The story of Lovey Warne is one of the New Forest’s best known smuggling tales. She was born in the late 1700s and lived in Burley with her family who were innkeepers and smugglers.
Throughout the early 1800s and earlier, smuggling was a major activity in the Forest. Many families and whole settlements were involved. Contraband goods such as brandy, tobacco, lace and tea came over from France in small boats. The cargo was landed at many of the small places along the south coast from Sussex through to Cornwall.
Christchurch and Hengistbury Head were popular smugglers landing places and the contraband could quickly be carried to the New Forest with its wild and out of the way places by cart or pack pony. Some contemporary records tell of wagon trains of up to 20 or 30 wagons guarded by 200 to 300 horsemen.
Smuggliers became less active in the 1830’s when tax laws were changed and there was less incentive to smuggle goods.
The Warne family
Lovey Warne’s family was no exception. Her two brothers were actively engaged in the smuggling trade as “landers”. Their job was taking the smuggled goods from the coast inland for storage and delivery, either to hidden “markets” or direct to customers, who included the wealthy and even clergymen.
The Warne brothers would often use the Smugglers Road, a chalk track going from Burley to Picket Post. Often out in broad daylight, the brothers relied on Lovey keeping watch for the Customs men. Her way of warning her brothers, if they were in danger of discovery, was to walk up towards Picket Post and stand on top of Vereley Hill. There she wore her cloak inside out so the red lining was visible and acted as a warning sign.
Lovey Warne is commemorated today by both song and drink. The local brewery has a light ale named after her and the folk singer Louise Jordan composed and released a song about her in 2014.