Collector to Board Letters Book 1804 - 1805 (No. 25)


These extracts are a partial transcription of the book held at the National Archives reference, CUST 61/17, 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.


6 January 1804              We reported to your Honors in our Letter of the 3rd Inst. the death of Robert Flux, one of the Tidewaiters on the Establishment at this Port and in obligation to your Order of 7th November 1798 we now have to state the demand that he and his Family occupied the Apartments in the Custom House Viz. a small room on the ground Floor, a small Chamber and Garrett, by the direction of the late Collector about Nine Years ago thought him a proper Person to act the capacity as a Watchman, for the Protection of the Offices after Hours and the Security of Spirits and other Goods lodged in the Warehouse.

The Apartment offers very slender accommodation and are consequently only suitable for a Man & his Wife and we flatter ourselves in a little time to be able to select a trusty Couple and be permitted to direct them to fill the Rooms used by the late Flux and that the Books & Papers of Office as well as the property in the Storehouse will be under the same proper vigilance when ourselves, Clerks and others have quitted the Custom House.


12 January 1804            As permitted by your General Order of 11th April 1801 we inclose a Statement of Salary received by William Gregory a Boatman on Incidents at this Port between 5th January 1803 and 5th January 1804 humbly craving from your Honors an allowance of £25 being the difference between the Sum he has actually received this last Year and his former Salary of £30 per Annum.

Gregory’s Health and general debility and defect of sight will not warrant any expectation of his ever being capable of serving your Honors again, and we beg to submit if it may not be advisable to place him on the Superannuated List.

Gregory is 60 years of Age and during the last 27 Years contributed to the Superannuation Fund. Answers to the Printed Questions were transmitted to the Honorable Board on 5th December 1801.

We humbly entreat your Honors to commiserate Gregory’s situation by granting his crave for £25 nearly the whole of which Sum is due to a poor Family for supplying him with Board and Lodging the last Twelve Months on our Assurance that the Allowance from your Honors should be applied in discharging his debt.


25 January 1804            In obedience to your Order of the 19th Inst. we transmit a Certificate of Baptism of Richard Chiverton, Nominated to be a Riding Officer at this Port.

He appears sufficiently active and capable of performing the Duties of the Office and from the information we can obtain, he has led a sober discreet life, was never known to be concerned in Smuggling or to have obstructed a Revenue Officer in the Execution of his Duty. [He was Baptised in the Parish of Newchurch on 31 December 1777 son of Thomas & Mary Chiverton.]


26 January 1804            As directed by your Order of the 19th Instant we have to report that William Robey late Riding Officer at Ryde / now promoted to the situation of Supervisor of Riding Officers / Superintended the Landing and Shipping of Goods Coastwise when holding the place of Riding Officer but the articles being free Shipped from or Landed at Ryde, he acquaints us that on average of the three Years his Fees did not amount to £6 – 6 per Annum.

We entreat your directions if we are to send up now Mr Robey has received Promotion the Statement called for in your Order beforementioned. Mr John Miller the other Riding Officer lives at Shalfleet, an obscure place in the Port where so few Goods are Landed or Shipped that we can hardly consider him as entitled to the denomination of Coastwaiter, his Fees for attending the Shipping of some Bricks & Salt occasionally do not exceed 50 Shillings per annum.

Should he be deemed as coming within the Honorable Boards General Order of the 15 July 1802, we humbly request to receive your further directions thereon


3 February 1804 In return to your Order of enquiry dated the 31st Ult. we have to report that the Custom House and Premises have been regularly locked & secured every Night since the Death of Robert Flux by William Ralph one of the Established Tide Waiters belonging to the Port, and that the Widow of Flux, her son aged 14 Years and two other Children continue to sleep in the Apartment formerly allotted to her Husband.

We beg to recommend William Ayling an Extra Tide Waiter, a Man of good Character, and in whom we can place Confidence and who has no Family except his Wife, to occupy the Rooms used by Flux Widow, one on the Ground Floor, and one small Chamber.

The Duty which we submit to your Honors consideration as proper to be imposed on these People is that Ayling should act as Watchman over the Crowns property, should occasionally assist in the Tobacco & Spirit Warehouse, should act as Messenger on all Office Business and attend the arrival and delivery of Letters and when we might have occasion for an additional Extraman that he might be boarded, for which Services we would propose to your Honors he should receive 2/- per Diem. In consideration of Living in the Custom House Rent Free, we would further submit that the Wife should light the Fires, Sweep out the Offices and see that the Candles are properly put out when the Clerks leave the Office at Night.

Should your Honors approve of the aforegoing proposals, which we have thought incumbent on us to submit, form a condition in our own Minds that such a Person would afford Security to the Crowns property by living in the Custom House – we would further propose an Annual Allowance amounting to £4 – 11 – 4 for lighting Fires and bringing Letters by an old Standing Order of the 4th December 1773 may in future be withheld as the particular Service for which that Sum was granted would hereafter be performed by Mr Ayling and his Wife.


6 February 1804 Captain Ferris of the Swan Revenue Cutter having had the misfortune in a Gale of Wind on the 30th Ultimo to Spring the Cutters Boom.

Inclosed we transmit his Report & particulars of the Accident together with for some Gun Match and Musket and Pistol Balls.

We have to add for your Honors Information that a new Boom has been provided, Captain Ferris will sail in the Evening for Guernsey, in pursuance of Orders, joining the Admiral and commencing on that Station.


