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Photograph of Poole harbour
Shallow-draught "dragger" boats brought smuggled goods ashore in the creeks and inlets of Poole Harbour. Click picture to enlarge

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Guide-Book: Southern England


Contraband run all along this stretch of coast quickly found its way up to the New Forest. [68] The wilds of the forest provided a haven for smugglers and in 1748...

'We hear from the New Forest in Hampshire that Smugglers have got to such a height in that part of the country that scarce a week passes but great quantities of goods are run between Lymington and Christchurch[69]'

During the same period

'...every labourer was either a poacher or a smuggler, very often a combination of the two' [70]

The forest glades were also used for boat-building, and some spots far from the sea are still known locally as 'the Boatyard' — presumably to the puzzlement of visitors.

Watercolour painting of Burley Moor by Ernest W Haslehust
Burley Moor. Watercolour by Ernest W Haslehust. Click picture to see a bigger image


Burley lies 4m SE of Ringwood at SU2103 red map button (map 195). The Warne family mentioned below is commemorated in Warnes Lane at Burley, and in the Warnes Bar at the local Queen's Head Inn — secret cellars were discovered at the pub during building work. The most remarkable sight, though, is the Smugglers' Road, which can be reached from the car park of the same name at SU188040 red map button Here, sunken roads criss-cross the heath land — reputedly constructed so that smugglers could move contraband unobserved. Crow-Hill Top and Knaves Ash are close-by at SU182038 red map button Vereley Hill where Lovey Warne wore her red cloak as a warning signal is at SU1904 red map button Ridley Wood, at SU2006 red map button was a smugglers' market-place.

Places all over the New Forest are traditionally strongly connected with the free-trade, but none moreso than the Burley area. This was the home of the Warne family, John, Peter, and the strangely-named Lovey, their sister. They lived at Crow-Hill Top, in a house called Knaves Ash, just outside Burley. The most picturesque yarns are associated with Lovey Warne: legend has it that when the revenue men were abroad in the forest, she would parade across Vereley Hill wearing a red cloak, as a warning to smugglers on the coast to avoid the area. At night smugglers living at a cottage on the hill would hoist a lantern up a nearby oak tree to give the warning signal.

Lovey Warne's role in smuggling didn't stop at signalling. According to legend, she would visit ships in Christchurch harbour, undress in the privacy of the captain's cabin, and wind herself with valuable silks before getting back into her clothes — somewhat fatter. Evidently the sudden gain in weight passed unnoticed, since Lovey would walk straight past the revenue men without arousing suspicion, and return home to be unwound and relieved of her burden. This clever ruse apparently had to stop when one of the revenue men invited Lovey for a glass at the Eight Bells in Christchurch. Emboldened by drink, he became amorous and started to explore Lovey's fine thighs with his hand. A swift jab in the eye deterred his amorous advances, but Lovey was retired to the smuggling equivalent of a desk job on Vereley Hill.

Engraving of the New Forest
Formerly more densely wooded than today, the New Forest protected both the smugglers and their contraband. Click picture to enlarge


SU1414 6m N of Ringwood red map button (map 195)

This town, which was once called Forde, was a notorious smuggling centre, and a local saying runs 'Keystone under the hearth, Keystone under the horse's belly' since these were two favourite places for hiding contraband — under the stable floor, and under the hearth, with a fire burning innocently on top. When opposition at Fordingbridge got really intense, smugglers would sink tubs in the river Avon. [71] A favoured route for contraband from the town ran via Redbrook, Stuckton and Frogham, and it's significant that when the Hawkhurst gang rescued a cargo of contraband from Poole custom house, their convoy came through Fordingbridge, where the population turned out to watch and cheer.

Cranborne and Cranborne Chase

SU0513 8m NW of Ringwood red map button (map 195). The exciseman's house is on the corner of the street opposite the present post office.

