's oldest families'. . .
In my great-grandmother's time, she remembered smuggling a lot... Smugglers, they used ter go up Blind Lane into Wash Lane and then up to Witham. Or Green Lane, down on the beach, up there, through Longwick Farm to Tolleshunt Major, either to the church [St Nicholas overlooking the Blackwater estuary]. The Bell Inn or Retner's Farm. Up Joyces Creek they'd come and land their Hollands, lace and tobacco and shove the bandy down cellars at Joyce s Farm. At night my mother used ter tell me they'd ride up Fish Street carrying brandy on horses whose hooves had been covered with cloth. But them days has gone. They went about forty years ago with the fishing.
The Fish Street night run
Stokes also claimed that his uncle, a farmer by the name of Quy...
. . .had twenty barrels of brandy hidden in his shed and in the morning it was found by the Customs. He was taken to Chelmsford Prison and shoved in a detention cell, although he was quite innocent of the fact of smuggling (a rather similar circumstances to the Coastguard seizure of August 1850). It is interesting to note that Stokes mentions Witham. There was a strong tradition that the Spread Eagle, the town's celebrated coaching inn, had close ties with smuggling. It was reputed that smuggled goods were stored in a secret well, which could only be reached through a passage in the roof.
Goldhanger and the Blackwater Estuary have long been connected with the production of sea salt (see. . . Salt extraction in the Blackwater), and this trade has also been the subject of smuggling in the past. Between 1693 and 1835 there was a salt tax in place which substantially raised the price of domestic salt above its cost and this led to the smuggling of salt.
A short extract from. . . The Salt Manufacturers Association: salt tax
The salt tax on home produced white salt was several times its market value and was twice that on foreign salt. For fishery salt, the tax was greatly reduced and rock salt was taxed at a lower rate than white salt.
By the 17th century salt-on-salt refining developed by the Dutch was being practised by English coastal salt works using cheap Cheshire grey rock salt and from the 1690s rock salt refineries were being established to produce a purer white salt until an extension of the Salt Act prohibited the further expansion of the trade. All this resulted in the smuggling of salt and other forms of evasion of the salt tax throughout the life of this tax and it is doubtful whether the revenue earned justified the enormous cost involved in its administration.
The 1693 Salt Act created the post of Salt Officer whose role was similar to that of a Revenue Officer but was specifically to collect the salt tax at source. Limits were also set on the number of salt processing locations and in the Maldon area the only licensed site was at Heybridge. The Heybridge Salt Works operated at Colliers Reach, near Heybridge Basin and much later moved to Maldon and became the Maldon Crystal Salt Co., while the site in Heybridge became Saltcote Maltings. As the north bank of the Blackwater Estuary has been used for salt panning for centuries it is easy to see that smuggling would have been rife, and isolated villages such as Goldhanger would have been ideal for the movement smuggled salt along side other free trade items. As the fishery salt being used by the local fishermen had a much lower tax and was readily available around the estuary, presumably brought in by barge from Cheshire or France, this could relatively easily be converted by salt-on-salt processing in isolated locations. Although no records of illegal salt production or salt smuggling in the village have been identified, it seems no coincidence that the salt tax was repealed in 1825 and last recorded salt production at Bounds Farm, Goldhanger was just a few years later in the 1830s.
There has been a more recent example of smuggling at Goldhanger and in the Blackwater. At the beginning of the 20th century, the brewer F H Charington, purchased Osea Island to used as resort for their landlords. It was intended to be an isolated drying out venue for those had excessively participated in the company's products. Unfortunately, the resort did not operate for many years, one reason being that the inmates continued to be regularly supplied with alcohol from The Chequers at Goldhanger. Smugglers would row across to the island and tied bottles of spirits to the Doctor's Buoy close to the island for later collection. The Doctor's Buoy can still be found on navigation maps.
The Coastguard Service was created in 1822 with the amalgamation of the Preventive Water Guard, the Revenue Cruisers and the Riding Officers, and in 1831 the Coast Blockade was also absorbed as all these departments duties overlapped. The Coastguard Service employed almost 6,700 men at the time of amalgamation. A modem Dictionary gives the definition of "Coastguard" as "An organisation with responsibility for watching coastal waters, to prevent smuggling, illegal fishing, to assist shipping, and for life saving". It is said that the everyday saying "is the coast clear?" originates from smuggling, meaning "are there any coastguards about?"
