The Hawkhurst Gang Season 1 Episode 5 The Trio of Murders !

The Hawkhurst Gang Season 1 Episode 5 

The trio of Murders !

Following the Crown's humiliation of the raid on the Poole customs house, the authorities issued a reward of five hundred pounds (Approx ninety thousand pounds in today's money according to the Bank of England inflation calculator) for information leading to the conviction of those involved.

 Daniel Chater saw his chance following his casual and unexpected meet with Diamond at Fordingbridge.

Upon splitting up after the Poole raid some of the gang namely John 'Smoker' Mills and Jeremiah 'Butler' Curtis chose a different route via Slindon Common and stashed tea at a barn. On 13th of January 1748 they returned for their stash of tea and found the innocent Richard Hawkins working out of the barn thrashing corn. Mills and Curtis accused Hawkins of stealing their tea. Hawkins denied it. The Hawkhurst pair produced their pistols and forced Richard Hawkins to go with them to the Dog and Partridge pub at Slindon Common. At the pub two more of the Hawkhurst gang waited in a back room. They were Thomas Winter of Poling near Arundel and Rob 'Little Fat Back' of East Grinstead, servant to Curtis.The gang forced Hawkins to strip to his waist and beat him to death ! Hawkins was never seen alive again until his body was found nine months later at Parham Park's lake.At this juncture in the blog its worth noting that Sir Cecil Bishop is the owner of Parham Park, the relevance of this We will read about later.

Hawkins protested his innocence to the gang or so it was thought. The fact was Hawkins did not steal any tea, it was the gang that missed a bag ! Tragically, Hawkins paid the price and so did his family. Hawkins left behind a wife and Children. The Coroner ruled that his death was murder by people unknown.On a slightly separate point, there may be a case for a paranormal investigation at the Dog and Partridge pub to see if the spirit of Richard Hawkins can be communicated with, as I am sure He may have plenty to say.

The Murder of Richard Hawkins at the Dog and Partridge pub, Slindon Common, West Sussex. 

Meanwhile, Daniel Chater learned of the reward being offered by the Crown and sent a letter to Mr Shearer, Collector of Customs at Southampton stating He had seen Diamond (Dymer) passing through Fordingbridge the day after the raid at Poole. On receiving this news, Shearer dispatched William Galley, Revenue Officer to escort Chater to see the Magistrate Major Battin. Chater was to make a statement to Battin to confirm the identity of Diamond. Diamond was remanded in custody at Chichester gaol.

' ...hang the dogs, for they came here to hang us.' - wives of Carter and Jackson.

On the 14th of February 1748, Chater and Galley set out for East Murden near Chichester, their route taking them via Stanstead near Rowlands Castle. It was at the New Inn, Leigh where things started to turn sour for Galley and Chater.

 At the New Inn Chater and Galley met brothers George and Thomas Austin. The Austin Brothers were Blacksmiths by day and guess what, Smugglers at night ! The Austin Brothers then escorted Chater and Galley to the White Hart Inn at Rowlands Castle owned by Elizabeth Payne.        

Payne offered Galley and Chater  Rum. Elizabeth Payne and George Austin concluded that they were going to give evidence against the smugglers involved at Poole with a letter to the Magistrate Major Battin. The Austins sent for two other smugglers William Carter and William Jackson. Galley and Chater wanted their horses, but Payne stalled them in time for Carter and Jackson. Other smugglers turned up - William Steel, Samuel Downer, Edmund Richards and Henry Sheerman. William Jackson took Chater intoxicated into the yard to confess.  Chater disclosed why He was there to Jackson, with this Jackson struck Chater causing his nose to bleed. Jackson then forced Chater back inside the inn and drinks were consumed so much that Galley and Chater were put into a back room in a bed. The letter was stolen and destroyed after they learned Chater was going to give evidence against the already remanded John Diamond.

John Race and Richard Kelly joined the band of Smugglers, no doubt well oiled on Rum and Gin ! A council of war took place between the Smugglers, The first proposal was to murder them and throw them down a well. The second was to send them over to France, but this was decided against as they may come back. Mrs Jackson and Mrs Carter said ' hang the dogs, for they came here to hang us.'  The Hawkhursts decided that Galley and Chater would be taken away to be confined and their fate would match Diamond's.