Like the New Forest, and bordering on it, Cranborne Chase had also become a notorious haunt of smugglers, cutpurses and other brigands, and the situation there became such a threat to law and order that it was cut down in 1830 [72]. Of Cranborne itself, a tale is told of how one of the local men, known as Dan, was cutting turf when his brother in law rode up to tell him that the Exciseman had searched Dan's house and found eleven tubs hidden in the cellar. Dan then returned to Cranborne, and took up his habitual (and inconspicuous) seat in the bar of the Flower De Luce. Eventually the Exciseman appeared, bragging that he had seized the tubs, and stored them at his house. At this, Dan slipped unnoticed from the bar, and tore off to rally support. A gang of smugglers returned at midnight, and Dan went into the town and chalked a mark of the exciseman's door (presumably so that he would not have to attend in person)...

Being made sure of their prize the ruffians soon followed, and one of them beat in the door with the sledge hammer, whilst another stood in the street with a loaded horse pistol, threatening to blow out the Exciseman's brains, or of any other person who offered to resist them. Having secured the 'goods' they soon loaded their carts and horses, and with one outrider in front, armed, and another in the rear they galloped away with them; nor had the incident any unpleasant sequel so far as I ever heard, and it only afforded a subject of gossip in the Public-houses of Cranborne.[73]

A search of the parish registers suggests that the Dan mentioned in this quote was probably Daniel Sims, who died in 1826 from injuries caused by a fall from his horse.

The Wiltshire Moonrakers

SU 0364 Bishops Cannings is 3m NE of Devizes red map button (map 173)

For obvious reasons, smuggling stories are most abundant on the coast, but in a few instances the yarns penetrate very much further inland. The story of the Wiltshire moonrakers is a case in point. According to legend, smugglers who lived in the village feigned stupidity to conceal their activities, and put it about that they spread manure around the church tower to make it grow taller. They also told strangers that every inhabitant of the village had once walked to Devizes to watch an eclipse of the moon. But the most celebrated story tells how several villagers were caught one night in the act of raking the village pond to haul out tubs that had been sunken in the brackish water. The excismen who demanded to know what was going on were told by the smugglers, who pointed at the moon's reflection in the water, that they were raking the pond to recover the 'big yellow cheese' that was floating in it.

Christchurch and Mudeford

The battle of Mudeford took place on what is now a car-park at Mudeford Quay (SZ1891) red map button Nearby is Haven Point and Haven House, where the body of George Coombes, who was convicted of murder after the battle, hung in chains on a gibbet. The Haven House is alongside the Run at the harbour entrance. Mother Siller's Channel lies between Grimsbury Marsh and Pound Hill, and is crossed by a bridge at SZ168918 red map button Also see Smugglers' Ditch on the west side of the harbour at SZ165919 red map button The 8 Bells is now a gift shop, but you can still drink in the Ship in Distress at Stanpit (map 195).

When the vicar of Christchurch told his Parish Clerk in 1776 what a grievous sin it was to smuggle, the clerk replied 'then Lord have mercy on the town of Christchurch, for who is there here who has not had a tub?' [74]

This assessment seems to be born out by the wealth of evidence linking Christchurch to the free-trade. Numerous writings refer to the smugglers; there is a flourishing anecdotal tradition on the subject locally, and the official records tell a similar story. In the town itself there are still surviving many buildings that harboured smugglers or contraband — and usually both.

Christchurch had a number of natural advantages for smugglers. The only land approaches to the town were across two bridges, and one of these was frequently out of use. The other could easily be blocked — perhaps by a herd of sheep — when there was a sign of danger, giving the smugglers time for a leisurely escape.

Another plus was the conjunction of the Rivers Stour and Avon, which flow into Christchurch harbour: these were major arteries for contraband, at a time when transport by water was very much faster and cheaper than overland movement of goods.

The harbour's advantages

Finally, there was the harbour itself. At the seaward end the sole entrance to the harbour is a narrow channel, the Run, which was negotiable only with extreme care. Sailing into the harbour was made doubly difficult by sandbanks that could shift overnight. To the smugglers, most of whom were superb seamen (and who could in any case afford to lose a vessel or two) the harbour entrance was an open gate. But to the less skilled sailors on the revenue cutters, the Run acted as a barrier that they feared to pass.