13 February 1804           As permitted by your General Order of 20th January 1801 we transmit a crave from Mr William Robey late acting Riding Surveyor, amounting to £13 – 8 – 6 being the difference between his own Salary as Riding Officer and that of the Riding Surveyor. On the Death of the late Mr Grimes, we appointed Mr Robey to act as Surveyor, of which we Acquainted your Honors in our Letter of 10th October last and he continued to fill the Vacancy until the 17th January last when we admitted him by your Honors Order to the Situation of Riding Surveyor.


21 February 1804           In return to your Order of enquiry of Yesterday we do not consider John Miller and Richard Chiverton who are Riding Officers on the Establishment and who occasionally act as Coastwaiters at Ryde and Shalfleet as entitled to any limitation of Hours or Allowance in execution their Duties nor have they ever claimed it. We also have to state to your Honors that Miller and Chiverton do not follow any Occupation.


29 February 1804           In return to your Order of enquiry 22 Inst. we have to report that we have made proposals to three Tidewaiters whom we consider eligible Viz. William Ralph, Thomas Love and William Warder to live in the Custom House Apartments formerly occupied by Flux – deceased all of whom respectfully request to decline the offer on account of the insufficiency of the accommodation.

The Extra Duty we proposed in our Letter of 3rd Instant to be done by William Ayling, such as assisting in the Tobacco & Spirits Warehouse and acting as Messenger of all Official business is now done by an inferior Officer that we can call on who is not otherwise employed.

The fires and lighted and the Officers swept by Phœbe Matthews, a woman living at some little distance from the Custom House under an Order from your Honors dated 4th December 1773. This we submit / in case your Honors should adopt the recommendation of Ayling / should be annulled and the service performed by his Wife.

The Letters are brought from the Post Office at West Cowes to East Cowes and carried from the Custom House to the Post Office by a Person employed by the Post Master at the annual expence of 40/- allowed for by a Standing Order of 4th December 1773 – which we submit may also be discontinued if your Honors approve of Ayling being allowed to attend the arrival and delivery of the Letters.

William Ayling is a sober steady Man 50 Years old and his Wife nearly the same age – and is under Security in the Penalty of £100 for for the faithful discharge of his Duty as extra Tidewaiter in your Honors employ.


2 March 1804                In return to your Order of the 22nd Ult. we transmit Certificates of Qualification and Baptism of Benjamin Brown nominated to be a Tidewaiter in the room of Robert Flux – deceased – he is capable of the Duty and can write sufficiently to keep the Book directed to be kept by Tidewaiters stationed on board Ships. (He was admitted on the 14th March.)


11 March 1804               An outrage having been committed against the Revenue by a Body of Soldiers stationed at the back of the Isle of Wight not only by opposing the operations of your Honors Officers endeavouring to make Seizure of a quantity of Prohibited Spirits which had been drifted on Shore but by rescuing 5 Casks from Mr Robert Willis Sitter of the Six Oared Boat and Mr James Williams Mate of the Cutter belonging to Christ Church and carrying them away with at least 200 more Casks into His Majesty’s Barracks at Sandown.

We have upon the back of the inclosed Information caused two of the Leaders who the Officers could identity to be apprehended and Committed to Goal to wait your Honors directions on the process to be adopted for the punishment of the Offenders.

As soon as we were appraised of the resistance shown to Willis and Williams the Collector called on Major General Lord Caron and communicated to him the conduct of the Military, his Lordship expressed his displeasure at their behaviour in most indignant terms and gave an Order to the Commanding Officer Lt Col. Young of the 8th Regiment to have the Barracks immediately searched which was done but unfortunately too late to recover any number as only 86 Casks could be found.

We are since informed that the majority of the Spirits were disposed of by the Soldiers to Smugglers & Country People at 10 & 5 Shillings per Cask & that upwards of 20 Privates of the 8th Regiment concerned in this shameful transaction have been severely flogged for their misbehaviour and getting Drunk with the Spirits carried from the Shore.


20 March 1804               In pursuance of your directions signified in Mr Secretary’s Letter of the 17th Inst. we have sent for Mr Robert Willis and Mr James Williams Master of the Batt Cutter who lives at Christ Church that they may make a full Affidavit of all the circumstances of obstruction met with in making a Seizure of Prohibited Spirits at Sandown Barracks which shall be transmitted to your Honors as soon as possible.

In the meantime we have received Notice from the Justices Clerk that the Soldiers now in Prison for being Principals in the rescue must now be liberated in the course of two or three Days unless proceedings are entered against them, we earnestly entreat your Honors directions thereon by return of Post.

In obedience to that part of your Honors Letter respecting the names of the 20 Soldiers flogged, Mr Chapman the Comptroller waited yesterday on Lt Col. Young of His Majesty’s 8th Regiment at Sandown Barracks for the purpose of obtaining them, but received for an answer that he could not give the names and explained that he had punished these Men for Breach of Military Discipline in getting Drunk in the Barracks with part of the Spirits found on the Shore, and added that those Men were no way concerned in the Obstruction. [The Affidavit was transmitted on 23rd March.] 


28 March 1804               As directed by Mr Secretary’s Letter of the 23rd Inst. we have endeavoured to devise additional precautions necessary to be adopted for the Security of Prize Goods permitted by your Honorable board to be sent from this Port to London for Exportation.

With great deference we beg to offer it as our opinion that if the existing Regulation of the 43rd of His present Majesty Ch. 134 Sect 6 and your Honors General Standing Order of 29th August 1799 be duly complied with, strengthened by the customary Coast Security and legal Dispatches, which we invariable attend to, they appears to be fully adequate to the prevention of Fraud or Embezzlement and we are at a loss to suggest any fresh Regulations unless the placing of a Tidewaiter on board a Vessel in which there maybe a considerable quantity of Prize Goods and accompanying the same to London, might be thought by your Honors to offer additional protection to the Revenue & the Property.


