Reminiscences of Smugglers and Smuggling

From Historical Hastings

The below text is from John Banks' talk titled 'Reminiscences of Smugglers and Smuggling' which was later published as a booklet and has subsequently been digitised by Google Books. Please note, there is an error in the scan of the Google version resulting in there being duplication of page numbers 12 & 13, which has been corrected here.

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THE practice of smuggling, as it existed along the southern coast of England during the latter half of the last century, and during some years of the present, presents a curious field of study to the political and social economist, and also to the historian. Such high protective import duties as were then levied upon some articles of general consumption, rendered the smuggling of those articles , even when moderately successful, a lucrative practice. To such an extent was it carried on, notwithstanding its unlawfulness, that its success at length interfered so much with legalized traffic, that the respective governments of the time endeavoured to stop smuggling with a strong hand. Hair-breadth escapes by flood and field, loss of liberty, and not unfrequently of life, were the lamentable results, so that distress and mourning were brought into the bosom of many an English home. [ 2 ]Within the memory of living men the counties of Kent and Sussex, and not unfrequently some of the adjoining counties, have been the scenes of occurrences which, had they have taken place in the middle of the nineteenth century, would have made people stand aghast. We often hear of the " good old times," accompanied by expressions of regret at their departure ; I question, however, whether a change from the present state of things to a state similar to that of one hundred, or even fifty years ago, is at all to be desired ; and I am of opinion that when the doings which I am about to relate are carefully considered, together with their baneful effects upon society, no sane person would like to exchange this 1873 for the middle of the eighteenth, or even the beginning of the nineteenth century, about which we sometimes hear old people talk with old-fashioned eloquence, asserting that " Old England has , since that period, been going down hill, and is now fast going to the dogs."

In those " good old times," gone, thank God, for ever, what with privateering, smuggling, highway robbery, and such-like questionable doings, it not unfrequently happened that " the biggest rogues had the best luck ;" though it did sometimes come to pass that the diabolical proceedings of some brought upon them, in the end, swift and retributive justice. [ 3 ]A living authoress,[1] writing of 1824, says : -" In the exhilaration of the times, men were disposed to make haste to be rich ; and the immense spread of joint-stock companies became a joke of the time- a heavy joke enough in the issue, but very merry at the moment. While this exhilaration and satisfaction were apparent on the surface of society . . . . some things were going on in by-places which make us wonder now how men could have been satisfied with a state of things so obviously needing improvement." "There were strange doings by night in the creeks and hollow ways and caves of the southern coast, and a remarkable order of passengers by day in the packets from France. Every now and then a fisherman's great boots were found to be stuffed with French lace, gloves, and jewellery, or a lady's petticoats to be quilted all through with silk stockings and lace. Here and there a nice-looking loaf of bread was found to have a curious kernel of lace and gloves ; and a roll of sail-cloth turned out to be a package of gay lute string. In the dead of the night a large body of men would work for hours, noiselessly, in the soft sands, rolling tubs of spirits, and carrying bales of goods in the shadows of the rocks, and through tunnels and up chasms, under the very feet of the preventive patrol, and within sound of the talk of the sentries. While this [ 4 ]was going forward on the English coast, the smugglers on the opposite shore were engaged with much more labour, risk, and expense, in introducing English woollens, by a vast system of fraud and lying into the towns, past a series of custom-houses. In both countries there was an utter dissoluteness of morals connected with these transactions. Cheating and lying were essential to the whole system : drunkenness accompanied it : contempt for all law grew up under it : honest industry perished beneath it ; and it was crowned with murder."

" The loss to the revenue was immense. It has been calculated that the loss of duties consequent on smuggling, added to the cost of the Preventive Service and Coast Blockade, was not less in 1822 and 1823 than a million a-year. Amid the general prosperity there was something wrong here."

It must not be supposed that the circumstances which I shall relate are mere romance . The facts have been gathered by myself from eye-witnesses, in some cases from actual participators, still living : so that, though I may dress up the characters somewhat, and, in order not to give pain to any person or persons still living, give the actors fictitious names, my readers may rely upon it, that what I relate will be a faithful picture of smuggling as it existed from fifty to one hundred years ago.

What is Smuggling ? and-what is a smuggler ? [ 5 ]Dr. Johnson defines a smuggler to be a " wretch, who, in defiance of justice and the laws, imports or exports goods either contraband or without payment of the customs." This is rather a harsh definition of the learned Doctor's. We define smuggling to be the clandestine introduction of prohibited goods, or the illicit introduction of goods charged with excessive duties, and the evading payment of those duties which have been imposed by government. A smuggler we define to be one who thus endeavours to import or export goods without payment of the duties. In parts of a country where a " free trade " is extensively carried on, the smuggler is rather a popular person than otherwise, and in some countries , as in Spain, still more so than in England. His neighbours do not usually regard his mode of acquiring a livelihood disgraceful, but rather look upon him as a benefactor who supplies them with necessaries and articles of luxury at a cheap rate.

Excessive duties present a temptation to evade them ; and the law loses a part of its moral force, when it first tempts to a violation of it and then punishes the offender. We have only to examine the tariff of a country to know if smuggling is practised. If a bad system of commercial policy has been long pursued, there the smuggler will be found ; and we may lay it down as an axiom that whenever the duties exceed thirty per cent, [ 6 ]ad valorem it is impossible to prevent a contraband traffic. The lowering of the import duties in this country since 1830 has done more to prevent smuggling than all the Custom-house officers, Coast-blockade, Preventive-men, and Coast-guard put together.

In order the better to understand how it was that in open defiance of the law, and in the face of an immense cost to the country for its suppression, a gigantic system of contraband trade could be carried on, it may be well to glance at the geographical and topographical condition of this part of England.

The counties of Kent and Sussex may be considered to consist mainly of three distinct and well marked divisions ;-they are the extensive level tracks of land known as Pevensey Level and Romney Marsh ; the latter terminating westward at Dungeness, and containing at a rough guess, upwards of sixty thousand acres, and the district called the Weald, from its general wooded character, enclosed in a series of hills, termed the North and South Downs, and varied to some extent by a range " of elevated lands, called the Hastings Sands, from their terminating southward in bluff cliffs at Hastings.

I omit from this brief outline that part of the county of Kent which forms the southern shore of the estuary of the Thames, because my remarks on "Smugglers and Smuggling" will have little or no reference to that part of that county. [ 7 ] Looking at the map of the South-Eastern corner of England we see that the greater part thereof forms a sort of an irregularly shaped valley running from the sea in a direction somewhat westerly, for a dis tance of one hundred or one hundred and twenty miles, having a mean width of thirty or forty miles ; the whole extent of coast being (if we include a part of West Sussex, south of the South Downs) from Folkestone, in Kent, to Selsey Bill, in Sussex, about one hundred miles :-this may be broken up in the following portions ;--an almost level sea-board from Folkestone to the Cliffs' end near Winchelsea about twenty-five miles ;-then six miles of cliff, the foot of which at many places slopes down to the sea, and is intersected at other places by short valleys, wooded down almost to high-water mark these extend west ward as far as Hastings ;-then from Hastings about eight or ten miles of coast of a varied character, but in every respect favourable to the landing and running of contraband goods. This extends to a little beyond Bexhill, after which we have eight or ten miles to Eastbourne, being the sea-front of Pevensey level ; and next the abrupt chalk cliffs from Beachy-head to near Brighton, forming a part of the South Downs, they being the southern boundary of the district called the Weald. These cliffs are intersected by the narrow valleys of Birling-Gap, Crowlink, and the Cuckmere river, and the wider one of the Ouse at [ 8 ]Newhaven ; these cliffs are about twenty miles from Eastbourne to Brighton, where they terminate ; beyond these the coast of Sussex is comparatively level, and there is a level district extending inland a few miles till it terminates at the foot of the southern slope of the South Downs.

Romney Marsh and Pevensey Level (as well as Pett Level and Bulverhythe Salts, which are not mentioned in -the foregoing description in consequence of their being but of comparatively small extent, but which may hereafter have to be alluded to as the scenes of smuggling transactions), present peculiar features which require description. Their names imply that they are level or nearly so. Instead of hedges separating the different inclosures, ditches, wide, and in wet seasons, full of water, are met with on every side. Here and there a sluggish stream or river finds its way, after many windings, to the sea ; the roads are at places fringed with stunted willows, which in the dark nights look like ghosts, stretching their skinny arms towards the benighted traveller : farms and homesteads are dotted about, here and there, on these levels and marshes, and the paths from one to the other, or from them to the main roads, or vice versa, are, from the little traffic over them, just simply tracks where the grass is not so luxuriant as it is to the right and left of them. For a stranger to find his way, on a dark night, on the [ 9 ]high road was, and is, a difficult matter ;-but across the marsh by a footpath, almost an impossibility ; for a native, the latter experiment is difficult, and should he on a very dark night or a foggy one once lose the track, no difficult matter, the best thing he can do is to lie down till daylight dawns ; for should he persistently attempt to regain the path, the chances are that he may find himself floundering in one of the many ditches which intersect the level in all directions.

At the present day the Weald possesses a distinctive feature not perhaps to be found to so marked an extent in any other district in England . I allude to its general wooded character ;--woods from an acre to upwards of one hundred acres are numerous throughout its whole extent ; the fields are for the most part small, and divided from each other by wide and thickly laced hedgerows. At the commencement of the present century the roads were bad ; turnpike roads were not so numerous as they are at present, nor were they by any means in so good a condition, while the cross roads were, particularly in the winter, in such a state, that it was no difficult matter for a pedestrian to stick fast in the mud. I have seen Ore Lane in this neighbourhood with wheel ruts from eighteen to twenty inches deep, in the winter, and other roads were proportionately bad. "The roads through the Weald of Kent were no bet[ 10 ]ter. When Mr. Rennie, the engineer, was engaged in surveying the Weald with a view of cutting a canal through it in 1802 , he found the country almost destitute of practicable roads, although so near to the metropolis on the one hand, and the sea coast on the other. The interior of the county was then comparatively untraversed, except by bands of smugglers, who kept the inhabitants in a state of constant terror."

Considering then that locomotion was generally difficult, that the roads were wretched, and that the persons engaged in the unlawful trafic were in almost all instances well acquainted with all the by-ways, out-of-the-way nooks and corners, it is not difficult to understand that once away from the coast, in a country like the Weald of Kent and Sussex, the smugglers were comparatively safe, even in the daytime ; for, added to their intimate knowledge of the country, the disposition of the country people, in general, was favourable to the smuggler (I am speaking now of forty or fifty years ago) ; not only the common people, but farmers, country tradesmen, and some in authority even lent a helping hand, in more ways than one, to the safe transit, and sometimes to the safe keeping of smuggled goods ; and least of all would any casual observer of smugglers ' doings be expected to drop one word of any transaction he might witness that might lead to the detection of the parties concerned. [ 11 ]As my remarks on " Smugglers and Smuggling " will have particular reference to some transactions which occurred in the immediate neighbourhood of Hastings, it may not be amiss to give a brief description of its state at the period of which I am writing.

Hastings, now a fashionable watering place, and second to none in the kingdom, then consisted, mainly, if not entirely, of what is now called the Old Town," that is, that part lying between the East and the West Hills ; namely High Street and All Saints Street, and the streets along by the sea shore, as far as, and including George Street. George Street, however, is considerably altered, there are only fourteen houses that were there when was young, and there is only one person living in the street that lived there fifty years ago. Westward of George Street, very nearly all is modern : there were a few houses and ship-wrights' shops on the southern or sea side of the road ;-a stable and a stone-mason's yard where Pelham Arcade now stands ; a thatched house (where they sold gin) on the site of the present Castle Hotel, and nearly opposite, - a limekiln somewhat about where numbers 3 and 4 in the Square now are. The site of Wellington Square was a field ; close to the late Post-Office stood a building made of two boats, one keel upwards on the top of the other, this was called sometimes "the boat-house," sometimes " the ark;" two houses and 

[ 12 ]a slaughterhouse about the middle of the present Robertson Street ; a block and mast-maker's shop and dwelling-house, and one or two other houses along a rope-walk, now Carlisle Parade ; a low cottage near the westernmost end of the said rope-walk ; one house near the top of the White-rock ; a limekiln and a lime-burner's house at the present Warrior Square ; and the New England Bank, or Bopeep public-house near the St. Leonards South Coast Railway Station : -these were all or nearly all the houses existing along the west front of the Borough of Hastings ; this is now occupied by an esplanade and houses not to be surpassed in any watering-place in England.

At the time referred to, Hastings was not paved, drained or lighted ; gutters ran along the middle of the streets, common channels for soap-suds, dish-water and other dirty water. Along a part of George Street the footway, not pavement, was below the level of the carriage way, and the pedestrian had to go down steps at one end and up steps at the other. Bourne Passage and also Great Bourne Street had an open stream, called the Bourne ; this was partly choked up with brick-bats, tin kettles and bits of earthenware of all sizes, shapes and patterns. This stream formed part of the water-supply of Hastings. Once or twice a week, the water, which had been kept back in a place called " The Slough," at the upper end of the town, was let down the Bourne for the purpose of flushing [ 13 ]it, which it generally very much needed. Then might be seen and heard boys and girls, running, shouting, and screaming at the top of their voices, " the Slough's let !" "the Slough's let !" The masculine part of the crowd would get into the Bourne and run along helter skelter in front of the advancing stream, some of them would sometimes fall, head over heels, and get a sound ducking in what could scarcely be called water. Here I will stop. I think I have said enough to shew that old Hastings was not at all to be compared with Hastings of 1873.

In order the better to understand how smuggling was so easy some sixty or seventy years ago, it may be well to allude briefly to a few localities, and the first which recurs to memory is the original Priory Bridge, which was situated at or very near the spot at present occupied by the Albert Memorial. It was built of timber, and was, owing to its dilapidated and dangerous condition, removed about 1820. In a south. west direction from the bridge were the Rope-walks . Parkers' Endowed School was at one time, previous to 1817 , carried on in a room or loft over one of the rope-maker's shops. The ground about the Rope-walks subsequently was built upon by anybody who chose to do so. It became a locality for the drunken and the lawless, and it was really not safe to pass over it after dark. It obtained the appellation of " America. " It was ultimately claimed and taken possession of by [ 14 ]the Crown, the occupiers receiving seven years ' notice to quit, liberty being given them to pull down and take away their buildings.

The Priory Bridge, No. 2 , as we call it, was a brick built structure, erected on the site of the old wooden bridge just mentioned . A little beyond it to the west was the Priory farm-house, and near thereto were the farm-buildings and a deep muddy pond, called the Black-pond. The site at present occupied by the Railway Station, mainly consisted of a boggy reed-bed. At times, in violent rains, the Priory meadows (the present cricket and recreation ground) were frequently under water. Improved drainage has remedied that. On the bridge were two lamps, marking the extent of the jurisdiction of the Hastings Improvement Commissioners. This bridge was pulled down about the year 1835. On the site of the two Priory bridges stands the present " Albert Memorial." This was built in 1863 , from designs furnished in a competition by Mr. E. A. Heffer, architect, of Liverpool. I need say nothing of the beauty of this structure ; it speaks for itself ; every one I think will admit that it forms a striking contrast to the bridges formerly occupying the site ; the rattletrap, tumble-down No. 1 , and the unpretending No. 2, like which there is nothing that I know of excepting perhaps " Sheepwash Bridge" spanning the Aston river on Bulverhithe Salts. [ 15 ]Another locality where many changes have taken place deserves a passing notice. " The Old Woman's Tap." Why it was called this, I never heard.

The " Old Woman's Tap " was near the centre of the present St. Leonards, and consisted of a small pond of water, over which on the north side projected a stone, called " the Conqueror's Table. " On it William the Norman is said to have breakfasted before he marched from Hastings to meet the army of Harold. The stone is still preserved in the St. Leonards Subscription Gardens. The pond was supplied by a rivulet running through the site of the present gardens.

The " Old Woman's Tap " was a favourite rendezvous of the smugglers, and there was a place a little to the westward of it, called the " Stussels," which was the scene of a curious transaction between a custom-house officer and two noted smugglers, one Jemmy Roper, the master of a boat, and the other S_____. S______ , the principal owner of the cargo contained in the boat.

The custom-house officer, who was a supernumerary, going down to the water, found Jemmy holding the boat as well as he could with her bow against the beach, he having come in by mistake before the appearance of the company, which, however, was in the immediate neighbourhood. The officer with characteristic bluntness d____d Jemmy as a fool for bringing [ 16 ]in the boat before the company was there, as he had then no other alternative but to seize her. Jemmy in turn d- d the officer, and said, "If you be a man, act like one." In the meantime the principal owner had arrived at the spot, having left the company just behind the full (the ridge of shingle thrown up by the sea at high water). A bargain was soon struck, by which the officer was to have ten tubs on condition of letting the others go free.

The company was soon brought to the boat, and the first five pairs of tubs ordered by the owner to be placed on the beach, and the men who brought them told to go and get another load. The boat was soon emptied, and the smugglers and officer parted with a hearty " good-night " on both sides . After the smugglers were well away, Mr. Custom-house officer fired his pistol as a signal for assistance to help him away with the "goods he had seized."

I may as well mention here that the smugglers had a curious way of naming different parts of the coast, thus :- ' Jinns's Stool " was a large rock near Galley hill ; " The Slide," a place near the Rock a Nore ; "The Whippings," the high cliff near Ecclesbourne ; "Robin Whiting's Hole," just beyond Ecclesbourne ; "Broken Shins," and " The Gringer," farther to the east ; and " The Marrow-bone Gap," near Fairlight Signal Station. t. The " Royal Victoria Hotel," at St. Leonards-on-[ 17 ]Sea, occupies the spot that was the "Old Woman's Tap." This is only one of the many changes that have taken place in this Borough during the last fifty years.

Coming eastward from the site of St. Leonards we came to the White Rock, which consisted of a piece of sand-stone rock jutting out towards the sea. It formed a very picturesque object, seen either from the west, or from the east. The curve in the Parade, eastward of the New Pier, marks the locality.

