Collector to Board Letters Book 1783 - 1785


These extracts are a partial transcription of the book held at the National Archives reference, CUST 61/6, words are shown in italics in case of doubt. Items in blue are additional or background information. I do not accept any responsibility for any inaccuracies.


3 April 1783                   Inclosed we transmit the Petition of Mr Richard Cooke Brewer & Mr William Richardson Ship builder praying the delivery of a Sloop called the Rodney now under Seizure at this Port, as stated in our Seizure Account of the 25th Ult. and Letter of that date which we beg leave to refer to your Honors.

We do not apprehend that the Petitioners were in any way privy to the transaction which caus’d the Seizure of the Vessel, nor do we imagine they will be sufferers should she be Condemn’d because the Master of the Vessel being a reputed smuggler who frequently trades to & from Alderney & Guernsey, we do not think it likely they would entrust him with a Vessel that was their Property without having security to Indemnify themselves from any loss that might arise from any fraudulent transactions of the Master.


7 April 1783       We have received your Order of the 5th Instant directing us to prosecute William Jeram Master of the Sloop Rodney at the General Quarter Sessions for the Penalty of Twenty Shillings per Bushel for the Flour shipped by him contrary to the Act of the 13th of His Present Majesty Chapter 43 Section 5.

But we beg to observe, that the Flour in Question being Nine Quarters three Bushels, the Penalty amounts to Seventy Five Pounds and as the Act before mention’d only directs the Prosecution to be at the General Quarter Sessions in cases where the Penalties do not exceed Fifty Pounds, we submit it, whether in this Instant the Prosecution should not be commenced in some One of the Courts of Record at Westminster, or before the Judges of the Assize, respecting which we pray your further directions.


12 April 1783                 William Wallis having been tried & convicted at the last General Quarter Session for this County, for Obstructing Officers of the Revenue in execution of their Duty and rescuing from them seized Goods which we acquainted you by Letter dated 25th January.

Inclosed we transmit an Account of the Expenses of the Prosecution amounting to Thirty six Pounds one Shilling & eight Pence for the payment of which we humbly pray your directions.

We beg leave to observe that the Bills of Indictment having at the same Sessions been found against three other Persons who were concerned with Wallis in Obstructing the Officers, A Sessions Process was issued for the apprehending them, but John Mews one of the Officers assaulted & whose Evidence would be materially necessary upon the Trial being since Dead the Attorney who conducted the Prosecution of Wallis is doubtful if the other offenders, provided they are apprehended, can be convicted without Mews’s Evidence, on which account we submit whether it will not be proper to stay further proceedings against them.


12 April 1783                 Mr John Miller Tide Surveyor having represented to us that he is much in want of three Pair round loom’d Ash Oars for the use in Boats at this Port to supply the place of those he now has which are very old & nearly unserviceable, we humbly pray you will be pleased to order two Pair 16 feet in length and one Pair 14½ feet in length, to be sent by the first Coasting vessel for this Port.


12 April 1783                 By letter dated 3rd April 1782 we applied for a Dozen Tucks for the use of Officers at this Port, but not having received the same, the Riding Surveyor and other Officers have made representations to us that they are much wanted for the Service, it being the Practice of Smuglers in the County to conceal their Goods under the Shingle on the Beach or in the Sand on the Shore or in Cellars under Ground out of reach of the short Tucks they have to make use of.

We humbly pray you will be pleased to order a Dozen of Stout and Strong Tucks not less than four feet in length to be sent for the use of the several Officers of the Land & Waterguard at this Port, being humbly of the opinion that the same will be very serviceable.


16 April 1783                In return to your Order of the 1st Inst. we beg leave to report that a great Smugling trade is certainly carried on by Land & Water clandestine Traders in the Neighbourhood of the Place where John Mews was station’d as a Boatman and we transmit pursuant to your Orders an Account of the Seizures made by Mews in conjunction with the two other Boatmen on the station for the five years preceding Mews’s Death. We beg leave to observe that the Seizures mentioned in the inclosed Account were principally made on the Land, the Officers not be sufficient to man a Boat to encounter with the Smuglers upon the Water, or pursue & come up with the Wherry’s and Smugling Boats which carry on a considerable traffick upon the coast bringing, or carrying off Goods that have been previously landed or sunk. We apprehend that Smugling will be much carried out in Boats & small Craft especially in the Summer time now Hostilities are at an end, and in order to render the Boat station’d at Bembridge of more effect, we beg leave to propose that the Boat’s Crew should be increased so six Men & a Sitter, upon a Tryal for six months, being humbly of the opinion that an active Boats Crew under the direction of a Sitter, properly qualified, would make many considerable Seizures and amply repay the additional expense of employing 3 or 4 Extramen at a day pay of two shillings each. If your Honors think proper to make a trial of this proposal, we w’d beg leave to recommend that some of the most active & best qualified of the Extra & Certificate Men belonging to the Port, to be employ’d on this Service & by giving directions to the Riding Surveyors & Officers to extend their Districts so as to enable them to convey intelligence of Goods sunk upon the Coast & keep up a Correspondence with the Sitter of the Boat. We have no doubt the Revenue would benefit & many considerable Seizures made, but if to the contrary of our expectations it should be found not to answer we will at the expiration of Six Months propose to your Honors to discontinue it.


25 June 1783     From John Rushworth, Deputy Comptroller to the Board. 

In consequence of your Honours letter of 14 January last in answer to my memorial of 18th December 1782, I have applied to the Patent Comptroller relative to an increas’d allowance for executing the office of his Deputy at this port and having received for answer “That under the circumstances of his situation having three other deputies to provide for the County it is impossible for him to make any further allowance than what has usually made to his Deputy at Cowes.” I beg leave to represent the same to the Honourable Board humbly praying that your Honours will have the goodness to re-consider this matter and allow me the incidental salary of £25 p.ann. which has always been enjoyed by my predecessors.

I should not have troubled the Hon. Commissioners again upon this matter did not the circumstances of my case fully justify the application and I flatter myself the Board will think I have some reason to complain when I assure your Honours the emoluments arising to the Deputy Comptroller at Cowes are so very inconsiderable as to render the office in point of advantage, barely so lucrative as that of a common Riding Officer. [Although normally called the Comptroller the position was actually that of Deputy Comptroller. It was in the gift of a Patent Officer at Southampton (appointed by the Crown rather than the Board of Customs) and did not normally receive any salary, but rather a portion of fees collected and an allowance from the Patent Officer.]


26 July 1783                  Mr William Holloway a Waiter & Deputy Searcher at this Port humbly prays your Honors leave to be absent for a month to attend his own private affairs. The last leave of absence granted to Mr Holloway was dated the 11th October 1782 which he has not had occasion to take benefit of. We are of the opinion that his absence at this time will not be prejudicial to the Service & have no objection to his request being complied with.


18 September 1783        Having reason to believe that a Boat under the management of an able Sitter & six active Men, to cruize from Bembridge Eastward to the Needles at the West end of the Isle of Wight & occasionally round the Island would intercept many small Vessels & Boats carrying out the Smugling Trade upon this Coast. The Collector is willing to make a Tryal of a Boat for one year under the Terms of Contract in your letter of the 23rd Ultimo and as soon as the proper Boat is provide for which we pray your Honors to give directions, we shall pray leave to propose a proper Person to act as Sitter whose pay we humbly submit should be £40 per annum and that of the Boatman each £30 per annum.

