Owner convinced chest was Polperro pirate's
A TREASURE chest belonging to a legendary 18th-century smuggler and privateer from Polperro will once again be used to stash away the secrets of the village's colourful past.
Notorious pirate John Quiller, who lived between 1741 and 1802, is renowned as one of the most successful Cornish privateers to venture against French shipping during the Napoleon wars.
And now, 200 years after his death, the chest he once used to hide away his loot is believed to have surfaced.
"It's absolutely undeniably the chest of the great Polperro privateer John Quiller," said the new proud owner of the prized lot, Jeremy Rowett Johns.
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Mr Rowett Johns, who has traced his family history in the village back to the 17th century, said he was delighted with the find.
"It was a real stroke of luck," the 69-year-old said.
"I first came cross the Quiller family about 20 years ago when I began researching the history of Polperro.
"I wrote a book about the banker of Polperro, Zephaniah Job, which includes a chapter on the Quiller family.
"Earlier this year an antique dealer bought the chest at an auction in Plymouth.
"When he saw the name on the brass plate he did a search on the internet which led him straight to me."
Despite never having lived in the small fishing village, Mr Rowett Johns established the Polperro Family History Society 14 years ago and is one of more than 100 cousins who meet in the village each year to celebrate their entwined ancestry.
He first saw the chest during his annual visit earlier this year.
"The antique dealer came to see me in February when I was visiting for our cousin reunion," he explained.
"I was a bit sceptical but as soon as I walked into his little shop and saw the chest I knew it was genuine."
"I suspect that nobody else who has had it before ever knew its history," he added.
After tracing his own family ancestry Mr Rowett Johns discovered that his ancestors sailed alongside Quiller, who commanded a three-masted lugger called the Brilliant.
"We know for a fact William Johns was a contemporary of John Quiller," he explained.
"They frequently sailed together smuggling contraband into Polperro."
In 1793, under Quiller's orders, the Brilliant seized the Spanish ship La Tortola which, when sold by order of the High Court of Admiralty, yielded £8,800 for the crew and her owners.
Holding a quarter share as part owner and a further 64 shares as captain of the vessel, Quiller's proceeds amounted to £1,100, with his sons William and John also receiving a share in the cash.
But in the end the perils of the sea caught up with the legendary smuggler, who drowned off the coast of Land's End in 1802 aged 62.
After restoring the chest Mr Rowett Johns said he was delighted with his new-found treasure.
"I am so pleased," he said. "We have had it restored and I'm having a new key made for it. I will use it to store all the old documentation I have about Polperro."