Powell's Library and the Battery were situated at the eastern end of the Marine Parade. The Library was the resort of the fashionable visitors on a summer's evening, where they listened to a band, and took chances in a lottery, which was carried on every evening in the summer season. The Battery mounted six twenty-four pounders, and it was fine fun for the juveniles of the neighbourhood, of which I was one, to run along the parapet and play leap-frog over the cannon. It was dismantled in 1817, and pulled down in 1842.

The end of West Street was and is to the left of the Library, and a small building on the left-hand side of the street was used as a guard-house. At that time there were temporary barracks at the present Halton, and a sergeant's guard was usually stationed in this building, and a sentry was stationed on the battery, in a sentry-box placed thereon. A cargo of [ 18 ]goods was brought ashore one night, and the smugglers propitiated the guard, (no difficult matter), by giving the men a keg of spirits . The soldiers, of course, plied themselves pretty freely, and when the guard came down from the barracks in the morning to relieve their comrades, they were found to be " drunk and incapable."


Every one in Hastings knows the " Pier Rocks," so named from the remains of the " Old Pier," which are seen at low water, or even at half-tide. This place was the locality of a curious smuggling transaction, accompanied with a swimming adventure. A lugger had been despatched to France for goods, and it was pre-arranged that she should arrive off the Pier Rocks on a certain night. On that day Sam, a sort of fore man in the matter, said to Jack, a fellow-workman, and one of the company who were to work the goods, "Jack ! do ye mind going off in a boat to-night ?" " No," says Jack. " Can you swim ?" is the question put by Sam. Jack answers in the affirmative, and it is arranged that they shall go at a certain hour. Sam, I have said, was a sort of foreman in the affair,--it must be understood that in the latter days of smuggling, the smugglers' organization required to be very perfect, in order to defeat the vigilance of the coast guardsmen. Sam and Jack go off at the time ap[ 19 ]pointed : Jack, of course, habited so as to be able to swim easily with his clothes on. They proceed quietly in a certain direction, till about the right time they fall in with the lugger with the goods ; the lugger gets in as near as she can approach with safety in a dark night. The tubs of spirits, being already slung in pairs, are rove on to a long line and are quietly put overboard, and Jack, with two of the crew, proceed quietly in the boat towards the shore, towing the tubs behind them.

Getting in about the roadstead, they see another boat coming towards them, and thinking it is a coast guard boat, they begin to think it is all U P, up. However, it turns out to be the crew of a Deal lugger, which is lying in the roadstead ; they don't want twice telling what's the game afloat. Deal boatmen know nothing about such doings ! They row in slowly to the back of the Pier Rocks, and notice as they go in lights from vessels unloading in the fishmarket . Jack now slips overboard with one end of the line round his body, and cautioning his companions to give him " slack enough," he cautiously swims in westward of the Pier Rocks, while the others in the boat, getting clear of the line, proceed towards the shore, eastward of the Pier Rocks, to deceive (if necessary), the coast-guardsman, should one be stationed at that particular spot, and draw his attention from Jack and his transactions. Jack quietly swimming in, [ 20 ]sees the dark outline of the Pier Rocks against the somewhat lighter sky, and after a minute or two, fancies the rocks are in motion. It is the company who have managed to get there, and they are waiting for him. " Is that you , Jack ?" says one, in a quiet voice.[2] "Yes," says Jack, "it's me." " You can touch there, I think ; give us your line. " The goods are soon hauled silently in, and as silently distributed, the company making their way along some sand, which had purposely been sprinkled across the beach ; and as it happened on this particular night, the coastguardsman on duty at the western end of the Parade was held in conversation by one (a tradesman) in the secret, the company and goods were soon away. They went into West Street, through Russell Court, along George Street, up the Light Steps, and along Hill Street. In this street they saw a light ; old So-and-So was not gone to bed. It being Saturday he was having a hand of cards with a friend. No sooner thought of than done. One goes in and borrows the key of the shop, of which he had the charge (Jack and Sam, and Jem too, worked at the same shop) ; the goods were stowed away in the shop till the next night, and then, all being quiet, they were taken to [ 21 ]their destination, nobody the wiser - the transactors excepted.

It may not be amiss to mention that Jack's father was a custom-house officer, and on this particular night had been performing his duties as coal-meter on board one of the vessels which was unloading opposite the fishmarket. His duties over, he had gone to Jack's lodgings, and was having a wash previous to going to his home at Guestling. Jack was in a di lemma, as he dared not go in in his wet clothes, for fear of betraying the transaction in which he had been engaged ; and he was obliged to have recourse to the good offices of a neighbour, who smuggled to him a dry suit of clothes, in which he was able to put in an appearance as a dutiful son.

Jack and another (one " Whittaker,") were fortunate enough once to find five tubs, which had been laid by, intended to be scamped. Having nothing to do they were strolling along the top of the East Cliff one forenoon, hoping to pick up a rabbit, having a ferret and a dog with them for that purpose. Jack had been the previous day assisting his father at the Custom's Warehouse, and his long blue frock had a spirituous scent about it. Whittaker kept on sniffing and said he " smelt summutt ;" Jack told him it was his frock, and explained the cause. " No, no," said Whittaker, " it's too strong for that." Looking about they saw a mark where a rock had been cut by a [ 22 ]rope ; they knew at once that some goods had been hauled up the cliff during the previous night. They managed to descend on to a ledge a little way down, and there, to their surprise, they found five tubs of spirits. They very quickly took them away to a cottage near the Rocklands, and were paid by the owner six shillings per tub. Not a bad forenoon's work. They were seen by people ' on the beach to scramble over the edge of the cliff with their load . Jack soon after got married, and gave up smuggling.


Hastings in its smuggling days had a great many old-fashioned houses. Some of these were well adapted in their internal arrangements for the concealment of smuggled goods. They were also very picturesque in appearance ; there are still some remaining in High Street and All Saints Street. There were two when I was young, one of which I know was much used as a hiding-place for run goods ; the other had not, that I know of, any connection with smuggling, but it was a good specimen of the kind of house, once more numerous in Hastings than at present. It was situated in Bourne Passage, and was in my time inhabited by a man named Ben Butchers, who was dog-whipper in St. Clement's Church. "A dog-whipper ?" say you, a dog-whipper ?" A dog-whipper was one [ 23 ]who walked about the church in service time, with a cane in his hand, to "Whack the little boys Who in church-time made a noise. "

I have a water-colour drawing of this house, by Mr. J. H. Maw, once Mayor of Hastings, who very kindly gave it me.

Another old house stood in Russell Court. A spectator looking towards George Street would see on the farther side a row of houses, some three or four of which stood back from the street, and had flower gardens, &c. , in their front. These were called " Burdett Place." In the house at the intersection of the court with George Street, on the right-hand side, lived a Mr. John Russell, a baker, famous for making good bread and capital sea-biscuits. In the next house, on the right-hand side, lived a fisherman, Ben Dabney, and his wife, with a son and daughter. The daughter's name was Jemima ; in process of time she got married, and her husband's name was George. The whole of the family were somewhat deaf, and consequently they spoke to each other sufficiently loud for the neighbours to hear. One evening George had gone to bed early, and left his spouse up with instructions to call him should the weather improve and be fit for him to go to sea, he being a fisherman, and the weather being somewhat unfavourable. Towards midnight the following dialogue was heard : [ 24 ] Jemima. " Garge ! Garge !"

George. " Hullo !"

Jem. "Come, git up !" ,

Geo. " Vich vay's de vin ?"

Jem. "Vy! vestly !"

George gets up growling ; dons his sea-boots and goes clumping down the court till the sound of his heavy boots is lost in the distance.

The house to which I wish to draw particular attention, because in it I passed some years of my boyish life, and saw during those years many incidents connected with smuggling, stood on the left hand. My father was a blacksmith, an excellent workman, and who, while he worked, worked hard, and when he drank, drank hard ; nevertheless with that draw-back he was a good father, for he took care that all his children should have as good an education as could be got in the schools of the day. He wanted no School-Board to spur him on in keeping his children to school, and he would have been a sharp boy who could have absented himself from school surreptitiously for a single half-day without my father soon finding him out.

You will say, " What has this to do with smuggling ?" My father supplemented his earnings, as indeed most working men did at that time, by going " looking out," i. e. waiting for the arrival of a smuggler's boat and goods, and assisting in conveying them to a place of safety. [ 25 ]The house had been previously occupied by a man largely implicated in smuggling transactions, and it was well adapted for the stowage of quantities of goods. It was old-fashioned. On the ground floor in the kitchen, there was a large oven, not used for its legitimate purposes, but frequently full of smuggled goods ; in one of the bedrooms was a large closet very often put to the same use, and in the back yard was an unused pig-stye, beneath the sleeping part of which was a large excavation which had been made specially for the purpose of concealing casks of spirits.


Such was the confidence in each other possessed by the smugglers, that they never hesitated in taking refuge, and even depositing their goods in the house or on the premises of any of their party, even if the person were not engaged in the particular transaction. One night, a company being hard pressed, deposited in this house not less than from eighty to one hundred casks of spirits. I am not positively sure that my father had anything to do in running this particular cargo ; I think not, as I recollect his being in a great passion on the following day in consequence of the goods being there. Unfortunately one of the casks sprung a leak, and there was a smell of brandy in the court. To make the matter still more dangerous, a coast-blockade man made enquiries, who and what [ 26 ]was that man who lived in that old house. What the information was, I never heard. No doubt the matter reached the ears of the owner, and determined him to prompt action, for the very next night my mother came and roused me up, about eleven o'clock, with, " Come, John, get up and dress yourself directly, and put on your Sunday boots." John did get up, and dressed himself, but did not put on his Sunday boots. He was wanted to assist in carrying the goods away. There were four or five men, my mother and I, making frequent journeys to a's shop not far off, and the goods were all taken away in a comparatively short time. I soon learnt why I was told to put on my Sunday boots, it was that my footsteps should not be heard in passing along the street, my Sunday boots not being nailed, whilst my week-day boots had hobnails in them . As we had to pass close by the back door of an exciseman's house, silence was necessary. I recollect that my mother and I carried one cask covered with clothes in a clothes-basket each journey. I can well remember the floor of the work-shop to which the goods were taken, and what a curious sight it was in the dim light of a single candle. The owner expressed a grim satisfaction when the affair was over. [ 27 ]


Another incident took place in the same house which showed the confidence of the smugglers. One night my mother was staying up rather late, being employed in ironing, and I was staying up too , reading, when we heard reports of fire arms in the direction of the Marine Parade. In a few minutes there was a great noise of persons running through the court. Our door was quickly and quietly opened by some of the party, and in rushed two or three men, each carrying two casks of spirits slung over his shoulder. In a moment they put out the light, and locked the door. "Don't be frightened, Missus," said one of the men, "but keep perfectly still." After a short time the noise of people running gradually subsided, and the streets became quiet. A cargo of goods had come in at the eastern end of the Parade, but the coast blockade coming up unexpectedly, the boat had to be pushed off, and the few of the company who had loaded themselves had to run for it. Seeing the light through the keyhole, the men, knowing that my father frequently assisted in running smuggled goods, did not hesitate to come in as stated. 66 Any port in a storm," says the adage, and no doubt these men thought this a safe port, as indeed it turned out to be. After everything outside had been quiet for some little time, the men told my mother to relight the candle, [ 28 ]and then they asked for a gimlet. One was soon produced, and one of the men bored a hole in the side of one of the casks. Setting it on one head, and pressing it on the other, he squeezed out about a pint of spirits into a jug, and gave it to my mother, with " There, Missus, that's for you." They then shouldered the kegs and took their departure with a hearty " good night," and we heard nothing more of them.

It was in this old house that I took my first lesson in hydrostatics ; the spirits brought over by the smugglers were always over proof, and I can well recollect large quantities being put into an earthenware pan, and diluted with water till reduced to the proper strength, which was shown by floating glass beads properly numbered ; it was my part to watch them and see when the properly numbered one came to the surface.

There were other occupants of this house besides my father and mother and we seven boys and girls there was a large colony of rats and mice, and the old walls were infested with swarms of Cimex lectularius indeed, so numerous were the last-named creatures, that, when the house was pulled down, a jolly old butcher, who lived opposite the " Anchor" Inn, in George Street, said he saw a long procession of them going along the street looking out for fresh quarters!!

Where they went to history has not recorded. [ 29 ]


Not only did the smugglers take shelter and deposit their goods where they knew they would be safe, but they sometimes left their goods where a certain amount of risk had to be run. It was not however an unusual thing for farmers to leave certain gates unlocked, or to put the key of a barn, or even of a stable, if an extra horse should be wanted, where the smugglers knew where to find it, being well assured that, barring accidents, the horse would be returned, and there would be a tangible acknowledgment, in the shape of a " keg" left behind, of the farmer's good intentions.

The following incident, related to me by two reverend gentlemen, quite independently of each other, will serve to show the seemingly unwarrantable liberties the smugglers sometimes took with other people's pre mises. Some years ago, an incumbent of Pevensey had made his chaise-house a depository of garden tools and odds and ends. Going one morning into the chaise-house for something he wanted, he found to his surprise that he could not open the folding-doors opening into it from the stable. Being aged and somewhat infirm, and his gardener being out of the way, he was puzzled to know what to do ; but after a while he managed to climb up by the rack and manger into the hay-loft over the stable. Looking down into the chaise-house, he saw to his surprise the cause of the obstruction : the place was [ 30 ]almost filled with casks of smuggled spirits, which had been deposited there during the previous night by a party of smugglers. Returning to his house, the reverend gentleman was sorely puzzled to know what course to pursue. Loyalty to his king and country prompted him to go and inform the proper authorities ; consideration for his parishioners and neighbours prompted him to say nothing. The smugglers, however, kept an eye upon the movements of the reverend gentleman during the day, intending if they saw him going in the direction towards the proper authorities, quietly to prevent his progress . He, however, came to the conclusion that he would sleep upon it, and take action on the morrow. Lucky for the smugglers that he did so, as it gave them an opportunity to remove the goods during the night. Going to the chaise-house next morning, he found that the casks of spirits were gone, with the exception of one, on which was tacked a piece of paper, with the following written upon it : "For our parson, with thanks for his kindness."


At, or about 1820, the house which stood at the end of George Street, where it joins with the Marine Parade, was occupied by Barry's Circulating Library. His Library was similar in character to Powell's Library ; but it was not so modern. A band would sometimes play on a summer's evening on the lead[ 31 ]-flat over the projecting semi-circular window on the ground-floor. On Sunday evenings, in the summer, a military band, from the barracks at Halton, would play at the intersection of the roads ; and I can well recollect sitting on my father's shoulder so as to be able to see the band over the listeners' heads ; and I can particularly recollect that I used to be pleased when I saw a black drummer, or a black man with the cymbals.

Privateer cutters, which were laid up there when the war was over, occupied the beach in front of the present Breeds place. Among them, at different times, were the Hawk, the Idas, the Jane, and the Duke of Wellington - though the last name was one given to one of the others, I forget which. With her new name this vessel was employed in some legal traffic the fruit trade, if I mistake not.

During the war with France privateering was largely practised, and many of the leading people of Hastings had to do with it.

"The habit of smuggling, wrecking, and privateering," says Mr. W. D. Cooper, "led to the perpetration of many other crimes ; amongst others, to a revival of those acts of piracy which disgraced the Cinque Ports in the thirteenth century."

On August 11 , 1758, Nicholas Wingfield and Adams Hyde, of Hastings, masters of two privateer [ 32 ]32 cutters, piratically boarded the Danish ship Der Reisende Jacob . . . assaulted the master of the vessel, and stole twenty casks of butter. The Lords of the Admiralty offered a reward of £500. Nicholas Wingfield and Adams Hyde, with four others, having been betrayed by some of their accomplices, were arrested ; and on January 15 , 1759, were brought under a strong guard of soldiers and lodged in the Marshalsea. They were tried at the Admiralty Sessions, March 9, 1759, when Nicholas Wingfield and Adams Hyde were found guilty, and , on the 28th of the same month, were hung at Execution Dock. The four others were acquitted. The punishment did not operate as a sufficient warning to the Hastings men. For seven years a gang known as Ruxley's Crew, most of whom lived at Hastings, boarded and robbed several ships coming up the Channel ; and in particular, in 1768, they boarded a Dutch homeward-bound hoy, called the Three Sisters, Peter Bootes commander, about two leagues from Beachy Head, and chopped the master down the back with an axe. In November, 1768, the Government sent a detachment of two hundred of the Inniskilling Dragoons to Hastings, to arrest the men, who had been betrayed by their bragging to one another how the Dutchman wriggled when they had cut him on the back-bone ; and a man-of-war lay off Hastings to receive the men. The soldiers had strict orders not to let their mission be known ; but, the day [ 33 ]after their arrival, the mayor (who was supposed to have aided in the evidence) was assaulted in the town, because he would not tell what the soldiers came for ; the soldiers were therefore called out, and several ar rests made of parties, who were conveyed to the Marshalsea. At the Admiralty Sessions, holden on Oct. 30, 1769, Thomas Phillips, elder and younger, William and George Phillips, Mark Chatfield, Robert Webb, Thomas and Samuel Ailsbury, James and Richard Hyde, William Geary, alias Justice, alias George Wood, Thomas Knight, and William Wenham, were indicted for the piracy of the Three Sisters, and capitally convicted ; and of these Thomas Ailsbury, William Geary, William Wenham, and Richard Hyde were hung, at Execution Dock, Nov. 27. "

"So great was the panic occasioned by these arrests, that a shopkeeper, reported to be worth £10,000, absconded on information of having bought goods of the smugglers. "

It may, however, be mentioned that about the commencement of the present century the Government connived at smuggling, and in this way :-If a smuggler was caught by a man-of-war, and would give. information of the state of the French harbours, ships, & c. , he would be allowed to depart ; and, moreover, the captain would give him a written certificate of his having rendered important service to the country, so that, if again caught, he was let go " scot free." [ 34 ]


It was the custom some fifty years ago for people connected with- the " contraband trade" to assemble in small parties of ten or twelve on the east and west hills on a summer's evening, for the purpose of regaling themselves with " brandy and milk," and enjoying a pipe therewith. So common was this practice that it was thought nothing of by people in general. Indeed, the merchants on the other side of the Channel not unfrequently " threw in" an extra half-keg of spirits for the express purpose. Towns people passing for a walk were, if known, invited to " take a glass," as was indeed once the case when my father, after his day's work, was about taking " his boys " for a stroll in the fields.

