Page:Notes and Queries - Series 12 - Volume 6.djvu/235

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128. VI. MAY 8, 1920.] NOTES AND QUERIES.


THE HAWKHURST GANG. (12 S. vi. 67, 153.)

'THERE is a considerable if rather diffuse bibliography of this notorious gang of smugglers who operated during the first half of the eighteenth century, and whose " diem

clausit extremum " was effected through the instrumentality of the ci-devant smuggler, John Pixley. The tradition here referred to is recorded in 'The Smugglers,' by Harper. References to the gang may also be found in G. P. R. James's novel of the same name ; in Furley's ' Weald of Kent ' ; and in the Proceedings of the Sussex Archaeological Society. The house referred to is presum- ably that which is now incorporated in the stable belonging to Lord Goschen's present house.

" Sea-cock " and " smuggler " were synonymous terms for these gentry ; and it is imagined by some that the name of the heath is derived from that fact. This, however, is not the case, the mediaeval name of the heath having been Sicocks Hoth. Not that smuggling did not exist in those days. Paradoxically, evasion of the law is antecedent to the law -being a very cause of it ; and this form of evasion is a very ancient one. There is an amusing story connected with this name. The first Lord Goschen was anxious to get at its deriva- tion ; and with this purpose applied to a very old inhabitant of the neighbouring village of Flimwell. With a smile of pleasure

-at being able to impart information of any sort, the old man assured him that it was so called from the fact that at one part of it one could see Cox Heath (near Maidstone).

On the highroad to Hastings from London, a bare mile short of Flimwell Vent, and just before you come to the Pillory, standing a short way north of the road, is the site of the old Priory of Combwell. On the site is a solidly built farmhouse, erected towards the end of the eighteenth century from the ruins of a house which itself had been erected about a century previously from the ruins of the old priory. The present house is remarkable for two things. One is for a sculptured plaque let into the gable end on the north side. The other is for a curious bust over the front door representing a stout old lady with a basting ladle in her hand. The former is possibly an old sign of the Post Boy Inn on the road close by. To the

latter local tradition accords the following story. One Sunday morning, whilst every one was at church except the old cook, who was preparing the Sunday dinner, a convoy guarded by three of the Hawkhurst gang came down the sheer-way. One of them came to the house and demanded or rather begged in a menacing manner the dinner that the old lady was preparing. The smuggler was dressed up as a woman, but the old lady noticed something about his feet which gave him away ; and, instinctively guessing who he really was, she smote him over the head wiflh her basting ladle, and he dropped like a log, falling into the fire. Immediately the old lady hurried off and rang the great bell a relic probably of the old priory. The sound of the bell was heard by some one who evading the sermon most likely was in the churchyard of the parish church. He ran in and gave the alarm to the congregation, who immediately trooped to the rescue. When they arrived at the farm they found that the poor old lady had been swung up, apparently by the back- lash of the great bell, and had broken her back. No trace of the smugglers who had removed their injured comrade was, how- ever, to be found ; and perhaps it was just as well.

An insalubrious spot this for cooks apparently ! For it was at Flimwell in 1264 that, owing to the murder of his cook here, Henry III. caused many of the country round, who had been summoned as the local levy to assist him against his rebellious barons, to be " surrounded like so many innocent lambs and beheaded." Close by the farm and forming the water supply of the priory in days gone by, as it does of the farm now is a most beautiful spring of water (chalybeate as most of it is in these parts) which bubbles up into a big basin made of large stone blocks, and the sides are patched with moulded stones from the old priory, included amongst them being a font-shaped piscina from the chapel which was dedicated to St. Mary. Altogether an interesting spot, whose history is yet to write. F. LAMBARDE.

MAISON ROUGE, FRANKFORT (12 S. v. 321). In ' Letters from Italy,' by Mariana Starke, 2nd edit., 1815, vol. ii., p. 302, *.e.,in the Appendix, s.v. Frankfort, the names of three inns are given. The first is " La Maison rouge (one of the best in Europe)." This praise does not quite equal that given by Mrs. Starke, ibid., p. 113, to L'Hotel de Pologne, Dresden, which she says " is