On land, the Run was was carefully guarded as a matter of priority, but plenty of contraband sneaked through the gap into the harbour, using a variety of ruses. Brute force was one of these, but subterfuge was possibly more important. At high tide the currents flow through the Run at alarming speed, and a raft of sunken tubs could be swept into the harbour right under the noses of the unsuspecting preventive men. The weighted tubs were released just off-shore, and often guided into the run by a strong swimmer. Abe Coates (or Coakes) was possibly the last of the Mudeford smugglers to make a dishonest living as a human tug-boat: he would ferry the tubs into Mother Sillers' Channel, or even to Bergman's Mill on Christchurch quay, a distance of six miles. [75]

Mother Siller's Channel is today barely a creek cutting through the Stanpit marshes, though two centuries of silting have probably greatly reduced its width. The channel led to a pub called The Ship in Distress, and it was the landlady of the pub, Hannah Seller, who gave her name to the creek. Hannah had been married to the landlord of the Haven House at Mudeford, and on his death, she took over the inn, later moving to the Ship. It appears that Mrs Seller was deeply involved in the free-trade: she allowed both pubs to be used for storage, and would turn out her customers to assist smuggling vessels in trouble.

The Battle of Mudeford

When Hannah Seller was landlady of the Haven House her pub played a central role in a drama that rocked Christchurch in 1784, and that became known as the Battle of Mudeford. The story starts —with a run. Two smuggling luggers had shipped across from the Channel Islands a huge cargo tea and brandy, and on July 15th a crowd of some 300 people was busy unloading the luggers at Mudeford beach, just east of the Run. The goods were being loaded into about 50 carts, drawn by 300 horses, but things did not go according to plan. A navy sloop, HMS Orestes , rounded Hengistbury Head, with two escorting revenue cruisers.

When the 'philistines' appeared on the scene, there was pandemonium. John Streeter, a Christchurch man who had crewed on one of the two luggers, rode to the Haven House , and herded the customers out of the pub and down to the beach. The luggers had by this time been beached on the shingle, and the patrons of the Haven House helped to strip the luggers of all their lines and rigging. Meanwhile, the cart loads of contraband were moving away from the shore.

At sea, activity was just as frenetic. Seeing what was happening ashore, the captain of the Orestes resolved he would seize the cargo if possible, or failing that, destroy the luggers. The sloop-of-war and the escorts lowered six rowing boats filled with intrepid sailors armed to the teeth, and the boats closed in rapidly on the beach. As they neared the shore, Mr William Allen, the master of the Orestes shouted to the smugglers remaining on the decks of the ships to surrender. The reply was a deafening fusillade, and Allen fell back in the boat, mortally wounded. Still some 200 yards from the shore, the naval and revenue men returned fire. A running battle ensued, but it was hardly a fair fight: the smugglers were firing from trenches that they had dug along the beach, whereas the preventive forces had to take aim from rocking open boats, with no cover.

A long siege

When the boats landed, the smugglers retreated to the Haven House , and continued firing from there. The fighting continued for some three hours (some accounts say for 15 hours) during which the guns of the Orestes were trained on the Haven House. Somewhat inaccurately, it would seem: stray canon balls actually struck the Christchurch Priory two miles away [76]. Eventually the revenue and navy men captured the two luggers and a number of small boats that the smugglers had scuttled in shallow water.

The price of the seizure was high: while the preventive forces were pinned down on the beach, they suffered many casualties — quite apart from the death of one of their number. By contrast, the smugglers had secured their cargo, estimated (probably generously) at 120,000 gallons of spirits and 25 tons of tea, and had for the most part melted away into the surrounding countryside. It's not known whether any of them were injured.

Trial and punishment

Three men were eventually arrested on a murder charge, but two were released for a technicality. Eventually the might of the British legal system descended on the shoulders of one George Coombes, who was hanged at Execution Dock, and his body hung in chains at Haven House point until sympathizers cut it down and gave him a decent burial. [77]

John Streeter escaped punishment, and continued to operate as a smuggler, using as a cover a tobacco processing plant adjacent to the Ship in Distress. The authorities hounded him, though, and 1787, William Arnold, the collector of customs at Cowes commented that Streeter was...