"I'll shoot person through the head  should they mention anything that was done." - Edmund Richards, The Hawkhurst gang.

  Jackson went into the backroom where Galley and Chater were sleeping. Jackson,  with his spurs on climbed on top of the bed, waking Galley and Chater by running his spurs across their forehead. Jackson then whipped them with a horse whip and they produced themselves into the kitchen area both bloodied. Galley and Chater were then taken outside. Richards  announced to everyone else at the inn with a pistol cocked in his hand, Jackson swore 'He would shoot anyone through the head that should mention anything of what was done !'    

'Mounted to the same horse with their four legs tied together under the horses belly. They then rode no more than 100 yards and Jackson gave the order for the whipping to start.'

Outside Galley and Chater were mounted to the same horse with their four legs tied together under the horses belly. They then rode no more than 100 yards and Jackson gave the order for the whipping to start. As the they travelled the whipping became so intense on Galley and Chater they rolled under the horse's belly. As the horse moved the hooves would strike Galley and Chater's head.

The two men became so weak from the the torture, they separated them onto different horses. Galley was so weak and in pain He pleaded to be put out of his misery. Jackson declined and continued the cruel torture They then placed Galley across the pommel of the horse described as ' a butcher does a calf' (P11, Genuine History of Murder, Mason). Galley cried out "For God's sake shoot me through the head", all the time Jackson was squeezing Galley's private parts.

The Smugglers and their mounted prisoners made for the Red Lion at Rake, Hampshire where Benjeman Tapner joins the gang at the Red Lion, Rake. The Inn Keeper was a man called Scardefield. Scardefield going about his business tending to his fire and drawing liquor saw a body laying on the ground. The gang then put Chater into the Parlour and would not let Scardefield in, but He could see through a gap in the door that a man (Chater) stood there all bloodied. A cover story was hatched by the members of the gang telling Scardefield that some members of the gang had been killed in an engagement with the revenue and that the gang had lost a member. 

 Jackson and Little Harry moved Chater to Old Mills (Richard Mills) not far from Rake. The gang then consumed Gin and Rum, they got oiled and dug a grave for Galley, its thought He may have been buried alive. 

 Chater, whilst tied to a chain in a turf shed, had a knife run over Chater's eyes and nose by Tapner. Chater and the now deceased Galley must of endured terrible torture, as the gang now plotted on how to dispatch Chater. They were debating responsibility by mounting a pistol at Chater's head whilst  chained to a post and tying a piece of string to the trigger of the pistol and all jointly pulling the trigger so they would all be jointly responsible for his death ! Some  of the gang objected to this as it would put Chater out of his misery too soon. The sadistic torment did not stop, Tapner, cutting Chater's forehead again and a torrent of blood ran out down his face. 


 Chater was then mounted onto a horse and taken to Harris' Well in Lady Holt Park. The cruelty continued as Tapner whipped Chater across the face reopening his wounds. The gang arrived at the well in the dead of night. It's worth mentioning to the reader, the reason for the well which would be and still is in the middle of nowhere was for stage coaches to stop en route for replenishment. The well would hold plenty of water being some thirty feet deep. The well can be found today and there are several youtube videos on its whereabouts, but the vloggers are not accurate in their historic narratives to post on this blog ! Perhaps a future project for the author of this Blog !

Chater lowered into the well by his neck.

 Tapner dismounted Chater when they arrived at the well and tied a noose around Chater's neck using a rope. Tapner tied the other end of the makeshift noose to the rail of the well to create tension and then pushed Chater over into the well. He only went knee deep into the well. Chater's weight was not enough to strangle him. Of course execution by hanging relies on suffocation not breaking necks ! This caused the Smugglers a problem. After a time, Stringer, Cobby and Hammond pulled Chater's legs out of the well. Tapner untied the rope form the rail. They all then let go of Chater who fell head first into the empty well ! 

The gang stood by the well for some time in the dead of night and could still hear Chater groaning and breathing. The gang then concocted a story to fetch a ladder from a gardener nearby called Colmbeach. They returned with the ladder, but for some reason could not lift it over the rails. So they gathered logs and stones as they could still hear Chater' making groaning sounds and threw the heavy objects down the well until they heard no more ! The gang mounted their horses and went home.

