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Read the book! This fascinating book by award-winning author Richard Platt tells the story of British smuggling Click here to buy

Litho of Jack Rattenbury
Jack Rattenbury, who won fame as much for writing his autobiography as for any of his smuggling exploits.


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Famous Smugglers

“Notorious” would perhaps be more appropriate. For smugglers were more often feared and hated than celebrated. This list is by no means exhaustive. It simply focuses on a few individuals and gangs who — through their skills, success, brutality, or brazen defiance of authority — have achieved legendary status. Clicking an underlined name jumps to the relevant page in the Guide-Book.


The Hawkhurst Gang
Best-known of all southern smuggling gangs, the Hawkhurst gangs staged an armed raid on nearby Goudhurst when villagers there defied them.>

The Aldington Gang
Known to locals as "the Blues" and led by the "Roaring Ransleys" of Ruckinge, they could turn out hundreds of workers to land goods in open defiance of the authorities.

The Hadleigh Gang
Named for the Suffolk town where they were based, the 100-strong Hadleigh gang fought a pitched battle with dragoons and customs men to recover a captured cargo in 1735.

The North Kent Gang
Murderous mob based on muddy Burntwick Island in the Medway.


Isaac Gulliver
"Loveable villain" of Bomo who claimed never to have killed a man in the course of his long career.

Tom Johnstone
Charismatic and cunning folk hero from Lymington who turned down Napoleon's request to lead a French invasion force to England.

Cruel Copinger
Notorious Cornwall smuggler who, like Michael Howard, had something of the night about him.

William Owen
Welsh smuggler most famous for the autobiography he wrote.

The King of Prussia
The Carters of Cornwall's Prussia Cove. Harry Carter wrote an autobiography: you can read the full text by clicking here.

Jack Rattenbury
Nicknamed the "Rob Roy of the West", Rattenbury took to smuggling after finding fishing too dull a career for his tastes. Jack's memoirs are available by clicking here.

Roger Ridout
North Dorset smuggler who earned legendary status for his tricks.

Captain Yawkins
Larger-than-life figure who became the model for Scott's character Dirk Hatteraick in Guy Mannering.

Barbarous Usage
This story of sadistic and brutal violence should be required reading for anybody tempted to romanticize smuggling.