/ Big Business
Large profits could be made from smuggling, despite
the risks. As long as one cargo in three was successfully
landed the businessmen who financed the operation made a profit.
Around the middle of the 18th century smugglers
could buy tea for 2 shillings a pound and sell it for around 5-7
shillings. This was 2-3 shillings cheaper than the legal
price. Probably two thirds of all the tea drunk in Britain at
this time was contraband.
A 4 gallon barrel of brandy could be bought for 16
shillings and sold for 25 shillings - 7 shillings cheaper than the
The businessmen who invested in smuggling were known
as 'venturers'. They might be wealthy merchants from
Bristol or London, or country landowners living an outwardly
Charles Weeks was a venturer who worked on a grand
scale. He owned a house in Winfrith where large quantities of
contraband were hidden which had been landed at Lulworth Cove.
He supplied London merchants and grocers shops with much sought
after cocoa beans from which drinking chocolate was made.
Horses, wagons and stagecoaches also transported snuff, pepper,
coffee and other goods. Practically the whole of Winfrith
parish was suspected of being involved.
hiding places located along the routes inland. In 1720 a
riding officer (a customs officer on horseback) discovered pepper,
cocoa beans and snuff hidden in a hay loft at Blandford. Weeks
avoided prosecution by threatening to prosecute the riding officer!