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The Old Manor becomes “The Moonraker”

The Moonraker

The Moonraker LogoWhen Lucy and Tudor Hopkins bought the hotel in July 2013; their intention was to bring to life and celebrate the wonderful beauty, history and food of Wiltshire.

They got to work refurbishing the public areas and guest bedrooms, created a kitchen garden, bought rare breed pigs and, working alongside Chef Matthew Briddon (River Café), started sourcing ingredients from the local farmers and artisans that surround the hotel.

They were delighted in February 2015 to be written up by Olive magazine as ‘modern British hospitality at its relaxed – and romantic – best’.

When they discovered the legend of the Wiltshire Moonrakers in an old book in the Trowbridge museum, we were very excited and felt certain we had found a name befitting of a hotel that
celebrates the history, food and folk law of the area.

They hope you enjoy the story of the Moonrakers as much as they do.

THE LEGEND OF THE WILTSHIRE MOONRAKERS

Between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries the wool produced from the English county of Wiltshire was known and prized all over Europe because of its superb quality. Dutch and Flemish merchants had permanent headquarters in the Wiltshire town of Swindon, attracted there by the high profit obtained from the wool trade.

But there was a problem! The merchant’s favourite tipple was gin from Holland and brandy from France, but that carried a heavy import duty. The solution for the Wiltshiremen seemed obvious, they would have to smuggle in the barrels of spirit and so avoid the import duty.

By the mid-sixteenth century they had established a smuggling operation that would run for more than 200 years. The barrels of spirit were landed in quiet coves on the Hampshire coast and brought up to Swindon by night. The barrels were hidden during the day in church crypts or in village ponds. The green weed in the ponds concealed the barrels beautifully.

One cold and still night, many moons ago, they nearly got caught…the smugglers were raking their barrels out of the village pond when they were surprised by a patrol of excise men.

The smugglers thought quickly and pointed to the moon’s reflection in the pond and told the officials that they were trying to rake in the cheese. The excise men, thinking they were simple local folk, laughed at them and went on their way. The Moonrakers had the last laugh over a tipple… and the legend of the Moonrakers was born!

The Moonraker, Trowle Common, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, BA14 9BL
TEL: +44 1225 777 393 FAX: +44 1225 765 443 EMAIL: reservations@moonrakerhotel.com