We submit to your Honors that the said boat should not be station’d at one place but rendezvous occasionally at St Hellens, Cowes or Yarmouth or such other place within the Isle of Wight as may be most likely to fall in or gain intelligence of the smuglers, and that the Riding Surveyor & other Preventive Officers upon the Coast be directed to correspond with and communicate to the Sitter of the Boat, such information as in most likely to benefit the Service and we further beg leave to that the Boatmen at St Hellens & Yarmouth should be particularly enjoined to board all Vessels coming into & sailing from those places & having small Boats at both these places belonging to the Crown, they are enabled & it is there Duty to do it; and they should from time to time as opportunity offers not only furnish the Sitter of the Boat with an Account of all Vessels arriving or sailing from each place, but also transmit us weekly a copy of such Account to enable us to make such communication thereof as we may judge necessary for the Service.


19 October 1783            The Ship Fortune David Wallis Master from Ruen bound for London & lately under Seizure at this Port, has been delivered to the Master pursuant to your Order of the 9th Inst. agreeable to which we have also sent two trusty Tide Waiters to accompany the Vessel to London, and acquaint you that she Sail’d from this Port this Morning, and we humbly hope that on the delivery of the Cargo your Honors will please to direct the same to be closely examin’d as we suspect there may be more prohibited Goods on board especially in some of those Packages, which it is said are consigned to the French Ambassador & to be delivered to his Agent.


23 October 1783            In obedience to your Order of 11th Instant we beg leave to report that Smugling within the last three years has increased upon this Coast to an alarming degree & the illicit Trade is principally carried on in large Arm’d Cutters or Luggers from two to three hundred Tons burthen, with which the Revenue Cruizers are not able to contend insomuch that it is no unusual thing for them to land their Goods in open day under protection of their Guns, sometimes in sight of Revenue cutters whom they will not suffer to come near or board them. The war first gave a sanction to the Arming of these Vessels, as the Masters took out Commisions as Privateers, tho’ in fact they followed no other trade than Smugling and notwithstanding the war is now is at an end they continue their illicit practices arm’d & in great force. These large Vessels frequently convoy over other smaller ones who keep off at sea till towards night, when they run in & Land their Cargoes at places where gangs of Smuglers sometimes to the number of 200 or 300 are previously appointed to meet them & the smaller Vessels at such other places on the Shore where they can bury the Goods in the Beach, deposit them in Cellars or sink them near the Shore till opportunity appears of removing them again. Goods are also frequently landed out of large deep Boats carrying 500 to 1000 Casks which have been un­shipp’d at Sea from the importing Vessels, who as soon as seen or chas’d by a Revenue Cruiser, drop the boat astern, which immediately rows off whilst the Commander of the Revenue Cutter is pursuing the Vessel he supposes to be loaded. When he comes up with he to his great disappointment finds has no cargo on board. We humbly submit to your Honors whether if the hovering Act was extended to three Leagues of the Coast it might not be some check to the present practice of Smugling as it would keep the Smugling Vessels during the day at a greater distance from the Coast & render their landing of their Goods or arriving at the appointed time on the Shore more hazardous & uncertain. To such a regular science is Smugling now reduced, that we are informed the Smuglers have started Prices for their Goods in proportion to the distances they bring them if they sell any at sea to Coasting or small Vessels or Boats, the price of a 4 gallon cask is about half a Guinea or 11 Shillings; if landed on shore between Hurst & Christchurch under the protection of their guns and put into quiet possession of the land smugglers, 14s or 15s a Cask; if brought within the Isle of Wight or to Langstone or Portsmouth, the price advances to a Guinea a cask according to the place at which it is to be landed or delivered.

Our enquiries have furnished us with the following list of Smuggling Vessels which carry on their illicit trade between the Needles & Peveral Point (just west of Swanage):

The ‘Cornish Ranger’,  - Wallard, belonging to Causand, a Lugger of about 300 Tons mounting 26 Guns, frequently lands good between the Needles and Christchurch Head & no longer ago than the 29 or 30 of Sept, landed 3,000 Casks of Foreign Spirits & 10 or 12 Tons of Tea & at the same time bought over under her convoy 3 other Luggers.

The ‘Wasp’, - Hall, of Folkestone, Built at Cowes, 270 Tons, 22 Guns, works between the Needles and Christchurch.

The ‘John and Susannah’, Andrew Hague, of Folkestone, built at Cowes, same burthen & force, frequents the same spot.

The before mentioned Vessels carry from 60 to 80 men & smuggle upon each trip from two to 3,000 Casks & 8 or 10 Tons of Tea’ if they go to Guernsey they return about once a Fortnight, if Dunkerque, once in three weeks.

Beside the above a new Cutter is fitting out here & nearly ready for Sea, she is called the ‘Favourite’, belongs to one Sturgess of Hamble, a noted Smugler, is the burthen of 220 Tons to mount 22 Guns & it is supposed is intended to Smuggle on this Coast.

Hurst is a place of great rendezvous for Smuglers & in its neighbourhood are several small Luggers who land Goods between Hurst & Christchurch, & frequently supply the Smuglers at the West part of the Isle of Wight, one of these Luggers, the Phoenix about 90 or 100 Tons berthen belonging to one Streeter a noted Smugler, but of which one May was late Master but has been brought into Port by the Master of the Kings Cutter the Cruizer with a small quantity of Brandy & Tea on board, having before landed as is suppos’d the principal part of the Cargo near Hurst. Clinker built open Boats or Shallops lugger rigg’d have frequently been built here of 70 feet in length and carry from 500 to 1000 casks with which they draw but little water they can with great facility run ashore upon the Beach where the Gangs are ready to receive & carry away the Goods. Besides these there are many rowing Boats 40 feet long & upwards, which tho’ apparently made to row with only 6 Oars, yet are so constructed by means of shifting thwarts they can occasionally row with 10 or 12 Oars, as these kind of Boats when seiz’d & condemn’d are generally broken up & produce little or nothing for the Seizing Officer, we apprehend they are not so assiduous in looking after & seizing them when not loaded, as they perhaps might be if a Commission or Bounty was allowed to the Seizing Officer for every foot of Length of Boats seiz’d under these circumstances & after broke up. And we humbly apprehend if the building these kind of Boats except for His Majesty’s Service was restrained to a certain Length, perhaps 25 feet it would prevent them rowing with the number of Oars they now do & Boats of the Revenue Service would stand a better chance of coming up with them.

We beg leave to submit it to your Honors as our opinion unless some effectual measures are suppressed the large class of Smuggling Vessels now used & to prevent their going Arm’d, Smugling will still increase, for where so large a property is at stake, the Adventurers run greater risques to protect it & of course become more daring & desperate, and carry on their fraudulent Trade in defiance of all the efforts of the Officers to prevent them. With respect to increasing the numbers of Officers at this Port, further than with the Cutter & Boats Crew which your Honors have lately agreed to employ here we do not know that at present it is necessary. Stationing a Frigate with a Kings Cutter in Studland Bay & a Kings Cutter in Hurst Road may probably be of Service for the Revenue Cruizers occasionally to resort to for assistance and if they serve only to keep of the large Cutters from landing their Goods for 3 or 4 days at a time when large gangs of Land-Smuglers are appointed to meet them on the Shore, it would go far we apprehend to ruin the Trade, because the expense of keeping a large number of Men & Horses collected together to wait the arrival of Goods must very materially diminish Profits arising from the Sale of them.