On an occasion of this kind, the person whose name appears at the head of this article, and who had formerly been a " free-trader," was, with a few friends, regaling himself on the West Hill in this manner. Among the party was one whom I formerly knew very well, and another who is still living, and from whom I have had some particulars which I had forgotten.

To diverge for a moment from the main incident in this affair, I find the following over-drawn portrait of the principal person therein, given as follows in " The Battle and the Breeze," a periodical published some time afterwards. The writer, an officer in the Coast[ 35 ] Blockade Service, evidently bore no good wishes to the smugglers. He says :-

"One of the principal free-traders at Hastings, about the same period, was a fat, good natured fellow, named Roper[3], who commanded a remarkably lucky, fast-sailing lugger, called the Little Ann. So far from assailing the warriors ' with taunts and abuse, like the rest of his comrades, Roper conducted himself with undeviating civility ; so that had it been possible for fire and water to unite, he would have been esteemed even by his opponents . He usually wore a long white frock or gabardine over his flushings, and it was his custom, when not engaged in illicit adventure, to sit smoking his pipe and swinging his legs upon a crab or capstan, fixed in the beach in front of the ' Cutter ' public-house . Feeling an interest in his favour, the author once asked him why he did not quit smuggling altogether and turn fisherman ? ' What,' replied Roper, would you have me sit bobbing an eel all day to catch sixpenn'orth of whiting ? No ; I was born a smuggler, I was bred a smuggler, and I shall die a smuggler ; but I have no wish to see my children tread in the same footsteps. If either of my boys gets into a boat, I'll either break his legs or make him a linendraper sooner than he shall learn all the trouble his father has experienced.'

This, to say the least of it, is little better than a [ 36 ]caricature. Roper could not have been born a smuggler, and he certainly did not die a smuggler, for the last twenty years of his life were spent as captain of a pleasure-boat, a lugger, called the British Fair. He never had any family, so that the foregoing conversation never could have taken place, notwithstanding the writer's interest in his favour.

To return to our incident. Roper and his friends were enjoying their " brandy and milk" in the dusk of a summer's evening in 1825, in the " Ladies' Parlour," near the ruins of the Castle. Henry Isum, a quarter master stationed at Hastings, went up to the party and ordered them to put out their light, which was only a light in an ordinary lantern, for the purpose of lighting their pipes, and therefore not at all suited for making signals, even supposing any were necessary at such a time in the evening. Roper, with characteristic bluntness, said " he should not put it out," when Isum immediately drew his pistol and fired indiscriminately into the party. The bullet struck Roper in the fleshy part of the thigh, from which I believe it was never extracted . One of the party immediately closed with Isum, and would have taken summary vengeance on him, but was prevented by others of the party. For this act of deliberate shooting with intent to kill, Isum was committed to take his trial at the assizes. At these assizes, which took place at Horsham, there was some rather hard swearing, one wit[ 37 ]ness, a Coast Blockade officer, swearing that he had known Roper for years as a smuggler, that he had chased him at sea and had smelt brandy which he had sunk at a depth of six fathoms, which caused the counsel for the prosecution to remark that he must. have had an uncommonly keen sense of smell.

The jury were a long time agreeing to a verdict ; in fact the judge, Lord Wynford, sat in court till nine. o'clock, when, finding that they were not then agreed, he retired to rest, and was called at one o'clock the following morning to receive, sitting up in bed, and in his night-cap, a verdict of " Acquittal."

I have been informed that the counsel for the defence had the King's pardon in his pocket, in case Isum had been brought in " guilty." Roper lived in Hastings some years after this affair, following his occupation as captain of a large pleasure boat, and died universally respected in 1851.


Among the many alterations and improvements that have taken place in Hastings during the last fifty or sixty years, may be mentioned the removal of lime-kilns that once were actually within the present limits of the town. There was one at or near the lower part of Wellington Square, of this I am fortunate enough to have a view ; another was close to the present Coast-Guard [ 38 ]Station on Cuckoo Hill, and a third where Warrior Square now is. The neighbourhood is also very much altered. Just above the present Brook Estate was a series of osier-beds, and beyond them, stretching up the valley were hop-grounds, extending as far as Buck's Hole. This was quite a romantic place. It is now occupied by the large reservoir of the waterworks. These places, as well as Smuggler's Hole, not far from Newgate Wood, Shepherd's Hole, and Shepherd's Barn, were noted meeting places for the look-out men ; but of all the places for their meetings, there was none equal to the Iron Latch Gate. This was near the Grove Farm-house , and was handy to roads which intersected each other coming from the country on the one hand, and leading down to the sea-shore on the other. In addition, there was a large hollow place close to the road-side, and over-shadowed by trees capable of concealing from five to six hundred men.

Another convenient place of meeting was Dunn's Barn, on the present Blackland's Estate, at the junction of Mount Pleasant Road with Elphinstone Road. The doors of this barn were frequently left unfastened by the tenant of the farm. On an occasion of a small party of smugglers meeting there, they thought they could hear some one in the place, and groping about, they came upon a man, one of the workmen on the farm ; upon questioning him on his [ 39 ]business there, he made some frivolous excuse, and they let him depart. My informant, one of the party, and this man lived near each other ; many of that class of people at that time kept pigs, and the neighbours of the man who had been found in the barn often wondered how it was that his pigs always looked better than theirs. Looking casually one day into the pig's trough, my informant saw a single pea : " Oh ! oh !" he said quietly to himself, " I see now what you wanted in the barn."

It happened that the same party had to meet again in the same barn shortly afterwards, and curious to relate, they found the same man there on the same errand, namely, " robbing his master." After a sound rating, they told him they would keep his secret, but as a punishment, they made him go with them and. assist them in getting away the goods which came ashore that same night. I believe the man was cured of pilfering " peas for his pigs ;" at all events I have never heard his honesty called in question. One remarkable place for smugglers' meetings was the Toot Rock in Pett Level.

On an occasion, the date of which I have been unable to ascertain, four or five smugglers were killed whilst swimming the Military Canal at Pett-Horse Race, having missed the spot where it was fordable. I have been informed that on this occasion the smugglers were attacked in rear and on both flanks, and [ 40 ]that some of the younger men, notwithstanding the risk they ran, after depositing their loads, returned into the water to assist their older comrades.

We now take our leave of " Old Hastings." In looking back, as I and others can do, we see " Old Hastings," with its undrained, unpaved, and unlighted streets, courts, and alleys. At this time sanitary laws. were as completely ignored as if they had no existence. I could mention numerous instances in proof of this, and so could others, but we should be met with the remark, " It can't be true !" Order in the streets was supposed to be kept by two antiquated beadles, dressed in blue great-coats, with large capes turned up with yellow, and huge three-cornered cocked hats ; these antiquated beings could not have run fifty yards if you had given them a guinea, and they merely served as a butt and a make-game for the boys of the day.

Then came oil lamps in the streets, just sufficiently bright to make darkness visible, half of which were blown out on a windy night, and many of the others were put out by boys bumping their backs against the lamp-posts, and thus drowning the wicks in the oil.

At one time Hastings was infested by a notorious housebreaker. On dark nights people went to bed expecting to hear something of the doings of " Mike Wood " when they arose next morning. The trades men as a sort of precaution formed themselves into a night watch, which, however, was little better than  [ 41 ]farce. On a windy night, one of these doughty guardians of the streets was heard to shout, " Past twelve, and I've lost my hat." An incident concerning Mike may be worth mentioning. A daring burglary had been committed, and by means which I do not now remember, it was discovered that Mike had a hand in it. He absconded, and it was supposed was lurking about the woods in the neighbourhood. I was then employed twice a week as a tutor at St. Leonards, just after it was commenced, and I had on one particular Saturday afternoon, to attend in the same capacity at Fairlight ; consequently, to save time and to shorten distance, I walked across from St. Leonards to Fairlight, as nearly in a direct line as I could. Going down the steep foot-path by the side of Newgate Wood, I saw hurriedly coming up the same path, a man, whose head and shoulders only were visible over the wheat with which the field was then filled. As he neared me, he drew out a pistol and presented it towards me ; of course I felt somewhat nervous and staggered, but was re-assured when he called out with a strong Yorkshire accent (he was a Yorkshireman , named Jeffrey Taylor) : " Ah ! if ye had been Mike, I would have you down." I knew the man well, and we had a short chat about Mike and his doings, and then each went on his way.

Mike was shortly after captured asleep in a garden at Iden ; seeing when he was awaked, the muzzle of [ 42 ]a pistol close to his face, he gave himself up, as " quiet as a lamb."

" Old Hastings " seems to have gradually gone away, in a great part at least, like a beautiful series of " dissolving views," each one better than its predecessor. In place of the " Old Priory Bridges," we have the beautiful structure in memory of " Albert the Good ;" in place of the " Old Woman's Tap," the "Royal Victoria Hotel," more than once the abode of royalty ; in place of " Lime-kilns," " Wellington and Warrior Squares." Our streets are well lighted and well drained, and sanitary science is well studied. Our esplanade is unequalled by any in the kingdom. Close to where once stood the picturesque " White Rock," we have now a magnificent pier, and we may fairly hope that in future years, Hastings, with its beautiful neighbourhood, will still stand second to none in the kingdom. [ 43 ]



THIS incident took place in or about 1817 or 1818, and excited no little attention at the time. A smuggling vessel, the Vier de Brudas ( Four Brothers) sailed from Flushing laden with a cargo of tobacco and spirits, and was bound ostensibly to the Faroe Islands.

The English law at that time prohibited British vessels from carrying spirits in casks containing less than sixty gallons, and tobacco and snuff in bales of less than four hundred and fifty pounds ; these weights being beyond the strength of any man to carry. Tea was prohibited altogether, and no vessel was allowed to have more than six pounds on board. The whole of the tea used in the British Islands was imported by the East India Company, which enjoyed a monopoly of the trade. London was the only port to which tea could be imported, and the duties thereon paid. Hence the smuggling of tea from France, in which country tea paid little or no duty. Hence also sprang up a species of smuggling along the south coast, and which was pretty extensively [ 44 ]carried on at the period referred to . Captains of the East India Company's ships would not unfrequently have on board some tea, and probably some silks on their own account ; these they would dispose of in their passage up the Channel, where there would be smugglers of the better class waiting for the homeward bound ships, and who were always ready to purchase tea and silks of any captain having them to dispose of. Of course these goods having been bought considerably under their market value, not having been charged with any duty, could be sold on shore with a handsome profit to the " free trader."

Another part of English law was, that any vessel or boat found within British waters with small cord on board such as was used for slinging casks of spirits or bales of tea, was liable to seizure , and also, if having on board stones, such as were used for sinking smuggled goods. The limits defined as British waters were within four leagues of the coast between Dungeness and Beachy Head, and within eight leagues at all other parts.

The tobacco on board the Vier de Brudas was done up in bales of eighty pounds weight, and the spirits in half-ankers containing two-and-a-half or three gallons. The value of the cargo was from £8,000 to £10,000 .

The Badger Revenue cutter sighted the Vier de Brudas coming down Channel on a January morning, hugging the French coast. She immediately gave [ 45 ]chase, and owing to the sails of the Vier de Brudas being new, and somewhat stiffened by frost, they did not fill well, and the Badger soon gained upon her. To elude pursuit the Vier de Brudas ventured among the shoals along the French coast, somewhere off the town of Etaples, which lies on the southern side of the Channel. The Badger opened fire, which the Dutchman returned, and in a short time the master's mate of the Badger was killed and others of the crew wounded . Some of the crew of the Vier de Brudas were also wounded ; one man received a bullet which entered below the nipple and came out by the shoulder-blade . He however lived and recovered.

As soon as the Badger got within hailing distance the commanding officer called out, " For God's sake, men, cease firing and you shall have your liberty." The vessel was afterwards boarded, and, of course, seized ; the crew were allowed to leave in their boats, taking with them their clothes, but no arms of any kind. They made for the French coast, not far distant, but after getting about a mile, the Badger's boats were manned, the crews being armed, and went in pursuit of the Dutchmen, whom they soon overtook, and who, in spite of the promise previously given, were made prisoners. This, to say the least of it, was dishonourable, for the word of a British officer is considered to be, and should be, inviolable. [ 46 ]The Vier de Brudas and crew were taken to Dover, and the crew were put on board the Severn man-of-war then lying in the Downs.

A curious question of law arose in this case ;-- the Vier de Brudas was a foreign vessel ; was sailing under a foreign flag, and was bound to another foreign port. The municipal law of England, however stringent as regarded English vessels, their crews and cargoes, was powerless as regarded a foreign vessel. The owners of the 'Vier de Brudas soon set the law in motion, and the men were, in the first place , removed by a writ of habeas corpus to London. One curious feature was, that the men were kept in custody twenty-one days before being taken before a magistrate. In London they were taken before the magistrates at Bow Street, and were committed to Newgate.

It may be mentioned that the Revenue cutter and the Severn, man-of-war, were of two distinct services. The cutter was of the Preventive Service, and was under the control of the Customs ; and the Severn belonged to the Coast Blockade, and was under the control of the Admiralty. At all events, the commanding officer of the Severn, a Scotchman, was not at all pleased at having the men placed in his charge, and growled at their being, as he said, " thrust upon him." He threw no obstacles in the way of the legal gentlemen, upon whom devolved [ 47 ]the defence of the men, having frequent interviews with them.

The men were tried for murder at the Court of King's Bench ; and such was the skill of the legal gentlemen ( Messrs. Lushington and Brougham) concerned for the defence, that they were all acquitted.

The vessel and cargo were restored to the owners , and, curious to relate, the Badger was ordered to escort her out of Dover harbour, and see her half way across the Channel. Thousands of people assembled on Dover heights to see the vessels depart.

One man of the crew of the Vier de Brudas was the son of an Englishman, and his mother was a Dutch woman, and he was born in Holland. The counsel for the Crown wanted to claim him as an English subject ; but his claim was over-ruled on the ground that as he had never claimed to be naturalized in England, he was not an English subject, nor, in this case, amenable to English law. He was decreed his liberty along with the others of the crew.


It was often the lot of the smugglers when at sea to be chased by men- of-war. Of course the passage to France and back was not without risk, particularly when the boat was loaded with goods intended to be run. During the last century, cutters were mostly used in this business ; generally speaking, they were fast sailers, and could easily elude pursuit unless very hard [ 48 ]pressed. There was a story current in Hastings about the commencement of the present century of one Captain Dore, at least Dore was an assumed name. He was a fine man, full of what Englishmen admire, pluck and daring, and he declared he never would be taken. He was married, and his wife's name was Johanna. He had a remarkably fast sailing cutter called the Jane, built by Ransom and Ridley, a ship-building firm once existing in Hastings. It was said of him when he was being pursued, that he would frequently exclaim, " Go along, Jane, or Johanna will be a widow ." It came to pass that Johanna became a widow, though it was never positively known what became of the captain, his vessel, and crew ; it was, however, generally believed, that being hard pressed he scuttled and sunk her and all on board, somewhere off the south coast of Ireland.

At the commencement of the present century, the smugglers used long fast sailing luggers ; these were sometimes called " hack-boats," sometimes " constitution boats." I have seen them put off from Hastings, when I was a boy, it being no secret where they were going and on what errand.


An occurrence took place at Hastings about 1816 or 1817. About six p.m. on a fine summer evening, a gun was heard at sea, and from its loud report, it [ 49 ]seemed not far away. Young and old were soon on the beach, and I, one of the former, with others, saw a sight not soon to be forgotten.

It appeared that a lugger had put off from Bexhill : standing out to sea she had been hailed by a frigate, the Osprey, and ordered to heave to : this the crew of the lugger refused to do, when a blank cartridge was fired ; this not having the desired effect, a shot was fired, and the lugger put about, and made all haste to the shore. The ball fired struck the beach just below the full, and bounded over the houses about York Buildings, and fell into a field at the back of the present Wellington Square, very nearly hitting a milkman of the name of Standen . The frigate quickly put out her boats, and followed the lugger ashore, the crew of which made off as quickly as possible. I am not aware what became of them, though I believe one of the party was a man, a native of Bexhill, who was "wanted ;" in fact, who was outlawed for conveying intelligence to the French government of the state of our navy, & c. The captain of the frigate was reprimanded for his conduct.


It may appear strange that the smugglers should have perfected their organization so much as to be able to land and carry away safely not a few, a score or so of tubs of spirits, but hundreds even. All the [ 50 ]arrangements were made before the boat started on her voyage, and they consisted mainly of engaging a sufficient number of men, to go as it was termed "looking out," i.e., waiting at an appointed spot for the arrival of the boat and cargo. Not uncommonly subordinates were employed, whose duty it was to find and look up a certain number of men. It having been agreed upon that, wind and weather permitting, the boat should arrive at a particular place, and at a particular time, it would be the duty of the subordinates to summon the " look-out men " to meet at some locality in the neighbourhood of the place where the boat was expected . A barn would be often selected . One near Hastings, on the Blackland's estate, called " Dunn's Barn," was often chosen. "Gensing Barn," and the "Shepherd's Barn," on the Eversfield estate , were two others frequently used by the Hastings men. " Dunn's Barn " has been pulled down to make way for building operations, and the others will doubtless soon share the same fate.

