Brandy Cove, Gower

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The name of this small inlet is a link to the time when Gower was a hotbed of smuggling. Brandy was one of the most common forms of contraband from France because it was expensive and heavily taxed – large profits could be made from transporting relatively small amounts.

Casks of brandy and other spirits were carried to Gower and other suitable coastlines by ordinary sailing boats. Some of the boats carried legitimate cargoes, such as coal, on their return voyages. Under cover of darkness, a boat with illicit goods would be guided by lanterns to a suitable cove where it wouldn’t be seen by Customs officers, whose job was to ensure taxes and duties were paid on imports.

Once the cargo was unloaded, groups of local labourers would carry it to safe houses, often well inland. Farmhands supplemented their incomes this way. Sometimes it became their main source of income, leaving farmers struggling to find workers and pay competitive wages.

In 1795 Swansea-based Customs officers said at least 5,000 casks of spirits had been landed around Gower in just six months.

In 1804 Customs men seized 420 casks of spirits at Highway, near Pennard, but they were soon far outnumbered by locals who gathered in a mob and demanded some of the booze, which they received to avoid a disturbance. By the time the goods had reached Swansea, some casks had been given to Customs men, some fell and broke, some were stolen and others were said to have “leaked”.

See the footnotes for information about other interesting place-names in this locality.

Sources include ‘Brandy for the Parson’ by Michael Gibbs, Gower journal of the Gower Society, 1973. Thanks to Richard Morgan of the Welsh Place-Name Society/Cymdeithas Enwau Lleoedd Cymru for additional place-name information

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Footnotes: Other place-names here

Caswell was written as Carswell in 1650 and Caswell Bay in 1729. The name refers to a ‘cress stream’ (reaching the sea near the Caswell Bay Hotel). It was probably notable for watercress, an edible plant which thrives in wet, alkaline soils. The Welsh name is thought to be Porth Tulon, possibly meaning ‘cove of a man called Tulon’.

Hareslade is a likely place where wild hares (Old English hara) might be seen. The English word ‘slade’ is a common element in Gower place-names and typically describes an open, flattish valley, often quite small as here. The valley leads down to Brandy Cove.

Herbert’s Lodge was recorded as Withybed Lodge in 1843 and Herbert’s Lodge in 1830 and 1888. Withybed describes an area of wet land where small willow trees or osiers grow. The ‘withy’ refers to the flexible stems of the plant used in thatching, basketmaking and hurdles. 'Withy' is a common place-name element in anglicised parts of Gower. Herbert is a common personal name.