With presenters Ellie Harrison, Chris Hollins, and Denise Lewis, the new series of the popular BBC 1 programme Secret Britain
explores the intriguing secret histories of the Lake District, Kent,
Devon, and Northern Ireland; and we’re featuring in the first episode
which airs at 9pm on Wednesday 30th March.
It promises to be a fascinating programme, featuring the wonderful
tale of infamous Little Langdale character Lanty Slee and chatting with
some of his descendants in the garden here at the Three Shires Inn.
Lanty was, putting it politely, a gentleman of some considerable
entrepreneurial spirit. Born around 1800 of Irish descent, Lanty lived
almost all his life in and around the Little Langdale Valley; working as
a farmer and quarryman (at least during daylight hours!). But it is his
unofficial side line of distilling and smuggling illicit moonshine
which earned him a splendid reputation as one of the greatest and
craftiest rogues the Lake District has ever seen.
To the best of anyone’s knowledge, this enterprising character
operated at least four secret whisky stills around the valley – but in
truth who knows how many there may have been, as Lanty had sufficient
guile and cunning to always keep him one step ahead of the authorities.
His brew was of fine quality, and sold to ‘discerning local gentry’
for ten shillings a gallon – pretty expensive for the time, although of
course Lanty’s business wasn’t unduly troubled by the additional burden
of excise duty! One such customer was actually a local magistrate, and
it was often noted that Lanty’s frequent fines had a habit of being
somewhat reduced by the time that payment was made. As his operation
expanded, Lanty also branched out into the import/export business,
smuggling his hooch during darkness over Wrynose Pass by packhorse to
the port at Ravenglass, and bringing back supplies of tobacco on the
At one point during his illustrious career, a quarrel with a
‘business partner’ resulted in Lanty being shopped to the magistrates
and fined the princely sum of £150. The business partner fled the area
in fear of retribution, while Lanty apparently ‘retired’ – although it
was noted that strangely the supply of whisky didn’t appear to dry up,
and Lanty remained, shall we say, ‘reasonably active during his
The Three Shires Inn was built during the later years of Lanty’s
lifetime, and one can’t help but wonder whether the original landlord
may even have been a customer. We don’t sell illicit hooch these days of
course, but we’re proud to serve an impressive collection of over fifty
fine malt whiskies – although regrettably a century and a half of
inflation has inevitably nudged prices just a little over ten shillings a
gallon. And of course if whisky isn’t your thing, there’s also our
extensive wine list and a broad selection of excellent local ales to keep you suitably refreshed and replenished, so we very much look forward to welcoming you to the Three Shires very soon.