Should anything happen that the boat could not arrive at the appointed time, or having arrived, it was deemed by the principals not prudent to let her come in, she would proceed to a second, or even a third rendezvous, on the same or the next night. In the event of the Custom-house officers, or the Coast blockade being in the neighbourhood, the boat would be signalled to go to the next appointed spot. The signal [ 51 ]was given originally by burning a small quantity of powder in an instrument constructed for the purpose, called a "flash-pan." It consisted of a stock and lock similar to a pocket pistol, but instead of the pan, which, in a pistol, contained the priming, was a hollow space, which was filled with powder ; this was set fire to by a spark, in the same way as the priming was fired in a flint lock. In the latter days of smuggling, however, when a greater amount of secrecy was required, another mode of signalling a boat away was adopted, and this was by striking sparks with the ordinary " flint and steel," such as were used by our grandfathers and grandmothers before the age of lucifer matches.

The sparks struck by a flint and steel would be easily seen in a dark night by the crew of a boat a little way out at sea, when looking in the right direction, but would not easily be perceived by any one else unless very close at hand. The flash from the flash pan, on the other hand, would be seen some distance on each side of the spot ; this mode was consequently abandoned when smuggling required more caution than it did in the time of the Custom-house officers.

In the latter days of smuggling, so keen was the watch kept by the Coast-guard, that the "look-out men " had to be very careful ere they allowed a cargo of goods to come ashore. The plan of the boat, coming in at the time agreed [ 52 ]on, and at the appointed spot, trusting that the company would be there, was abandoned, and to the company was given the onerous duty of making some kind of signal to the crew of the boat. The most effective kind of signal was the following : an ordinary policeman's or bull's-eye lantern was fitted with a tin tube about twelve or fourteen inches long on its nozzle ; the tube was made somewhat tapering, and the light in the lantern being gradually turned on, would be seen only in the direction in which the tube was pointed. The crew of the boat being on the look out would soon see the signal, and then it would not be long before the boat would be ashore. A gentleman, now in the Coast-guard service, has told me that he has a lantern fitted up as I have described, which was taken with some goods from a party of smugglers.

A tradesman in Hastings informs me that going to his work between six and seven in the morning, he saw, near the present White Rock Place, a signal made, by a man now living in Hastings, with a lantern thus fitted up, and a boat came in and the goods were soon carried safely away.


All things being favourable, as soon as the boat touched the shore the goods were soon in the hands of the company whose business it was to make the [ 53 ]best of their way to a place of safety. The tubs were slung in pairs, or in threes, and so arranged that a man might carry two or three, the sling-cord passing over his shoulders. On some occasions an active man would deposit his first load in a hedge or ditch, or under a bush, and return and get a second load ; and in general the look-out men were paid so much each tub (I believe it was five shillings ) for all they delivered at the proper and appointed place.

The following extract from a book of Custom-House Returns will serve to show the enormous extent of smuggling at the commencement of the present century. It is for the quarter ending Midsummer, 1805 . It represents, I believe, one seizure :-

477 Casks of Brandy containing 1650 gallons.
109 Casks of Rum " 375 "
421 Casks of Gin " 1460 "
8 Packages of Tea " 188 pounds.
173 Packages of Tobacco " 6432 "
2 Bags of Salt " 97 "
1 Lugger and Tackle.
1 Small Boat.
Total value seized at Hastings £2784 5 8
Total value seized at Hastings
during the quarter
£3317 14 11
(Signed) J. G. SHORTER,
Supervisor of Customs:
[ 54 ]The following copy of an official document will throw a little light into smuggling transactions:-

Port of Rye. An abstract of the seizures made by Thomas Pumphrey, Riding Officer, stationed at Bexhill, within the district of this Port, for the quarter ending at Michaelmas, 1797 - viz., from the 30th day of June, exclusive to the 30th day of September inclusive - and included in his monthly returns, journals and proceedings for the said quarter.

Date of seizure When and where made Species, Quantity, and Package of the Goods seized For what cause so seized, and from whom Reasons given for not being more successful in rendering service to the Revenue.
N.B. - These reasons are to be specially assigned whenever there has been any failure, either in not making any seizures at all, or in not seizing and securing the whole of the goods, and to be stated by what means, in the latter case, or through whose opposition or resistance, and in what manner such short seizure happened and was occaisioned
5th July In the day
In Bexhill
Gin, 21 gallons in 6 casks
Rum, 18 gallons in 4 casks
Brandy, 13 1/2 gallons in 3 casks
For being illegaly imported

Concealed in the Beach
Secured 1 Cask of Brandy
William Miller, Plummer Beechin, Richard Young, and Jeremiah Curtis, with about 150 other men, obstructed and rescued 6 Casks of Gin, 2 Casks of Brandy and 4 Casks or Rum.
[ 55 ]Bearing in mind that only the seizures in one place are recorded above, and that perhaps for one seizure there were two successful ventures, we may get an idea of the extent of smuggling ; and we must also recollect that it was not the lower classes only who were engaged in this traffic, but the middle and upper classes also ; and some in authority lent the smugglers no unwilling countenance. A lady of an exalted station once made the following remark when she heard that a boat had been taken, 'she hoped " it was not the parson's boat !"

There was an immense difference in the character of smuggling and in the consequent danger in the time of the Custom-house officers and in that of the Coast-blockade. In order the better to understand that difference, it will be necessary to give a brief outline of the character of the different services.

The Custom-house officers consisted of two classes of men ; some, called riding officers, who were found a horse each, and whose chief duty it was to ride about and visit different spots along and near the coast, and generally to convey intelligence when needed of anything likely to be going on in the smuggling way. There was one stationed at Hastings whom people called " Hawk's- eye ;" he was reputed to be a sharp one, but I never heard of anything very extraordinary in which he was engaged. The riding-[ 56 ]officers were each armed with a cutlass and a brace of pistols.

The other Custom-house officers were a class of men, half-landsman, half-sailor. Their duty was to attend at the local Custom-house during the day, to be ready for the performance of any official duty that might be casually required-such as the overhauling a passenger's luggage, who might be landed from a homeward-bound ship. During the night a portion of them would man a galley, and would leisurely proceed therein along the coast, watching if perchance a cargo should be ventured to be run. If they should run against a transaction going on, things were generally taken pretty quietly, and they found it quite as convenient, and more profitable, not to see anything of the kind going on, as to see it ;` in fact, it would not unfrequently happen that the smugglers would give the Custom-house officers a few tubs of spirits if they would let the rest go free, so that it is no wonder that the Custom-house officers were easy-going men, and did not sometimes see smuggled goods till they tumbled over them. I am not aware of any casualty happening to life or limb under the regime of the Custom-house officers. I recollect, when a lad, seeing one of the Custom-house officers grinding his cutlass at a smith's shop where my father worked ; a great deal of chaff flew about between them, and I remember my father telling him that on a [ 57 ]particular occasion " he couldn't run fast enough to catch him" (my father), " though he had some tubs on his back, and that from vexation at his failure he threw his cutlass after him."

A different state of things sprung up under the Coast-blockade : then it was running a blockade, and no mistake ; the smuggler, in his swiftly-sailing craft, had to elude the vigilance of the cruisers in the Channel-this he generally could do - and then to approach the shore and land his goods ;-this was no easy matter ; and such was the state of things at last, that frequently lives were lost on both sides : desperate and bloody encounters were frequent, and many a middle-aged and old man in this, as well as in other towns along the coast, can recollect the groups of people eagerly, but sorrowfully, devouring the news on the morning following an encounter ; how " So-and so " had been shot, how " So-and-so " were taken prisoners, how so many of the tubs had been worked, at an immense labour to the workers, and how so many had been captured by the Coast-blockade men, and how the boat had been taken ; they can recollect how this latter part of the news was subsequently confirmed by waggon-loads of tubs and boat's gear being seen wending their way, strongly guarded, to the Custom-house ; and also how it not unfrequently happened that the men taken prisoners were, if mariners, sent for three, five, or seven years to serve [ 58 ]on board a man-of-war ; or, if landsmen, were sent to prison, and perhaps heavily fined. The captured boat was sawn in two, and placed in the "Condemned hole," a somewhat hollow place at the rear of the present " Beach Terrace."

Many of the old inhabitants of Hastings and other places where smuggling was carried on, can remember the heart-aches that followed these occurrences, can recollect the groups of sorrowing people standing at their doors as the waggons went wending their way along the streets, guarded by the heavily armed Coast blockade, scowling with a malicious pride on the sorrowing people.

The rough bull-dog sort of fashion in which the Coast-blockade men went about their work, at length roused a spirit of resistance among the smugglers, and they began to go armed, first with bats, stout ashen poles, six or eight feet long, and afterwards with fire arms. However wrong this might be, and undoubtedly it was wrong, one cannot wonder, after hearing what the Coast-blockade did in the execution of what they supposed to be their duty, that the smugglers adopted these lawless practices. I do not apologise for the smugglers ; it would have been better for them to have followed the example set by some of their leaders, and given up smuggling altogether. In a conversation I had some years ago, with a principal smuggler who resided in Hastings, he said "that when [ 59 ]fighting began, he left off smuggling, well knowing that in the end the Government would carry too many bats," meaning thereby that the Government would be too strong for the smugglers. It is but justice here to say, that the Hastings smugglers never went armed ; they did the running, while others did the fighting, and once fairly caught, they generally gave in.

On one occasion, a batsman struck one of his companions in mistake, the blow was given across the chest, and the poor fellow was taken to his home at Icklesham, where he died the next morning. Before he died he was sitting in a chair, and at every respiration the blood issued copiously from his mouth, showing the extent of the injuries he had received internally. I believe the batsmen were paid one pound per night.


The mode by which smugglers got their goods up the cliffs near Hastings was very curious. So determined had the Coast-blockade become, that the usual mode of running. the goods became attended with great dangers, and the smugglers had to accomplish, with skill and cunning, what they had formerly done by sheer courage, though it cannot be denied that this latter mode often taxed the courage of the parties concerned to the utmost. [ 60 ]Not only were rope ladders used, but various tricks were put into practice to deceive the Coast-guard. I will first describe the ladders ; these were made of stout rope, about the size of a scaffold cord, and the rungs or rounds were made of stout hazel or ash, and securely tied between the two ropes . The ladders were made in lengths of about forty feet, and were made fast at the top by being passed over a crow-bar driven into the ground. If a greater length than forty feet was required, two or more lengths were fastened together.

They were lowered at a convenient spot near the top of the cliff when the Coast-guard were yet on the beach below, and by the time they were driven by the advancing tide to the top of the cliff, to get to which they would have to go a considerable distance, the smugglers were among the rocks at the foot of the cliff. There they would wait patiently till the ap pointed time for the loaded boat to come in, when the tubs would be quietly and leisurely placed in a place of safety beyond the reach of the tide. As soon as the guard was withdrawn from the top of the cliff, the ascent up the ladders commenced, and once on the top the goods were pretty soon conveyed away. The ladders had of course been left by the men in their descent. The ascent was sometimes very perilous ; I have been informed that on one occasion the crow-bar, by which the ladder was held, was so [ 61 ]much bent that it was a wonder the whole affair did not tumble down the cliff. On another occasion a sad accident happened to one of the men engaged in this kind of work. He had assisted in bringing the goods across the Channel, and was not, moreover, in a condition for hard work, in fact, he was very unwell. The rungs of the particular ladder used had been placed farther apart than usual - ten inches was the usual space - on this occasion it was thirteen or four teen inches. When nearing the top, what with cold and exposure, the man felt himself unable to hold on ; he consequently let go and fell some twelve or fifteen feet, on to a ledge of rock, where he lay till daylight, when he was found by the Coast-guard and taken prisoner. He was detained a prisoner in bed, with a Coast-guard's man keeping watch over him. He at length threw himself on the Queen's mercy, and was set free. It may be mentioned to this man's honour that he never would divulge the names of his employers. He is still (October, 1872 ) living in Hastings, (as indeed are several others who were concerned in this ladder business), but is a cripple, and will remain. so till the end of his days. I electrified him some years ago, but with no result. This affair took place in January, 1851 , and was the last of the kind. I may add that this man has made me a rope ladder about twelve or fifteen feet long.

One danger attending the use of these ladders was, [ 62 ]when they overhung a projecting part of the cliff, a man with a pair or three tubs slung over his shoulders would find the upper part of his body thrown outwards, and his feet inwards, but without being able to touch the face of the cliff with his toes : such parts were avoided as much as possible, and places chosen where the cliff sloped from ledge to ledge.


Formerly vessels freighted with chalk frequently unloaded at Hastings, and on one occasion a " free trader," in order to deceive the blockade, had a cargo of tubs coated over with plaster of Paris, roughly put on. It happened that when the cargo was being unloaded, as if it were chalk, one of these manufactured lumps slipped off the cart while it was going up the beach. A Coast-blockade man coming along, began to poke it about with the point of his cutlass, which after a little stuck in the cask, and let out the brandy and the secret.


One very curious way in which the smugglers outwitted the Coast-guard, was by hauling goods up the timbered hutch or outlet of the river Asten, that then existed a little to the eastward of No. 39, or Bopeep Tower. The goods having been previously sunk at a [ 63 ]convenient spot not very far out to sea, and which spot could be again easily found by means well-known to sailors, a flat-bottomed boat would be quietly rowed in the dusk of the evening towards the spot. Two confederates would about the same time, by dint of perseverance and skill, elude the vigilance of the lookout Coast-guard man , and would descend the square portion of the hutch which was built up through the beach (a similar erection now exists westward of the same tower), and at the bottom of which huge gates were hung, which swung to and fro with the action of the tide. Once down, a cork at the end of a line would be floated out to sea, and would, in a short time, be found by the man in the boat. The goods (tubs of spirits) having been separated from the stones used in sinking them, would be fastened to the end of the line, and being of less specific gravity than the water, would be very easily drawn up the hutch.

On one occasion, two men who were engaged in an operation of this kind, found themselves, as it were, caught in a trap. During the time that they were below, a Coast-guardman came and stationed himself at the top, knocking his heels, and wishing the smugglers, no doubt, at the bottom of the sea. Of course, all the time he stood there, our "free traders" were obliged to be as quiet as mice , and it being a cold frosty night, one may easily conceive their unenviable position. One of the men has told me that, on that [ 64 ]night he "got the rheumatiz," which has clung to him ever since. The men subsequently got clear off, goods and all.


In or about 1817, the Coast-blockade was instituted, and the officers and men composing that service were stationed round the coast. The character of the men composing the service is given elsewhere, and it is not too much to say that the officers were but little better than the men. Educated in the school of war, it is perhaps not to be wondered at that they exercised a sort of slave-driving over their men, and a sort of cold bloodedness over any poor devil of a smuggler who came under their clutches. However, this part of my subject cannot perhaps be better illustrated than by giving seriatim an account of smuggling transactions, in many of which lives were lost, and all of which might have been prevented had a more enlightened policy been pursued by those in high places, who had the regulation of import duties almost in their own hands.


" On the 13th of March, 1821 , a fisherman of Hastings, Joseph Swaine, was shot in the forenoon on the beach, by George England, a Coast-blockademan. Swaine's boat had come in, and it was the custom of [ 65 ]the Blockademen to search all boats on their arrival ashore. An altercation ensued about it in this instance and Swaine forced England out of the boat, after taking away his cutlass and throwing it into the sea. When out of the boat, England stepped back a few paces, and shot Swaine dead on the spot. One Curly Taught was shot through the arm by the same bullet, but did not know it till he felt the blood trickling down his fingers. England was tried for murder at Horsham, found guilty, and sentenced to be hung, but . was afterwards pardoned. This affair caused great excitement in Hastings. There is a tombstone in All Saints' churchyard recording the occurrence.

"On the 11th of February, 1822 , three hundred smugglers went to Crowlink, near Eastbourne ; they seized two of the Guards, but the other fired, and the boat pushed off. On the 13th they attacked the sentinel at Little Common, and beat him with bats. In self-defence he shot one dead. [I have a copy of the depositions taken in this case. ] The boat put off, and a coach and six, which was waiting, drove off empty to Pevensey.

On the 15th of the same month , they landed three hundred half ankers, at Seaford, but lost sixty-three and one horse.

"In September, 1824, seven smugglers and one hundred tubs were taken near No. 50, Tower at Bexhill. A Blockademan, named Welch, jumped into the boat for the purpose of seizing her. The smugglers pushed the boat off, and his cries for assistance were heard by another Blockademan on the beach. The next morning his dead body was found on the sands, much lacerated and bruised. .

In May, 1826, a ten-oared galley, forty-two feet long, was chased at Rye Harbour by a Guard boat. She ran ashore and opened fire on the Guard. The Blockademen from Camber Watchhouse came to the [ 66 ]spot, and seized one of the smugglers, when a body of not less than two hundred armed smugglers rushed from behind the sand-hills, and commenced a fire on the Blockade, killing one and wounding another ; but they were ultimately driven off with the loss of their galley, carrying off, nevertheless, all their wounded .

" On another occasion, the date of which I have been unable to ascertain, four or five smugglers were killed whilst swimming the Military Canal at Pett horse-race, having missed the spot where it was fordable. I have been informed that on this occasion the smugglers were attacked in rear, as well as on both flanks, and that some of the younger men, notwithstanding the risk they ran, after depositing their loads on the land side of the canal, returned into the water to assist their older comrades.

" In February, 1827 , about twenty smugglers went down to the eastward of Fairlight. They wrested some muskets from the Blockademen, beat them with the butt ends, and ran one of them through with a bayonet. The smugglers retreated, leaving one dead ; another was found afterwards, having been apparently dropped by the smugglers ; a third, some distance on the way to Icklesham, the body scarcely cold ; the rest were carried off. It is said that one of the party carried one of his fellows on his back from Fairlight to Udimore, a distance of six miles."


