Throughout the 18th century smuggling was rife, as taxes were racked up to pay for ruinously expensive wars with France. Far from being the lovable rogues of fiction, smugglers had few qualms about using violence if their lives and freedom were at stake.
In 1748, members of the notorious Hawkhurst Gang kidnapped a witness, Daniel Chater, and the minor customs official taking him to court, William Galley. The victims were tied to ponies, carried across the countryside and beaten until nearly dead. After a terrifying night at The Red Lion Inn at Rake, Galley was buried alive and Chater was taken to a Harris’s Well in Ladyholt Park.
Here the gang tried to hang him but the rope was too short, so they threw him into the well and tossed stones down until his cries were silenced. Seven members of the gang were convicted of the crime at Chichester Assizes. Six were hanged, while the gang leader died in gaol before the sentence could be carried out.
A Chalton churchyard start
Take the path through the churchard in Chalton, over a stile, then follow the left of three footpaths when you come to a fingerpost. Head up to the crest of a hill, where you can see Ditcham Park School and a lone house – Ladyholt. On the way down you’ll see the isolated chapel of St Hubert’s in the fields ahead. It is believed to have been built by Earl Godwin, who died in 1053.
B Huckswood Lane
An ancient track, possibly used by the Romans to access local farms, passes the remains of Huckswood Farm, now a little lost in the undergrowth. A series of field paths work their way across to the wood. To the right is Uppark House, a fine 17th-century mansion badly damaged by fire in 1989 and restored by the National Trust. To the left are Windmill Hill and Butser Hill, with its mast.
C Harris’s Well
From Ladyholt the path descends through the woodland to join Harris Lane, which is on the Sussex Border Path. Having been in West Sussex you are now heading back towards Hampshire. Keep your eyes peeled for Harris’ Well just off the path on your right. Driving home after the walk you can also stop off at Harting Combe, where Galley was buried in a fox hole. The small copse is about a mile south of Rake.
HOW TO GET THERE
From the A3 take the minor road to Chalton. Public car park in village.
Find out more
www.walkingworld.com Free guide and OS map (Walk ID 3880).
The Red Lion
Chalton PO8 0BG
Said to be the oldest pub in Hampshire, dating back to the 12th century.