Jump to main textSkip main navigation Home Smugglers Shipwrecks Dorset Museums For Teachers Virtual Galleries Archive
    Smugglers Cove
Button - Link to map which will open in a pop-up window


In 1776 the vicar of Christchurch said smuggling was a sin.  His clerk replied, "Then the Lord have mercy on Christchurch for who is there who has not had a tub?"

The clerk's comments were equally true of most of Dorset's coastal communities and many further inland along the distribution routes.  All sorts of people, rich and poor, purchased contraband for their own use or were given it as a bribe to buy their co-operation, including many vicars.

On 29 March 1777 Parson James Woodforde wrote in his diary:

"Andrews the smuggler bought me this night about eleven o'clock a bag of hysson tea, six pounds in weight.  He frightened us a little by whistling under the parlour window, just as we were going to bed.  I gave him some geneva (gin), and paid him for the tea at ten and six per pound... 3.3sh:0d."

Even magistrates, who were supposed to uphold the law, were involved.  A lot of smuggled goods were carried inland to Okeford Fitzpaine and Fiddleford Mill, but Magistrate Dashwood from nearby Sturminster Newton was silenced by leaving a keg of brandy on his doorstep overnight.  Captain Bingham, magistrate and squire of Bingham's Melcombe, was also known to assist smugglers.

Sir Jacob Bancks, a Member of Parliament, was discovered to have contraband hidden in the cellar of his house at Milton Abbey.  Sir Jacob refused to surrender the two enormous barrels of fine red wine, each containing 54 gallons and known as 'hogsheads'.  The barrels showed signs of salt water on the outside and had recently been retrieved from the sea, but the customs officer had too few men with him to seize the goods by force.  He and his team had to retreat, leaving Sir Jacob to enjoy the fine red wine. 

Next >>