Supposed to be now in the Island of Guernsey or Alderney, but occasionally [returns] to the neighbourhood of Christchurch, where Streeter narrowly escaped from being retaken by disguising himself in woman's clothes. [78]

The Mudeford battle focused public attention on the Christchurch smugglers, but the incident was exceptional only because of the violent resistance the smugglers put up. There's little evidence to suggest that the cargo was anything out of the ordinary. One writer described how on another occasion he saw...

'a procession of twenty or thirty wagons, loaded with kegs of spirits, an armed man sitting at the front and tail of each, and surrounded by a troop of two or three hundred horsemen, every one carrying on his enormous saddle from two to four tubs of spirits, winding ... along the skirts of Hengistbury Head, on their way towards the wild country to the north-west of Christchurch...' [79]

Hengistbury Head was a favourite landing point, and compared to Mudeford beach the Double Dykes there provided much more cover for the land party awaiting the arrival of a smuggling lugger [80].

Smugglers' surgeon

Those residents of Christchurch who were not directly involved in the free-trade provided help and support when called on; local people with special skills learned that if they helped out and kept their lips buttoned, they'd be rewarded in due course. A local surgeon, Dr Quartley, cited this example from his own experience: soon after setting up in the town he was woken by a loud rapping on the door in the middle of the night. On opening, he was greeted by a pair of horsemen, who told him his skills were needed urgently, and that he should saddle a horse and follow them.

The surgeon wasn't really given any choice, so he did as he was told, and followed the horsemen (who were soon joined by others) out of the town, and to Bransgore. There he was shown into a small cottage where lay a smuggler, severely wounded. The doctor quickly removed a musket ball from the man's shoulder, and told companions of the injured man that he should not be moved, but should get some rest. At this news, one of the uninjured smugglers turned to their groaning colleague and asked 'Well, Tom! Whilst thee stay here and be hanged, or shall we tip thee into a cart?' The lad preferred to die of his wound than at the end of the rope, and was duly carted off into the forest (where he later recovered) as the learned doctor was escorted back to Christchurch. Dr Quartley's reward was a keg of brandy left anonymously on the doorstep, chalked with the legend 'Left there for the doctor's fee.' [81] 

Dr Quartley's doorstep can still be seen on Castle Street at the end of one of Christchurch's bridges, and many other Christchurch landmarks have connections with the free-trade: both the Old George Inn and the 8 Bells in Church Street were haunts of smugglers, and had tunnels leading to the priory. Associated with the 8 Bells is yet another version of the common story about tubs of spirits hidden under the voluminous petticoats of the lady of the house. According to Christchurch legends, Kate Preston sat on a brandy tub bathing the baby while revenue officers fruitlessly searched the inn. [82]

Cottages in Whitehall and Silver Street were also used as refuges, and for the storage of contraband. Strangely, the Priory itself seems to have been overlooked by the smugglers — unlike their contemporaries elsewhere in England.


Hurn Court is at SZ122958 1m S of Bournemouth airport red map button (map 195).

The coast west of Christchurch is now dominated by the town of Bournemouth, but this is a relatively recent development, and just a century and a half ago the area around the mouth of the river Bourne was wild and desolate. The open country inland was known as Bourne Heath. Smuggling was rife: the first Earl of Malmesbury remarked that...

All classes contributed to its support, the farmers lent their teams and labourers, and the gentry openly connived at the practise and dealt with the smugglers. The cargoes, chiefly of brandy, were usually concealed in furze bushes that extended from Ringwood to Poole, and in the New Forest for thirty miles.

The creation of the town of Bournemouth is generally credited to Lewis Tregonwell: in 1810 he built a holiday home (now part of the Royal Exeter Hotel) in the Bourne Valley. However, there is speculation that the highly respectable Tregonwell was himself a smuggler [83]. This theory is a little far-fetched, but was fuelled by the discovery in 1930 of a hidden chamber on the site of Portman Lodge — a thatched house that Tregonwell had enlarged for the use of his servant. The Times reported:

'The underground about 10ft long, 7ft wide and 6ft high and the only entrance to it is a trap door. It is a kind of arched chamber and was found about three feet below the level of the ground'

The concealed chamber would have made an admirable hiding place for Tregonwell's flunkeys to conceal smuggled goods, and the holiday home provided the ideal excuse for their master to visit the coast and supervise operations.