"During the time of the , Coast-blockade, affrays between the smugglers and the Blockademen were frequent and bloody. Nearly the last of those blood sheddings took place,' says Mr. William Durrant Cooper, in Vol. X. of the Sussex Archaeological Collections ,' ' on January 3 , 1828 , near Bexhill.' I have had an opportunity of gathering some of the particulars [ 67 ]of this event from one of the participators, now living at Bexhill. According to his account, a cargo of goods was landed at Mr. Brooks ' forty-acre point, near Bexhill. It was a moonlight night, the moon being in the last quarter. The tubs of spirits were loaded on men's shoulders and in carts. A noted smuggler, a native of Bexhill, was captain of the boat. Of this man (now living, I believe), I shall have something further to narrate. The Coast-blockade from Galley Hill Tower tried to intercept the smugglers, but finding themselves too weak for the purpose (the smugglers being armed, and having likewise with them sixteen or eighteen batsmen), they obtained reinforcements that raised their number to about forty men. They came up with the smugglers near Sidley, and here, as Mr. Cooper says, ' the armed portion of the smugglers drew themselves up in regular line, and a desperate fight took place.' In the first onset a quarter-master, named Collins, was killed. Two batsmen were also killed ; the body of one named Smithurst was carried and laid in the barn of ' Cramp's Farm.' When his body was found, his bat was still grasped in his hands, and it was almost hacked in pieces by the cutlasses of the Blockademen. The goods were all got away, as were also all the wounded. One of the wounded men, named P___ was taken to his home, a lonely house near Windmill Hill, and the surgeon who attended him was in the habit of taking his horse to a gentleman's stables in the neighbourhood, putting him up there, and quietly walking across the fields to the house where his patient was lying. The smuggler became a cripple for life."

There is a gentleman now living in Hastings, who saw from one of the windows of the Bell Hotel at Bexhill, the smugglers and Coast-blockade go through [ 68 ]the village, keeping up a sort of running fight. He was then a young man about eighteen. Some of the villagers having shouted from their windows to the smugglers, that the Coast-blockade were close upon them , the latter (with oaths) threatened to shoot the gentleman alluded to. A wounded man and a cart-load of goods were taken into the inn yard.

"Between seven and eight o'clock in the morning in October, 1830, a boat came in close to the library at St. Leonards. The company, that had evidently been in waiting all the night, rushed to the beach, and told the preventive-man on duty, that they would not hurt him if he remained quiet. He fired his pistol, when they began to beat him, and would have severely injured him but for the interference of some gentlemen who were on the spot. One hundred and fifty casks of spirits were got away. The boat was abandoned.

" On the third of January, 1831 , on a fine moon-light night, either through some misunderstanding on the part of the smugglers, or through some information having been given, a serious affray took place near the Dripping Well, at Fairlight. Three of the company were shot, George Harrod (who was also run through with a bayonet), and William Cruttenden (Trucks). This latter individual was found the next morning in the New Barn Field, close by ; it was then a turnip field, and for a considerable distance round where the body was found, the tops were knocked to pieces, showing that the poor fellow must have died a terrible . death. The other person shot was a young man named ______ he was seriously wounded in the thigh, and my informant was close to him when this occurred. He was taken to a house near the Fish Ponds, and two medical gentlemen, Robert Ranking and Ross Chapman, Esqrs ., were sent for from Hast[ 69 ]ings to attend to the wounded man. When they arrived at the house they found it strictly guarded by a party of marines, who at that time were assisting the Coast-blockade. The officer in charge, of course, wanted to know their errand, and demurred to their being allowed to enter the house. On Mr. Ranking, however, saying that they were sent for to attend a woman in labour, that it was a very serious case, and that he should hold the officer responsible if anything went wrong, the guard was withdrawn, and they were both allowed to go on their errand of mercy. The young man partially recovered, and was afterwards smuggled into Hastings. I have been informed by one present at this affair, and who concealed himself in a ditch, that the Coast-blockade fired at anything they saw moving, while the marines fired into the air, their officer charging them not to hurt the smugglers . My informant got off scot-free, and saved the only pair of tubs that were got away. Robert Ranking, Esq. , subsequently served the office of Mayor of Hastings. "In September, 1831 , a Custom-house officer, seeing a pleasure yacht going up the Thames, off Gravesend, and suspecting her character, gave chase. He chased her twenty miles up the river, and overtook and boarded her off Blackwall. Under the floor he found sixty-six tin cases, made to fit the vessel, and which were full of light goods, the estimated value of which was two thousand pounds. 66 In January, 1832 , the Coast-guard discovered a tunnel cut through the chalk cliff at Margate for a distance of two hundred yards from the sea-shore to a house in the town. The tunnel passed under several houses, and must have been made at a considerable cost of time and money.

" On the 22nd of February, 1832, between two hun[ 70 ]dred and three hundred men assembled at Worthing, William Cowardson, a Coast-guardsman, was shot, and several more carried away wounded .

" On the 23rd of January, 1833 , the Eastbourne smugglers having killed the chief-boatman, George Pett, formed two lines on each side, till the cargo was run-several of their party were wounded, but none of them discovered.

"Thomas Monk, a poor fiddler of Winchelsea, was shot on the 1st April, 1838, by the Coast-guard, in an affray at Camber Castle. This was the last occasion on which a life was sacrificed."

The foregoing extracts, some of which I have supplemented by information obtained from eye-witnesses, show in a striking manner the immense extent of smuggling transactions, particularly when it is recollected that many affrays were never publicly known. It seems incredible, now, how such a state of things could have grown up ; high protective duties were the chief cause, for no longer, after it was not found to pay, did smuggling flourish. The lowering of import duties has done more to prevent smuggling than the Custom-house officers, Coast-blockade, and Coast guard put together. This is undoubtedly a matter for congratulation, for after all, notwithstanding the gene ral sympathy felt for the smugglers, smuggling was breaking the law.

Another matter may seem to deserve explanation, and that is, how was it that during the latter years of smuggling so many serious affrays took place between the Coast-guard and the smugglers, and such an utter disregard for human life manifested as there was ? I venture the following opinion :-During the wars with France, the Custom-house officers ashore, and the Preventive Service afloat, were employed in stopping [ 71 ]smuggling. The Custom-house officers, most of them easy-going men, did not frequently see a smuggling transaction till they broke their shins against the tubs, and then a percentage was agreed upon and the rest let go, so that not uncommonly they were as deep in the mud as the smugglers were in the mire. When the Coast-blockade were put on, things were altered. The Coast-blockade consisted of men drafted from ships of war, no longer wanted as sailors, the war being over ; they went about their work in a rough bull-dog sort of fashion. They went out heavily armed, and were not slow in using their arms. I have been in formed by credible persons that if they wanted to enter a house in which they suspected any smuggler was concealed, they would unceremoniously smash open the door with the butt-ends of their muskets, and when inside would bundle women and children , bed and all, on to the floor. This incensed the smugglers, who imagined that, having bought goods and paid for them, in running them they were only securing their own property. They then took to arming themselves, first with bats (stout ashen poles, seven or eight feet long), and then with fire-arms. The foregoing ex tracts show some of the results. When the Coast guard superseded the Coast-blockade, things im proved ; the lowering of the import duties aided in the work, and smuggling is now happily almost a thing of the past.

One cannot help remarking the contrast between the present Coast-guard and the Coast-blockade which they superseded . I am not sure that the Coast-guard carry any arms when on duty in the daytime ; during the night they carry a revolver, a blue light, and I believe a sword-cane. The Coast-blockade always carried a brace of pistols, and in the night a cutlass and a musket and bayonet, and there are old smugglers who [ 72 ]know how they used them. The Coast-blockademen were open (some of them) to bribes. [4] I venture to believe that one would think twice before offering a bribe to any of our Coast-guard.

I close these incidents with the following, which was sent to me anonymously when I was lately giving my lecture at the Music Hall. It will speak for itself.


" In 1818 a boat, with six men from the Camilla revenue cutter, stationed off Hastings, endeavouring to return to the vessel, was lost in a dreadful sea, and four perished ; but for the generous and humane conduct of a smuggler, who witnessed the catastrophe, the others would have perished. "


When smugglers were caught in the act of running contraband goods, they were subject to two kinds of punishment. If they were seafaring people they were sent on board a man-of-war, and made to serve for three, five, or seven years. If they were landsmen they were sent to prison, and heavily fined. The gaols in this part of the country were scarcely ever free from smugglers, and we read in periodical publications of the last century that the bodies of smugglers were not unfrequently hung in chains. We must not forget, however, that the smuggler of the last century was generally a lawless fellow, and did not scruple [ 73 ]to add highway robbery, house-breaking, and even murder-to his lawless pursuit of smuggling, and woe betided the poor wretch who should dare to give any information of his doings.

Not unfrequently did smugglers escape . A friend of mine witnessed the escape of a smuggler from a hulk at Rye Harbour. This man had been confined on board the hulk preparatory to his being sent to sea. Watching his opportunity, he made his exit from his temporary prison ; and, notwithstanding his being hotly pursued, he made his escape. There were, in the smuggling times of the present century, many curious and daring incidents connected with the escape of smugglers. A man, a native of Bexhill, a great part of whose life had been spent in smuggling, made two daring escapes -on one occasion he and others were taken prisoners, and were taken before the Mayor of Winchelsea. The Town Hall of Winchelsea stands in the N.W. angle of one of the rectangular blocks of buildings of which that town is composed. The ground floor is occupied by the lockup, and the floor above comprises the Hall. The door of the Hall does not communicate with the street, but is at the top of a flight of steps which are in a sort of court. The town-clerk, a wise man in his day and generation, thinking to make all sure, as soon as the prisoners, the witnesses, and the public were in the Hall, and the mayor and other magistrates had taken [ 74 ]their places on the bench, ordered the outer door, i.e. the door leading from the street into the court, to be locked, and the key to be deposited on the table in front of him. The weather being somewhat warm, and the place somewhat small and ill-ventilated, the windows were thrown open. I believe that there is no particular arrangement in the interior of this Hall for the placing of the prisoners in any particular position, so that our hero found but little difficulty in gradually getting near the window, as if for air. Without any warning he leapt from the window into the street ; some of the Blockade looked out after him, but dared not fire, for fear of hitting some innocent person, there being a great many about in the street ; some of them rushed out of the Hall, into the court ; but found the gate locked ! They returned for the key ; but when they got the outer door unlocked , our smuggler was safe away. He, doubtless, knew every inch of the road he meant to take, and doubtless, also, had plenty of assistance from the onlookers.

The same man, with another, who was nicknamed "Spinner," was taken prisoner, and was confined in No. 39, or Bopeep Tower. When smugglers were taken and in prison there was generally no difficulty in their friends obtaining permission to see them. This man's mother paid him a visit when he was thus in durance vile, and she managed to smuggle him a rope or line with which he succeeded in letting himself off [ 75 ]the top of the Tower. The prisoners were allowed to take air and exercise on the top of the Tower, and on this occasion he fastened his line round the stove pipe which came up through the roof, and let himself down over the parapet on to the beach. Once there, he walked leisurely to a public-house about one hundred yards off, where a horse and cart were in waiting. The driver kept waving his hand to " Spinner for him to come off the Tower in the same way," but he would not venture ; so they were obliged to depart without. him, and our smuggler again made good his escape. I have been informed that this " bold smuggler" is now living in a seaport in the West of England. I may mention that this man was captain of the boat which brought the goods on the occasion of the fight at Sidley.


A man (Joe S _____), who was in the fatal affair at Sidley, was once taken as he was going with his horse and cart to assist in a smuggling transaction. He fell in with some Coast-blockademen, who had already seized some smuggled goods, and they charged him, in the king's name, to render assistance, and convey the goods to the Custom-house at Hastings. Of course, Joe could not help himself. It was early morning, and the place near Great Worsham Farm , at Bexhill. The Blockademen loaded Joe's cart with [ 76 ]twenty-three tubs of spirits, one quarter keg, and two bags of tea. Some of the batsmen who had been engaged in the night's transaction had managed, after the goods had been seized, to make a circuit round nearly to the spot where they were being loaded in Joe's cart. At or near the spot there was a slight bend in the road, and Joe caught sight of one of the bats men looking round the bend in the hedge, and, rightly surmising that he was not alone, he signalled for him to come on. A body of batsmen immediately rushed round the corner, and drove off the Blockademen. Joe applied his whip to his horse, drove off at full speed, and did not draw rein till he reached Sedlescomb, where there was another horse and cart in waiting, in which the goods were safely carried to Rye. Joe was paid seven pounds for this smart transaction, and was kept at Sedlescomb, living in clover, for a week.


I do not know that I can do better than transcribe the account of this singular incident that I have found in " The Battle and the Breeze," a periodical published about the time. The writer was evidently belonging to the Coast-blockade, and betrays an animus against the smugglers not at all times justifiable ; however, as I happen to know some of the transactions which he [ 77 ]describes, they may, on the whole, be considered to be reliable.

"The coast of Sussex, between Eastbourne and Seaford, exhibits some of the most magnificent cliff scenery in Europe. The noble promontory of Beachy Head, with its stupendous pinnacled outwork, called 'the Charleses,' seven hundred feet high-the long line of undulating Downs extending thence to Cuckmere Haven, comprehending that extraordinary succession of eminences known to seamen under the denomina tion of the Seven Sisters--terminated towards the west by Seaford Head, presenting for miles a preci pice of the purest white, so perfectly perpendicular, that a plummet dropped from its brink would descend without interruption to its base, the whole, as seen from the sea, resembling an enormous curtain, grace fully festooned along its summit, and having its surface horizontally interlaced at intervals by double lines of flints, imbedded with such regularity, that they appear to resemble pencilled lines drawn by a ruler.

" Throughout the extent of this interesting district, and from Cow Gap, at Holywell Quarries, east of Beachy-Head to Cuckmere Haven, near Seaford, a distance of at least five or six miles, the vast rampart of chalk is altogether inaccessible, except at three places ; first, at the Gun Gardens, a frightful fox-track or squirrel-path"-(squirrels live in woods) " running along the face of the precipice in a diagonal direction, [ 78 ]and opening upon the Downs above, by a sort of spout or chimney, behind the sister pinnacles of the Charleses ; secondly, Birling Gap, a road cut through the cliff from the bottom of a valley near the village of East Dean, used for the purpose of dragging up wrecked goods, drift timber, or sea-weed for manure ; and, thirdly, Crow Link Gap, a difficult path leading from the beach, by steps cut or worn into the chalk, towards a solitary farm-house near Friston Church, a spot so celebrated for landing contraband cargoes, that for years the spirit shops in London were accustomed to advertise their stock of Hollands as being genuine Crow Link; nor did the title fall into disuse till upon application made by Captain M'Culloch, founder of the Blockade service, a watch-house was erected in the pass, and a party of preventive officers and men permanently stationed there.

"It may probably be imagined that upon a part of the coast so guarded by nature, it would require little precaution to prevent illicit importation, yet it soon became doubtful whether there were not greater facilities for smuggling in this precipitous region than even on the sandy shores of Bognor, or the shingly deserts of Dungeness. As the sea at high water reached the base of the cliff, it was, of course, necessary to withdraw the sentinels from the beach at such periods, in order to station them along the summit ; but the gap-ways being so far apart, this change occu[ 79 ]pied a considerable time, particularly during winter, when the men became tired and drowsy from the fatigue of incessant walking, and the wearisome length of the night watches. The smugglers, aware of the circumstance, and being enabled by the withdrawal of the sentinels to land their goods without molestation in any of the little bays formed upon the beach by the projecting angles of the precipice- having previously, during daylight, fixed upon the exact spot for their enterprise, and notched or otherwise marked its cor responding point upon the edge of the cliff above, they seized the opportunity when the tide drove the watch men away from the beach, and before they could reach the summit, rushed to the appointed place, fixed a light wooden derrick upon the grass, securing it firmly by an iron crow-bar thrust through a hole at the end. In the centre of this derrick was a hinge similar to that in the joint of a boot-jack, and at the outer extremity a running sheave inserted in a notch, which projected over the cliff, plumbing the bay below. Through the notch traversed a rope, by which a basket was rapidly lowered to the confederates on the beach ; and at the bottom of the basket hung a small hand-bell, the ringing of which, though inaudible above, was sufficient to indicate the descent and position of the basket to those beneath. Ten or twelve tubs were instantly crammed into it, the rope jerked as a signal to pull up, and the other end of it being fastened to an active horse, the [ 80 ]basket was drawn up at a gallop, and the hinge of the derrick allowing it to turn inward, threw the cargo out upon the grass without further difficulty, the whole pro cess being accomplished in less than ten minutes ; which was repeated or not, according as the smugglers' scouts, posted to the right or left, gave notice of anyone approaching- the height of the cliff making no other difference than as it might require a few fathoms of rope, more or less, to effect the object. "

The incident by which this method of smuggling was detected may appear exaggerated ; but there are many officers living who can testify to its truth. One very dark night, when a cargo was to be derricked over the cliff near Birling Gap, by some mistake the smugglers landed their goods before the last sentinel had quitted the beach. The scouts, perceiving him strolling unconsciously toward the spot, gave silent and timely notice of his approach, and the whole party, retreating hastily into their boat, pushed off unseen. In the con fusion, however, created by this interruption, they either forgot to give the usual signal for pulling up the goods , or it was unfelt by those at the top of the cliff ; so that, in passing along, the sentinel actually ran against the basket, and not knowing how it was suspended, or what were its contents, he began pulling at the rope, when he felt the basket beginning to ascend, and, endeavouring to keep it down by main force, was suddenly swayed off his legs, and carried up with such velocity that, not [ 81 ]knowing how far he might have to fall, he had not the courage to release his hold. Although the cliff at that part was three hundred feet high, in a few minutes he was hoisted to the summit, and tumbled out headlong with the brandy kegs into the midst of the smugglers. Not even the suddenness of his aerial flight, nor the number of his opponents, could deprive this gallant fellow of his presence of mind, but before the mistake. was discovered, he succeeded in firing his pistol as an alarm, whereupon the smugglers vanished like the witches in Macbeth, leaving ten ankers of Cognac, and the whole derricking apparatus behind them. Soon after, when the writer had arrived at the spot, and ascertained the accuracy of this remarkable story, he questioned the captor as to his feelings during the ascent.

"Why, sir," said Jack, " I held on like grim death, and wasn't long a-travelling to the top."

I have every reason to believe that some of the Hastings people had to do with this derricking business at Beachy Head.


