We might be tempted to think that drunken anti-social behaviour is a recent thing, but the regulars at Paglesham’s Punch Bowl Inn beg to differ. You see, back in the late 18th century, the pub was the local of one William Blyth. On the face of it, Blyth seemed respectable; he was an oysterman by trade, but also the village grocer and one of the churchwardens. Some accounts suggest he was a police constable too.
But in his spare time, Blyth was also, like many others in those days, a prolific and successful smuggler. As an oysterman, he had the perfect excuse to be out on a boat on the creek at all hours, but instead of tending to the oyster beds, he would make regular runs to Dunkirk to pick up illicit cargoes of tea, gin and tobacco. The church, like many others in coastal Essex at the time, was used to hide the loot, in this case in the vestry. Fittingly, you might say, Blyth’s family are buried in the churchyard.
Legend has it that Blyth liked to play cricket with fellow smugglers Dowsett and Emberson, but they’d place their guns and swords handy just in case the local excise men paid them a surprise visit. Nicknamed “Hard Apple” and a heavy drinker, the story goes that Blyth drank two glasses of wine at The Punch Bowl Inn. Nothing very impressive about that, you might think, until you learn that he subsequently ate the two wine glasses as well. Be sure to time your visit to coincide with opening hours. I can promise you it’s much more decorous these days but still has plenty of character.