Respectable free-traders

There is also evidence that other worthies of the area were involved with the trade, or at least turned a blind eye. One amusing story tells how a commissioner of customs, Edward Hooper, was entertaining Lord Shaftesbury, the Chairman of the Customs and Excise, at Hooper's home, Heron Court (now Hurn Court). The house lay directly alongside one of the major routes used by smugglers to bring contraband spirits inland, but Hooper was clearly reluctant to lose the goodwill of his neighbours by interfering with the trade. So the host sat with his back to the window during dinner, and did not turn round when six or seven wagons noisily rolled past, loaded with tubs. Shaftesbury sprang from his seat to look at the spectacle, staggered by his host's complacency. When the meal was interrupted again, by a party of dragoons in hot pursuit of the smugglers, the old squire could truthfully assert that he had seen nothing. His guest followed his example. [84]

Prior to the development of Bournemouth, one of the few buildings in the area was a house close to Coy Pond. The site of this lies between the War Memorial and the Square, and the name is a contraction of decoy: the pond had a wildfowl trap on it, and decoys led the birds inside. The house, called Bourne House, had an evil reputation, and was almost certainly owned or rented by smugglers, though some assert that it was simply a shelter associated with the trap [85]. From here, they organized trips abroad, kept an eye on the landings — and plotted revenge on their enemies. In 1762 the Bournemouth smugglers suspected one Joseph Manuel of Iford, near Christchurch, of informing against them, and they decided to teach him a lesson. The lad was kidnapped and taken to Bourne House, then severely beaten and transported on a lugger to the Channel Islands. He managed to escape with his life, and returned to England — a £50 reward brought information about the crime, and four years later one of the smugglers responsible was captured in Swanage. [86]

Bournemouth smugglers' methods

The technique used by smugglers landing goods in the Bournemouth area was simple — and one that worked with equal success in other parts of Britain. A lugger would hover off-shore, and a signal from the coast would indicate whether or not it was safe to land. In the event that the preventive forces were patrolling, the lugger could move far more quickly by sea that the customs or excise men could ride. A riding officer's journal explains how this was done:

October 4th 1803
...set out with Mr Bacon to the West Coast on discoveries... In the Heath at Bourn we saw a fire lighted up, and immediately went to the spot, by the time we got there the fire was out, the smugglers flashing and striking up light with flint and steel all night in different parts of the heath and on the cliffs.

October 5th
Early in the morning Mr Williams, mate of the Batt cutter, called to inform me that smugglers were working to the east, so I set out with Mr Bacon and party and examined the cross roads through the forest leading from Highcliffe and Barton

October 6th
Mr Williams...informed me that there had been a run of goods, about three or four hundred casks... Traced the smugglers into the country and at Hinton searched several suspected places. No success.

E. Russell Oakley, in his book The Smugglers of Christchurch, explains that the lugger had probably being hovering of Hengistbury Head while the unhappy riding officer was patrolling near East Cliff. On seeing the flashes, fires and sparks, the ship would have landed the cargo between Highcliffe and Barton. To make an interception, the customs officers would have had to ride across the heath, following winding country lanes and crossing narrow bridges to Christchurch, via Iford, then to Somerford and on to the coast. The lighting of fires on the heath was probably a diversion to attract the officers to Boskum (Boscombe).

Map of the Bournemouth area


Many places associated with Gulliver's story are still worth a visit: one of his farms is on the B3072 just north of West Moors at SU0703 red map button At Kinson the tower of the church of St Andrew (SZ064964) red map button was used for storing contraband, and grooves cut by smuggler's ropes could at one time be seen. Ledges on the tower have also been damaged by the hauling of kegs. [87] The table tomb at the foot of the tower was supposedly purpose-made for the storage of contraband. On the N side of the church is the grave of Robert Trotman, the head of a gang of smugglers shot by the customs men in 1765. Woodlands, the Dower House, Ensbury vicarage and Kinson House are also said to have had smuggling connections. At Wimborne Minster (SU0001) red map button Gulliver's House is in West Borough, and his tomb stone can be seen in the Minster, on the north wall of the baptistry (map 195 -- thanks to Christine Oliver, the head guide, for this info).

