This is an English small-sword, dating from about 1690 to 1720. It was found in the thatch of Smugglers, a small Steyning cottage. The thatch was removed in the 1920s to be replaced with tiles and this slim but dangerous weapon was revealed. Smugglers has a tiny gable window where a light used to be lit as a silent warning that the Excise men were in town.
Smuggling was a dangerous business. Even people in “high society” were partial to duty free brandy or tobacco and the illegal trade made heroes of apparently ordinary men. In 1832 William Cowerson was a Steyning stone mason by day, but on February 22 his night time activities took him to Worthing. His gang was intercepted with 300 tubs of Dutch gin, French brandy and perfume. Cowerson was shot dead. One thousand people turned out for his funeral in Steyning, the church bells rang for four hours and he still lies buried in Saint Andrew’s churchyard.
Cowerson lived at Smugglers. This sword was over one hundred years old when he died and yet it is still tempting to connect it with him. Our article about William Cowerson is HERE.