11 April 1804                 Two of your Honors Officers having been beat and severely wounded by persons unknown in the execution of their Duty Saturday Night last – and a Rescue of 16 Casks of Prohibited Spirit having been effected by the said people unknown from Daniel Dore and George Granger the Officers who had seized the same. Inclosed we transmit an Affidavit of the transaction praying your Honors directions.

As the Officers cannot identify the Three Persons concerned in the Assault and Rescue we humbly suggest it may be advisable to offer a Reward of £50 for discovering the Offenders so that they may be prosecuted to conviction.

Smuggling in the Isle of Wight is now carried on to a very alarming extent and we have no doubt the Sea Fencible system tends much to promote it as every smuggler holds a Sea Fencible Certificate and crosses to Guernsey and Alderney fearless of the Impress or Revenue Officers.  [Sea Fencibles were effectively a Coastal Home Guard.]


16 April 1804                 We have to inform your Honors that in obedience to your orders of 3 January we employed Mr James Edwards – a respectable Attorney – to prefer an Indictment against John Kingswell under the 42 of the King Ch 32 for making Blazes as Signals, at the back of the Isle of Wight. The Defendant having traversed the Indictment as the Session in January last, it came to trial at Winchester the 10th Inst. and though the evidence was the most positive circumstantial that could be required we have to say that to the astonishment of all who heard the facts the Jury Acquitted the Defendant. 


21 April 1804                 We transmit inclosed for your Honors Information a Letter received from Captain Ferris now employed at Guernsey under your Order of 9th January in which he states that the Swan Cutter has received damage to on her Hull by striking against one of the Bray Rocks.


31 May 1804                 In obedience to your Order of 23rd Inst we have to report that Charles Leigh an Officer in this Service stationed at Yarmouth, constantly performed the Duty of a Coastwaiter in the last Year and acted as a Boatman every day in the last twelve Months – his Denomination on the Establishment of this Port being Coastwaiter and Boatman.


6 June 1804                   The habitual addiction to Intoxication and recent Misconduct of Mr John Pain a Landing Waiter have brought forth a complaint from Mr Thorold the Landing Surveyor on which we have judge it our Duty to give him the inclosed Charge.

We have flattered ourselves the Reprimand and Admonition given him by your Order of the 18th August 1801 on his being Charged for a similar Offence would have produced the desired effect and prevented further indulgences in Inebriety, but which we are sorry to say have been disregarded.  (He was dismissed under a Boards Order of 21st June 1804.)


25 June 1804                 We beg to submit to your consideration the inclosed Letter from Mr Robert Willis Sitter of the Six Oared Boat at St Hellens humbly representing that he is of the opinion a small Cutter of 40 Tons may be used by him with more advantage at this Crisis / now Smugling is increased / than the Six Oared Boat as he is often prevented by the high Seas that prevail at the back of the Isle of Wight from pursuing Contraband Traders through carrying on their Actions in an open Boat.

We beg to remind your Honors that Mr Willis was by your Order of 18th March was directed to fix his Station at St Hellens rather than Yarmouth, but such has been the Hostility shown to Mr Willis and his Crew by the Inhabitants / most of whom are determined Smuglers protected by Sea Fencible Certificates / that your Honors Directions could not be carried out for want of Lodging and accommodation when the Boat was employed along Shore.

It is but a few Weeks since a party of these People attacked Daniel Dore and George Granger two of your Honors Officers for the discovery of whom you have been pleased by your Order of 21st Inst. to offer a Reward of £50.

Robert Willis is an Isle of Wight Man, bred to the Sea and possesses accurate local knowledge of the small Bays and Shoals at the back parts of the Island where Smuglers run with their Goods and where Revenue Cruizers of any Burthen or Depth of Water cannot pursue them without risk – Mr. Willis’s application is for a small Vessel Condemned at Portsmouth called the Hiram, to be employed looking after Isle of Wight Smuglers and requires only an augmentation of Three Men to his present Boats Crew which on the presumption of making more Seizures would not put the Crown to any additional expence – but in all probability would prove an advantageous and profitable experiment.

The facts in Mr Willis’s Letter we can Certify correct and meritorious and we hope will entitle him to your Honors support as the interest of the Revenue is likely to be served by the purport of his application.


9 August 1804               We have in obedience to your Order of the 3rd Instant investigated the matter relative to Mr John Pain’s Memorial complaining of a deduction from his Fees by the Surveyor and find the circumstances which caused it took place in the Month of January 1803 soon after the Surveyor came into Office – it was an importation of Oranges from St Michaels and when the Cargo was nearly out, that is had been reported, ten boxes were discovered and the Tide Surveyor being apprized of the circumstances seized them and they were brought to the Warehouse. Pain was then in attendance on the Vessels Deck at a small distance from the Wharf and did not make the Seizure when an opportunity afforded – the Surveyor could not otherwise account for the neglect than the Officer was intoxicated.

This circumstance was generally reported at the time but no direct Charge made as the Surveyor said he could not prove Pain was so much intoxicated as to incapacitate him from Duty.

We cannot think the Crown did or might have obtained any injury by Pain’s neglect as the Tidesman took account on board and the other and the other Landing Waiter was in the Blue House when the Goods came on Shore & the Surveyor made visits frequently.


10 August 1804             In return to your Order of enquiry dated the 7th Inst. we have to state that we learn that some years previous to the late Collectors Appointment, an attempt was made to break open the Custom House and from its then insecure state the Bills, Vouchers & Papers of consequence, we deposited every night at the Comptrollers House a short distance from the Office.