Bournemouth's most famous smuggler was Isaac Gulliver, who achieved almost legendary status. Though his reputation as a lovable villain is dubious, in one respect at least, Gulliver is different from other partners in the free-trade: he claimed never to have killed a man in the course of a long career.

Unlike some smuggling heroes, such as Sam Hookey, who was created in the 1950s to advertise a holiday camp, it is clear that Gulliver really did exist, and carried out some extraordinary exploits. While on the one hand there is ample documentary evidence surrounding his life, on the other it's certain that many of the tales about Gulliver have been embroidered to a greater or lesser extent. So in the account that follows, I've tried to differentiate between the facts and the legends.

Photograph of Robert Trotman's grave
Robert Trotman's Grave in the Kinson churchyard. Click picture to enlarge

Though Gulliver spent much of his life in Dorset and Hampshire, he wasn't born in either of these counties. His family were from Wiltshire, and Isaac was born in Semington, near Melksham, on September 5th 1745.

Smuggler’s childhood

We know little about his youth, though one Isaac Gulliver does occur in the custom house records 1757: in March, four customs officers found a cargo of spirits and tea at the foot of Canford Cliffs Chine in Bournemouth (it was then called Bitman's Chine). The contraband was guarded by a handful of smugglers, and three of the revenue men seized the goods while their colleague went for a cart to transport the cargo. Before he returned, the smugglers were reinforced, rescued the cargo and beat off the customs officers. An informant later alleged that 'Isaac Gulliver, very often at ... the New Inn within the Parish of Downton' was one of those responsible.

Our Isaac Gulliver was then only 12, so it seems likely that the man accused (he was never convicted) was the boy's father.

As he grew older, young Gulliver developed attributes that were to stand him in good stead in his smuggling enterprises: he was described as strong in physique and with great determination of character. In adulthood, he was credited with a genius at speculation, and certainly, he grew to be a very wealthy man.

Of his early smuggling enterprises we know little but it seems likely that he was already established by the time he married Elizabeth Beale in 1768. The union doesn't seem to have been entirely domestic, for his wife's father, William, was later suspected, along with Isaac, of...

'running great quantities of goods on [the] shore between Poole and Christchurch.'

This stretch of coast, in fact, was Gulliver's favourite landing place: he used Branksome Chine, Canford Cliffs, and Bourne Heath.

A cover for smuggling

While he developed his smuggling skills, Gulliver had to have an alibi. His ostensible profession was as an inn-keeper, and the year he married he took over the tenancy of the Blacksmith's Arms, the pub run by his father-in-law at Thorney Down, in the parish of Handley, on the Salisbury to Blandford road.

Gulliver changed the name of the pub to the (possibly ironic) King's Arms, and remained the tenant for ten years. Over this period, he seems to have prospered to an extent that could hardly be explained by the turnover of the small pub, and the farming of the little land around it. In 1777, he had enough money to lend £300 as a mortgage to a farmer near Shaftesbury.

And though there is no direct evidence to connect Gulliver with particular incidents in the area, smugglers were certainly active around Thorney Down: the excisemen seized 3/4 of a ton of tea and 9 casks of spirits there in 1778, and stored the haul in the house of the supervisor of excise at Thorney Down. Their glee at the seizure must have been short-lived, for ...

About seven o'clock the same evening a large body of smugglers came with pistols etc, on horseback, forced their way into the house, and carried the whole off in great triumph, shouting along the street, and firing their pistols into the air. While they were loading, they gave two casks of liquor to the mob to amuse them.

Watercolour painting of Branksome Chine by Ernest W Haslehust
One of Gulliver's favourite landing places: Branksome Chine, Bournemouth. Watercolour by Ernest W Haslehust. Click picture to see a bigger image

Gulliver’s travels

From Thorney Down, Gulliver moved to Longham, close to Kinson, and bought the White Hart Inn. Bournemouth now occupies the shore-line to the south of Kinson, but when Gulliver lived there in the late 1770s, the area was desolate. He landed goods all along the coast, but favoured Branksome Chine in particular, moving goods inland along a track that passed through Pug's Hole in Talbot Woods.

