This photograph from an old glass plate shows a small area of the front pond near the old Blacksmith’s Forge, which when the photograph was taken, was known as Smugglers Pond in Rushmere St Andrew Street. (Photograph reproduced by kind permission of Suffolk Record Office, Ipswich Branch – Smugglers Pond Ref. JI11/2/2566.)
After the front pond was filled in, the back pond that is still with us, received different names from different land owners before being named Chestnut Pond by the Parish Council. In early days these two ponds were probably one. (Below is shown the position of the ponds near the allotment gardens on the right of the map.)
In the 17th and 18th centuries when smuggling was widespread, it was tea and spirits landed at Sizewell, but closer to home smaller amounts were landed at Martlesham Creek, off the River Deben and Levington Creek off the River Orwell.
My Grandfather exploring Rushmere St Andrew on foot before 1900, enjoyed discussing history with the older generation at the Rushmere Falcon Inn and when living in Rushmere St Andrew Street in the early 1930’s, still thought nothing of walking across the heath for a pint of beer at The Ship Inn, Levington. He passed on much of his local history knowledge that was gathered from observations and conversations at these two ancient public houses. No TV or Computers in those days.
Smuggler gangs using pack-horse or wagon probably borrowed from farmers, crossed Rushmere St Andrew with contraband looking for hiding places until the goods could be moved on. Many and varied were the places in which goods were stored, while awaiting their chance to dispose of them. Barns, sheds and underground cellars were all made useful, even more than once a church has been a convenient hiding place. But the Revenue and Customs men became as clever at finding hiding places as the smugglers were in devising them.
At Rushmere St Andrew, the pond in the street near the old Blacksmiths Forge became useful. Smugglers would hide barrels of Rum, Brandy and other contraband in village ponds until they could move it on. When the time came to recover it, they would hook it out of the pond with hay rakes at night, when less likely to be seen, and local history records a certain ‘Rummy Rush’ had dealings with Smugglers Pond.
Furthermore, Victorian local history tells us that on a Sunday morning in December 1735, in the vicinity of Kesgrave, a party of smugglers with packhorses were surprised by Mr Newby, collector of Woodbridge, who was supported by a small detachment of Dragoons. They captured between two and three cwt of tea. In February 1736, a seizure of about six cwt of tea was made by the Ipswich customs officer, with the assistance of some dragoons, at Westerfield Green. It was reported that four of the smugglers quitted their horses and made good their escape.
Who knows just how much contraband found a hiding place in our village pond? We cannot turn back the clock to find out, but the fact remains it was used and known in the village in the early days as Smugglers Pond. So when you are walking near the pond watching the ducks, thinking there was only chestnuts here, before gasping ‘OMG there was smugglers’.