27 October 1783    We humbly pray your Honours will be pleas’d to give directions that a suit of colours may be sent for us the use of the ‘Swan’ cutter stationed at this port, together with the usual allowances of buttons for the uniforms of the Commander & Mate.


19 November 1783         We have received your Order of 29th Ultimo signifying to us that from the apparent inutility of the Offices held by George Granger & William Gregory Boatmen at St Hellens, you had resolved to discontinue the same & not to fill up the vacancy occasioned by the death of John Mews.

We beg leave to represent to your Honors that such is the situation of St Hellens, so great the Smugling Trade carried on there & so many the Smugling Vessels belonging to that Harbour that in our opinion it is necessary for some Officers of the Revenue always to be on the Spot to board, rummage & take an Account of Vessels arriving & sailing from thence.

St Hellens Road is also a place of Anchorage for Ships arriving from abroad & which frequently require to be guarded, that unless some Officers are there to board the same & occasionally to send to the Tide Surveyor for Tide Waiters that duty must be neglected.

As the six Oared Boat which is about to be employed in the Service here, will only rendezvous occasionally at St Hellens, if the Officers stationed there are discontinued, the Smuglers will have even greater opportunities of carrying on a clandestine trade in the exportation of Corn, small Cordage & other articles with which they frequently load over to Guernsey & Alderney without entry or clearance; add to which by your Honors Order of 16th Ultimo we were directed to enjoin the Boatmen at St Hellens to board all Vessels coming in or sailing from thence, and they were to from time to time not only to furnish the Sitter of the 6 Oar’d Boat about to be employed at this Port with an Account of all vessels arriving or Sailing but also to transmit us weekly a Copy of such Account, all of which we apprehend to be for the good of the Service, but which cannot be performed if no Officers are stationed there; we are therefore humbly of the opinion that two Officers at least should reside there, and if a third was added in conjunction with them & attend the shipping & landing of Corn & other Goods at St Hellens, Bembridge & Brading Quay the Coast Duty there would not only be better attended to than it possibly can by the Riding Officer at Ryde (who besides the Coast Business at Ryde has an extensive District to guard) but the three Officers acting jointly with the Riding Officer would upon information of Goods being run be able to make many more Seizures which for want of assistance are frequently lost.

And in order that the Revenue may derive the most advantage from the Services of the Persons employ’d there, we beg leave to propose that William Gregory to Cowes under the eye & inspection of the Tide Surveyor to act as an Extra Tidesman, or supply one of the vacancies in the List of Tidewaiters & Boatmen & that we may be permitted to select one of the most active & capable of the Tidewaiters or Extramen to supply his place at St Hellens, which we are humbly of the opinion would be for the benefit of the Service.


3 December 1783           We think it incumbent of us to acquaint you that Robert Forder who by your Order of 26th July last you signified was nominated to be a Tidewaiter & Boatman at this Port in the room of William Rimer deceased has not yet made his appearance which has prevented us transmitting any Certificate of Qualification, and we are inclin’d to believe that the Employment is such as Robert Forder will not think of accepting, after having been in the superior station of an officer in the Militia.


3 December 1783   Inclose we attach a list of seizures made by Officers at this Port between the 12th Ultimo & this day & pray your directions for prosecuting the same to condemnation.

We beg leave to observe that the seizure No 11 together with the Cutter & Boat in No. 2 were made by Mr Sarmon, Commander of the unfortunate cutter the Swan lately lost, who with his Mates, being employ’d at Hurst in endeavouring to recover some of the Guns and Iron Ballast belonging to the Cutter, that were buried in the Beach, observed a small Cutter come in from the Sea & seeing a loaded Boat put off from her & several Men from the Cutter get into it, they took to their Boat, the only one that was sav’d when the Cutter was lost & spiritedly row’d up to the Smuglers loaded Boat and finding therein a quantity of small Casks  & Bags of Tea would have seized the whole had they not been overpowered by numbers, oppos’d and beat off as set out in Mr Sarmons Account of the transaction & the Affidavit of himself & Mates herewith transmitted & to which we beg to refer.

By the assistance of an Excise Cutter which happen’d soon after to come in sight, Mr Sarmon was enabled to return and Seize the Cutter & Boat which had been employ’d in the above Smugling transaction, and being humbly of the opinion that Mr Sarmon’s conduct on this occasion was very spirited & proper, we hope it will meet with your Honours approbation.


21 December 1783         By your Order of 24th December 1782 we were authorised to hire from The Rev. Mr Gill for one year certain, at a Rent of Forty five Pounds per annum, two Warehouses for the Service at this Port, and were directed to report at the expiration of the time, if it was necessary to continue the same, or if others could not be procured under more reasonable Terms, Mr Gill having insisted upon an advance of Rent. In obedience to your said Order we acquaint you, that adjoining to the Custom House is a large House & Store which the Collector has an lease for Twenty One Years, Seventeen of which are unexpired, that the said Premises are not only conveniently situated, but commodious & proper for storing Seized Goods, depositing Goods for Duties & keeping Scales, Weights Triangles &  other stores for which purpose it is absolutely necessary that the Crown should continue to Rent Storehouses. 

And the Collector begs leave to offer the said Premises to your Honors for the remainder of the Term of his Lease or for Seven or Fourteen Years whichever you may think proper at a Yearly Rent of Thirty Pounds & to fit up the same in a proper Manner for the Service to which they are to be appropriated.

As the Rent at which the said premises are offer’d is considerably less than what the Crown now pays or what we can hire other Store & are as equally commodious & conveniently situated, we humbly apprehend your Honors will have no objection to take a Lease of the same respecting which we pray your directions. (This was signed by the Collector!)


9 February 1784 Inclosed we transmit Certificates of Qualification of John Smith, John Harvey & William Warder who have been nominated to be Tidesmen & Boatmen in this Port. We beg leave to acquaint your Honors that there only 2 Vacancies on the Establishment of Tidewaters & Boatmen to which the 3 Persons above mention’d have been nominated namely a Vacancy occasioned by the Death of William Rimer & the other by the Resignation of John Williams.

By your letter of 22nd December last John Smith was nominated in the room of Williams & by your letter of 31st Ultimo John Harvey & William Warder appear to have been since nominated for the two Vacancies, we therefore think it our Duty to transmit Certificates for the 3 that your Honors may appoint which you please, as they are all qualified & we beg leave to add that the neglect in certifying for John Smith does not rest with us as the Certificate of his Age not having been delivered in before the 5 Inst.


24 March 1784    Very considerable Goods, the Cargoes of distress’d Ships & others being frequently deposited at this port in Warehouses provided at the Merchants Expence but secured under the King’s Locks, we are often under the necessity of buying Padlocks to use on such Occasions but find great difficulty in purchasing here any other Padlocks than those of a common sort, where one key will open almost every lock, and which we did not until lately discover. We therefore do not think them sufficiently secure for the purpose intended especially as other Persons have opportunity of buying the same kind of Locks, and if they were so disposed making improper use of them; to prevent which & for the greater security of the Revenue, we beg your Honours will be pleased to order a Dozen good Padlocks to be sent us with Keys & Staples thereto. We wish them to be of rather a large size & that no one key may open two Locks. We would also propose a Progressive Number should be put on each Lock & a corresponding number should be placed on the Key belonging thereto for more readily distinguishing the same.


19 May 1784     Letter from Collector & Comptroller                     

Inclosed we beg leave to transmit a Charge which we have judg’d it necessary to give Mr John Pain, Land Surveyor at this Port for Misconduct in the Execution of his Duty, to which is subjoined Mr Pain’s Answer & a letter in consequence thereof, to all which we desire to add the following observations, & refer the whole to your Honors.