On some alterations having been made in the Year 1795 a trusty Tidewaiter was directed by the Collector and Comptroller to guard the Custom House with which the Honorable Board was made acquainted by Letter 10th April 1796 / Copy of which we subjoin / and no disapprobation was ever intimated thereon.

We beg to reiterate our opinion that is it absolutely necessary some person should live in Custom House for the protection and Security of the Offices and Warehouses and we verily believe Mr William Ayling / who we have already recommended to your Honors in a former Letter / is a proper Person for that Purpose.


20 August 1804             Mr Robert Willis Sitter of the Six Oared Boat at St Helens having on the 7th Inst. been hindered and opposed in the execution of his Duty at Chilton on the south side of the Isle of Wight at a time when he had an opportunity of making a Seizure of a considerable number of Casks of Contraband Spirit which himself & people on the look out saw put overboard & sunk from two smuggling Vessels at a short distance from the Shore – and at the same juncture been ill treated and threatened James Dyer a Notorious Smugler who they verily believe was interested in the Contraband Goods they saw sunk & who intentionally to hinder Willis from proceeding to Sea took up a Hammer & beat a hole through the Six Oared Boat into the bilge thereby disabling her from floating & consequently Willis of going in search of the Goods.

Your Collector immediately had Dyer committed before the Magistrates who have / in the depositions of Willis & his people / committed his to take his Trial at the ensuing Quarter Sessions for the County under the Act of the 24th of His Majesty Chap 41 Sect 15.

We transmit your Honors inclose copies of the Information made before the Justices against Dyer & humbly entreat your Directions for further government in prosecuting this Offender.


23 October 1804            The Tide Surveyor having represented to us that the Punt belonging to the Watch House being nine years old, and that he is much in want of a new one, Inclosed we transmit an Estimate for another Boat, amounting to £9 – 2 – 0 which is humbly craved to be allowed.


30 October 1804            In obedience to your Order of 26th Inst. we transmit an Affidavit of James Snudden against William Kingswell for obstructing him in his Duty written on a 2/6 Stamped Paper and sworn before a Commissioner in the Kings Bench – and we have in addition to represent to your Honors that James Snudden informs us, that the Words & Threats of Kingswell was overheard by James, a resident of the Parish of Carisbrooke, and who if necessary might be Subpoenaed as Evidence.


31 October 1804            We are requested by Mr Robert Willis on whose Information a Penalty of  £168 – 9 has been recovered from James Dyer Senior & Abraham Bickerton for Smuggling, to forward the inclosed Application humbly praying to be allowed the usual reward granted to Officers when penalties have been paid by Offenders against the Revenue.


23 November 1804         We are requested by Thomas Love one of the Deputed mariners on the Swan Cutter to lay before your Honors the inclosed Memorial stating his Inability to perform his Duties of a Mate, and praying your Honors permission to retire from the Service, on an Allowance of Ten Pounds per Annum.

Love has been 17 years in the Revenue employ and in defending the Swan Cutter in the Month of December 1796 against a French Privateer, when Mr Sarmon his Commander and John Torin the other Deputed Mariner were killed. Love received a Musket shot in the Shoulder, which injured the Bone so much that no less that 15 pieces were extracted from it, before the wound closed, and at times small particles work out, which with the pain render him incapable of certain exertions – these facts coming within our own knowledge and the state of Loves Health as represented by himself in his Memorial being supported by Captain Ferris, whom we have thought right to examine on this occasion, we submit his case for your consideration.

We beg to add that Widow Sarmon & Widow Torin received from your Honors in consequence of the Death of their Husbands an Annual pension.

Love is extremely poor, has a Wife and six Children to maintain.


31 December 1804         In obedience to your Order of 14th Inst we have obtained from the different Sources therein pointed out the Information required as to the extent and nature of Smugling now practiced on this Coast and with a view of rendering the report as explicit as possible we beg leave to submit distinct answers as under to the several enquiries made by Your Honors on this subject.

1st What is the nature of Smugling on the Coast of the Isle of Wight – Spirits, Wine, Salt, Cards in small Casks and Tobacco in small Bales.

2nd The mode of Smugling the Articles – In Vessels called Cutters, Sloops and Smacks from Ten to Thirty Tons having one sometimes two Boats of a flat Build purposely constructed for landing Casks.

3rd The extent of Smugling on your Coast – Within the Port of Cowes comprehending the whole of the Isle of Wight we have ascertained there are eighteen Vessels of the description mentioned in the preceding Answer which follow the Smugling Trade entirely and make one voyage per Month to Guernsey, Jersey or Alderney bringing on an average of One hundred & Fifty small casks of Spirits with small quantities of Tobacco, Salt & cards.

4th The places where the Smugled goods are landed – Previous to landing the Prohibited Spirits on the Isle of Wight Smuglers generally sink the Casks some little distance from the shore and when they can advantage a favourable opportunity from the absence of the preventive Officers they take up their casks and land them at the undermentioned parts of the Isle of Wight Viz. St Hellens, Ryde, Yaverland, Shanklin, Luccomb, Mill Bay, Wharfield Rocks, Chilton, Brook Chine, Freshwater and Gurnard.

5th What becomes of the Smugled Goods that land on different parts of the Isle of Wight – The greater proportion is conveyed away by the receiving Smuglers on the shore in parties of Six, Ten or Fifteen to various parts of the Island and sold to the Inhabitants and to the Soldiery in the Barracks. The lesser proportion is often carried away on men’s shoulders from the landing spots on the south part of the Island to the North part and then put into Boats and conveyed to Stokes Bay Gosport, Southampton River and the new Forest on the Main Land.

