Nothing Cruel about Copinger’s Cottage now

Copinger’s Cottage is a delightful self-catering cottage on historic Galsham Farm that perfectly combines comfort with Olde Worlde charm…

Copinger’s Cottage is a delightful self-catering cottage on historic Galsham Farm that perfectly combines comfort with Olde Worlde charm… which is aptly fitting given that folklore has it that it was a combination of charm and love of comfort that brought Cruel Copinger, the notorious West Country smuggler, to live there in the first place.

So the local story goes Cruel Copinger was shipwrecked on the nearby coast in 1792. When the locals went down to see what had been washed up, they found him amongst the debris.  A local spinster, Ann Hamlyn daughter of the Hamlyns of Galsham Farm, took him home and nursed him back to health and they were later married. He lived with her for 10 years, continuing his nefarious ways, smuggling in brandy and silks and hiding them in the caves around Hartland until the customs and excise men made things too hot for him and he slipped away into the night, never to return.

In fact, Cruel Copinger features in a number of Cornish and Devonshire legends, some of which have him as an almost mythical character with near magical powers and others as a high born Dane, like a latter day Viking. Some stories tell of his terrible and unpredictable temper and how he beheaded a Revenues officer, others say he was charming to begin with but after old Mr Hamlyn died he showed his true colours by terrorising his in-laws and demanding money at gunpoint.

According to the Hartland Forum, what is known is that a Daniel Herbert Copinger was indeed shipwrecked in 1792 and then was "hospitably received and entertained" by a local yeoman farmer in Hartland. He recovered from his ordeal sufficiently to woo and marry the daughter of another local farmer, Mr Ackland Hamlyn of Galsham. Whilst there are some lovely stories of how he swept the young maid of her feet – quite literally galloping off with her on her own horse – in fact the ‘young maid’ was, according to the church records, 42 on her wedding day so the real story may be a bit more pedestrian.

For a number of years Copinger lived with Ann at Copinger’s Cottage and whether he was or wasn’t unpredictably violent he did carry on his nefarious activities, smuggling fine goods like brandy and silks and hiding them from the ‘gaugers’ in the caves around Hartland’s challenging coastline. And, since it was a truly tough, dangerous and unlawful way to make a living he almost certainly was something of a hard-bitten character.

Bluebells in Galsham’s woods

What finally became of him isn’t known, although a man of the same name was imprisoned, presumably for bankruptcy, at Kings Bench Prison. Others say he lived in Barnstaple for many years, existing on an allowance provided by his wife. Ann herself certainly did move to Barnstaple where she lived to the ripe old age of 82 and was then buried beside her mother in the chancel of Hartland Church.

Unpicking the real man from the weft and warp of local legend is no easy or certain task, but what is verifiable is that a man of that name did marry Ann, did live at Copinger’s Cottage at Galsham Farm and did leave his name "D.H.Copinger" inscribed in a pane of glass there that can still be seen today.

Copinger’s Cottage is a lovely, detached self-catering cottage sleeping 2 to 4 perfectly situated for the coast and countryside at Galsham Farm, Hartand.  Just a mile from the SW coast path and the spectacular Hartland coastline, half a mile from Hartland Village and with 10 acres of Galsham’s own woodland to wander in, it is the perfect getaway to relax and unwind in completely beautiful surroundings.  See their entry on the HPA website or Galsham’s own for more details and their excellent guest reviews.


Nothing Cruel about Copinger’s Cottage now