A Lucky Escape?


James Vidler lived in Newchurch in the early 1800s. He was heavily involved in smuggling, but an unusual accident allowed him to escape justice and remain a local resident until his death.

Revenue Officers saw three smugglers carrying kegs of spirits. The kegs were dropped as soon as they chased the offenders towards Newchurch churchyard, where they hoped to dodge their pursuers. Unfortunately, that day a grave had been dug by the sexton and one of the smugglers fell to the bottom. His name was James Vidler and he spent the night there in torrential rain with a broken leg, unable to climb out. After being rescued, he was hidden for a long time in one of the houses in the village, but the broken leg was never properly set. He walked about as a cripple for the rest of his life. Not only lame from the fractured limb, but bent double with rheumatism which he contracted that night. He lived to the age of ninety, but would never go to church, “lest he fell into one o’dem open graves”.

His two accomplices, however, were caught and transported to a convict settlement.


Smugglers, William Heath, contemporary illustration. Collection of Dover Museum

James Vidler's fall

James Vidler’s fall into a newly dug grave caused lifelong disability, but saved him from transportation.

‘The Warrior’, Ogden’s ‘Smuggling’ Cigarette Card c.1920

 ‘The Warrior’, Ogden’s ‘Smuggling’ Cigarette Card c.1920.
This card shows a ‘Revenue Man’of the Coastal Blockkade operative from 1816-1826 Collection of Dover Museum

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