When walking through my local town of Godstone I discovered a pirates grave located beside a church, I managed to notice it because of the cross and bones across the front of the grave. When researching into this grave I discovered the story of John Edward Trenchman a local pirate and smuggler.
Trenchman grew up in 17th century London by the docklands. This meant he was usually among sailing ships and sailors from a hundred foreign lands. Inspired by tales of adventure and the gold of the Spanish Main, aged 12 he ran away to sea, joining the crew of Henry Morgan, the notorious Caribbean pirate. Henry Morgan is the pirate that the famous rum ‘Captain Morgans’ is named after.
In later years, to avoid another war with Spain, the English Crown pledged to wipe out all pirating by English ships in the Caribbean Sea. So, Trenchman then returned to England and set up as a smuggler on the south-east coast. Business proved good and within a year he was bringing teams of pack-horses loaded with smuggled goods up to Croydon every month.
After one of his fellow smugglers got involved in a bar fight and was sent to trial he turned King’s evidence to save his neck from the noose, and gave detailed information of the secret routes used by the smugglers, plus the date of their next journey to Croydon.
Soon there was to be an ambush at Tilburstow Hill (where I discovered the grave) When Trenchman and his gang rode into a small clearing in a wood the soldiers immediately opened fire. The fight was short and fierce, with only a fatally wounded Trenchman managing to make his escape through the surrounding dense undergrowth. Bleeding badly he staggered into the ‘Fox and Hounds’ Inn (which is also still around and nearby where I live) where, in 1687, he died from loss of blood some hours later. The villagers of Godstone took pity on the pirate who had died so far from the sea. They buried him in an unmarked grave at the south end of the churchyard which Is the one I have discovered.
It may also be clear that coins have been left on the grave of Trenchman, I was interested to see why this may be. Pennies are usually left on graves as a sign of respect for the deceased. Leaving a coin usually means you show respect and to leave something behind on the grave shows that the particular person buried is in your thoughts. However, there could also be a darker side to this. Many people believe that if you do not leave money on a pirates grave, then they will come back to haunt you. It is suggested that the local 'fox and hounds' pub is haunted by Trenchman as this is where he died, but the spirit would leave you alone if you have placed a coin on his grave!
It goes to show a story and history could be right around the corner from where you live! With the release of the 5th film of the famous Franchise of Pirates of the Caribbean coming around next month it is very appropriate to have discovered Trenchman.
- Hannah Smithson, Coloma Convent Girls School Sixth Form