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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Teesside

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Myths and Legends
Exterior of Saltburn Smugglers Centre and Huntcliff

© Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council
Saltburn smugglers: local heroes or violent criminals?

No barrier to respectability

The case of Saltburn’s John Andrews, so-called King of Smugglers, proved that smuggling was not a barrier to respectability and polite society. Born in Scotland, Andrews moved to Saltburn and became landlord of the village’s Ship Inn in 1780. Andrew’s Scottish family were wealthy and well connected, he attained the ‘Sublime degree of Master Mason’ prior to relocating in Yorkshire. In partnership with a local brewer, Andrews co-ordinated the area’s smuggling trade from his two properties, the Ship Inn and White House. He was christened ‘King of the Smugglers’ by his grand-daughter, Andrews came close to being arrested on a number of occasions, the most famous of which has entered local legend.

Pitching in!
Legend has it that John Andrews had a secret cellar underneath one of his stables where he deliberately kept a vicious mare who could be counted upon to kick and bite any strangers!
When the Napoleonic Wars came to an end, the Saltburn smugglers came under increasing pressure from customs officers. Forced to unload his latest cargo further a field, John Andrews found himself at Blackhall, north of Hartlepool, when he was discovered by customs officers. Legend has it that he galloped across the Tees, whose level was apparently very low, to Coatham. He then asked the Coatham coastguard for the time in order to give him an alibi. The judge at his trial reasoned that he could not have travelled across the River Tees in the time that had elapsed, and so could not have been at Blackhall.

sleeping man
John Andrew sleeping in the parlour
© Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council
In Saltburn, Andrews was a respected member of the community. In 1817 he was elected Master of the newly formed Cleveland Hounds, demonstrating his high standing in the area. Andrews also managed to combine being one of the area’s most prolific criminals with a prominent position in the Corps of Cleveland Pioneer Industry. Ironically, this branch of the local militia was occasionally called in to assist preventive officers in their battle against smugglers!

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Your comments

1 Joyce Marshall from Victoria, B. C. - 3 January 2004
"I am direct descendant of John Andrew (note there was no "s" on his name) His son, John, was caught and wound up imprisoned in York Castle for smuggling. "

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Look back into the past using the Legacies' archives. Find nearly 200 tales from around the country in our collection.

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Internet Links
Smuggling: The house detective
Trade and the British Empire
Saltburn Smugglers Heritage Centre
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