That Saturday Afternoon has always been consider’d (as Mr Pain asserts) a very improper & unusual Time for weighing & shipping Wool Coastwise, or any other Business, is what we do not know we are authoriz’d to assent to, or admit of. By your Order of 4th June 1741, the weighing & shipping of Wool Coastwise is permitted to be done at Newport under the inspection of two of the Principal Officers, & the Waiter & Searcher fix’d there; it must of course be attended, as it is an indulgence to the Trader, when it does not interfere with our other official Business, and if we, who cannot always be absent from the Office in a Morning, do not think much of attending in the Afternoon when the Custom House Business is over, the Surveyor who is seldom call’d upon on such occasions, & would not now, had not the Comptroller been himself particularly engaged, and the Deputy Customer absent by Leave, has no great reason to complain, and with respect to his not having earlier notice of it, we can only say, that we did not receive notice from the Trader of his intention to weigh or ship Wool till the Forenoon of the day on which it was shipp’d.

In justice to Mr Pain we desire to add that we have not had occasion to complain of his behaving improperly towards us & we hope that he will in future as he promises to do, guard against being overtaken with liquor, especially when on Duty. He has not to our knowledge had any Charge given him prior to this, and we believe he has profited from the Reprimand given him by your Honors order of 22nd November 1777 in consequence of the Surveyor General’s Report, as upon Examining his Jerque Book we find the same regularly posted up, and the Entries in his other Books of Import and Export duly made.

Charge to John Pain 13 May 1784           You having been guilty of gross misconduct & ill behaviour on Saturday the 8th Inst. when you attended with the Collector at Newport to see a quantity of Wool weigh’d & shipp’d Coastwise & having treated him in a manner not only very unbecoming You, but such as he cannot possibly pass over without reporting you to the Board we judge it necessary to give him the following Charge:

1.    That you was when on duty, so very intoxicated with liquor as not to be able to do your business properly.

2.   That upon the Collector taking notice of it and admonishing you in a mild manner to be careful, that when you in future attended to do Business with him, that you came capable of it & not so intoxicated as you was then, you very grossly abused him & call’d him on the Public Key, “A Damn’d saucy Fellow”, making use of other very improper & unbecoming Language in the hearing of the Coastwaiter & several other Persons who were attending the scales.

To each of the Charges we hereby require you to make a plain & distinct answer in writing on or before the 17th Inst. taking care to avoid all scurrilous & abusive expressions.

Mr Pain’s Answer 14 May 1784               In answer to your letter containing the Charge against me I must beg leave to say, that while I acknowledge with deepest regret my being totally insensible of what passed when I was then on Duty, I am equally ashamed and concern’d that at any time I should be guilty of such gross misconduct & particularly towards the Collector on this occasion who I understand, I had abused and treated extremely ill, for having admonished me against the same.

I must confess with shame Gentlemen that it is improper for me to deny the justice of the Charge tho’ had the circumstances of weighing Wool happen’d on any other Time than Saturday afternoon (which has always been considered a very improper and unusual time for any business), or indeed had I received a more early intimation of it (than I did) I should certainly have taken care to have guarded myself against the situation which has exposed me to so much regret & reproof.

Under these circumstances, added to the deepest concern for my ill behaviour, I am to hope that the Collector will be so good as to excuse me & not report my behaviour to the Board which might very possibly terminate very hard against me – And while I am very willing to make any apology the Collector may think proper for my past intemperance, I shall take care it that it shall not happen in future.

Report by Collector 19 May 1784             Mr Pain in answer to the Charge given him, so fully acknowledged himself at fault & expressed his sorrow for it, I am very ready & willing as far as I am individually concerned to accept the apology & submission which he offers.

But the Affront having be given me in the Execution of my Duty & on the Public Key, I think I owe it to the Station I fill of your Honors Collector at this Port, not to withhold from your Honors a Report of Mr Pain’s misconduct, that he at least may be made sensible by any admonition given him under your authority (if you think it proper so to do) that improper behaviour from one Officer to another will not be countenance by your Board. For my further observations on Mr Pain’s answer to the Charge, I beg leave to refer to the joint letter of the Comptroller & your Collector.


22 May 1784                 Inclosed I beg to transmit a Letter received from Mr George Sarmon, Commander of the Swan Revenue Cutter based at this Port representing the particulars of a daring attack made on his Boats Crew in the Execution of their Duty by a body of Arm’d Smuglers who have wounded John Pilkington a Deputed Mariner and 3 of the other Mariners. I beg leave to observe that this is another instance, added to the many of which occur almost daily of the desperate & outrageous manner in which Smuglers carry on their illicit practices in defiance of the Laws of the Country and those are appointed to put them into execution. Not content with having the large Cutters in which they import their prohibited Goods arm’d & of a berthen & force superior to any of the Revenue Vessels, they carry Arms in the large Tub Boats into which they unship their Goods from the Cutters for the greater facility of landing for no sooner does a Revenue Boat run alongside to attempt to make a Seizure, but they are immediately fired upon & threaten’d with destruction unless they desist & sheer off. In the present case I humbly think the Mate & Boat Crew appear to have acted with Spirit & Resolution, tho’ they were obliged to submit to a superior force & numbers, and I hope your Honors will think it right to offer a reward for apprehending or discovering any of the parties concern’d in firing on the Boat or forcibly carrying the Officers on board the Cutter and as it is possible that some of them may have been wounded by shot fired from the Revenue Boat, the offer of a reward may induce some of the People in the Neighbourhood to make discoveries that may lead to a conviction of the Offenders. Pilkington the Mate informs me that one of the Persons on board the Smugling Cutter along side which they were carried, he knows to be one Robert Wilson formerly belonging to Scarbro’, but who for some years past has been concerned with Smugling upon this Coast, but the rest of the persons were all unknown to him, and although they cannot prove the Smugling Cutter firing upon them, yet the circumstances of the Boats coming from that Cutter preventing their securing the Goods & Boat they were about to take possession of, after having silenced the firing and carrying them by force to the Cutter I apprehend is sufficient to prove them accomplices in the Fact. On receiving an account of this large Cutter, I sent an Express to the Commander of the Orestes, Sloop of War who immediately put to Sea, and I hope will be fortunate to fall in with her, as none of the Revenue Cruizers are able to encounter with her from her superior Size & Force.


26 May 1784                 The Cutter John and Susannah seized by Captain Ellis of the Orestes Sloop of War & since condemned is advertiz’d for Sale at this Port on the 8th of next month, the said Cutter is of the Burthen of 280 tons and mounts 20 Carriage Guns, has not been built more than Eighteen Months, cost £3,600 and is esteem’d as a fast sailing and as compleat a Vessel as ever went to Sea; as Cutters of this kind are only calculated only for His Majesty’s service or the Smugling Trade we are apprehensive that unless the Government thinks proper to employ her in their Service & take her at the appraised value of £1,700, the Smuglers will get her again on their own terms & probably for want of bidders against them, much under her value.

