The smuggling churchwarden
Andrew Norman tells the story of Charles Hayward of Langton Matravers
Published in February ’10
Charles Hayward, born in 1796, was sexton and churchwarden of St George’s Church, Langton Matravers. However, his outwardly respectable appearance disguised a dark secret, for Charles Hayward was a smuggler. He followed family tradition and became a quarryman. In 1818 he married Rose Brownsea, and the couple lived at Fig Tree Cottage, where they had five children: a boy and four girls.
By 1846, when he became parish clerk, Hayward was a successful businessman who rented Dancing Ledge quarry (on the coast, one mile to the south of Langton Matravers) from a Mrs Frances Serrell of Durnford Hall. This elegant but eccentric lady fell out with her local parson, Rev. E F Trotman, and held rival church services in the village, engaging a noisy brass band to drown out the sound of the church choir! In 1860, Hayward was appointed Langton Matravers’s first sub-postmaster, whereupon he converted part of his house into a post office.
Evidence that Hayward was leading a double life is contained in the reminiscences of C W T Dean – ‘Charlie’ – his elder grandson. Dean was the son of Hayward’s youngest daughter, Sarah, and her husband, William Dean, who had been appointed butler to Frances Serrell. In his reminiscences, Charlie Dean recorded an event which occurred on 23 October 1869, when Hayward asked him to assist in a ‘business matter’. Wrote Charlie: ‘Just after dusk, I was requested by my grandfather to stand outside the church gate – but not to look too involved with anything particular, and I must needs walk to and fro past the gate, and not stand too still. I found this nothing but necessary, since there was a cold wind. My grandfather also gave me strict instructions to alert him – he being within the church – if a Peeler-Policeman came up or down the road. Seven gentlemen arrived variously to meet my grandfather, and they all went inside the church. A Peeler [archaic slang for a police officer, Sir Robert Peel being the man who, as Home Secretary, created the modern London police force] came down the road from Garfield, past me, and thence on to Stepps [Steppes]. I had given the alert (taking my cap off, shaking it, and putting it on again) and whilst the Peeler walked by all was silent in the church, nor any light. Presently came two stone-carts from Garfield end, and the seven gentlemen came out and assisted the drivers with unloading the stones; these were stacked flat-down and not up-down. The men then brought in barrels of all sizes and different shapes. All together this went into the church – I could not see where’.
Dean then mentioned hearing someone mutter an oath, after accidentally bumping against one of the church bells, which suggests strongly that the ‘seven gentlemen’ had hidden the barrels in the church’s roof. His reminiscences prove beyond doubt that Hayward, outwardly the pillar of respectability, was in fact a smuggler.
The contraband had probably been stored at Hayward’s quarry, Dancing Ledge, which because of its remoteness was the perfect place to land and hide smuggled goods. And what better way of transporting the barrels than to hide them in a wagon under a ton or two of stone? (It is even rumoured that Hayward was not averse to using a hearse for the same purpose!)
In his smuggling activities, Hayward had a great advantage. His oldest daughter, Mary, had married Thomas Trupp (pronounced ‘Troup’), an exciseman who was both a drunkard and a bigamist. Hayward may not have discouraged her in this – having a spy in the ‘enemy camp’ would undoubtedly have proved useful to him, and Mary would hardly have thanked Thrupp had he betrayed his own father-in-law to the Customs and Excise! Also Hayward, having access to unlimited supplies of wines and spirits, may have made sure that in any event, Trupp was too drunk to fulfil his duties.
Mary Trupp was to have an unpleasant shock when the first Mrs Trupp arrived on her doorstep one day, together with five of her and her husband Thomas’s children. She was indignant, not only that Thrupp had married her bigamously, but also that he had failed to pay maintenance for his children.
As for Frances Serrell, it seems unlikely that she was entirely ignorant of Hayward’s smuggling activities. After all, not only was he a tenant of hers, but her butler had married his youngest daughter. Further evidence to suggest that Frances Serrell was not all that she might have been comes with the discovery of a concealed passageway linking the attics of two cottages which she owned, and of a muzzle-loading shotgun in the chimney of a third, next door.
The smuggling activities of Hayward and his partners-in-crime had deleterious effects upon Langton Matravers’s parish church of St George, which had been re-built (apart from the tower) as recently as 1829. In 1874, Rev. Trotman observed that its roof was in a ‘deplorable condition’ and that ‘The wide-spanning roof…is…pushing the walls out of the perpendicular.’ This, considering the extra load the barrels must have placed upon it, is not altogether surprising! The result was that the church had to be demolished and re-built a second time (again, apart from the tower). It was re-opened in 1876.
Before judging Hayward too harshly, it is important to understand people’s attitudes to smuggling in those times. The upper echelons of society were, as often as not, ‘in on it’: the gentlemen relied on the smugglers for their brandy, Geneva (gin), Madeira and Canary wines and tobacco, the ladies for their silk stockings and perfumes, and both for their teas, coffees, peppers and spices. As for the labouring classes, their wages were at subsistence levels, particularly in Dorset. Also, they tended to have large families, where it was quite usual for the man, as the breadwinner, to have ten or fifteen children to support (although the older ones would, of course, seek work as soon as they were able). Smuggling to them was therefore not seen as a crime, and they were anxious to avail themselves of any opportunity that came along to increase their meagre incomes.
There was also the element of excitement, which must have appealed particularly to the younger men – creeping out on a dark night to a pre-arranged landing place to signal to a French ship out in the bay; hearing the rhythmical splash of oars as the rowing boat came in with its cargo of contraband; experiencing a thrill of anticipation as dozens and sometimes hundreds of men, armed with clubs, knives and even blunderbusses in case of ambush by the Excise’s riding officers, hurried to unload the precious casks of spirits, ‘ells’ of pepper, ‘anchors’ of vinegar, and ‘hogheads’ of Bonea (China) tea; then hiding it away in some cave or quarry before the journey inland.
Charles Hayward’s secret died with him, and the truth about his smuggling activities only came to light through his grandson’s diary. His double life appears not have affected him adversely – he died on 11 May 1879, at the ripe old age of 82. There is a memorial to him in St George’s parish church. Sadly, however, he could not be buried with his wife, Rose, who predeceased him. This was because the church was re-built in 1876 over her grave. Hayward is therefore buried in the new churchyard, which opened in 1872.
(Adapted and abridged from a chapter in Purbeck Personalities by Andrew Norman, published by Halsgrove at £12.99. ISBN 978 1 84114 900 4.)
1. Langton Matravers Local History and Preservation Society
2. Langton Matravers Local History and Preservation Society
3. Langton Matravers Local History and Preservation Society
4. David Haysom collection
5. Langton Matravers Local History and Preservation Society