Having thus laid before your honors the extent and mode of Smugling within our District we beg to suggest as means of checking this Illicit Trade that a Cruizer of about 40 Tons should be established to watch and guard independently of all other Service the Coast of the Isle of Wight and that she should be restricted from Cruizing farther than the Owers to the East and Purbeck to the West of the Isle of Wight. That the Command should be give Mr Robert Willis the present Sitter of the Six Oared Boat who is a capable intelligent Officer and acquainted with all the locations of the Island and know the depth of Water of the different Bays and Inlets where our Smuglers sink their Goods.

That in addition to his present Boats Crew he should have four Men and a Boy allowed him, that his rendezvous whenever in Port should be the Harbour at St Hellens which is the residence of all our principal Smuglers & that alternately as the weather may direct the vessel or Boat should be used.

We are aware that this augmentation of the water guard will create an increase in the expence of the management at this Port, but that increase will be so trivial in comparison with the benefits that must arise to the Crown from such an establishment that we venture to hope after the Data & Proofs we have given your Honors of Smugling at this Port that you will permit at least a trial for a Year or two of the experiment we now submit.

But should we be disappointed in your Honors approval of our suggestion for strengthening the water guard we can only propose in pursuing our desires that the number of Riding Officers should be increased the Supervisor alledging that three only now serving at the back of the Island are insufficient to detect and prevent Smuglers from prosecuting their nefarious Traffic particularly so as the stations of these Officers are so distant from each other and from his own residence that they are seldom able to operate & give that prompt and mutual aid so necessary on the discovery of these Contraband Traders landing their Goods.

No alteration has ever been made to the original Establishment of Preventive Officers at this Port nor should we be inclined to recommend it now if we did not conceive that the increased population of the Island which at the lowest estimate may be computed at 5000 inclusive of the Permanent and Stationary Depot of Troops in the Isle of Wight warranted our suggesting of some augmentation of the Revenue Force to counteract the Smuglers which these new and multiplying numbers encourage.  

We have likewise to submit to your Honors as Regulation that no Vessel under 70 Tons (unless Square Rigged as a Ship or Brig) should be allowed more than one Boat the length of which Boat shall be not exceed 14 Feet nor Vessel of 70 Tons and not exceeding 150 Tons to be allowed more than two Boats the largest shall not exceed 15 Feet security to be given by the owner of the Vessel that they shall not smugle.

That no Vessel or Boat laden or in Ballast shall proceed across the Channel unless the Master first make his Report of his Intended Voyage and Destination at the Custom House and in case any Information should be given that any such Vessel or Boat is or had been seen at any Foreign Port or Guernsey Jersey or Alderney without having reported she may be seized on her return by any Officer of the Customs as forfeited and prosecuted to condemnation

Also might it not be revised to institute also that a Master of any Vessel before alluded to should have granted to him a Certificate of the one he reported at the Custom House and in default of producing it when boarded by a Cruizer that Vessel should be subject to detention, this measure to regard only Cutters, Sloops, Smacks, Luggers, Shallops, Wherries and not Square Rig Vessels.

That Information should be obtained from some private source at Guernsey Jersey and Alderney of the several Smugling Vessels that have been or may still be there for the purpose of taking in Contraband Goods with the name and port to which they respectively belong and on such notice being sent to the Collector and Comptroller where they are Registered these Officers should communicate the same to all Officers of the Port and Commanders of Cruizers on the station. Might not an advertisement in the Provincial Papers of by Handbills announcing such a Vessel or Vessels to be in Guernsey Jersey or Alderney for the purpose of taking in Contraband Spirit have a good effect of exciting Officers to particular vigilance in watching their return to the Coast.

We also beg to suggest with great deference one other Measure which if adopted would we have no doubt tend more to the suppression of Smugling (and perhaps ultimately its complete annihilation) than all the existing Regulations now in force against Contraband Traders Viz. To abolish limits altogether with regard to English Smuglers and make it legal for any Revenue or Admiralty to seize on any part of the High Sea any British Vessel or Boat having on board Spirits, Wine, Tobacco &c in illegal Packages – for in our humble opinion Limits on the Coast operate more as an encouragement and safeguard to the Smuglers than as a Terror or Risk in carrying their daring projects into execution.


31 December 1804         It is with serious concern we transmit you from Mr John Harris Commander of the Fox Lugger an account of the death of Joseph Langrish his Mate and four of his Crew who on the 26th Inst. were drowned off Christ Church Ledge by the upsetting of the Six Oared Boat occasioned by the Jibing of the Lug Sail.

James Corke the survivor has not yet been able to attend this Office but we have instructed him to do so in order that we may ascertain from him and the Evidence what state the Boats Crew was in when they fell into the Sea – it being reported that at the time of leaving Yarmouth where the Lugger was at Anchor Francis Tewksbury one of the unfortunate sufferers was much intoxicated.

So soon as we can acquire the requisite Information we shall immediately submit the same to your Honors.


1 January 1805              William Arnold, Deputed Mariner of the Fox Temporary Cruizer at this Port having conducted himself with propriety in the Discharge of his Duty for the Service, we beg leave to recommend him to your Honors as a fit person to fill the Situation of Mate aboard the said Cruizer in the room of Joseph Langrish unfortunately drowned last Week.


2 January 1805              A new boat for the use of the Tidesurveyor having been provided by your Honors Order of 13th November last, inclosed we transmit the Tradesmans Bill with a Duplicate of the same amounting to Nine Pounds Two Shillings to pay which we pray your directions.


7 January 1805              As permitted by your General Order of 11th April 1801 we inclose a Statement of the Salary received by William Gregory a Boatman on Incidents at this Port between 5th January 1804 and 5th January 1805 humbly craving from your Honors an Allowance of £25 – being the difference between the Sum he has actually received this year and his former Salary of £30 per Annum.