This fine ruin is the remains of the only brick-built castle in England. It stands on the northern extremity of Pevensey level, in a slightly elevated position, and from its nearness to the sea, was, no doubt, a favourite resort of the smugglers. [ 82 ]I extract the following from Horsfield's " History of Sussex" :

"Hurstmonceux was built in the reign of Henry VI. by Roger de Fynns, Treasurer to the Royal House hold. The building was formerly said to be very similar to Eton College, the kitchen more particularly so. A letter from Walpole says, ' They shewed us a dismal chamber, which they called " Drummer's Hall," and it is supposed that Addison's comedy is derived from it. This chamber was situated on the left on entering the Castle. It took its name from the intrigues of one Tartare or Tart, a French gardener, who alarmed the family by beating after the manner of a drum to frighten the inmates- no doubt done to conceal the operations of the smugglers, who frequented the Hall, and whose friend the gardener was.'

"An iron chest was accidentally discovered in a recess leading to the attic in 1738 by one John Miller, a domestic in the family, and young Lancaster, a son of the steward, then boys at play. They found the chest in the wall, with two large hammers affixed thereto -- they removed it into the room, and on striking it the sound resembled that of a kettle-drum . They ran to communicate the joyful tidings to others, and on their return the chest was gone, and never after heard of, though every means were used to discover the thief.

Report says, three persons rose suddenly from poverty to affluence, and every one of them died mad. [ 83 ]" Besides money, the chest is said to have contained title-deeds of great value, which were never regained ."

The following is extracted from Vol. 14 of the Sussex Archaeological Collections : "The porter's lodge by which we enter the castle , forms the lower story of the great gateway tower, having immediately above it the room formerly designated the ' Drummer's Hall,' tradition having marked it out as the principal scene of the pranks of a ghostly drummer, by whom the slumbers of the inhabitants were wont to be disturbed. A recess in the wall on the left hand will be noticed, in which a chest is said to have been discovered, containing treasures to a vast amount, by which the families of a former steward, and others were enriched . With this chest the existence of the drummer seems to have been linked, and when the hoard over which, like the gryphon of old, he had been set to watch, had been ransacked , his occupation was gone, and his drum became for ever silent. "

Mr. Mark Antony Lower, in his History of Sussex, says : " Addison's Comedy, ' The Drummer, or the Haunted House,' is supposed to be based upon a tradition connected with this castle. The room immediately over the porter's lodge was known as the 'Drummer's Hall,' from the loud ' spirit-rapping ' formerly carried on there. The tradition is that the drummer, with his nightly tattoo, kept the country round in a state of alarm. The drummer was stated [ 84 ]to be nine feet high, and to be straddling along the battlements at a furious rate. Addison, however, assures us, on the authority of the butler addressing the coachman, that he was never apparent except ' in the shape of the sound of a drum !' "

There can be but little reason to doubt, I think, that this legend of the " Ghostly Drummer of Hurstmonceux Castle" had something to do with the smugglers, particularly when we remember that about that time the notorious " Hawkhurst Gang" and other gangs of smugglers existed. It was to their advantage to keep the " country round in a state of alarm," as then they could hold their nightly meetings with less fear of being disturbed.


The following stories of smugglers are given in "The Battle and the Breeze," previously alluded to, and they will serve to show the tricks that smugglers were obliged to have recourse to, to get their goods away from the coast.

Soon after the derricking affair at Beachy Head, another ingenious scheme was hit upon by the " fair traders" of Eastbourne. "Disguising themselves like shepherds, who are accustomed to employ the time during which their flocks are grazing upon the downs, by descending the precipices- not as Shakespeare says, "to gather sam[ 85 ]phire," but to obtain the eggs of sea-birds, or to rob the falcon of its young-the smugglers, unobserved, dug a platform in the face of the cliff, immediately under Beachy Head. Two of them laboured for seven successive days in excavating and levelling this spot, at a height of three hundred feet above the level of the sea ; and as this operation was carried on by day, without any attempt at concealment, and there were no means of approaching, or even of getting a view of the place, except by being lowered two or three hundred feet over the precipice, it was supposed they were engaged in collecting eggs, and no further notice was taken of the matter. Having, therefore, completed the work, three or four of the gang descended unobserved, to the platform, where they remained perched till dark ; and, at high water, when the blockade sentinels left the beach, a boat rowed to the foot of the precipice, immediately under the platform, to which her cargo was leisurely transferred by pulleys ; and the smugglers, lowering each other by the same means into the boat, went off to Eastbourne with their comrades, leaving their contraband goods securely stowed upon the platform.

"During the whole of this proceeding, the Preventive-men were unconsciously pacing the edge of the cliff above, at too great a distance to hear what was doing, even if they had entertained suspicion of the stratagem ; and when the tide receded sufficiently to admit of their descending to the beach, the boat, with [ 86 ]every other trace of the transaction, had disappeared .

The platform being composed of chalk, like the cliff itself, was altogether invisible, either from the summit or base of the promontory, and the smugglers having also taken the precaution to paint their packages white, they could not be distinguished from the chalk at any considerable distance. The risk of discovery, therefore, was trifling, and on the following night, the smugglers could, without interruption, hoist their goods from the platform to the summit of the cliff, merely taking care to accomplish this at low water, when the Preventive sentinels were stationed along the beach below. " In this manner several valuable cargoes were imported ; nor would the plan, perhaps, ever have been detected, but by a direct information which the writer derived from one of the smugglers, who had quarrelled with his companions. Fifty-six tubs of brandy were found upon the platform when it was thus detected and demolished."

" Many of the Coast-blockade men lost their lives by walking over the cliffs during dark or foggy nights ; and upon one occasion two of their bodies were discovered dreadfully mangled within a few yards of each other, having been precipitated from a height of at least three hundred feet. The circumstance of their being killed nearly at the same spot, and at about the same moment, gave rise to an opinion that they had [ 87 ]been thrown over by the smugglers.[5] Be this as it might, some time after, an officer, much disliked for his activity, having fallen into an ambuscade of smugglers, they seized, blindfolded him, and tied his feet together, crying out, Throw him over the cliff! throw him over the cliff! Disregarding his entreaties for mercy, they bore him to the edge, and pushed him gradually over, feet foremost, till his arms and chin only remained above the brink, to which he clung by digging his finger-nails into the grass, and in this cruel position they left him. He remained thus for above an hour, in agonies of terror, screaming for help, and straining every sinew to maintain his hold, till at length the blood seemed to stagnate in his arms ; his strength failed, his brain reeled at the thought of the depth beneath, and he was upon the point of letting go in despair, when, as a last effort, he released one hand, tore the bandage from his eyes, turned his head with horror, and beheld the bottom within a yard of his feet! the smugglers having selected a shallow chalkpit for their purpose, upon the brink of which he had been so tormentingly suspended." [ 88 ]"At Romney, a smuggler, named Walker, had been convicted before one of the resident magistrates, who, perceiving a disposition among the mob to effect a rescue, gave directions for the immediate removal of the prisoner to a king's vessel, then lying at anchor near Dungeness. Lieutenant (now Commander) David Peat, R.N. , upon whom this duty devolved, set off to execute his orders, accompanied by the magistrate, and attended by a slight guard of ' warriors.' On reaching the shore, the exasperation of the populace could no longer be restrained to oaths and execrations ; several stones were thrown, one of which struck the magistrate, who thereupon, as it was said, read a clause of the Riot Act, and commanded the mob to disperse. Instead of complying, they attacked the cart and dragged out the prisoner, at the same instant hurling a fresh volley of stones at the lieutenant. Perceiving that in another moment the rescue would be complete, and that Walker was himself in the act of striking at the officer, the magistrate called out, ' Secure your prisoner, sir, run the rascal through ! The order was no sooner given than obeyed. Irritated by blows and abuse, Lieutenant Peat drew his sword, and passed it completely through poor Walker's body, who fell dead upon the spot. The mob then fled in different directions, and Lieutenant Peat, surrendering himself into the hands of the magistrate, returned with [ 89 ]him to Romney to await the result of a coroner's in quest.

"The house in which the jury assembled was soon surrounded by a furious mob, who kept shouting for vengeance upon Peat the murderer It being evident, therefore, that some act of violence would be attempted in event of the verdict being exculpatory of the lieutenant, it became necessary to obtain protection from the military stationed at Hythe ; but there was great difficulty in despatching a messenger thither unobserved by the populace. At length, however, the magistrate's son, a shrewd stripling, contrived to steal, out unnoticed, went to his father's stable, saddled a horse, galloped to Hythe, and delivered his despatch to the commanding officer of the troops. Meanwhile the inquest proceeded amid a storm of vociferation. The coroner, being a man of firm and upright mind, charged the jury that Walker's death, under the circumstances detailed in evidence, was clearly ' Justifiable homicide,' and, after much reluctance and delay, a verdict to that effect was pronounced. Hereupon the populace became perfectly outrageous ; but at that instant a troop of Dragoons marched into the town, and the mob dispersing, Lieutenant Peat returned to his quarters at Dungeness without further molestation.

"At the funeral of the unfortunate Walker, fresh manifestations of enmity were evinced, and the in[ 90 ]scription placed over his remains concludes with this quaint intimation -

'By a base man my life I lost !'

"The brother officers of Lieutenant Peat, apprehensive that an attempt might be made to assassinate him, recommended his removal to some other part of the coast ; but regardless of threats, he not only resolved to maintain his ground, but plunged deeper into danger by going to reside at Folkestone, where the whole population entertained feelings of bitter hostility against him. The consequences were nearly such as had been anticipated . Going through some lonely marshes on a dark night, attended by a trusty quartermaster, Lieutenant Peat detected an ambuscade of armed smugglers, one of whom he fearlessly seized, when a volley was discharged , which killed the quartermaster, and badly wounded the lieutenant. The latter, knowing that no mercy would be shown towards him, had the presence of mind to feign death by lying motionless, when he overheard his assailants coolly discussing the question as to whether they should fire another volley at his body or not, one of them declaring that Peat had more lives than a cat,' and would certainly recover if they did not make sure work. Thus urged, the smugglers deliberately reloaded their muskets, fired another volley at their prostrate enemy, and fled, leaving Lieutenant Peat still alive, but with [ 91 ]fourteen gun-shot wounds in different parts of his body. To the utter discomfiture of the fair traders, however, the lieutenant recovered, was promoted and pensioned by the Admiralty, and astonished the inhabitants of Folkestone by appearing at the theatre attired in his uniform as a commander ; since which he has held superintendence of the Coast-guard at Hastings for three years, without encountering any further adventure worthy of notice."

During Commander Peat's residence at Rocklands, near Hastings, the following incident took place. A cargo of goods had been landed near Ecclesbourne watch-house, at a little distance eastward of Hastings, and worked up over the cliff by means of rope ladders at an immense trouble, under the very noses, as it were, of the Coast-guard. A dog belonging to one of the officers, and which generally accompanied him in his nightly rounds, barked violently at the top of the cliff, immediately over the spot where the smugglers were waiting on a ledge of rock for a favourable opportunity of getting over the summit of the cliff : the officer called the dog off, and upbraided him for being continually " barking at the rabbits." All this was heard by the smugglers as they lay in their place of concealment. After a while they got the goods away to a field not more than one hundred yards from the commander's residence, and here, lying in a hollow [ 92 ]place, goods and all, they had the assurance to refresh themselves with " bread and cheese and porter," and while doing so, actually saw the commander ride along an open road at the top of the field to his residence. When the affair became known, which it did shortly afterwards, the officer owning the dog, and some of the men were removed. The commander remarked when he first heard of the circumstances, " D-n the smugglers, they will carry their goods through my house before they have done."

Some fifty years ago the following song was a favourite along the Sussex coast, and as it represents faithfully the life of a smuggler, I take the liberty of transcribing it as well as " The Smuggler King."


'Twas one morn, when the wind from the northward blew keenly,
And sullenly wav'd the big waves of the main,
A fam'd smuggler, Will Watch, kissed his Sue, then serenely
Took helm, and to sea boldly steer'd out again.
Will had promised his Sue, that this trip if well ended
Should coil up his hopes, and he'd anchor ashore ;
With his pockets well lin'd his life should be mended,
And the laws he had broken, he'd never break more.
The sea-boat was trim, made her port, took her lading,
Then Will stood for home, made the offing, and cried
" This night, if I've luck, furls the sails of my trading,
In dock I can lie, serve a friend too beside."
Will lay to, till night came on darksome and dreary,
Then to hoist ev'ry sail he pip'd up each hand ;
But a signal soon spied, 'twas a prospect uncheery,
A signal that warn'd him to steer from the land .

[ 93 ]

" The Philistines are out, " cried Will, " we'll take no heed on't ;
Attacked, who's the man that will flinch from his gun ?
Should my head be blown off, I shall ne'er feel the need on't,
We'll fight when we can, when we can't, boys, we'll run.
But should I be popp'd off, you, my mates, left behind me,
Regard my last words, see ' em kindly obey'd,
Let no stone mark the spot, and, my friends, do you mind me,
Near the beach is the spot where Will Watch will be laid. "
In the haze of the night a bright flash now appearing, "
Oh ! oh !" cries Will Watch, " the Philistines bear down,
Bear a hand, my tight lads, ere we think about sheering,
One broadside pour in, should we swim, boys, or drown. "
Poor Will's yarn was spun out,
for a bullet next minute Laid him low on the deck,
and he never spoke more ;
His crew fought the brig while a shot remained in it,
Then sheer'd, and Will's hulk to his Susan they bore.
In the dead of the night his last wish was complied with,
To few known his grave, to few known his end :
He was borne to the earth by the crew that he died with,
He'd the tears of his Susan, the prayers of each friend.
By his grave wash the billows, the winds loudly bellow,
Yon ash struck by lightning points out the cold bed
Where Will Watch, the Bold Smuggler, that fam'd lawless fellow,
Once fear'd, now forgot, sleeps in peace with the dead.

The foregoing " old song " faithfully portrays a smuggler's career ; always bold, always in danger, the smuggler leads a life which too often ends as so pitiably described in the above song. Happily there are no Will Watches in the present day, and I think we may venture to hope that in England there never will be. [ 94 ]====THE SMUGGLER KING.====

There's a brave little bark stealing out in the dark,
From her nest in the bristling bay ; The fresh breeze meets her dingy sheets,
And swiftly she darts away ; She never must run in the eyes of the sun,
But along with the owl take wing, She must keep her flight for the moonlight night,
For she carries the Smuggler King.
A monarch is he as proud as can be, Of a strong and mighty band,
The bullet and blast may go whistling past, But he quails neither heart nor hand.
He lives and dies with his fearful prize, Like a hunted wolf he'll spring,
With trigger and dirk, to the deadliest work, And fight like a Smuggler King.
Back from the wave, to his home in the cave, In the sheen of the torches' glare ;
He reigns the lord of a freebooter's board, And never was costlier fare.
Right firm and true were the hearts of the crew, There's faith in the shouts that ring,
As they stave the cask, and drain the 'flask, And drink to the Smuggler King.


It may be wondered at now, that smuggling should have been so extensively carried on and at such risk and danger. Should the question be asked, " Why wait ?" the answer would be " Profit !" And for " what will man not do ? To show the profit connected [ 95 ]with smuggling, take for example a single tub of spirits ; its cost in France was from ten shillings and sixpence to thirteen shillings-fourteen to sixteen shillings would be thought dear. A tub of spirits contained three and a half gallons of spirit so much over-proof that it would bear the addition of two and a half gallons of water, and the six gallons would sell easily for three or even four pounds or guineas. (Our forefathers had a great love for guineas. ) Here was a profit of from four to five hundred per cent ! After paying out of this the cost of transport, wages of the look-out men, &c., the profits were so good, that I have heard it said that if one cargo out of three was saved, there was then a profit.

One wonders now, in these days of enlightened fiscal legislation, how Governments could have been so stupid as to rest satisfied with a state of things so short-sighted. Even the very Custom-house officers themselves smuggled, or at least sent for smuggled goods, and then gave information against, not themselves, but the cargo, for the purpose of receiving the Government allowance for seized goods, this being actually more than the original cost of the goods on the other side of the Channel. I may add that the smugglers had their authorized agents on the other side who managed all their buying transactions. Some people that I have known have acted in that capacity. [ 96 ]====THE HAWKHURST GANG.[6]==== In September 1747 , one John Diamond, otherwise Dymar, agreed with a number of smugglers, to go over to Guernsey to smuggle tea ; when having purchased a quantity, on their return in a cutter, they were chased, and the vessel and tea taken by one Captain Johnson, the crew escaping in a boat ; Captain Johnson carried the vessel and tea to the port of Pool[e], and lodged the tea in the Custom-house there.

The smugglers were very much annoyed at the mis carriage of their purchase, and they resolved not to sit down contented with their loss ; a consultation being held, they agreed to go and take away the tea from the warehouse in which it was lodged. Accordingly about the middle of the next month, a body of them , to the number of sixty, well armed , assembled in Charlton Forest, in the County of Sussex and started on their enterprise about thirty of the gang were stationed at different places as scouts, to watch the motions of the officers and soldiers, and to be ready to assist or alarm the main body, in case any opposition should be made to their daring scheme. In the night time between the 6th and 7th October, [ 97 ]they went to Pool, about thirty of them being present, broke open the Custom-house, (notwithstanding that an armed sloop of war lay off the town) and took away all the tea, except one bag of about five pounds.

Passing through Fordingbridge in Hampshire, the next morning, they were seen by some hundreds of people, who assembled to view the cavalcade. Among the spectators was one Daniel Chater, a shoemaker, who was known to Diamond, one of the gang, they having formerly worked together in harvest time. Diamond shook hands with Chater as he passed along, and threw him a bag of tea.

Such a daring piece of business as breaking open the king's Custom-house could not of course go unnoticed by the authorities, accordingly His Majesty issued his proclamation offering a reward for apprehending any of the persons concerned in breaking open the Custom-house ; Diamond was taken into custody on suspicion, and Chater saying, in conversation with his neighbours, that he knew Diamond, and saw him go by with the gang, the day after the Custom house was broken open, and it coming to the know ledge of the Collector of Customs at Southampton, he was ordered to send William Galley, a Custom -house officer, with Chater, with a letter to Major Battin, a Justice of the Peace for the County of Sussex, in order that Chater might be examined as to what he [ 98 ]knew of the matter, and to ascertain if he could prove the identity of Diamond's person.