Exactly when Gulliver began to organize his 'gang' on methodical lines is not entirely clear, but according to one 19th century description Gulliver...

kept forty or fifty men constantly employed who wore a kind of livery, powdered hair, and smock frocks, from which they attained the name 'White Wigs'. These men kept together, and would not allow a few officers to take what they were carrying [88]

Gulliver may have used Kinson church for the storage of contraband — certainly the tower was used by other smugglers for that purpose.

When Gulliver sold the White Hart to move into Kinson itself, he significantly also auctioned off 'Twenty Good Hack Horses' — hardly a necessity for a publican. With the proceeds, he set up a regular alcohol emporium — a wine merchants, a malt-house and wine-cellars. From this base he traded quite legally for three years.

In 1782 the government offered a pardon to smugglers who would join the navy, or who could find substitutes to perform military service on their behalf. For a man of Gulliver's means, buying a substitute was no problem (the going rate was £15), and he thus wiped the slate clean as far as his smuggling record was concerned.

Businesses legal and illicit

At this point Gulliver expanded his business interests, setting up another wine and spirits business in Teignmouth, and, it appears, simultaneously expanding his smuggling operations. He bought Eggardon Hill near Dorchester as a sea-marker for his ships, and planted trees on the summit to make the spot more prominent.

However, he maintained his links with Kinson, and continued to land goods on the coast south of Bourne Heath. Apparently he moved from the spirits business into wine, which was considered a far less reprehensible form of contraband. The Poole customs house reported in 1788 that ...

but a few years ago the said Gulliver was considered one of the greatest and notorious smugglers in the West of England and particularly in the spirits and tea trades but in the year 1782... [he] dropped that branch of smuggling and after that year confined himself chiefly to the wine trade, having vaults situated in remote places and we are well informed that he constantly offers old wines considerable (sic) under the fair dealer's price from which circumstances there is no doubt that he illicitly imported that article.

The report went on to add that Gulliver had retired from smuggling, but there is a possibility that the author was in collusion with the subject of his letter: the Poole official who dealt with this sort of correspondence was soon after sacked for passing information to smugglers.

The reference to vaults in the report has fuelled speculation that Gulliver built a network of tunnels. One was supposed to run from Kinson to Poole, though this stretches the credulity to the limits.

In 'retirement', Gulliver seems to have constantly bought and sold property, frequently moving round the Kinson district. He had a farm at West Moors that can still be seen, owned land at Handley, and at one time lived in Long Crichel, close to Thorney Down. Towards the end of his life he moved to Wimborne.

Isaac's last run

According to an 1867 magazine report, Isaac Gulliver ran his last cargo of contraband at the turn of the century:

His crowning achievement took place on the beach where the pier is now situated, when three large luggers, manned by determined crews and deeply laden with silks, tobacco and other valuables successively ran their respective cargoes; and it is in the recollection of an old inhabitant of the place, that the cortege conveying the smuggled goods inland extended two miles in length, at the head of which rode the old chief mounted on a spirited charger...Thus ended Old Gulliver's smuggling career; he 'coiled up his ropes' and anchored on shore in the enjoyment of a large fortune.

Though the legends that have sprung up around Gulliver have doubtless been exaggerated, they are too persistent to ignore: one tells how, when his house at Kinson was searched, he dusted his face with chalk and lay in a coffin feigning death. Another story tells that the pardon he received was in gratitude for saving the King's (George III) life, by revealing an assassination plot; yet another that Gulliver was pardoned for passing on to Nelson intelligence regarding the French fleet.

Gulliver lived until 1822, and was interred in Wimborne Minster. [89]

Poole area

Poole lies 5m W of Bournemouth at SZ0090red map button The custom house on the quayside is a replica of the custom house broken open by the Hawkhurst gang and their confederates in 1747 (map 195).

