Increased Violence and the Demise of Smuggling

After the war with France in 1815, more men were available to prevent smuggling, which became more difficult. Gangs of smugglers had formed and violence had increased. 

tubmen_loading.jpg‘Unloading Tubs;  Collection of Dover Museum

The Aldington Gang, some from Newchurch and the surrounding villages, worked on the marsh in the 1820s, and were also called ‘The Blues’. George Ransley was their leader and he came from a family steeped in crime.  His two cousins were both hanged for highway robbery in 1800. Many of his relatives lived in Newchurch and the surrounding villages of the Hundred of Newchurch.  Many cases of ‘run goods’ were found there. Now it was the smugglers themselves rather than the contraband that the revenue men were after, and any captured and found guilty were likely to be hanged or transported to Australasia. 

The Black Bull Inn, Newchurch

The Black Bull Inn, Newchurch
This was the haunt of many a smuggler. In its window a pink tinted lamp, known as a strawberry lamp, was placed to warn smugglers that Revenue men were about.

‘Smugglers Alarmed’  Print c.1800

‘Smugglers Alarmed’  Print c.1800, Collection of Dover Museum

In February 1821, the gang, numbering some 200 men, were intercepted on Camber Sands by a group of blockade men after unloading their contraband. They were chased across the marsh to Brookland where a bloody battle took place. One naval officer and four smugglers were killed and three officers , six seamen and sixteen smugglers were wounded. One smuggler, Cephas Quested, was arrested and hanged in July 1821 after refusing to name his colleagues.

Smuggling declined after many of the customs dues on imported goods were abolished in 1831, as there was no incentive to take the chance of capture  for little profit.

 Ogden’s ‘Smuggling’ Cigarette Card c.1920

Ogden’s ‘Smuggling’ Cigarette Card c.1920. Collection of Dover Museum


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