Accordingly on Sunday, the 14th of February, 1748, they set out on horseback, for Chichester, and, passing through Havant, they called on an acquaintance of Chater's, and told him where they were going ; he informed them that Major Battin was at East Marden near Chichester, and directed them to go by Stan stead, near Rowland's Castle. Pursuing their journey, they called at the New Inn, at Leigh, and asking the nearest way, they saw George Austin and Thomas Austin, two brothers, and their brother-in-law Mr. Jenkes, and as they were going the same way, they said they would show them, and they accordingly set out together, all being on horseback.

About twelve at noon, they arrived at the White Hart, at Rowland's Castle, a house kept by one Eliza beth Payne, a widow who had two sons, both smugglers, but who followed the occupation of blacksmiths in the same village. Mrs. Payne, suspecting that the journey of Galley and Chater boded no good to the smugglers, sent one of her sons for William Jackson and William Carter, two smugglers, who lived near her house. While her son was gone, Galley and Chater wished to be going, and asked for their horses ; Mrs. Payne, to detain them, said the man who had the key of the stable was out. Jackson and Carter soon came in, and Mrs. Payne communicated to them her [ 99 ]suspicions concerning Galley and Chater, and she soon after advised George Austin to go away about his business, as she respected him, and by staying, he might come to some harm ; he left, but his brother and brother-in-law remained.

During this time Mrs. Payne's other son came in, and finding that there were grounds to suspect that the two strangers were going to inform against the smugglers, he went out and fetched William Steele, Samuel Downer, otherwise Samuel Howard, otherwise Little Sam, Edmund Richards, Henry Sheerman, otherwise Little Harry, all smugglers, and all belonging to the same gang.

After they had drank a little while, Jackson took Chater aside into the yard, and asked him how he was, and where Diamond was. Chater said he believed he was in custody ; that he was going to appear against him, for which he was sorry, but that he could not help it. Galley thinking that Jackson was persuading Chater not to give information against the smugglers, desired him to come in, when Jackson, with an oath, gave him a blow in the face, and knocked him down. Galley said he was a king's officer and would not put up with such usage ; Jackson again offered to strike him, but was hindered. by one of the Paynes, who said, " Don't be such a fool, do you know what you are doing ?" Galley and Chater began to be very uneasy, and [ 100 ]wanted to be going, but Jackson, Carter, and the rest persuaded them to stay and have more drink, and make it up, saying they were sorry for what had happened. Unfortunately for Galley and Chater, they were persuaded, and stayed drinking with all present. Jackson and Carter after a while wanted to see the letter they were taking to Major Battin, but they refused to show it ; whereupon they made a resolution that they would see it, and for that purpose plied them well with drink till they and Thomas Austin were completely fuddled, when they persuaded Galley and Chater to go into another room, in which was a bed, and lie down : they did so , and from the effects of the liquor, were soon fast asleep ; the letter was then taken out of one of their pockets, brought into the kitchen, and read by one of the party, and the contents of it being plainly a design to promote an information against some of the gang, they agreed first to destroy the letter, and then consulted what to do with the men.

And now began a series of cold-blooded cruelty and barbarity, the bare recital of which makes one's blood curdle, and which, were the facts not well authenticated, would lead persons to doubt if human beings in a civilized country could be found to put in practice such a piece of diabolical savageness.

Galley and Chater being still asleep on the bed, one of the smugglers, Jackson, putting on his spurs, got [ 101 ]on the bed, and spurred them on their foreheads to wake them, and then whipped them with his horsewhip so that they both came into the kitchen bloody.

They then placed the two men on horseback, both on the same horse, each man's legs being tied beneath the horse's belly, and then their four legs tied together, one of the smugglers, Richards, threatening to shoot anyone who should mention anything that was being done.

They then set out, all on horseback, except two John Race, who had joined the party ; he stayed behind, not having a horse -and William Steele, who led the horse on which Galley and Chater were ; the roads being bad, their progress was very slow. They had not gone above one hundred yards before Jackson , who seems to have been a ringleader in the diabolical business, called out, " Whip ' em; cut ' em, slash ' em, d- n ' em," and then all, except Steele, set to lashing and cutting them over the head, face, eyes, shoulders, or wherever they could injure them most, till, unable to bear the anguish of this terrible punishment, the poor men rolled from side to side, till at last they fell with their heads under the horse's belly, in which posture their heads were frequently struck with the horse's feet. This happened at Wood's Ashes, about half-a-mile from the place where the whipping began. They were placed upright, and the same treatment continued to Goodthrop Dean, about half a mile farther, when they fell as [ 102 ]before, their heads under the horse, and their heels up in the air.

The men were now become so weak that they could no longer sit upon the horse ; they were, therefore, separated, and Galley put up behind Steele, and Chater behind little Sam. In passing through the village of Dean, Jackson swore he would shoot either of them who made any noise. They then went to a well, near Lady-Holt Park, where they swore they would murder Galley, by throwing him down the well. Galley, more dead than alive, from the treatment he had received, begged them to dispatch him at once, when Jackson, with a fearful oath, said, " No, if that's the case, we must have something more to say to you." They again put him on a horse, and fell to whipping him all the way over the downs, till, being no longer able to sit on the horse, they laid him across the saddle, and Richards got up behind to hold him on, and thus they carried him above a mile farther, when Richards, tired of holding him on, let him fall by the side of the horse.

Again putting him on a horse, not sitting, but lying, and being held first by one, and then by another of the smugglers, they proceeded a mile or two farther, when Little Harry, who had mounted behind Galley to hold him, the poor fellow, finding he was falling, cried out, " I fall, I fall, I fall. " Little Harry, giving him a push as he was falling, said, " Fall, and be d___d ;" upon [ 103 ]which he fell, and they thought he had broken his neck, and was dead.

During the whipping which had taken place, to make it more effectually felt, the smugglers had taken off Galley's great-coat, which was found in the road, next morning, all bloody.

Supposing now that Galley was dead, they laid him. across a horse, one on each side holding him on, and another leading the horse. They brought him to the house of one Pescod, a reputed smuggler, who, how ever, suspecting some evil work, and being ill in bed, refused to admit them. It being now between one and two o'clock in the morning, they agreed to go to one Scardefield's, at the Red Lion, at Rake, who, after many refusals, at length admitted them, made them at fire in the parlour, and supplied them with liquor. Scardefield, seeing Galley in the brewhouse, lying apparently dead, and Chater in the parlour, standing up, very bloody, was informed, upon enquiring the cause, that they had had an engagement with some officers, and had lost their tea, and were afraid that some of their people were killed . This was said to conceal the murder of Galley, and to account for the bloody appearance of Chater.

After drinking pretty freely, they all went out, taking Galley, or his corpse, if he was quite dead, which is doubtful, with them. Two of them, Carter and Richards, returned to ask Scardefield if he could find [ 104 ]the place where they had before hidden some goods. He said he could, but refused to go with them. They insisted that he should, and Carter, taking a candle and lanthorn, and a spade, they went to where the others of the party were waiting ; when they dug a hole, and in this hole they buried Galley.

Having disposed of Galley's body, they returned to Scardefield's, where they sat carousing the best part of Monday, and during the time they were there, one Richard Mills came in. This Richard Mills was the son of old Richard Mills, to whose house they had conveyed Chater, and chained him by the leg, in an out-house called a skilling, a place in which they laid up turf, old Mills being at the time a turf-cutter ; in this place Chater was looked after by Little Harry and old Mills.

After drinking all that day, Monday, at Scardefield's, they separated, so that by being at their respective homes on Tuesday, their neighbours might have no suspicion of the business they had in hand ; they agreed to meet at the same place on Wednesday evening, which they accordingly did. At this meeting were present, William Jackson, William Carter, William Steele (afterwards king's evidence), Edmund Richards, and Samuel Howard, alias Little Sam, five of the six who were concerned in the murder of Galley. Also John Cobby, William Hammond, Benjamin Tapner, Thomas Stringer, Daniel Perryer, alias Little [ 105 ]Daniel, John Mills, Thomas Willis, Richard Mills, jun., and John Race (another king's evidence), fourteen in number. Richard Mills, senior, and Little Harry stayed at home to take care of Chater, in whose care they had left him. They dropped in, one after another, as if by accident, so that it was late at night before they all got together.

Being all assembled, they consulted what was to be done with Chater ; one proposed one thing, another, another ; at length it was finally determined to take him to Harris's Well, near the Lady Holt Park, in which they had previously intended to put Galley, and there put him out of existence.

While this consultation was going on, Tapner and Cobby went to the turf-house where Chater was chained by the leg, and inflicted on him unheard- of cruelties. Tapner, in particular, pulling out a large clasp knife, expressed himself thus : " Down on your knees, and go to prayers, for with this knife I will be your butcher." Poor Chater expecting then and there to be murdered, fell on his knees, and offered up prayers to God in the best manner his pain and anguish would allow him. During this, when it might be supposed even a fiend would relent for a few minutes at least, Cobby got behind him and kicked him in the small of the back, while Tapner, with the feelings of a demon, hacked him across the forehead, eyes, and nose with his clasp-knife. [ 106 ]The smugglers having agreed how to dispose of Chater, they all, with the exception of the Millses, set out to take him and dispatch him at Harris's Well, as being in their way towards their respective homes, and therefore not likely to be any hindrance to them on their journey.

Chater was then set on Tapner's horse, and taken towards the well, Tapner whipping him over the face and eyes, causing his wounds to bleed copiously, and swearing at the same time, that " if he blooded his saddle, he would destroy him that moment, and send his soul to h_ll."

At the dead of the night, and being so near the middle of it that it was uncertain whether it was Wednesday night or Thursday morning, they arrived at the well. The well was between twenty and thirty feet deep, and fenced round to prevent cattle falling in. Being come up to the fence, they dismounted Chater ; and Tapner, taking a cord from his pocket, made a noose at one end, and fastened it round Chater's neck. They bade him get over the fence to the well. The poor man observing an opening, where a pale or two had been broken away, made an attempt to get through, but, being in the opinion of the smugglers so heinous an offender, this favour was too great to be allowed him, and they compelled him, weak as he was, his wounds gaping, and being ready to faint [ 107 ]through loss of blood, to get over the pales as well as he could.

Being over, Tapner fastened the end of the rope that was round his neck to the rail of the fence, for the well had neither lid, kirb, nor roller. The rope being fixed, they all got over and pushed him into the well ; but the rope being short, his legs only hung into it, and his body leant back towards the fence. Finding that the weight of his body was not sufficient to strangle him, Stringer, with the assistance of Cobby and Hammond, pulled his legs out of the well, and Tapner, untying the cord, they threw him, or rather let him fall into the well, head foremost.

After this they stood by the well for some time, and it being the dead of the night, and everything still, they heard him breathe or groan, and were thence assured that he was still alive. Fearing that any casual passer-by might hear him, they procured a ladder from one William Combleach, a gardener, who lived but a little way off, intending to go down into the well and dispatch him. They told Combleach that one of their companions had fallen into the well, and that they wanted the ladder to get him out ; he thinking to do a charitable action, lent them the ladder, which they carried to the well, but, whether from the confusion in which they were, or from the horror of the dreadful work in which they had been engaged, they could not, though six of them were employed in [ 108 ]doing it, raise the ladder high enough to get it over the pales.

Finding their efforts ineffectual to raise the ladder over the fence, and hearing the poor fellow still groaning, they set about thinking what other means were left to dispatch him ; and, recollecting, they hunted about till they found two heavy logs of wood that had been gate-posts ; these they threw into the well, and then resolving to do their business effectually, they got together as many great stones as they could find, and threw them into the well. And, now hearing nothing of the unfortunate man, though they listened attentively, they concluded that he was quite dead, mounted their horses, and went to their respective homes.

Previously, however, they had consulted what was to be done with the two living witnesses against them , namely, the two horses that had been ridden by Galley and Chater, and they had agreed, after many plans had been suggested and abandoned, to kill them and take off their skins. Accordingly they killed the one, a grey on which Galley had ridden, flayed him, and cut up his hide into small pieces ; but when they came to look for the other, a bay, on which Chater had ridden, he was not to be found ; he got away, and was soon after delivered to his rightful owner ; but the grey, which had been hired for Galley by Mr. Shever of Southampton, was obliged to be paid for by him. [ 109 ]The long absence of Galley and Chater from their homes, coupled with the fact that about the time of their departure, Galley's great-coat was found in the road, very bloody, gave rise to suspicions that they had fallen into the hands of the smugglers and had met with foul play, particularly as the horse which had been ridden by Chater was found, without his rider.

These suspicions having been laid before the Com missioners of the Customs, and by them before His Majesty in council, a proclamation was issued, offering a reward to any one who should discover what had become of them, and His Majesty's pardon to the discoverer. Six or eight months, however, passed before any light was thrown upon the affair, which was gradually discovered by the following means.

A person who had been witness to some of the transactions of this bloody tragedy, and knew of the death of either Galley or Chater, and where one was buried, sent an anonymous letter to a person of distinction, stating that he thought that the body of one of the men that were missing, and who were mentioned in His Majesty's proclamation, was buried in the sand at a certain place near Rake ; some persons went in search, and the body of Galley was found, in an almost upright position, with the hands over the eyes, leading to the supposition that he was not dead when he was buried. [ 110 ]This discovery being made, another letter was sent, in which it was stated that one William Steele, other wise Hardware, was concerned in the murder of the man whose body was found buried in the sand, and mention being made where he might be found, he was taken into custody, when he offered himself as king's evidence, and made a full confession of the whole transaction, and gave the names of the persons concerned therein.

Steele's confession led to the discovery of Chater's body in Harris's Well, and to warrants being issued for the apprehension of the principal actors in the murders, some of whom were soon afterwards taken.

John Race, who was concerned in the beginning of the affair at Rowland's Castle, came and voluntarily surrendered himself, and was admitted as king's evidence, as Steele had been.

Hammond was taken the beginning of October ; and it appearing by undeniable evidence that he was con cerned in the murder of Chater, and throwing him into a well near Harting, in the county of Sussex, he was committed to Horsham gaol, on the 10th of the same month.

John Cobby was likewise apprehended ; and on the 18th of October was committed to Horsham gaol for the same crime.

Benjamin Tapner was also committed to the same gaol on the 16th of November following. [ 111 ]Richard Mills, junior, was apprehended in Sussex , with George Spencer, Richard Payne, and Thomas. Reoff, about the 16th of August, 1748, and being all brought together, under a strong guard, to Southwark, they were carried before Justice Hammond, who committed them all to the county gaol for Surrey, for being concerned with divers other persons, armed with fire arms, in running un-customed goods, and for not sur rendering themselves after publication in the London Gazette. On the 5th of October, Richard Mills was detained in the said gaol, by virtue of a warrant under the hand and seal of Justice Hammond, for being concerned in the murders of Galley and Chater, whose bodies had been, a short time previously, found.

William Jackson and William Carter were taken November 14, near Godalming, in Surrey, and brought up to London, under a strong guard, and being carried before Justice Poulton, in Covent Garden, were, after examination, committed to Newgate, for being concerned with divers other persons, in running un-customed goods, and for not surrendering after publication in the London Gazette.

Old Richard Mills, notwithstanding he knew that all these were taken, and that warrants were out against several others, his son John among the rest, for being concerned with those already taken in the murders of Galley and Chater, yet he continued at home, never [ 112 ]absconding, thinking himself quite safe, as he knew nothing of the murder of Galley, and as to that of Chater, he was seemingly very easy, as he was not murdered in his house, nor was he present when the wicked deed was done. But Steele, having given an account in his information of the whole affair, which was laid before the Attorney-General, that old Major Mills was concerned by keeping the poor man chained in his skilling or turf-house, and that he was present when they all came down from Scardefield's, and told him they were come to take Chater up to Harris's Well, where they designed to murder him, and fling him into it ; as, likewise, that he was present in the turf-house when Tapner cut Chater across the eyes, nose, and forehead ; and that he did express the words, "Don't murder him here ; take him somewhere else and do it," it was thought necessary to apprehend him, and accordingly on the 16th of December he was taken ; and being brought the next day before Sir Hutchins William, and Sir John Miller, they committed him to Horsham gaol as being accessory to the murder of Daniel Chater before the same was committed, and concealing it, which offence subjects the person thus guilty to be hanged.

William Combleach, the gardener, who lent the ladder after Chater was thrown into the well, was taken up and examined, in expectation that some further [ 113 ]discoveries might be made in this tragical occurrence. But refusing to give satisfactory answers to proper questions which were put to him, and idly and obstinately denying all that was sworn against him, he was committed to Horsham gaol, on suspicion of being concerned in the murder of Daniel Chater.

The smugglers had reigned a long time uncontrolled ; the officers of the Customs were too few to encounter them. They rode in troops to the sea-side to fetch their goods, and carried them off in triumph. by daylight ; so audacious did they grow at last that they were not afraid of regular troops, that were sent into the country to keep them in awe. If anyone of them happened to be taken, and the proof ever so clear against him, no magistrate in the county durst commit him to gaol ; if he did, he was not sure that his house or barns would not be set on fire, or some other terrible mischief done to him ; as for anyone who informed against them, or who in any way interfered with their unlawful occupation, a certain and terrible fate awaited him : the terrible menaces which they uttered against any person who should presume to interrupt them in their contraband trade so terrified the people everywhere, that scarce anybody dared to look at them as they passed through the towns and villages in open daylight. And the Custom-house officers were so intimidated that scarce any of them had courage enough to go upon [ 114 ]their duty. Some they knew had already been sent to France, and others killed or wounded in opposing them so that Government at length began to be alarmed, and to apprehend consequences fatal to the public peace in case a speedy check was not put upon their audacious proceedings.

