High Halstow Neighbourhood Plan - Regulation 16
Appendix 5: Shades House
This text appears with thanks to Ian Jackson and Keith Robinson, contributing editors of "The North Kent Marshes".
In times past, outside the seawall areas of the saltings at Higham, Cliffe, Egypt and St. Mary's Bay and Dagnam, there was easy access and evidence of the landing of smuggled goods in this area of the North Kent Marshes.
The Ship and Lobster at Gravesend, the churches at Higham and Chalk, Shades House, the Lobster Inn at Allhallows and the Hogarth Inn at Grain are the most commonly mentioned smugglers haunts along the South bank of the Thames, each conveniently located near the saltings.
Shades House stands in the heart of Halstow marsh south of Egypt saltings a bleak isolated brick built box with parapet roof, now shorn of its attendant barn and out buildings, unoccupied for more than half a century though modernised in the 1970's as a weekend retreat but now vandalised. A constant landmark for shepherds, fowlers and birders, shades maintains an air of mystery and foreboding, brooding on its shady past.
It is said to have been built for the purpose of smuggling with its windows facing landward for early warning of approaching strangers. Persistent rumours name Shades House as a one-time inn which is not as outrageous a suggestion as it seems. The Lobster Smack on Canvey Island and the Shipwrights Arms at Hollow shore (Faversham) are obvious examples of licensed premises which in years past have derived a major part of their trade from bargemen. To Shades advantage the sale of beer gave an excuse for boats to be visiting Egypt bay. This activity may have provoked the preventative service of HMS Kite mooring as a watch vessel at Egypt Bay joining those at Cliffe Creek and Yanlet creek.
Shades could be sighted from the 'Norrad' but as that woodland was known hiding place for contraband on its journey inland it would not have been a safe place for excisemen to linger. However, well known incidence of the Norrad being used for smuggling is that of Edward Roots of Chatham and his friends who landed smuggled tea and fabric at Holy Haven (Hole-haven Creek) west of Canvey Island in 1726. They brought cargo across the Thames and up into the Norrad where things began to go wrong for them. Some goods were stolen from their hiding place and more seems to have been 'traded' with customs officers who 'stumbled" upon the smugglers. Though the trip was ill fated - almost certainly because of a traitor in the company - Roots was successful enough in his activities to have been able to replace his vessel, The Mermaid, when she was confiscated as punishment for his smuggling.
From 1851 to 1901 shepherd William Wellard and his family were listed in the census as being resident at Shade. Williams son Dusty recalled that his father was paid by the smuggling fraternity to drive his sheep through the marsh gate to hide their passages of contraband.