There has been no amendment in the Health of William Gregory since last year nor is there the smallest probability of his ever being capable of serving your Honors again.

He has received subsistence this last twelve Months from a poor Family to which we have pledged ourselves for the payment of his Board on your Honors granting this crave.


12 January 1805            In obedience to your Order of 10th Inst. we have today admitted James Alford to the situation of Landing Waiter in the room of John Pain dismissed.


15 January 1805            We appraised the Honorable Board on 31st December last that a Boat belonging to the Fox Lugger had sunk & that in consequence of the Accident Joseph Langrish the Mate and Four others had unfortunately perished.

In investigating the cause of this calamity it appears that the Fox Lugger was riding at Anchor in Yarmouth Roads on Christmas Day last and that the following Morning the Wind blowing Strong Easterly – Joseph Langrish signified to Mr Harris his Commander to go to Lulworth in the Boat to spend a Day with his Relations previous to the Lugger cruizing on the North Shores, to which Harris acquiesc’d desiring him to land at Christchurch that night and to lookout – and that he would pick him and the Boat Crew up the following Day.

James Corke the survivor says the Boat quitted the Lugger at Yarmouth about 3 o’clock with Mr Langrish, himself, Francis Tewksbury, Tobias Arval, John Randall and Robert Buzzard and that no one except Francis Tewksbury was in any way disguised in Liquor and that the accident was entirely attributable to Langrish keeping the boat too much before the Wind when going over Christchurch ledge instead of keeping her a little more to, which caused the sail to Jibe and the Boat to overturn within four hundred yards of the Shore.

It is our Duty to inform your Honors that we have for some time had reason to believe that Mr Harris has indulged himself in Drinking more than he ought and that we have several times cautioned him against a repetition of this habit on pain of reporting his conduct to the Honorable Board but in the present instance he appears culpable in not exercising that discretion and judgment which he as an experienced Sailor ought to possess – in allowing the Boats Crew going to Lea that Day – as from the different opinions we have consulted on this unfortunate business it seems the Weather was too bad for a small Boat – particularly as there was no particular object in view for the Service.


28 January 1805            As directed by your Order of 19th Inst we have advertised for Men to navigate the Repulse and Argus Cutters in the Service of the Revenue at the same time making it known that the Hororable Board will defray travelling expences to the Ports where the Cutters may be.

But no Application has yet been made to us by any Seaman in consequence of the said advertisement. [A subsequent letter dated 14 February stated nobody had been employed, and that it was unlikely anyone would be from Cowes as the Oyster Dredging season had begun.]


5 February 1805 We have to represent to your Honors that in the last Week the Riding Surveyor and others made three Seizures at different parts of the South Side of the Isle of Wight & that on Thursday Evening last Mr James Snudden one of the Officers concerned was protecting a Cart purposely hired to convey fifteen Casks of Prohibited Spirits out of the aforesaid Seizures to the Custom House Warehouse he was attacked on the Road within half a Mile of Newport by Three Men unknown with large Sticks who had secreted themselves in a Hedge – one of whom beat him violently over the Head and took his horse on which he was mounted at a distance from the Cart while the others took therefrom five casks of the Seized Spirits and carried them away.

In our General Report of the 31st December last on the nature and extent of Smugling on the Isle of Wight we noticed to your Honors the vast Increase in this Illicit Trade arising form the Establishment of Barracks in the Island and acknowledging augmentation in the number of its Inhabitants and then thought it our Duty to suggest some addition to the present preventive Force stationed at different parts of the Isle of Wight. This incident of Violence and several others that have occurred within these last Twelve Months induce us to give full credit to the remonstration of the Riding Surveyor who is an intelligent active Officer of Seventeen Years standing in the Service that himself and Three Riding Officers are insufficient to protect a line of Coast of more than Forty Miles – particularly as they all reside at equal distances from each other and from such a circumstance cannot afford that prompt co-operation so desirable when Smuglers are first discovered in their attempts to land their Good.

Seeing no likelihood of Smugling decreasing on this Coast, but on the Contrary, it is likely to increase with the Military Numbers being very considerable, the Isle of Wight now being the permanent receiving Depot of Recruits within the United Kingdom – who consequently create a demand for Spirits.

We beg with great submission beg to suggest to your Honors if it may not be advisable to add Two active young Men to the present complement of Riding Officers – no alteration having been made on this part of our Establishment for upwards of fifty Years, a period when there existed in these parts not ¼ of the Smugling Traffic that is now carried on.


12 February 1805           A reward of Fifty Pounds having been advertised in obedience to your Honors Order of 21st June 1804 for the discovery and conviction of the Persons who beat and wounded George Granger & Daniel Dore the 7th April last and from whom in consequence a Boat and Sixteen Casks of Prohibited Spirits were rescued which they has Seized.

A person has laid Information in an Affidavit against William Matthews of St Hellens / well known as a notorious Smugler / who further informs that the Facts of his affidavit – copy of which is inclosed – can be corroborated by Persons named therein but who at present refuse any voluntary evidence.

We are desired by the Informant to represent to your Honors if any proceedings are to be had with the disclosure he has made that they should be prompt and immediate.