The doings of the "Hawkhurst Gang," however, brought matters to a climax, and the people of Goudhurst, in Kent, finding their lives and property unsafe, drew up a paper in which they expressed their abhorrence of the conduct of the smugglers, and their determination to oppose them. A considerable number of them formed themselves into a band, called "The Goudhurst Band of Militia," and they placed themselves under the command of a young man of the name of Sturt, a native of Goudhurst, who had served in a regiment of foot, and who had been a prime mover in the formation of this band. The smugglers soon learnt of this confederacy, and they contrived to waylay one of the militia, and by confinement and threats, extorted from him a full disclosure of the plans and intentions of his colleagues.

After swearing him not to take up arms against them, they let him go, desiring him to inform his confederates, that they would come on a certain day, attack the town, murder every one therein, and burn it to the ground. Sturt, on this intelligence, convened his little band, and took every precaution in his power [ 115 ]to give the smugglers a warm reception . Some were sent to collect fire-arms, others to cast bullets and make cartridges, and every means were taken for resistance and defence which time and opportunity afforded. True to their threat the smugglers made their appearance, headed by one Thomas Kingsmill, who subsequently headed the gang in their attack on the Custom-house at Poole, and after some horrid threats and imprecations commenced the attack by a general discharge of fire-arms, which was promptly and effectually replied to by the militia, by which. one of the smugglers was shot ; but it was not till two more of them had lost their lives and many of them had been wounded, that they quitted the field of battle ; they were pursued by the militia, and some of them taken and executed.

The murder of Galley and Chater as before related , together with other doings of the smugglers, and the names of the most desperate of the gang, particularly of those who broke open the Custom-house, having been made known to the king, His Majesty issued a proclamation, with lists of their several names, declaring, that unless they surrendered themselves on a day ap pointed, they should be outlawed and out of the protection of the laws of their country ; promising also a reward of £500 for the apprehension of any one of them who should be taken and convicted in pursuance thereof. [ 116 ]This had the desired effect. Many were soon taken, and lodged in the gaols ; and were subsequently tried and executed. Before, however, narrating the few particulars of their trials, I proceed to narrate another diabolical murder of an innocent man by two principals and two accessories, all of them smugglers and connected with the " Hawkhurst Gang."

John Mills, alias Smoker, son of old Richard Mills, after the execution of his father, meeting with one Richard Hawkins, a labourer, who happened to be thrashing in a barn at Yapton, near which the smugglers had concealed some tea, accused him of stealing a bag which they missed, but which in their hurry they had overlooked. Hawkins denying any knowledge of it, Mills compelled him to ride behind him to a public-house, called the Dog and Partridge, on Slindon Common, where being joined by one Richard Roland, alias Robb, Jerry Curtis, and Thomas Winter, alias Coachman, Mills and Roland whipped the poor fellow till they were out of breath ; they then stripped off their clothes to their shirts, and kept whipping him with their heavy riding-whips till they were tired of the brutal exercise . Mills and Curtis leaving, to fetch

two other persons whom they threatened they would serve in the same manner, Robb and Winter placed Hawkins in a chair by the fire, where he died. They afterwards laid the body on a horse, and carried it to Parham Park, about twelve miles from Slindon Com[ 117 ]mon, and tying large stones to it, sunk it in a pond, where it was some time afterwards found.

Seven of the notorious villains having been apprehended by the vigilance of the Government, the noble men and gentlemen of the county of Sussex, desirous to make public examples of such heinous offenders, and to terrify others from committing such horrible crimes, requested His Majesty to grant a special commission to hold an assize on purpose to try them ; and they re presented that as Chichester was a city large enough. to accommodate the judges and all their train, and as it was likewise contiguous to the places where the murders were committed, they judged it to be the properest place for the assize to be held. Accordingly a commission passed the seals, to hold a special assize there on the 16th day of January, 1748-9.

On Monday the 9th of January, Jackson and Carter were conveyed from Newgate, and Richard Mills , junior, from the new gaol in Surrey, under a strong guard to Horsham, on their way to Chichester. When they came to Horsham, Richard Mills, senior, Benjamin Tapner, John Hammond, John Cobby and William Combleach, were all put in a waggon and conveyed thence, with the others under the same guard, to Chichester, where they arrived on Friday the 13th of January.

The Judges set out from London on Friday the 13th, and arrived at the Duke of Richmond's house, at [ 118 ]Godalming, in Surrey, the same evening ; the next day they set out for Chichester, and were met at Midhurst by the Duke of Richmond, who entertained them at his hunting-house near Charlton ; after which they proceeded to Chichester where they arrived about five o'clock the same evening.

On Sunday morning, the Judges, attended by the mayor and aldermen of the city, attended divine ser vice in the Cathedral, where an excellent sermon was preached, suitable to the occasion, by the Reverend Mr. Ashburnham, Dean of Chichester.

At the appointed time, the Judges, the Honourable Sir Michael Foster, Knight, one of the Judges of H.M. Court of King's Bench; the Honourable Edward Clive, Esq., one of the Barons of H.M. Court of Exchequer, and the Honourable Sir Thomas Birch, Knight, one of the Judges of H.M. Court of Common Pleas, opened the assize in due form, at the Guildhall.

Two bills of indictment were preferred, one for the murder of William Galley, and the other for the murder of Daniel Chater, to which the prisoners severally pleaded not guilty.

After a trial which lasted till the 18th of January, and after hearing evidence of the most conclusive kind, the prisoners were found guilty, and the whole of them condemned to be hanged, which sentence, with one exception, was carried out on the next day, at a place called the Broile, near Chichester, in the presence of a [ 119 ]large concourse of spectators ; the exception was in the case of William Jackson, who died the night before in prison.

To give the sentence greater effect their bodies were afterwards hung in chains.

The body of William Carter was hung in chains, in the Portsmouth Road, near Rake, in Sussex ; the body of Benjamin Tapner on Rook's Hill, near Chichester ; and the bodies ofJohn Cobby and John Hammond upon the sea coast near a place called Selsey Bill, in Sussex, where they are seen at a great distance both east and west. The bodies of the Mills's, father and son, having neither friend nor relation to take them away, were thrown into a hole, dug for that purpose very near the gallows, into which was like wise thrown the body of Jackson. Just by is now erected a stone, having the following inscription, viz. :

"Near this place was buried the body of William Jackson, a proscribed smuggler, who under a special commission of Oyer and Terminer, held at Chichester on the 16th day of January, 1748-9, was with William Carter, attainted for the murder of William Galley, a Custom-house officer ; and who likewise was, together with Benjamin Tapner, John Cobby, John Hammond, Richard Mills the Elder, and Richard Mills the Younger, his son, attainted for the murder of Daniel Chater ; but dying a few hours after sentence of death was pronounced upon him, he thereby escaped the punishment which the heinousness of his complicated crimes deserved, and which was the next day most justly inflicted upon his accomplices.

" As a memorial of posterity, and a warning to this and succeeding generations

" This stone is erected, " A.D. 1749. "

I am informed that this stone is now ( 1872) in existence. [ 120 ]Two more of the gang were subsequently tried at East Grinstead, for murder, and executed- Henry Sheerman for that of Galley, and John Mills for that of Richard Hawkins of Yapton.

Others of the smugglers were afterwards taken, tried, convicted, and executed, some for being concerned in the murders of Galley, Chater, and Richard Hawkins, and others for being present at the breaking open the Custom-house at Poole. Two among them, Kingsmill and Fairhall, were reckoned the most audacious and wicked amongst the smugglers : they were both tried at Newgate, and both ordered to be hung in chains. They both, Fairhall in particular, behaved most impudently on their trial, and were frequently reprimanded by the court, but to no purpose. Fairhall said "he did not value being hanged," and said before his trial, " Let's have a pipe and tobacco and a bottle of wine, for as I am not to live long, I may as well live well the short time I have to be in this world." When their sentence was known, and one Perin, a member of the gang, ordered to be hanged and then buried, while Kingsmill and Fairhall were ordered to be hung in chains, Fairhall replied, in the presence of many people, to Perin, who was lamenting their cases, " We shall be hanging up in the sweet air, when you are rotting in your grave." They were hung at Tyburn, and the bodies of Kingsmill and Fairhall delivered to the Sheriff of the county of Kent ;[ 121 ]the body of Fairhall was hung up in chains on Horsendown Green, and that of Kingsmill on Goudhurst Gore, at which places they had lived.

The " Hawkhurst Gang " was thus broken up, and smuggling became a more dangerous proceeding, and moreover, the public mind being fairly aroused by the atrocious proceedings of the smugglers, they took to highway robbery and housebreaking, which ultimately brought many of them to the gallows.

Thus ended the notorious " Hawkhurst Gang," the memory of which will probably never die out in this part of England. It is not uncommon to hear middle aged men say, " My grandfather told me this," or " I heard an old man say that." This gang was daring, desperate, cold-blooded, and cruel. I have heard that going home early one morning, they met an old wo man, and one of the gang asked her how old she was ; she replied, " Eighty-one." He immediately gave her a blow on the head with the butt end of a pistol, ex claiming " You have lived long enough !"

W. D. Cooper, Esq. , in his admirable paper before alluded to, says, speaking of the last century, " The new force was utterly inadequate to the suppression of the trade. In the next forty-five years the daring of the smugglers grew with the impunity with which they were enabled to act. Large gangs of forty, fifty, and even one hundred, rode, well armed with guns, bludgeons, and clubs, throughout the country, setting [ 122 ]everyone at defiance, and awing all the quiet inhabtants. They established warehouses and vaults in many districts for the reception of their goods, and built large houses at Seacock's Heath,[7] in Etchingham (built by the well-known smuggler, Arthur Gray, and called Gray's Folly) , at Pix Hill, and the Four Throws Hawkhurst, at Goudhurst, and elsewhere, with the profits of their trade."

Of the " Hawkhurst Gang," I make out that twenty two suffered the extreme penalty of the law for their misdeeds ; many of the bodies were hung in chains, and this fact shows in a somewhat painful manner, the power, if not the majesty of the law.

On the banks of the Thames, on salient points of the coast, particularly that of Sussex, these remnants were to be seen, placed there as a warning to those who might be disposed to resort to unlawful practices.

Happily this state of things is passed away. Smugglers and smuggling are almost things of the past, and we may fairly hope that the more enlightened the policy pursued by our legislators, the less opportunity will there be for the questionable pursuits that I have endeavoured faithfully but imperfectly to portray. [ 123 ]


BEFORE the age of railways, Hastings, and indeed all maritime towns, received nearly all their heavy goods by sea, in coasting vessels ; a few were sent by carriers' waggons, whose pace was something like a snail's gallop. Hastings had its complement of these vessels, which generally loaded on certain days in the various wharves, on the banks of the Thames, i.e.,those which traded between Hastings and the metropolis. This mode of carriage had its advantage-it was cheap. It also had its disadvantage-- it was slow and not always sure. Owing to bad weather, it would sometimes happen that Hastings, and other towns as well, would be nearly run out of coals, as all the coals were then sea-borne ; and not only that, as the grocers' goods also came almost entirely by sea, Christmas has more than once within my knowledge been painfully close, and no plums in the grocers' shops with which to make the Christmas puddings. Housewives were sometimes in great trouble on such occasions ; and the young folks drew long faces at the thought of going without the customary pudding.

Among the vessels trading between London and Hastings, was one called " The Farmer's Delight," and it is a smuggling transaction in which this vessel was concerned that I have to bring to the notice of [ 124 ]my readers. Whether the carrying trade in which she had been employed had ceased to pay or not, I am not aware, but she was " laid up," i.e., partially dismantled , and hauled up on the beach out of the way of the tide. After being laid up some time, she was bought by a tradesman whom I very well knew, and whose descendants are now living in Hastings. Whether he bought her as principal or agent, I have no means of knowing, but I strongly suspect it was a mere business transaction on his part, and for which he received a liberal commission.

A gentleman I well know, now living in Hastings, superintended the launching of the vessel preparatory to her departure from Hastings. Some time afterwards two of her former crew, one of whom is now living in Hastings, and who has corroborated the main points in the following transaction, being on board another coasting vessel in the Thames, saw the old " Farmer's Delight" somewhat altered in form and rig, going leisurely up the Thames, and one of them said to the other, " I say _____, that looks just like our old craft, only they have altered her stern, and made her into a Billy Boy." The vessel had formerly been rigged as a sloop, i.e., with one mast, and her stem and stern were alike. In her altered state she had two masts, similar to what is now called " a dandy rig," and she had the ordinary square stern. Her name had also been altered to "The Nancy of Boston."

It appears that she was being towed up the Thames [ 125 ]by her crew, the captain being the only person on board the vessel. After she had just passed Gravesend, and had got somewhere off Rosherville, the captain. saw a boat put off from the Custom-house. Without more ado he cast off the tow-rope, and shouted to the crew of the boat to make off. They did so, and quickly rowed to the Essex side of the river, and decamped . One of them, however, named H__d , a native of Rye, being afterwards in the neighbourhood of Tower Hill, London , and being in his cups, was boasting of how they got away when coming up the river. He was taken into custody, and sent on board a man-of-war for five years.

The Custom -house boat's crew boarded the vessel, and the captain, a stout man, placing himself in the companion-way, haughtily demanded what they wanted on board his vessel. Resistance was , of course, out of the question; and the officers proceeded to search, and the result was, that they discovered a large quantity of tobacco stowed away in the hold, covered over with a quantity of barley. Of course the vessel was seized, and the captain was made prisoner. He was conveyed ashore, and was put into the gaol at Gravesend.

Now it happened that the gaoler was also keeper of the Town Hall, that is, he had to prepare the Hall for all meetings, and of course to attend all official meetings that were, from time to time, held in the Hall. He was an old man, and during his absence his wife had the care of the gaol. All this was well known to the good people of Gravesend, and of course, to the [ 126 ]friends of the prisoner-captain, and they laid a plan for his escape.

The gaol-keeper being one day in attendance at the Town Hall, a light cart with a smart-trotting horse was driven to a smith's shoeing place in the neighbourhood of the gaol, and two of the captain's friends began a game of pitch and toss, in a narrow street adjoining the gaol, and by their conversation conveyed intelligence to the imprisoned captain what they were about to do. Going to the outer door of the gaol, they rang the bell, which was answered by the old lady, the gaoler's wife. She was immediately seized, gagged, and tied securely into a chair. The captain was quickly fetched out, and as quickly taken to the cart in waiting. Being a big, fat man, his rescuers did not give him time to get up into the cart in the usual way, but bundled him into the back part of the cart, the tail board having been left down for the purpose. He was pretty soon out of the town, and he made his escape. When the gaoler returned from the Town Hall, he was surprised to find no notice taken of his ringing for admittance. Ultimately, the door was broken open, and his poor old wife was found as above described. I am informed that the person who took the captain prisoner is still living at Gravesend, and that there are many people there who recollect the circumstance.

My readers will recollect the story of Jack's swim ming adventure which took place near the Pier Rocks at Hastings. The following transaction, which oc[ 127 ]curred in the same locality, has been related to me by an eye-witness, who was also part owner of the galley which played a conspicuous part in the business.

Three or four young men, clerks, &c., in a merchant's office in Hastings, owned a galley jointly, in which they used to indulge in a row in the evenings of summer. It was not such a galley as is used now in regattas, but more after the build of the present galleys of the coast-guard. My informant, a part owner of the galley, was asked, one Sunday afternoon, by his co-partners, if he would go for a row in the evening. Nothing loath, he consented, and they met and launched their boat opposite the western end of the Marine Parade. The wind was rather fresh, and the water such as promised them a ducking in getting afloat. A great many of the promenaders on the Parade became attracted towards the spot in order to witness the passage of the galley through the breakers, the tide being at about what they call " half-tide." All at once, the cork of the galley was found to be missing, and there was a great deal of running here and there to get another cork. Opposite the other end of the Parade, a curious business had been going on, unperceived, except by those in the secret. A quantity of tubs had been previously sunk just off the Pier rocks, and a company of men in white smock frocks had got among the rocks, and were busy in getting the goods ashore. It may be asked, " Why were they dressed in white ?" I have stated that the wind was somewhat fresh, and the water somewhat rough ; consequently, there was an[ 128 ]amount of foam among the rocks. This was the reason why the men were partially dressed in white. Among the spectators looking at the galley was a coast-blockade man, whose beat extended from one end of the Parade to the other. His attention was so much absorbed that he did not see what was going on about two hundred yards to the eastward. The white-frock men, having got the goods, were making their way quickly across the beach to the steps at the eastern end of the Parade, and of course attracted some attention from the lookers-on at the galley. Mr. Blockade man at length became aware of what was going on, for he turned round, and saw it. He fired his pistol, and set off in pursuit, and just managed to come up as the last man was going up the steps on to the Parade. He made a cut at him with his cutlass ; but the blow fell a little short, and just cut the cord with which the tubs were slung over the man's shoulder. Stop ping to secure this gave the man time to get away safely with the remainder.

The whole affair of the galley was a planned thing. The amateur crew no more thought of going for a row than they thought of jumping into the sea. The launch, the loss of the cork, and the consequent apparent delay in getting afloat were all intended to at tract the attention of the sentry, and give a better opportunity for getting the goods away.


  1. Miss Martineau in Charles Knight's " History of England during the Peace. "
  2. This individual, whom I will call " Jem, " is now, as well as Jack and Sam, living in Hastings. He corroborated the main points in the narrative, which I had originally from Jack.
  3. The name given in the periodical in question is " Raper. "
  4. It was not an uncommon thing for a Coast-blockademan to be found " missing ." His pea-jacket and his arms would sometimes be found on the ground when the guard was changed ; but the man 66 nowhere."
  5. I should have been disposed to doubt the truth of this, had I not heard lately of the death of a man, formerly a smuggler, who boasted that he had been employed in a similar manner ; and further that he had the inhumanity to stamp on the fingers of the poor fellow who clung with his hands to the edge of the cliff.
  6. Compiled from a work published in 1749, containing a " Full and Genuine History of the Inhuman and Unparalleled Murders of William Galley and Daniel Chater by fourteen Notorious Smugglers, with their Trials, &c. , &c."
  7. This has recently been pulled down by Mr. Goschen.