A Smuggling Affray

Poole Museum Society Blog


In the 18th century, smuggling was big business. Fleets of fast cutters and larger ships up to 200 tons were purpose-built for running illicit cargoes. Entrepôts in France and the Channel Islands had warehouses stuffed with goods to sell to the smugglers. Violent conflict, even murder, was frequent. The revenue men had the support of the navy and could sometimes call upon army detachments on land. The smugglers could summon gangs of 30 or 40 men, armed with sticks, loaded whips and sometimes firearms from the largely sympathetic population. Even when seizures were made, the smugglers were often able to wrest back their cargoes by attacking revenue officers or breaking into the custom warehouses. One such violent confrontation in 1787 was to cost at least two men their lives and another, his career.

A smuggling cutter
A smuggling cutter

 On the evening of 5th November, the smuggling cutter Phoenix with a…

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