The Old Smuggler’s Cafe – A Brief History

Yesterday se’nnight the Fawn, smuggling luggar, with a thousand ankers of rum, brandy and geneva, to the amount of 6000 gallons, was taken and sent into Whitby, by the Eagle cutter, Captain George Whitegead, in the service of the revenue of that port; with assistance of the Mermaid, Captain Carr. The Fawn is a fine clinch built vessel of 90 tonnes built at Flushing four months since, mounting six four pounders and six swivels. Her crew consisted of 22 men. The Whitby Times August 31, 1790.

Believed to have been built in 1401 the Old Smuggler’s Cafe, once known as ‘Old Ship


Old Ship Launch Inn

Launch Inn’, lived up to it’s namesake.

In a time where smuggling was rife, due to heavy tax on goods and excise, smugglers would cross the quiet moors in the dead of night to haul their goods. They would pull a cart that was filled with kegs full of alcohol, at the end of the cart would be a lone keg with a quill in it. When the smugglers were unlucky enough to come across someone, to bribe their silence they would offer them a free sample, and then be on with their way. When the keg was at it’s destination the quill would be removed, and the keg sealed ready for use.

Within the many ginnels and passages throughout Whitby, it was a perfect place to never be spotted, and on Baxtergate was one of the many perfect Inns to deliver the alcohol. It is believed that there is a secret tunnel that connects to the Station Inn, and then to the harbour. The contraband (not just alcohol, whatever they could sneak under the tax man’s nose) would arrive at one of the two pubs and transport them through the tunnel.

Just outside of the famous Smugglers Cafe is a carved wooden figure, believed to have once been part of a captured French smuggling vessel.





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