Galley Hill is deep in the heart of smuggler country. The Bull Inn at Bulverhythe (by the 'Pirates Ahoy' cache) was THE place to plan your smuggling activities and acted as the Job Centre for smuggler recruitment in both Bexhill and Hastings. The coast here was remote and desolate, and the only habitation was the occasional lonely inn and the Martello Towers, built in the 1800s, initially to keep a look-out for Napoleon's forces, but later a useful base in the fight against smugglers. The smugglers were very popular locally. People were no happier paying taxes then than they are today and the proceeds of smuggling brought income into the impoverished countryside.
One fateful night - Friday, 3rd. January 1828- and any watcher on this headland would have witnessed an event that came to be known as the Battle of Sidley Green - a battle between local smugglers and the excisemen.
Galley Hill was the site of Martello Tower number 44, built around 1808, on part of the headland now destroyed by coastal erosion. As the threat from Napoleon receded, the Martello Towers were used by the Coast Blockade - the forerunner of the Coastguard - to try to control the smuggling that was rife in the coastal towns.
There were two other Martello Towers nearby, the only other constructions on Bexhill beach at that time. One stood where the de la Warr pavilion stands today, and another stood near the current Marina / Sailing Club. It was from this Tower that a pistol shot rang out at 1 am that fateful night: the watchmen there had seen smugglers unloading goods from a French boat anchored just off the coast and raised the alarm. The Coast Blockade officers garrisoned on Galley Hill rushed out to challenge them. Thus began the series of events that was to lead to death and transportation, in the 'Battle of Sidley Green'
NB: IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE... There's a 'Smugglers Trail' noticeboard beside the Coastguard House - we will be following part of the Bexhill Smugglers Trail that's signposted throughout the town. Bexhill Museum has some excellent resources and archives and The 'Discover Bexhill' website is also very good.