4 March 1805                Inclosed we transmit an Account of Seizures brought to the Warehouse since our last return of 19th February to prosecute which we pray your directions. Also an Affidavit in the name of the Soldiers who assisted Richard Chiverton in making the Seizure is transmitted

Affidavit by Richard Chiverton – I Richard Chiverton Riding Officer at Ryde in the Port of Cowes do Swear that on the 5th Day of March 1805 I went on duty and took to my assistance M Lewes Sergeant Major, Thomas Owen Sergeant, Benjamin Dawes and Thomas Williams Privates belonging to the Cardigan Militia then Lying at Barracks at Sandown and in the red Cliff near Hatch Corner in a Cavity Seized Nineteen casks containing 62 Gallons Foreign Brandy, 15 Casks containing 55 Gallons Foreign Geneva & 1 Cask containing 2 Gallons Foreign Wine for having been illegally imported & that the Assistance given by the said Soldiers was necessary in making & securing the said Seizure and I do further Swear that there was not any collusion or Private agreements between me & the said Soldiers of either of us. (The Soldiers Affidavit was not included in the Book.)


22 March 1805               In reply to you’re your Order of 20th Inst we have to represent to your Honors that on the 14th January last we called on Mr Harris the Commander of the Fox Lugger to account for his conduct in permitting Joseph Langrish the Mate and four others to put to Sea in an open Boat at a time the Wind was blowing so tempestuous, that people on the Shore anticipated the Accident which that Afternoon befel them.

In answer to which in addition to what is already submitted in our Report of 15th January last to which we beg reference he says that he did not order the Boat to Sea, but that he acquiesced in the request of Langrish for Leave to go and see his Friends, believing him to possess sufficient judgment of the Weather to deter him from putting to Sea if there had been Danger.

In examining others with a view to ascertaining Harris’s culpability in this unfortunate matter it appears from the opinions of different people who witnessed the departure of the Boat that it was not a safe or proper time from the volume of the Wind for the Boat to put to Sea.

Relying therefore on this Testimony being correct we cannot but think Mr Harris extremely blamable in not exercising his own discretion & authority in forbidding the unfortunate Men to leave the Lugger when they first solicited it.

Harris’s conduct for some time past has been very reprehensible, in amounting as we are informed from habits of Intemperance he has at time incapacitated himself from active exertions in Cruizing after Smuglers in consequence of his being confined to his House by excessive & frequent indispositions.

In examining his Journals for the last Quarter we observe the Lugger to have been nearly one half the time in Port & that no Seizure has been returned in his own name during that period.

Harris we believe can Read but Write only his own Name & we have it not in our powers to state to your Honors any thing more favourable on his behalf as Commander of the Fox Lugger except that he has been in the Service some years. 


27 March 1805               We beg to represent to your Honours that since the Army Depot has been permanently fixed in the Isle of Wight we have frequent arrivals of King’s Ships and Transports from the East and West Indies, Mediterranean, Guernsey, Jersey and Ireland with Troops and as independently of Military Stores they bring a great deal of private Baggage belonging to Officers, we thought it our Duty in December. 1803 to prevent the Clandestine Introduction of Presents and other prohibited articles to issue to the Waterside Officers the following directions for the examination of all such Baggage and which they state in Letter annexed for reasons therein assigned cannot be complied with. We therefore humbly crave your Honors Order thereon & submit if it may not be proper that His Royal Highness, the Commander in Chief may be moved to give instructions to the Commander of the Troops in the Isle of Wight that all necessary assistance should be given to the Officers of Customs in executing this part of their Duty.


10 April 1805                 As directed by your Order of 5th Inst we transmit an Estimate for a new Anchor for the Swan Cutter amounting to £20 – 16 from Mr Samuel Jellicoe at Gosport the only Anchorsmith near this place except the Person at Poole who by your Honors Orders is not in future to be employed.

We are desired to inform your Honors that on account of a great press of Dock work Mr Jellicoe cannot engage to make the said Anchor in less time than three Months from this Date.


21 April 1805                 We transmit for your Honors Information a Charge given to Mr George Needs Mate of the Fox Lugger on accusations of Drunkenness, neglect of Duty and for putting two Mariners in your Honors employ on board a Man of War without consulting his Commander when himself was off his Station and in a state of Inebriety, an act that cannot fail to prejudice our efforts to procure Men for the laid up Cutters and to induce others to quit the Revenue Service.

It appears Mr Needs was directed by the Commander on Saturday the 13th Inst to look out with the Six Oared Boat at the Back of the Isle of Wight for three Days with permission to touch at Portsmouth on his way to see his Brother – that instead of obeying his Instructions he never saw or went near the back of the Isle of Wight but remained at Portsmouth from Saturday ‘till Monday drinking to excess & by his example inducing those under him to do the same, by which conduct the Service may have suffered from inattention to his Duty in addition the loss of two active young Men. His Commander has deposed on his return to the Lugger Tuesday he expressed compunction for his behaviour, and entreated him to go to Spithead to endeavour to obtain the release of the Men, but was refused by the Lieutenant.

The Evidence on the other part of the Charge has been given on Oath by four decent and we believe credible Men and others can depose if called on & thought necessary to Needs being frequently intoxicated since the 10th March when he joined the Lugger.


9 May 1805                   The Boatmen at St Hellens having represented to us that the small Boat they use for boarding Vessels & looking for Smuglers is worn out & incapable of Repair which is confirmed by the Tide Surveyors Report who has examined the same.

Inclosed we transmit Estimates for providing a new Boat & Sails the present being rotten which we humbly crave to be allowed.

The present Boat was built by your Honors Order 31st March 1798 and has been in constant Service ever since.


9 May 1805                   The Six Oared Boat belonging to the Fox Lugger by the upsetting of which the 26 December last Mr Langrish the Mate and four others were unfortunately drowned has been picked up by some people living at Christchurch who saw the accident & who afterwards delivered such Materials to Mr Harris Commander.