Considering it therefore our Duty to frustrate the schemes of the Smuglers as much as is in our powers, and assist if possible in suppressing Smugling now carried on with an Armed Force in a manner & to a degree truly dangerous and alarming, we feel anxious to prevent such a Vessel as this, from falling again into their Hands to be employed in the same illicit Practices which she had followed successfully to the great prejudice of the Revenue of the Country for Twelve Months, in which time we have been credibly informed, she Smugled no less than Eight Valuable Cargoes into this Kingdom in defiance of, & sometimes even in sight of the Revenue Cruizers, none of which are of force sufficient to take her. We therefore beg leave to submit to your Honors consideration whether you would have the said Cutter sold, or retain’d to be employed in His Majesty’s Service should you see occasion to fit out such a one, and if not whether supposing the appraised value is not offer’d at the sale, it is your pleasure she should then be dispos’d of for the most she will sell for, respecting which we pray your directions.


5 June 1784                   Mr Sarmon Commander of the Swan Revenue Cutter having represented to us that in the late skirmish with the Smuglers, particulars of which we transmitted you on the 22nd Ultimo, the Smuglers took away from his Boats Crew 12 Pistols, 9 Cutlasses & 4 Muskets, we humbly pray your Honors will order the same Number to be sent for the use of the said Cutter to supply the place of those that were lost, and we also have to request that 20 Cartouch Boxes may be sent for the use of the Swan Cutter she not having been furnished with any & some old one remaining in the Office being broke & so much out of repair as to be quite unserviceable.


5 June 1784                   Having received information that several boats constructed contrary to the Act of the 19th of the present Majesty, Chapter 69 were concealed in Boat Houses at St Hellens on the East part of the Isle of Wight, for the purpose of being employed on the arrival of the East India Shops & on Smugling transactions, we recommended to Mr Miller, Sitter of the Six Oared Boat stationed at this Port to search several suspect places & on doing it he found one Boat measuring in Length 39 feet & a half & in Breadth 5 feet. The said boat had only six fixed Thwarts but the distance from the stem to the fore Thwarts but the distance from the Stern to the Fore Thwart is 12 feet & the same distance from the Aft thwart to the Stern between which distances are Marks, that indicate from the paint being rubbed off, that other Thwarts as well as Row locks have occasionally been fixed so as to ship and unship at pleasure, these circumstances added to the Boat belonging to a notorious Smugler & being of a greater length than boats rowing with only Six Oars are usually built, induced him to seize the Boat in question & we submit whether you will not order her to be prosecuted as an illegal boat. We beg leave to add that Mr Miller had seized another Boat of the same description & nearly the same dimensions but it was rescued from him by the Smuglers, who getting together in Numbers very much abused & obstructed him in his Duty & thereby prevented him seizing the Boat which was concealed in a Boat House & prevented him seizing a third Boat which was concealed in a Boat House over which he had placed a Guard, who reports that while he was there, a Carpenter & Five Men came, went into the House & began work as he believes in taking of Thwarts or Rowlocks, but would not suffer him to go in, shutting the Door against him, whilst the people without, threatened & abuse’d him & oblig’d him to go away.

We thought it incumbent on us to represent these circumstances to your Honors, and to pray as well your directions respecting the Boat seiz’d, as well as those the Officers were prevented from seizing, in case they at any future time should be met with.


7 June 1784                   As advised by your Order of 31st March last, we have caused a Draft to be prepared of a Lease of the House & Storehouse adjoining to the Custom House & proposed to be let to the Crown on Lease for Seventeen Years from the 5th January last, inclosed we transmit the same for your approbation & further direction. (This was executed on the 5th October.)


10 June 1784                 Captain Ellis Commander of His Majesty’s Sloop of War Orestes stationed on this coast to intercept & check Smugling has this Morning been at Custom House to inform us that on the 8th instant in the Night his Boat which he had sent to look out upon the Coast, fell in with (a little to the westward of St Albans) a large Smugling Boat deeply laden with teas, which they seiz’d but before they could secure & get it into Port with the same, they were attacked by a large Cutter mounting twenty two guns which came up from the offing, endeavour’d to run them down & upon their rowing to windward, to escape them, the cutter fired upon them, killed one of his men & dangerously wounded two others, continuing to fire till they were without of Gunshot, notwithstanding the Boat hailed the Cutter and inform’d them they belonged to the Orestes Man of War. 

The Cutter is described as a black sided Vessel had twenty two Guns on her Deck, which was not built up. As this is another instance added to the many which almost daily occur of the outrageous & piratical proceedings of the Smuglers on this coast, we think it our Duty to represent the same to your Honors.


26 June 1784                 David Sanders of Brixton in the Isle of Wight having been detected some Tobacco from a Hogshead which was part of the Cargo of the Ship Friendship Pitman Cleaver Master from Virginia & lately stranded within this Port which Hogshead the said Sanders and 3 other Persons unknown were seen to roll out of the Sea & having so done knock the Hoops from off the same whereby the Tobacco which might otherwise have been saved was lost & the said Saunders having also assaulted one of the Officers who was employed to assist in saving the Goods, has been by the Justices committed to Winchester Jail to take his Tryal at the next Assizes. We are desired by the Magistrates to transmit to you a Copy of the Examination taken by them, and to submit to you on which clause of the Act of 26 Geo. 2: Ch 19 you think it right that he should be prosecuted and whether the Offence is of such a nature as deserves to be punished by way of an Example to others, and as the Duties on Tobacco are very high, you will not think it right to Order the Prosecution be carried out at the Crown’s Expense or at least that the Clerk of the Peace who appears by the Act to prosecute Offenders should be assisted therein under your directions respecting which we pray your Orders.


20 July 1784                  On the 16th Inst. two large Lugsail Vessels were brought into this Port by the Officers of the Orestes Sloop of War, having been Seized in Christ Church Harbour by them in conjunction with Mr James Sarmon Commander of an Excise Revenue Cutter & Mr George Sarmon Commander of the Swan Cutter in the Service at this Port for having the preceding Day unlawfully imported & run a large quantity of Tea & Foreign Spirits near Christ Church within the limits of the Port of Southampton.

We are sorry to acquaint your Honors that the Officers were oppos’d, obstructed & wantonly fir’d upon when rowing into Christ Church Harbour & before they had landed or taken possession of the Vessel by a number of Smuglers assembled on board the Lugger & on shore, that Mr Allen Master of the Orestes, & who had acted under a Deputation from your Honors was shot & is since Dead, and one of the Mariners wounded in the arm. An Inquest has been taken on the Body of Mr Allen & the Jury having returned a Verdict of Wilful Murder the Coroner has issued a warrant to apprehend William Parrott & William May two persons who were prov’d to have been accessories in the Murder none of the rest are yet known or discovered but a transaction of this kind having happen’d in the face of Day & so near Christ Church it is more than probable that many of the persons assembled in the neighbourhood especially as the Smuglers shelter’d themselves in a Public House called the Haven House from the Windows of which & the Stable adjoining several Muskets were fired at the Officers, we have judged it necessary to write to Mr Jeans Supervisor of the Riding Officers at Christ Church to excite him to use his endeavours to apprehend the Offenders & transmit any addition information he may collect that is likely to lead to the discovery of any Persons concerned in the Murder. Never was a more unprovoked Attack made on Officers of the Revenue than in the present Instance & it shows how necessary exemplary Punishment for such daring Violations of the Law, the Smuglers had not even the pretence to urge offering in their own defence for many shots were fired on the Officers from behind Sand Banks & shelter’d Places & Mr Allen who was first wounded in the Thigh & afterwards in the Body, received his death wound before a single Gun was fired by the Revenue Officers  - But a Report having gone abroad that before the intended Act for preventing of Smugling takes place, an Act of oblivion for all Smugling Offences will also be passed, we are fully persuaded they are induc’d to act in a more daring & desperate manner under an idea (but a mistaken one we hope) that all Offences against the Revenue or Outrages on Officers will be pardon’d – From the great numbers concern’d as the Officers report, in this Business, we are humbly of opinion that if Pardon & a Reward was offer’d to any of the persons so unlawfully assembled, except those who actually fired or killed the Officer it might lead to discovery of the most atrocious offenders. Inclosed we transmit two lists found on board one of the Vessels and as they contain the Names of many Persons known to be noted Smuglers & the Officers were repeatedly fired upon from the Persons on board the Vessels, tho’ they all quitted scuttled, and carried away the Sails before the Officers could get up on the beach where they were run on, it is but reasonable to suppose the persons belonging to them were some of those concerned and we submit to your Honors whether it will not be sufficient for advertising & apprehending them on suspicion, at any rate we hope your Honors will order such steps to be taken as you think most likely to bring the Offenders to Justice.

