King's Cutters and Smugglers 1700-1855 eBook

Edward Keble Chatterton
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 351 pages of information about King's Cutters and Smugglers 1700-1855.

The accompanying picture is no imaginary instance, but is actually taken from an official document.  The figure is supposed to represent one of these Deal boatmen, and the numerals will explain the methods of secreting the tea. (1) Indicates a cotton bag which was made to fit the crown of his hat, and herein could be carried 2 lbs. of tea.  He would, of course, have his hat on as he came ashore, and probably it would be a sou’wester, so there would be nothing suspicious in that. (2) Cotton stays or a waistcoat tied round the body.  This waistcoat was fitted with plenty of pockets to hold as much as possible. (3) This was a bustle for the lower part of the body and tied on with strings. (4) These were thigh-pieces also tied round and worn underneath the trousers.  When all these concealments were filled the man had on his person as much as 30 lbs. of tea, so that he came ashore and smuggled with impunity.  And if you multiply these 30 lbs. by several crews of these Deal boats you can guess how much loss to the Revenue the arrival of an East Indiamen in the Downs meant to the Revenue.

Another old dodge, though different in kind, was employed by a smuggling vessel when at sea and being chased towards evening, or on one of those days when the atmosphere is hazy or foggy.  To prevent her canvas being a mark against the horizon, the lugger would lower her sail, and her black hull was very difficult to distinguish in the gathering gloom.  This happened once when the smuggling cutter Gloire, a vessel of 38 tons burthen belonging to Weymouth, was being chased about midnight in January of 1816 by the Revenue cutter Rose.  The smuggler had hoped to have been able to run his goods ashore at Bowen Bottom, Dorset, but the Rose was too smart for him, launched her galley, and seized her with a full cargo of half-ankers.



If the reader will carry his mind back to 1787 he will recollect that in this year we saw a reformation in the system of the Revenue cruisers, and the practice of employing hired craft was discontinued.  This reformed system went on until the year 1816, when a highly important change occurred in the administration of these vessels.

On the 5th of April in that year all the Revenue cruisers which previously had been under the control of the Board of Customs now passed into the hands of the Admiralty.  The general object was to adopt more effectual means for putting a stop to the smuggling, and these vessels were of course to be employed in co-operation with the ships of his Majesty’s Navy afloat and the Revenue officers on shore.  Due notice was accordingly sent from the Customs office informing the commanders of cruisers that they were to place themselves under the orders of the Admiralty in the future.  But the cost of these cruisers was still to be borne by the Customs as before.

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King's Cutters and Smugglers 1700-1855 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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