After throwing Chater thirty feet down the well, the Hawkhurst gang finished him off by throwing logs and stones.

At Chichester assizes later in the year 1749. In or around the September of 1748 according to the The Old Bailey Online a body was found by Edward Sones in a well in Harris' wood in Lady Holt Park. The Body had two pieces of timber on him and a rope was around his neck. The widow Mrs Chater, confirmed through the identification of clothing that the clothes belonged to Daniel Chater. Chater's horse was found one month later. Edward Sone also found a body in a fox hole decomposed. It was covered in clothing and stained in blood, confirmed by William Galley as his father's coat.

Evidence was given by William Steele (turned Kings evidence), John Race (turned Kings evidence), Mr Milner Customs Officer, Poole, Mr Shearer, Customs Officer, Southampton, William Galley, Son of the deceased, Edward Holton, the Austin brothers, William Scardefield, Mrs Chater and others gave evidence to secure the conviction. 

Benjamin Tapner , John Cobby , John Hammond , William Jackson , William Carter , Richard Mills the elder, and Richard Mills the younger where all convicted for the murders of William Galley and Daniel Chater. They where all hung by the neck at Chichester. A stone now marks the spot of the execution as warning to others. The bodies of the executed were hung in chains around the places where the murders happened as a further warning to others and more importantly the Crown asserting itself as being the only authority.

     The Execution stone is Broyle Road, Chichester.

In another trial held at the East Grinstead assizes (the court house was situated approximately where Lloyds Bank and Coral Bookmakers is today, hence over the road is Judge close)thought to be held on the 12th of August 1749. John 'Smoker' Mills and Jeremiah 'Butler' Curtis aka Pollard stood charged with the murder of Richard Hawkins. Henry Murill, witness, claimed He saw two men drinking in a public house in Yapton. He went on to say Curtis was angry as someone had stolen two bags of tea. He was boasting how He would be violent towards the thief and how He would whip them. Henry Titcomb, witnessed Hawkins (deceased), Curtis and Mills set off for the barn. He then stated the three of them rode off on their horses together. Thomas Winter confirmed at the Dog and Partridge pub, that Curtis, Mills, Fat back Rob (Richard Rowland of East Grinstead), John Reynolds  and Hawkins the deceased were in attendance. William Rowe stated Reynolds was with him at the time of the murder.Mills was convicted of the murder and hanged on East Grinstead common, now where the Halsford park estate is built. Curtis was held on remand at Newgate, London pending the trial in regards to the Poole raid.

The Assizes were not completed with trials over the Poole raid itself being held in London and of course subsequent executions of Kingsmill, Fairall and Perin. Lilleywhite was acquitted and went onto to led a relatively normal life.

As for Jeremiah Curtis He escaped custody in Newgate before his trial for the raid on Poole. He escaped to France. See below.

          Credit to Ani Bee for sending in this newspaper clipping. 

I mentioned earlier about Sir Cecil Bishop and his role. In addition I would like you to consider what I wrote about in Episode one of the financial backers, it is argued by the author Rev. John Bishop (no relation), 'The strange case of Thomas Lillywhite....'that Sir Cecil Bishop was part of smuggling operations. Bishop wrote letters to the Lord Chief Justice, the Duke of Richmond in granting a pardon for Thomas Lilleywhite aged seventeen at the time (who married Sir Cecil's daughter, the Old Bailey Court papers state it was the housemaid's daughter Lilleywhite had married) for his part in the raid on Poole. The mitigation being Lilleywhite only held the horses and joined them on the journey having been thirty miles from home.I'll let you draw your own inference on that one.    

That was the backbone of the Hawkhurst gang broken and arguably the end of them. However, who ever escaped justice would be absorbed by other gangs. It was by no means the end of smuggling on the south coast.

Going Live on the 10pm GMT on the 17th of April 2022. We talk about the Hawkhurst Gang, so why not join me on my youtube channel below. Remember like, Comment & Subscribe. Thank you from Captain James Bollinger. Thank you for reading.

 Bibliography and Credits.

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 newspaper clippings. 

Miss Meadow photography 📸 Photographed on Ashdown Forest. Sussex.

Miss Meadow 18th century tailoring.


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