The Vessels under Seizure were seen the preceeding day in landing a very large quantity of Tea & Foreign Spirits which were carried off between two & three O’Clock in the Afternoon by upwards of 50 Waggons and 2 or 3 hundred Horses but the Smuglers would not suffer Mr Sarmon of the Excise Cutter who fell in with them at the time, either to go on board the Vessels or take away any of the Goods which were on Shore, on which he stood to Sea again & meeting the Orestes & Swan Cutters they joined together in pursuit of the Vessels which they Seized as before mentioned.


23 August 1784             Inclosed we transmit a Letter received from Mr Grimes Supervisor of Riding Officers at this Port representing the particulars of a Seizure of a Lug sail Vessel & her cargo which was yesterday made by John Jeram one of the Officers under his Survey, but which Seizure as he was bringing the Vessel into Cowes was forcibly taken from him by a Boat belonging to the Hebe Frigate & carried into Portsmouth.

We have examin’d Mr Jeram as to the facts & he confirms the account as stated by Mr Grimes adding that although it was probable the Smuglers ran so near the Shore purposely to avoid the Hebe whom she might see in the offing & by endeavouring to keep under the Land out of sight ran on Shore, yet had not he Jeram who was then upon his Station been there to take possession of the Seizure, it would in all probability been carried away by the People who soon assembled on Shore, and we beg leave to observe, that it does not appear to us that the Hebe had been in chace of the Vessel & if she had it is more than probable she had lost he, as it was not until some time after Mr Jeram had hir’d people to assist him in securing the Seizure & getting the Vessel off & was proceeding with her to Cowes that the Hebe’s Boat put off to come on board, and Mr Jeram asserts, that the Hebe was a distance of two Leagues as he verily believes from the Shore at the time the vessel struck.

From the representation of Mr Jeram & from all the circumstances we can collect, we cannot but think Mr Jeram legally entitled to the Seizure, that although he was obliged to submit to the superior force of the Hebe, the Officers of which have thought it proper to take it from him, yet he humbly hopes thro’ your Honors interference, he shall obtain that Justice which he thinks he is entitled to, and that your Honors will be pleased to order the seizure which he legally made & was fairly in possession of till forcibly taken from him, to be delivered to him again to be prosecuted as his Seizure – leaving it afterwards to be determined whether the Officers of the Hebe are entitled to any or what part of the produce thereof.


18 September 1784        Joseph Pilkington a Deputed Mariner; and three other Mariners belonging to the Swan Cutter in the Service at this Port, having been wounded in a Skirmish with Smuglers in the Execution of their Duty particulars of which were transmitted to you in our letter of 22nd May last, inclosed we beg leave to transmit the Surgeons Bill amounting to Fifteen Pounds four shilling & six pence for Attendance & cure of their Wounds, together with the Certificate of Mr George Sarmon Commander of the Cutter, and humbly pray your Honors will be pleased to give directions for the payment of the said Bill which does not appear to be unreasonable.


27 Sept 1784                 The Act of the last session of Parliament, Chapter 47, having directed an Ensign & Pendant with such Marks thereon as are now worn by Vessels in the Service of the Revenue, in a Blue Field, to be hoisted in chasing Vessels liable to Seizure after the first of October next.

We humbly submit to your honours if you will not be pleased to give directions that the Swan & Speedwell Cutters in the Service at this Port should be forthwith furnished with the said Colours which we pray may be forwarded in the Southampton waggon instead of being sent by any coasting vessel.

P.S. A small Ensign & Pendant we submit will also be necessary for the Six Oar’d Boat stationed here.


2 October 1784              In return to your Order of reference on the Affidavit of Mr John Case Mate of the Antilope Cutter at Portsmouth and several of his Boat Crew relative to a Seizure of Twelve four Gallons Casks of Spirits, which had previously been seiz’d by two of the Boatman belonging to the six oar’d Boat employee under Contract with the Collector at this Port, and lodged at a Public House for Security, and where being afterwards found by Mr Case, he thought proper to seize & carry them to Portsmouth. We be leave to refer your Honors to the papers inclosed for the circumstances of the transaction. No. 1 is a letter from Mr Miller Sitter of the 6 Oar’d Boat, No. 2 is the Affidavit of the Persons who first seiz’d the Goods, No. 3 a Certificate from the Landlord of the Public House where the Goods were lodg’d, to prove that he did not object to Mr Case’s searching his House, that the Goods were not concealed but deposited in the Cellar under Survey of the Officers of Excise, and that he told Mr Case that the Goods were lodg’d there for security by two of Mr Millers People, No 4 is a Certificate from a Farmer who happened to be present when the dispute was between Mr Case & the two Boatmen and No.5 is a Certificate from the Excise Officer to prove that the Boatmen gave him notice of their having made the Seizure & lodged it for security in the Public House at Nettlestone where it was afterwards found by Mr Case.

It appears to us that the ill treatment of which Mr Case complains was occasion’d by his persisting in taking away the Goods, and telling the Boatmen they had no * * Authority to Seize and Admitting that to be a fact, we cannot but think it ill judg’d in Mr Case to avail himself of it, the Boatmen were qualified as all other Mariners belonging to Revenue Vessels are, they had Certificates from us to identify their being employed in the Service, and we apprehend it is by no means the custom of the Service for One Officer to take away Goods that have previously been detain’d by another, indeed in this Instance it would be particularly hard upon the Contractor because Mr Case by taking away the Goods deprives him of the benefit which would result from the Seizure; and we are of the opinion it will also tend to prejudice the Service by sewing discord & creating dissentions amongst the Officers instead of promoting & encouraging that harmony & good understanding which ought to subsist.

The objects now in dispute twelve Casks is trifling, but much detriment may accrue to the Service from the idea going abroad that the Boatmen have no authority to seize or stop Goods & Mr Miller reports to us, that it has occasioned Goods being rescued from them since, which otherwise would not have been attempted, because the Smuglers have publickly told them they had no rights to make seizures.

With respect to the reasoned assigned by Mr Case to Mr Miller for not giving up the seizure, namely “that the two Boatmen used him ill” it does not occur to us to be a justifiable reason, for if the Boatmen were guilty of misconduct to a superior Officer, he had his remedy by a complaint to your Honors, or had he even made application to us he would have found that improper conduct from inferior Officers to a Person in his station would not have been countenanc’d.

We beg leave to submit the consideration of the whole matter to your Honors, and if you concur with us in our opinion the Seizure ought to belong to the six Oar’d Boat stationed at this Port, we trust you will be pleased to give directions accordingly.


