Best Western The Vine Hotel, Skegness
The Lincolnshire coast was once a major focus of smuggling in Britain. The terrain was perfect for this illegal activity: small tidal creeks which could be navigated easily by small boat but were almost impossible to access by foot, salt marshes where illicit goods could be hidden from snooping eyes and recovered by those who knew how to safely make their way through them, and facing the Dutch coast- perfect for access to Dutch gin and tobacco. The economic conditions were also right for smuggling. Most people on the Lincolnshire coast lived in poverty, making a living in fishing, salt-panning or samphire gathering. Smuggling was a way of both making extra money and obtaining luxury goods extremely cheaply.
During this time village inns were places which ere shunned by outsiders. Locals were suspicious of outsiders, or “outners’ as they were called in Lincolnshire, and most of the local populace would be engaged in some kind of illegal activity. A famous den of vipers was the Vine Hotel in Skegness. Skegness at this time was nothing more than a small salt-panning village. Skegness was a centre of smuggling goods from Europe, and this soon came to the attention of the authorities.
A customs officer was sent to Skegness to investigate smuggling in the area. He had barely arrived in the town when he vanished, never to be heard from again. Decades and centuries passed, times changed and the customs officer was forgotten. In 1902, as Skegness was beginning to develop as a seaside resort, the Vine Hotel was enlarged and renovated to accommodate the growing number of tourists. During work, a 150 year old skeleton was discovered inside a wall, wearing a rotting coat which bore the royal insignia. Could this have been the missing customs officer?
Phantom footsteps have been reported from empty rooms. Glasses and bottles have been seen floating in mid-air. Unearthly misty figures have been claimed to linger in the building. Could the murdered customs officer still be haunting the Vine Hotel?
Author: P A McHugh