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Funding / 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 legal price.

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 respectable life.

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.

Cigarette card - The Riding OfficerWeeks had other 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!

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