9 October 1784              On the 7th Instant died Mr John Pain Land Surveyor at this Port.

We beg leave to acquaint your Honors that we have appointed Mr Lancelot Foquett Land Waiter on the Establishment with a Salary of £40 per annum to officiate as Surveyor, untill the vacancy is regularly fill’d by the appointment of a successor to Mr Pain. We hope this meet your Honors approbation.


4 January 1785              George Granger & John Harvey, two Officers belonging to this Port having at different times been obstructed in the execution of their Duty, beat & otherwise ill used particularly on the 26th August & 16th December last, we have discovered the names of several of the Offenders & made Affidavits of the Facts before a Commissioner in the Court of the Kings Bench, which affidavits we beg leave to transmit herewith, submitting to your Honors if you will not be pleas’d to Order Prosecution to be commenced against those that are known for their respective Offences, and we further submit to your consideration that it may not be proper to Prosecute before the Magistrates John Kingswell, William March and William alias James Hobbs for the treble Value on the Eleven small Casks of Foreign Spirits found in their possession, exclusive of any other Prosecutions you may think proper to order against Kingswell for being afterwards concerned in beating the Officer & rescuing the Goods, which facts cannot be proved against March & Hobbs, the Officers not having seen them amongst the Smuglers after they first met them with Goods in their Possession.


4 January 1785              Having only one writ of Assistance for the use of all the officers belonging to this Port, and that being necessarily in the possession of Mr Grimes Supervisor of Riding Officers for his and their use, we humbly pray your Honors will be pleased to order another to be sent to be kept in the Custom House & used occasionally by us, or under our direction as the Service may require.

PS In obedience to your Order of 30 August 1777 we acquaint you that the number of Letters in the last Year’s Correspondence with your Honors is One hundred and fifty one.


15 January 1785            Pursuant to your Order of the 5th Instant Bone Tucker one of the Persons detained on suspicion of being concern’d in the late outrage and murder committed by the smugglers at ChristChurch, has been carried before a Magistrates for examination, but it not appearing by the Evidence on the part of the Crown that Tucker either fired or was in any degree aiding, assisting or encouraging those who did fire, but that he left the Vessel on the approach of the Revenue Boats and went from the place immediately as the firing began, and Tucker himself proving that in his haste to get away, he left his Cloaths behind and was met on the way to ChristChurch at the time the Smuglers were firing, the Magistrates did not think the evidence sufficient to commit him upon & he was accordingly set at Liberty.

With respect to Guernsey Jenny the other Person detain’d on suspicion, he found means to escape from the Excise Cutter where he was confin’d, before your order for taking him before the Magistrate was received and there being reason to suspect that he escap’d if not by connivance at least through the negligence & inattention of those who had the charge of him, the Collector has desired the Tide Surveyor of Excise who himself has shown great zeal & activity through the whole of the business, to report the misconduct of his Officers to the Board of Excise, who we trust will at least express their disapprobation of the conduct of such of them as appear to have been culpable on this occasion.

We further beg leave to acquaint you that a Warrant is issued to retake Guernsey Jenny in case he can be found, in order that he may be properly Examined before a Magistrate but the Collector doubts if at present he is in possession of such Evidence against him, as would induce the Magistrate to commit him for Tryal.


14 February 1785           The Wooden Houses for the use of the Landing Waiters on the Wharfs & Keys being very much out of repair we have caused an Estimate to be made of the expense that will attend the repairing of the same which amounts to the Sum of Eleven Pounds fourteen shillings & eight pence as appears by the Estimate enclos’d and we humbly pray your directions thereon. [This was approved on 1st March, the cost (in a bill submitted in November) turned out to be Fourteen Pounds five shillings and four pence as No. 2 was found to be ‘so totally decayed as to not be worth repairing’ and it was entirely rebuilt.]


12 March 1785               Mr John Miller who has been nominated to be a Riding Officer & Coast Waiter at this Port in the room of Stephen Squire, resigned being by your Order of 1st Instant directed to go under Instructions for two Months.

We beg leave to acquaint your Honors, that the principal part of the Duty requir’d of an Officer in the station to which Mr Miller is nominated, is that of a Riding or Preventive Officer to Survey the Coast & that he only acts occasionally as a Coast Waiter to certify the landing or shipping of Cattle carried in open Boats or Hoys between Ryde & Portsmouth & sometimes to indorse Sufferances for trifling articles of free Goods brought or carried over in Passage Boats.

That we are humbly of the opinion if your Honors think proper to dispense with his going under Instructions as a Coast Waiter no prejudice can arise there from to the Revenue, Mr Miller appearing to us to be already sufficiently qualified to perform any Coast business that is likely to require his attendance.

And in case there should at any time be Goods land’d or shipp’d at Ryde which require to be Gauged or Weighed, the proper Coast Waiter or Land Waiter from Cowes may be sent to attend the same.


23 April 1785                 Mr John Miller Sitter of the 6 Oar’d Boat employed in the Service at this Port on a Contract with me, being nominated to be a Riding Officer & Coast Waiter will not be able to continue Command of the Boat.

I therefore humbly pray your Honors to grant a Deputation for Mr Frances Sarmon to be Sitter of the said Boat in the room of Mr Miller, Mr Sarmon being well qualified for the employment.


9 May 1785                   The Speedwell Cutter in the Service of the Customs at this Port having been repaired and provided with necessary Materials pursuant to your Orders of 16th September last. Inclosed we transmit the Tradesmen’s Bills for the same amounting to the Sum of Two hundred seventy eight pounds seventeen shillings and seven pence for payment whereof we humbly pray your directions.


10 May 1785                 Captain Lynn of His Majesty’s Cutter the Pilot having on the 6th Inst. on his way down the Channel he fell in with a Brig at Anchor between the Needles and Pevrill Point & within tree Leagues of the Coast & finding on examination that she was loaded with Tea & Coffee, Salt Petre and from many circumstances having cause to suspect that she was lying there with the intent to smuggle part of the Cargo, thought it his Duty to seize the said Vessel as forfeit by the 1st Sect. of the 24th of His present Majesty Chap. 47and has accordingly detain’d her & left her under our care, till your Honors directions respecting the matter can be obtained. 

Inclosed is his Letter to the Collector containing the circumstances of the Case, which we beg leave to submit to your Honors.

If the Vessel at Anchor is within 4 Leagues of the Coast which Captain Lynn says, he & his Officers can clearly prove the fraudulent intention is at least very suspicious, the Wind was W which was fair to carry him up the Channel & the pretence of stopping Tide / which he says he has done several times in coming up Channel / we think not a justifiable excuse for his being in the Situation in which he was found; by his Log Book he has been within a Mile of Start Point, which we conceive he ought not to have been, if a fair Voyage from Port L’Orient to Amsterdam – Add to which he had a Signal hoisted under the Spiritsail Yard which we understand is a signal used by Smugglers on the Coast for Traders to come on board.

The Vessel is a Brigantine called the Nancy, the Mast Name Limburn & belongs to North Yarmouth, the Crew all English & the Master says he has a Mediterranean Pass but that the Vessel is American Property, that he sold her in Virginia & sail’d her at Port L’Orient, & is now employed to carry her to Amsterdam.

There were several Passengers on board, two of whom the Master says he was to put on shore at Dover & the Master & one of the Passengers since the Vessel has been brought into Cowes have left her & are gone to London to complain to the American Ambassador & threaten Captain Lynn with a Prosecution for heavy damages for stopping the Vessel.

