The Hawkhurst gang Season 1 Episode 4 The Raid on Poole

 

The Hawkhurst Gang Season 1 Episode 4

The Raid on Poole.


"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!"



On the 22nd of September 1747. The Three Brothers cut through the English Channel swell, the morning mist had lifted. Portland stuck out over the portside and Wight on the starboard. She made sail for Lymington, Christchurch Bay, Dorset. She was carrying Tea,Brandy,Rum and some interesting passengers, Richard Perin and John Diamond of the Hawkhurst gang. The crew of the Three Brothers sighted through their spyglasses, the fast approaching privateer the Swift closing in at speed after giving chase at 5pm.According to the Old Bailey trial documents concerning the Poole raid, the Swift opened fire on the Three Brothers which ended the chase at around 11pm. Captain Johnson then boarded and made this discovery 'she was loaded with tea, brandy, and rum. The tea was in canvas and oil-skin, over that the usual package for tea intended to be run; there was a delivery of it, forty-one hundred three quarters gross weight, in eighty-two parcels; there were thirty-nine casks of rum and brandy, eight and four gallons casks, slung with ropes, in order to load upon horses, as smuggled brandy commonly is; there were seven persons in the Cutter, I cannot say any of the prisoners at the bar were there.'  It should be noted  some records, especially books will have the reader believe the smugglers escaped by boat. I personally find this highly unlikely.The old Bailey trial papers from the 5th of April 1749 support the following point. The smugglers had at that point not landed any goods on the mainland and arguably this could not be deemed as not smuggling, but in the true sense of the law Captain Johnson of the Swift may have escorted the Three Brothers into Poole harbour. The goods (believed to be Tea, Brandy and Rum) were then lodged at the Customs House which is situated on the quayside and the Revenue would have instructed Perin and Diamond (who may have given the impression as Merchants) that once the due taxes were paid, the goods would then be released. The identity may not have been known to the Poole Revenue officer (William Milner), this is going some way to explain why the Hawkhursts were so far west from Kent, having lost control of the roads at Goudhurst and Cranbrook. They would have also been allowed to go on their way because at that point no offence had been committed. 


 "I went myself on board, and found she was loaded with tea, brandy, and rum. The tea was in canvas and oil-skin, over that the usual package for tea intended to be run; there was a delivery of it, forty-one hundred three quarters gross weight, in eighty-two parcels; there were thirty-nine casks of rum and brandy, eight and four gallons casks, slung with ropes, in order to load upon horses, as smuggled brandy commonly is..." - Captain Johnson, Privateer, the Swift, 5th of April 1749.



It was on the return back from Poole that the plan to recover their goods was hatched, in what was to be their most daring raid.



     


   





Kingsmill and Fairall, assembled his gang of sixty men at Rowlands Castle, Hampshire following a meeting at Charlton Forest, Chichester, West Sussex where the decision was made to raid the Custom House at Poole. They rode to Constitution hill outside of Poole. From there they could view the Quayside. Kingsmill learning from his defeat at Goudhurst sent a reconnaissance ahead and discovered a Royal Navy Sloop with its guns pointing at the Customs House. However they observed the tide lowered the level of the sloop. Once the tide was out the Sloop would be below the level of the quay and its guns would be blocked from being trained towards the customs house. 

Port of Poole Customs House built in 1747.




Kingsmill with the valuable gift of the element of surprise (learning from Goudhurst) went back to his camp at Constitution Hill. Kingsmill split the gang with thirty picketing the roads into Poole and He then led thirty into Poole itself at midnight on the 7th of October. They entered Poole unchallenged and with iron bars broke the door open of the Customs house. They took three prisoners so the alarm could not be raised, no harm came to them.

The Hawkhurst gang break into Poole Custom House.


The tea was then loaded and taken away by the gang. They left five pounds of tea, the brandy and Rum as they had insufficient transport. Once loading was complete, the convoy made for Brook in the New Forest where they weighed out the tea amongst themselves.

The convoy then broke up with Thomas Kingsmill and John Diamond (Dymer) riding through Fordingbridge, Hampshire.  A crowd gathered in the town to cheer the gang on and give a hero's welcome.It was at this point that a pivotal event took place. Daniel Chater resident shoe maker recognised John Diamond. Diamond saw Chater in the crowd and tossed him a bag of tea. They knew each other from working the land together at harvest time.  

The Poole Custom house raid may have ended with no violence. However, what We have to consider is the Crown or local authorities were left in total humiliation. A customs house is supposed to be a beacon of authority and reminder to the people of the will of the state. Yet, these smugglers not only avoided paying tax, but totally embarrassed the Crown by re-taking their investment. You can only imagine the gravity of the situation behind closed doors in the corridors of power. This would never do and what next, the Hawkhurst gang rides into Parliament and claims to be the legitimate Government of the day ? The Crown made their move, a simple one ! They issued a reward of information leading to arrest and conviction of anyone related to the theft at the Poole Custom House. 

Tragically Daniel Chater is now arguably the catalyst for the Hawkhurst gang's downfall, as Chater did not heed the warning 'Watch the wall my darling as the Gentlemen go by.' (The Smugglers song, Kipling) as the convoy rode through Fordingbridge.

 

Bibliography, Credit & Thanks.


The Goudhurst & Kilndown History local history society. for providing me with a churchyard map.

Smuggling in Kent and Sussex 1700-1840, Mary Waugh

Tales from the Gibbet Post Part 1, Daniel Codd

Thank you to Hytham J Chlouk for the following titles -

Smuggling & Smugglers in Sussex,  WJ Smith, 1748-49.

A Full and Genuine History of Inhuman and Unparalleled Murders, William Mason, 1748-49.   

Notes from Ani Bee, thank you.

Poole Museum, Dorset.

The Customs House, Poole, Dorset.

Comments

Our most popular posts this month !

The story of the Wreck of the VOC Ship The Amsterdam, Bulverhythe, Hastings, East Sussex.

The Hawkhurst Gang Season 1 Episode 2

The Hawkhurst Gang Season 1 Episode 1.

Jack Upperton Highwayman and Pensioner.

Sir Martin Frobisher by Taliesin Trow.