The town of Poole had an evil reputation in the 18th century: children from the surrounding area would chant

If Poole was a fish-pool, and the men of Poole fish
There'd be a pool for the devil, and fish for his dish.

If the incident that took place in Poole in 1747 was anything to go by, the smugglers of the town amply deserved this reputation: in that year a substantial gang broke open the custom house on the town quay, and recovered a considerable cargo of tea that had been impounded there. They later went on to torture and murder an informer and an innocent customs man in the most horrible manner. However, to be fair to the home-grown smugglers, these grisly acts were perpetrated by men from Kent: the Hawkhurst gang.

Poole's enormous harbour would seem to present the local smugglers with a considerable advantage, but it's hard to tell to what extent they made use of the many miles of creeks, saltings and inlets. Certainly in the 17th century, the most cost-effective way of smuggling goods into the town was by bribing the corrupt officials on the town quay.

A less brazen way to go about the process was to unload the contraband into 'dragger' boats: boats with a shallow draught designed for use on the oyster beds. The draggers then took the contraband to stores on Brownsea Island, and from there to Poole and the hinterland. This approach was made impractical by the stationing of a crew of preventives on Brownsea.

Convenient drains

Poole smugglers made good use of the town drains, dragging contraband from the quay directly into the cellars of the town pubs. When there was a good flow of water through the pipes, after a rain-storm, the task was made considerably easier, because the smugglers could stand high up in the town, and let the water wash a rope down the channel to their colleagues at the quay. Contraband was then tied on, and the rope hauled up against the flow of water. [90] It's said that when the customs men got wise to this trick, they waited at the harbour end for the rope, tied on a tub chalked with the legend 'The end is nigh', then gave a tug to signal that the load was ready. The tub was hauled into a cellar of one of the town pubs, and the smugglers read the appropriate message, at the very instant their adversaries burst in upstairs.

In the late 17th century an investigation into the operation of the Poole customs house revealed many abuses, but it also pinpointed the key operators in the area. The most prominent smuggler was John Carter. His usual technique was to arrange for his ships to hover a little way off-shore, where they could be unloaded by the dragger boats. Once on land, Carter had countless stores and hiding places, and as a legitimate merchant, he also ran a variety of covers for his illegal operations: he had a windmill, a malthouse and a brewery, a shop, various stables, cellars, barley lofts, woodyards — all were used for hiding contraband. When Carter's men travelled through Poole, they wore masks and tall women's hats, such an effective disguise that they were unrecognizable. The substantial clubs they carried also induced rapid memory loss in those on the receiving end.

When the preventive forces began to be more effective, guarding the harbour entrance was a simple enough task, and the preferred method of import was to land the cargoes on Purbeck, then carry them to the shores of the harbour for a sheltered crossing to the town itself in small boats. This subtle approach wasn't always necessary, though: when the odds were stacked in the smugglers' favour, they got their cargoes to Poole quite openly: in the 1780s cargoes were being landed daily in broad daylight ...'for such is their numbers and insolence that the officers of the revenue dare not attempt to approach them'

[68] Oakley, E R, 1942

[69] Westminster Journal, Jan 23 1748 quoted by Dowling, RFW, 1978

[70] Hampshire Notes and Queries v9

[71] Hampshire The Magazine,v8

[72] Treves, Sir Frederick, 1906

[73] Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries VIII

[74] Hampshire The Magazine

[75] Oakley

[76] Miniature War Games June 1987

[77] White, Allen, 1973

[78] Foster, D Arnold

[79] Warner, Rev Richard, Literary Reflections, quoted by Short.

[80] K Merle Chacksfield, 1978

[81] Memoirs of an Ex-minister, by the 3rd earl of Malmesbury. Quoted from Short, Bernard C, 1969

[82] Chacksfield

[83] Legg, Rodney advances this theory in an introduction to Short, Bernard C, 1969

[84] Malmesbury. The incident took place around 1780

[85] Young, David, 1957

[86] Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 1726, quoted by Short, BC

[87] Hampshire, The Magazine, v12 n1

[88] Roberts, George, 1823

[89] Soc of Dorset Men in London 1959-60

[90] Short, 1969