Talk: Smuggling an accursed thing
Smuggling is an ‘accursed thing’ according to John Wesley, founder of the Methodists. Contraband running was rife along the entire length of the British coast and loud were the voices condemning it.
The inhabitants of many towns and villages bought the smugglers goods and kept their secrets. Even Parish priests and country squires sometimes welcomed the opportunity to purchase cheap wines, spirits and tobacco.
How were the speakers ancestors involved in this ‘accursed thing’. This talk will take you on a journey into the past, with many twists and turns along the way – and a few surprises!
During my talk I explore:
- Introduction to smuggling in the UK
- Thomas Needs 1746 (first reference to ships)
- James Needs 1776 (Commander)
- Thomas NEEDS 1772 (Master of The Nancy)
- Smuggling when and why
- George Needs 1769 (beer and murder)
- Continuing the story
- Who were the smugglers?
Contraband running was rife along the entire length of the British coast and loud were the voices condemning it. The Government reminded the public that smuggling costed the country massive sums in lost revenue. Members of the establishment denounced it as the pernicious trade (because it openly challenged authority and encouraged law breaking). Merchants complained they were unable to compete on price with those that sold contraband. Church leaders denounced the great evil because it encouraged corruption, intimidation and violence.
Some didn’t share these views. Fishermen and coastal traders claimed to have taken up smuggling for need rather than greed. Many people thought the smugglers were heroes who defended local autonomy against the might of a distant authority. Others argued smuggling was justified in response to crippling duties imposed by Government. The inhabitant of many towns and villages bought the smugglers goods and kept their secrets. Many took Rudyard Kipling’s advice to “watch the wall… while the gentlemen go by” so that they could truthfully say that they saw no smuggling. Even Parish priests and country squires sometimes welcomed the opportunity to purchase cheap wines, spirits and tobacco.
Smuggling of goods into England started to increase in the 16th C after duties were placed on imported goods. After the glorious revolution of 1688 and William III smuggling started to become a real problem. England was drawn into a series of long and expensive wars with France and these needed financing. Crippling import duties were imposed on tea, tobacco, soap and salt. A total embargo was placed on French imports of brandy, wine, silk and lace. These high value products were in great demand so these measures triggered an explosion of smuggling (massive profits for those landing these goods).
Book my talk to discover
- Why contraband running was rife along the entire length of the British coast
- Land Tax and Tithes; useful for family history?
- Hobby Horse
- Old Mother Leaky
- Thomas Needs and an unhappy end
- George Needs and the quay Minehead
- Beer selling and fraud?
- A mariners curse
- Shark Revenue Cutter and apprehending smugglers
- James Needs Commander HMS Beagle, Revenue Cutter
- Timeline of smuggling, including the effects of improvements in sailing, Government Acts
- Records and their sources
- One last mystery…
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Robert Parker is a Genealogist and Trainer, based in Kent. He delivers courses, guidance, talks and research services for those interested in tracing their ancestors. See https://myfamilygenealogy.co.uk/guidance/ for his 5 steps to discovering your ancestors. Contact Robert to discuss your requirements without obligation.
What stories might your ancestors tell?