We beg leave to further observe that the Tea is chiefly stow’d in the Forehold of the Vessel, very convenient for being handed out, that the Hatch was open, & on being asked the reason of it by the Collector, who at the desire of Captain Lynn went on board to examine the state of the Vessel the Mate said it was left open in order to get at the Fire Wood which was kept there. – The Coffee is stow’d in the middle of the main Hatch way, the packages are apparently large, but on opening the outside wrapper it is found to contain 3 or 4 Bags, each weighing about 140 lbs, and under the outside Packages of Tea are four Boxes each packed up & numbered & which can with great ease be landed through the fore hatch way.

The Collector having this Instant received a second letter from Captain Lynn, stating other suspicious circumstances we inclose the same, submitting the case to your Honors & praying your directions as soon as possible for our government, and in the mean time we shall not fail to make enquiry of Captain Wallis of the Rose Cutter if the Vessel had been previously boarded by his Boat, or seen hovering on the Coast, as represented by Captain Lynn in his second Letter to the Collector.


31 May 1785                 Robert Willis having by your Order of the 23rd Instant been nominated to the Employment of Boatman at this Port, we inclose transmit a Certificate of his Qualification.

This is to Certify I have examin’d Robert Willis nominated to be a Boatman at this Port and find him to be a Seafaring Man and qualified for the Management of a Boat. (Signed John Miller, Tidesurveyor).

We certify that Robert Willis nominated to be a Boatman at this Port is / as appears by an Extract from the Register of Baptism which has been produced to us / in the Thirty fifth year of Age & we further certify that he appears active an capable of performing the Duty of a Boatman.


8 June 1785                   On the 7th Inst. Mr Isham Chapman was admitted to the Office of Surveyor at this Port in the room of John Payne deceas’d.


28 July 1785                  In obedience to your order of 19th Inst. accompanying a copy of a Letter from Mr Rose, Secretary to the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty’s Treasury, desiring that Dr Franklin might be accommodated as much as possible in the Transportation of his Effects from the Vessel which bought them from Havre to the one destin’d to carry them to America.

We beg leave to acquaint your Honours that the Southampton Packet, Samuel Downs Master arrived here on 26 Instant having on board part of the Baggage & Effects of Dr Franklin and that same have been transhipped with all possible diligence and accommodation under the immediate inspection of the Tide Surveyor whom we directed to attend on the occasion on  board the Commerce, Capt. Truxton, for America, whom we are informed, sail’d this morning for America.

Dr Franklin, himself did not come on shore at Cowes but embark’d yesterday from Southampton having been landed there from the vessel which bought him from Havre de Grace.


30 October 1785            In return to your Order of 15th Inst. we acquaint you that that there are several Warehouses which we apprehend may be hired for the storing of Tobacco under the regulations of the Act of the last Session Chapter 81. There is one in particular, a large new built strong Brick Manufactured capable of containing of the Ground Floor about 750 Hhds of Tobacco, and in the Loft about 400, situated at East Cowes upon the Wharf near the Custom House, but as we do not think there is any immediate prospect of the Importation of Tobacco at this Port, we would not recommend of any Storehouse at present, as the Rent of such a one as would be most convenient will be considerable, as we have no doubt of being able to procure one as short Notice should there be occasion for it.

With respect to a proper Station for the Mooring of such Ships as may arrive at this Port with Tobacco after 1st January next, as transient ships which call here for Orders generally Anchor in the Road, we are of the opinion that such ships that come here with the intent to deliver their Cargoes. should be Moor’d in Cowes Harbour as nearly opposite the Custom House as possible, and which we are inform’d will be a convenient and safe Station for them.


17 November 1785         Inclosed we transmit an account of the Seizures made by Officers of this Port between the 25th Ultimo & the 16th Inst. for the prosecution of which we pray your directions.

In article No. 5 we beg to observe that the Deputy Comptr. having received information that His Majesty’s Cutter ‘Expedition’, having for some time past carried on a very improper and unwarrantable Intercourse between this Port and Guernsey and that she was very recently arrived from that place with a considerable Quantity of Wines and Spirits, he was induced to repair on board and search her where he found concealed in different parts of the Cutter the several articles as stated in the Account of Seizure which we beg leave to refer.

By that account your Honors will perceive that the King’s Cutter is seized for unlawfully imported the said Goods in which consideration Mr Rushworth, the Deputy Comptr. humbly trusts he shall find himself the more particularly justified as Lieut. Crooke, the Commander of the ‘Expedition’ was acting under a Commission from yr. Honourable Board, and was thereby consequently authorized to seize run & prohibited Goods - a Power we apprehend that has too often betrayed and abused.

We further submit for you Honours consideration whether Lieut. Crooke is not liable to the Penalty inflicted by the 19th of Geo. 3rd Ch. 69 Sect. 7 on which Masters of Ships and Vessels for unlawfully Importing Foreign Spirits; as Mr Rushworth is confident the Lieut. Crooke cannot avail himself of the Exception made in the 4 section of the said Act respecting the Commanders of His Majesty’s Ships and Vessels being allowed to have on board Foreign spirituous Liquors to be issued by way of allowance to the respective Ships Companies.


26 Nov 1785  (From the Comptroller)        It is with utmost submission and concern I observe your Orders of 24th Instant directing the Delivery of the ‘Expedition’ Cutter. I trust your Honors will do me the Justice to believe when I Seized that Cutter, I was actuated to it from every principle of Duty, being unapprized of an Act which exempted the King’s Ships, in such circumstances, from forfeiture, and persuaded if the Goods were liable to Seizure the Cutter was consequently forfeited, at the same time well knowing that it was the positive directions of the Board in no case to Seize one without the other.

These considerations, added to the very unwarranted & illicit correspondence the Cutter has for some time in the past carried on and under cover and protection of the Commission from your honorable Board become me even to suggest that the Cause that your Honors have been pleased to direct the delivery of the Cutter, I shall therefore only hope, under every circumstance of the case, that before you finally order her to be restored, you would cause an Enquiry to be made into this matter, as I trust, and indeed am confidant such proofs will be adduced of the Misconduct and Notoriety of the Vessel as to justify, on every account the Prosecution of the Cutter, as well as Lieutenant Crooke the Commander; at any rate should your Honors think fit to relinquish the Seizure, I should hope I shall not fall under the displeasure of the hororable Board, if I should be induced to prosecute both the one and the other at my own Risque and Expense.


5 December 1785           Herewith we transmit our Abstracts for the last Month together with the undermentioned Accounts-

Abstract Petty Receipts & Account of Condemned Goods

Account of Absent Officers

PS The Weights, Scales, Corn & Coal Bushells & which were made use of last month remain just & true. [This was sent monthly, in this case it was signed by Charles Roe as Acting Collector & John Rushworth, Comptroller.]


30 March 1786               As directed by your Order of 27th Inst. we have called upon the Deputy Customer of this Port to account for his not having hitherto transmitted a Quarter Book as required by the Instructions to Patent Officers.

And Mr Roe the present Deputy Customer has acquainted us that finding it had not been customary when he came to the Port to Transmit a Quarter Book, he has regularly examined & signed the Collectors Quarter Book before the same was sent away which he apprehended would have been deemed sufficient but that he will take care in future to make and submit a separate Quarter Book.


1779 - 1783

1786 - 1788

Customs Cowes Letters Book

© Transcription by Steve Holden, 2008. Original Book held at the National Archives.

2 August 2009