If you happen to be in the West Country on 19th September, you must remember to adjust your accent accordingly as the 19th is International Talk Like a Pirate Day and as so many of Britain’s famous pirates hailed from the South West, our accent has become synonymous with the pirates of film and television.
Once you’ve added “ahoy” and “arrrgh” to your vocabulary, tipped your hat and headed to the coast, you might want to learn a bit more about the history of piracy in and around North Devon.
Like much of the coast, pirate raids and smuggling was rife and in North Devon, with its rugged coastline, there was a history of wreckers – people who would deliberately lure ships into the cliffs, causing a crash so that they could loot whatever they could find. Here are some of the locations in North Devon where you can find out more about pirates and smugglers this International Talk Like a Pirate Day.
As North Devon’s premier town, there is a lot of history to be uncovered here. During the 1700s, the town’s Custom House staff had their work cut out for them, especially with the amount of piracy and illegal imports and exports going on at the surrounding docks. At the height of the Golden Age of Piracy, pirates were considered to be heroes, so the staff were treated like villains when they handed out punishments, but when the pirates and smugglers started to cause problems for the locals, they were deemed to be too lax in their justice.
At one time, Barnstaple was the centre of a corn smuggling enterprise – we know, scandalous!
Clovelly is a great place to visit to learn more about the region’s history as it is mostly untouched and has retained much of its original charm. Back in the day it was a well known smuggling spot because of the naturally protected harbour and the various caves that lined the rugged coastline. Many of these caves that were used by smugglers to store goods before being sold on can still be seen today if you walk along the shore towards the harbour.
Another area with a harbour, Ilfracombe naturally became a hot spot for smuggling, looters and pirates. In fact, many of the place names in and around the town hark back to these days, for example, Brandy Cove, which was known for brandy smuggling and Samson’s Bay, which was named after a particularly infamous smuggler.
Perhaps the most famous pirate location in the North Devon area is Lundy Island, which at one point was even known to have a pirate king. Its position in the Bristol Channel made it a great base for anyone wanting to attack ships as they came in and out of port. Pirate hunters were sent out by the government to try and solve the problem, but it persisted until the end of the Golden Age of Piracy.
Learn more about the history and heritage of North Devon below.