Southbourne and Hengistbury Head


Hengistbury Head was originally a part of Christchurch, later being sold to an American. Bournemouth has since purchased the land due to Christchurch being unable to afford to buy it back again. The Head provided many advantages to smugglers; the double dykes, for example, built by ancient settlers, provided an ideal cover for free traders to hide behind while awaiting the arrival of a ship. Secondly there was only a 9 mile stretch of sea to the Needles (which are a group of treacherous rocks to the west of the Isle of Wight), behind which luggers could hide until the coast was clear of Revenue vessels. When the luggers arrived at the Head, wagons could then be taken straight down to the beach under the protection of the double dykes. These however, have now been considerably reduced due to erosion.


There were two buildings on the head at this time, one being a barn that still stands today, and the other a summerhouse on Warren Hill. It is likely that this summerhouse also acted as a lookout post and signal station to incoming vessels. The establishment of the Coastguard Station here (now in Admiralty Road) so early in history of the service shows us, perhaps, how busy the smuggling trade must have been in the area. Where Clifton Road comes out on to the cliffs, there is a jutting head land known as "Mount Misery", which earned its named after a stormy, bitter winter's day when a lugger was hovering just off the shore, cautious of coming too close for fear of being destroyed on the rocks. A crowd had assembled to greet their friends and relatives on the ship, and in this crowd was a young lady to whom the captain of the vessel was engaged. Seeing her fiance, the girl stepped forward of the crowd and waved. On a foolish impulse the captain ordered his ship forward, only to be swept against the rocks and wrecked. The entire crew were swept away, and the girl flung herself from the top of the head and to be with her lover in death. It is said that her ghost can still be seen on the anniversary of her death, diving from the top of Mount Misery into the sea below.




"A great deal of contraband was landed either off the seaward side of the [Hengistbury] head or brought up through the Run and landed off at the Wickhams or through Mother Sillers Channel in Stanpit march. The contraband landed off the Wickhams or off the seaward side of the Head was generally then taken by cart up through what is now Bournemouth and offloaded of various farms, taverns and private houses as the entourage went by. The contraband offloaded at Mother Sillers channel usually made its way to the Ship In Distress at Mudeford. Mother Sillers channel is named after one the landladies of The Ship in Distress, namely one Hanna Siller, a notorious smugglers assistant who had started her vintners career at the original Haven House tavern on Mudeford Quay." (text extracted from


Hannah Siller was reputedly a raven-haired widow, known as the Protective Angel of Smugglers. "Contraband was distributed from a creek at back of the Inn for distribution around the New Forest. The Inn takes its name from a shipwreck off Hengistbury Head from which Mudeford folk helped rescue survivors." (text extracted from


The Ship In Distress


The "Ship in Distress", Stanpit - a favourite haunt for smugglers.


"In the 1940's a shed at Ivy Cottage existed near the spring at Stanpit [Tutton's Well] which contained muskets, spout lanterns and other equipment used by smugglers." (text extracted from




To the west of Southbourne lies Boscombe, and this was once an area of marram grass, gorse, and dwarf oaks, which led into a wilderness of bogs, ponds, ravines and hills. The Chief Riding Officer of Christchurch, Abraham Pike was informed by local fishermen in April 1803 of a boat that was seen landing goods on the beach at Boscombe. Two wagons and a cart carrying 250 casks of spirits, tobacco and playing cards were seized and taken to Poole Customs House, escorted by a party of Dragoons.