The traditional inn was built in 1750 as a coaching inn – the 18th century equivalent of a modern day service station for weary travelers. Using the turnpike between Launceston and Bodmin, they would stay at the Inn after crossing the wild and treacherous moor.
Some of the travelers were a little less respectable than most and used the Inn to hide away smuggler’s contraband that had been brought ashore. It is estimated that half the brandy and a quarter of all tea being smuggled into the UK was landed along the Cornish and Devon coasts. Jamaica Inn was remote and isolated so it was the ideal stopping place on the way to Devon and beyond.
According to stories, gangs of wreckers operated on the coast of Cornwall during the early 19th century and it was described as a “haven of smugglers”. The wreckers enticed ships to this coastline by tricking them with beacon lights, which they deliberately lit on the shore. Once the ships foundered on the rocky coast they were looted by the wreckers.