Dymchurch and the Romney Marsh were famous in the olden days as the haunt of a desperate and successful gang of smugglers.
Many books have been written on the subject, but Russell Thorndike has probably written more about the smuggling days of Dymchurch than any other author, and his "Dr Syn" is a very intriguing story of "the good old days", which centres round the Church and Court House. Dr. Syn was the much respected parson, but as the story progresses, the reader finds that in actuality he is the chief of the smugglers and leader of the famous "Nightriders," and that before coming to Dymchurch, he was Captain Clegg, a notorious pirate of those times.
In many of the old houses the old "Smugglers' holes" are still to be seen, and local tradition has it that secret underground passages existed between the old smuggling Inn “The Ship" and two or three of the larger houses nearby.
It is, however, very well known and recorded as history that many fierce and sanguinary encounters took place between the smugglers and the "King's Men". Aldington Knoll, from which an uninterrupted view of the whole marsh and the coast from Hythe around Dungeness to Fairlight Cliff in Sussex, and of the French Coast, is obtainable on clear days, as well as for many miles inland, was used as the Smugglers' Signal Station. And Aldington "Fright," as this wild and lonely common was called, was the stronghold and headquarters of the last organised gang of smugglers in England, which put up a desperate fight before being finally either shot or captured by King George's Troops, who were used to round them up. The old secret stairs and the signalling window still remain at "The Old Walnut Tree" Inn at Aldington.
Other authors who have used Dymchurch and Romney Marsh as a setting for their stories include Rudyard Kipling in "Puck of Pooks Hill”, H. G. Wells in "Kipps," and E. Nesbit in her poems and stories.
If you wake at midnight and hear a horse's feet,
Don't go drawing back the blind or looking in the street.
Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie,
Watch the wall, my Darling, while the gentlemen go by.
Five and twenty ponies
trotting through the dark.
Brandy for the parson,
'Baccy for the clerk,
Laces for a lady, letters for a spy,
And watch the wall, my darling, while the gentlemen go by.