A Thousand Miles of History XXIX: A haunt of rogues…

It had been an incredible morning, starting with the magic of Boscawen Un, our visit to Sennen church and then the long walk to Carn Lês Boel and back. Still flying from the experience, we felt in need of grounding and liquid refreshment and as, by this time, we were long past noon, we knew that the First and Last Inn in England would be open. It’s a curious place; while definitely geared for serving the tourists and the road, it is also the ‘local’ pub for a good many villagers and the two atmospheres meet and meld very well. We sort of had to go there, being in the area.

The inn was originally built to house the masons working on the ‘new’ church next door, which was completed by around 1430. The current building still dates in part back to that time, though most of the pub is housed in later additions to the inn. Today, it is one of the best-known inns in Cornwall. Not just because of the fact that its name is accurate… it really is the first and the last inn you come to at this westernmost point of England… but because it has a rich history, with plenty of legends attached.

Sennen was a centre of the ‘free trade’, better known as smuggling. Import taxes on goods such as brandy and tobacco were high and enterprising seamen brought such goods into the country by less than orthodox routes, avoiding the excise men and thus the import duties. Cornwall was also once known for its ‘wreckers’, who lit lanterns on the cliffs to lure unwary ships into dangerous waters so that the wreckage could be combed for valuable cargo.

The First and Last Inn was a haunt of both smugglers and wreckers. Its stable rooms, now used for holiday accommodation, once housed the donkeys used in both of these operations and tunnels were dug beneath the inn in which the smuggled and salvaged goods could be hidden. One of them is visible in the bar of the inn; Annie’s well.

The well is named after Annie George, who, two hundred years ago and with her husband Joseph, ran the inn as rent-free tenants of a local farmer, who rejoiced in the name of Dionysius Williams. The couple paid no rent in exchange for their silence on Williams’ other source of income… smuggling. The couple decided they wanted a greater income themselves and decided to blackmail Williams who retaliated by throwing the out of the inn. Annie went to the authorities and turned King’s evidence. Williams was convicted and sent to prison and the smuggling operations in the area, and thus the local economy, suffered a severe blow. Regardless of the judgements we may make on the morality of smuggling and wrecking, they were an integral and necessary source of income for many families in this isolated and impoverished area.

Annie also gave evidence at other smuggling-related trials, including that of her brother-in-law, John George, who was convicted and hanged for his crimes. Annie earned the hatred of the local people, but legends tell that they took their revenge in a gruesome manner, staking her out on the beach as the tide came in. Entangled in the fishing nets, the water took her and she was drowned. She could no longer speak against the locals… but that was not the end of her story.

Her body was brought back to the inn and she was laid out in one of the rooms there before being buried in an unmarked grace in the grounds of the church next door. At least, her body was buried, but her ghost remains at the inn.

Although many old inns have the obligatory ghost or two…especially in tourist areas… Annie’s ghost has been seen and reported by many people…and not a few cats who have been found locked away in drawers and cupboards. The grey form of a woman is often seen on the landing of the inn and the chill touch of ghostly presence often reported. I often wonder how we know what name to give a ghost…how can we tell if it is this person or that in any given location, when so many must have died throughout the centuries. Here, though, the case is clear, as those who sleep in Annie’s room report dreams of being drowned or pulled down by fishing nets…

Be that as it may, we too left a ghost of our presence there, for it was the last place we saw the copy of The Sun and the Serpent that we had brought with us. We were still far from grounded when we left the inn and must have failed to pick it up after looking at Hamish’s picture. Food helped… while we were still in Cornwall we had to have a proper Cornish pasty and that took us back into St Just for the final time. Then we would have to hit the road and begin the long drive home… but there were still a number of places we wanted to visit on the way, including one of Cornwall’s most iconic stones…

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
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18 Responses to A Thousand Miles of History XXIX: A haunt of rogues…

  1. Reblogged this on Roberta Writes and commented:
    Sue Vincent shares an interesting ghost story on her blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This ghost story is fascinating, Sue

    Like

  3. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Sue has been on her travels again and visited the First and Last Inn in England before falling into the sea… smugglers, wreckers and things that go bump in the night… definitely a lively read…and there are pasties..

    Like

  4. joylennick says:

    Sue Vincent sounds a lively character, to be sure. It shows in her writing…x

    Like

  5. Jennie says:

    Now that was an interesting story. Annie, you were greedy. Cats in the drawers? Creepy. Who wouldn’t want to visit the inn?!

    Like

  6. Pingback: A Thousand Miles of History XXIX: A haunt of rogues… – ❧Defining Ways❧

  7. rijanjks says:

    That is quite a story about Annie. Sometimes it’s better to look the other way and she might have fared better if she’d chosen that route. 🙂

    Like

  8. Dalo 2013 says:

    There is nothing like the time of day, especially after sightseeing or a hike, when the shared feeling you write about above happens: “we felt in need of grounding and liquid refreshment” 🙂

    Like

  9. noelleg44 says:

    Oh the poor cats! I loved this story, Sue – would have welcomed a night in that room. What did you think about staying there?

    Like

    • Sue Vincent says:

      If I’d have known its story, I would have tried to book a room… but as it was, we slept elsewhere , which is probably just as well with all the driving that we had planned 😉

      Like

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