Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports compiled by Rictor Norton


14 March 1719   They write from Penzance, of February 28, That the Officers of the Customs having seiz’d some wine and brandy that was run in the house of one Hawkey, a mrchant there, and it being too late at night, to carry them to his Majesty’s ware-house, they left the same, with Hawkey’s leave, in his stable, in custody of two Officers; but between one and two in the morning, twelve, or fourteen, men, mostly in women’s apparel, fell upon the two officers, drag’d them out of the stable, tore their cloaths, almost stifled one of them, and stuffed the mouth of the other full of straw, and carried the wine off.
          They also write from Weymouth, of March the 4th, That the smugling traders in those parts are grown to such a head, that they bid defiance to all law and government. They come very often in gangs of sixty to a hundred men to the shore in disguise, arm’d with swords, pistols, blunderbusses, carbines, and quarter-staves, and not only carry off what goods they land, in defiance of the officers of the Custms, but beat, knock down, and abuse whoever they meet in their way, so that [though they] often go on search in the country, but by means of the various roads, and the countenance given the smuglars by the country people, who are mostly concern’d with them, their greatest efforts are very often ineffectual. (Original Weekly Post)

29 August 1730   On Friday last week several Custom-house Officers went, according to information, to a house near St. Mary Magdalen’s Church in Southwark, where was lodged a considerable quantity of tea and muslin, with other goods that were brought there by smugglers. The Officers, by searching, found out the goods; but the smugglers made resistance with fire-arms; so that only 75lb. of tea and 5 pieces of muslin were seized; and the smugglers made off with the rest on horseback, threatning all persons that should resist them. (London Journal)

2 September 1731   Lewes, Aug. 26. On Saturday the 21st instant, as some smugglers were running a large quantity of brandy at Newhaven, some Custom-house Officers seized it, and carry’d it thither; but the smugglers being joined by another party, a battle ensued, and the smugglers carry’d off the brandy, and made their escape. Two highwaymen were taken on Friday last on South-Downs, and committed to Horsham gaol, for robbing Mr. Shephard a farmer, on the said Downs, on Thursday last, of his watch and 7s. 4d. We hear from Kingston, a mile from this place, that one John Smith, about 25 years of age, courted a young woman of the same place, and she slighting him, he went into the fields, and stabb’d himself with a case knife in several places; so that he died on the spot. [Grub-street Journal]

6 April 1732   Dover, Mar. 29. The smugglers called the Mayfield gang, were in this town and neighbourhood on sunday, having (as we hear) sent an ordery man to Calais, where their vessel lay loaded with tea and dry goods, to bring them to S. Margaret’s bay. The custom-house officers having some notice, were upon their guard or duty, when the gang and boat appeared. The gang consisting of about 20 men and 25 horses, seized 2 of the officers, and put them into an alehouse, and set a guard upon them, when the boats of Deal and some others came up; and they also endeavouring to do their duty, Rich. Hill was shot into the back of his neck and out at his mouth, and had a very large wound on his head to the scull; and Tho. Low was wounded in the head. Hill died immediately. We hear that the gang went by Uphill of Folkstone yesterday morning with their drawn swords. They are extremely well armed, and their heads or captains (as we hear) are Gilb. Tomkins, and one Toms, outlaws. P. (Grub-street Journal)

22 September 1739   A complaint of the victuallers, inn-keepers, &c. about Tunbridge and other places adjacent, has been sent to the War-Office, praying relief from the great number of soldiers that are quarter’d thereabouts to watch the smugglers, so many in a house that they have no room for their guests; and if not eas’d they must inevitably be ruin’d; in regard to which petition proper officers are sent down to enquire into the truth of the allegation, and upon their report new methods will be concerted to put a stop to the pernicious trade of smuggling, the measures already used being plainly ineffectual. (The Country Journal: or, The Craftsman)

17 August 1748   Last Saturday one Farmer, alias Bloodthirsty, a notorious smuggler, was seiz’d near Maidstone in Kent, by a party of soldiers, after a desperate resistance; he was committed to the County Goal, from whence he is to be removed to Newgate, where he was expected last night. (General Advertiser)

31 October 1752   Norwich. ... On Wednesday ... a seizure was made of about a quarter of a hundred weight of tea at the house of Mrs Eager, who keeps a little shop in St Martin’s Place; she is the widow of Samuel Eager, otherwise Old-York, an outlaw’d smuggler, who died some time since in Newgate. (General Advertiser)

(Texts have been modernized with regard to capitalization, italicization, and punctuation, but original spelling has been retained. This edition copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. These extracts may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the compiler.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook, "Smugglers", 1 January 2006, updated 5 April 2007 <http://grubstreet.rictornorton.co.uk/smuggler.htm>

Return to list of Newspaper Reports