Once employed as a coastguard it was necessary for an officer and his family to move away from family roots to avoid any conflict of interest. However, until the familiar blocks of Coastguard cottages were built during the second half of the nineteenth century, coastguards and their families were accommodated in rented houses in towns and villages round the coast. Hulks were also moored in the creeks of Essex, Kent to accommodate the coastguard men with their families.
Watch Vessel at Burnham . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Watch Vessel at Stansgate
The first reference to coastguards in Goldhanger was in 1822. The details are in a book entitled "A gin at Government House" which contain the memoirs of one Agnes Stokes who was born in 1867. She related stories told by her mother of her grandfather, a coastguard, who brought the family of nine children from Walton-on-the-Naze to Goldhanger in a government cutter and a large sailing vessel, which had a rough passage, which is a distance of about 25 miles around the coast. They arrived late at night, and beds needed to be found for the nine children in several houses. The Census returns of 1851 show a family headed by Joseph Sherrells, 34 and his wife Alice, 26 and baby living in Fish Street, giving his occupation as being boatman/coastguard.
By 1861 there were four families who's head describe their occupation as the coastguard service, their residence is only described as The Street. The Census shows that in 1871 there were again four families who describe their head occupation as "coastguards". Two families show their address as being Fish Street while the others reside in Church Street. The Coastguard Service decreed that officers could not operate in their own area and had to move away from home, hence accommodation was needed close to their posting. Between 1867 and 1873 the Revd. H.F. Coape-Arnold from Warwickshire (not a Goldhanger Rector) acquired, or inherited land from Henry Coe Coape and build a pair of redbrick cottages in Church street. The left-hand cottage being built as an armoury with adjoining internal doors. In 1875 he built another pair of cottages to the right side making a terrace of four cottages.
this postcard show the cottages with navy notice boards outside
In 1881 the Census still shows four families living in Goldhanger who's head occupation is given as coastguard, two still living in Fish street while the other two lived in Church street, presumably in the newly built Coastguard Cottages. By 1891 there were only three families whose head occupant were coastguards, and they all lived in the Coastguard Cottages in Church Street. Today more that thirty coastguards can be identified in www.genuki.org.uk/big/Coastguards as living in the coastguard cottages at Goldhanger between 1850 and 1901.
The coastguards maintained a hut and flagstaff on the seawall at Bounds Farm. A map of the area and a postcard photograph clearly show the coastguard station on the seawall in the same position as today's sailing club starting hut and adjacent to the saltworks site. The photo also show the flagstaff. . .
. . .
map and photo of the coastguard station on the seawall
Here is an extract from a 1886 sale catalogue (ERO D/F 63/1/10/6)
Bounds Farm, Goldhanger
Comprising farmhouse, farm buildings, double tenement cottage with garden and bakehouse
and about 205 acres of arable and pasture land. With plan.
Includes manuscript note that the Coast Guard flag staff stands upon Lot 2 (Bounds Farm)
and the Government pays 10s. per annum rent.
There is a shelter hut of the Coast Guard for which they pay 6d per annum,
and the Fishermen agree to pay 5s. per annum for the use of the Pits and Drying ground on the foreshore.
John Veitch, Head Coastguard
stationed at Goldhanger in 1901
We do not how well the coastguards integrated to into village life, but the is at least one family of descendants of a coastguard still in the village, and the picture of the Friendly Brothers taken at The Chequers in 1910 shows possibly a coastguard sitting in the group and could have been a member. . .
The Friendly Brothers in 1910 with possibly a coastguard in the group
The cottages have been much modified since that time. Originally, the ground floor and upper floor provided separate accommodation. The upper floor was reached by an external metal and wooden veranda with a balustrade that ran along the rear wall, with an open staircase at one end, which would have made the building look much more like military barracks. The small piece of open ground at the southern end was a parade ground, known then as The Court (which today has a house built on it). The men would form up here at the beginning of their duties and march at arms and with the flag down thought the village to the coastguard hut on the seawall. This would have been a formidable sight. No photograph of this activity have been found but similar scenes were recorded at Tollesbury and Mersea.
Tollesbury Coastguards on parade in 1900 Mersea Coastguards on parade in 1906
At the end of the Great War the Coastguard Service was wound down, and in 1920 the Revd. H.F. Coape-Arnold, who owned the Goldhanger Coastguard Cottages, put them up for auction and they become private houses.