Inclosed we transmit an Application from them to your Honors for £5 – 5 for their trouble which they humbly hope you will be pleased to allow them as the Boat would have been lost but for their exertions.


9 May 1805                   In obedience to your Letter of the 24th Ult we have given to Mr John Harris the inclosed Charge which we submit with his Answer to your Honors consideration.

As it appears from the Evidence that the violence of the Wind on the 26th December last when the Boats Crew quitted the Lugger had greatly moderated. His Answer to the first Charge may perhaps be received by your Honors as somewhat excusive of the blame attaching to the loss of five unfortunate young Men.

With regard to any refutation of the second & third Charges, Mr Harris in our opinion in no part succeeds & we should not be fulfilling our Duty towards your Honors after the general Reports we have heard & occasional observations of our own on his Person & Manner if we hesitated declaring our implicit belief in the depositions annexed to his Answer.

Mr Harris has been several Years in the Service and has not been before Charged.


4 June 1805                   In obedience to you Order of 31 Ult we have today admitted Mr James Turner to the Command of the Fox Temporary Cruizer at this Port in the room of Mr John Harris – Superseded.


7 June 1805                   We transmit an Application from Mr James Turner Commander of the Fox Cruizer for a new Hawser and six Oars for the Boat and a Cask of Powder with as little loss of time as possible for the benefit of the Service. The Ropemaker agrees to supply the Hawser at London Prices.


10 June 1805                 Mr Robert Willis Sitter of the Six Oared Boat having had the Deputation he held from your Honors stolen out of his pocket the 13 May last at Lymington and there being no probability of recovering it as will appear by the within Affidavit.

He most respectfully solicits your Honors to grant him a new one with the loss of as little time as possible Two seizures as below described having been made by him since the loss accident of losing his Deputation.

1 June 1805 Hazard Sloop of Rye, 14 Tons Register, 33 Casks of Foreign Spirit & 400 lbs of Tobacco

6 June 1805 Ann Sloop of Cowes, 14 Tons Register, 54 Casks of Foreign Spirit.

Affidavit (extract) – Robert Willis Sitter of the Six oared Boat as Cowes Makest Oath that on the 13th Ult he was walking to a Cheese Fair at Lymington and at about Twelve Noon in the open street after he had made a purchase of some Cheese for his Family his Pocket Book containing his Deputation & sundry other Papers was Stolen out of his Coat Pocket.


31July 1805                   As directed by your Order Mr Robert Willis Sitter of the Six Oared Boat has advertised for one Month in Two Provincial Papers for the recovery of his Commission lost at Lymington but without being able to obtain the smallest Information respecting it. We therefore humbly pray your Honors to grant him a new one that he may carry on his Official Duty with Security.


31 July 1805                  In obedience to your Order of 1st February last we have to report that George Granger has seized within the last Six Months at St Hellens 256 Gallons of Prohibited Spirits & are of the opinion his continuance at that Station will benefit the Service. [The Board Ordered the post to be reviewed in a Years time.]


6 September 1805          The Fox Lugger having carried away her Mainmast on the Night of the 2nd Instant, enclosed we transmit your Honors Mr James Turner’s account of the same. The boat which was damaged by its falling is not old, may be repair’d for about Three Pounds and rendered serviceable some Years; but as the Hull of the Lugger is in a bad condition Very Leaky, we submit to your consideration if the giving of her a new Mast were advisable.


13 September 1805        The Drake Cutter commanded by William Ferris Junior being in want of a Supply of Cordage and Sundry Stores enclosed we transmit his crave of the same.

In a Letter annex’d Mr Ferris represents the Cutter is without Deputed Officer and requests permission of your Honors to nominate two Mariners Robert Bennett & Richard Haskins, who have been several Years in the employ as Proper Persons to receive Deputations.


21 October 1805            In consequence of your Honors being appraised that some proceedings on the supply of Cordage to the Tiger Cutter (late Roebuck) had the complexion of Fraud the Cable and Hawser being deficient in length ten Fathoms, you Collector has this Morning experienced such gross abuse from Thomas Godsell the Ropemaker that with reluctance he is compelled to apply to your Honors for protection and to entreat such directions as may be deemed fit may be issued to the Solicitor to punish Godsell by action of Law for his infamous aspersions and to secure the Collector from further unwarranted attacks when in the fulfillment of the Duties of his Office. 

The abusive words uttered by Godsell to the Collector were you are a Rascal and a Liar you have told Captain Stiles a Lie by saying I had put short Cables on board the Roebuck Cutter, you are a Scoundrel and I have a great mind to knock you overboard, the Collector being then on the Ferry Boat crossing to East Cowes, where he had been examining a Revenue Cutter under Repair.


31 October 1805            As directed by your Order of 17 January 1804 we have to represent that a Danish Barque about 150 Tons Marenes Swansen Master from Alicante with Papers for Embden laden with Wine arrived at the Motherbank the 14 September last, being there cleared from Quarantine came to Anchor in Cowes Roads the 19 September following assigning to the Tidesurveyor he dropt down to this Port for Orders.

Upwards of a fortnight ago we sent for the Master to give us a satisfactory reason why he did not proceed to Emden agreeable to his clearance. His reply was that his Freighter an American was in London & until he got Instructions from him he knew not what would become of his Cargo but believed it would be delivered to the Victualling Office adding at all Events he could not go to Embden as the Ship was leaky.

Since when on the 24th Instant he brought his Barque into the Harbour & moored her alongside a Wharf and has not appeared at the Custom House to give any explanation for so doing. We humbly submit, if such proceedings do not, without your Honors concurrence constitute an Illegal Importation on which we pray your directions.

1 November 1805           Pursuant to your Order of 20th September last we transmit the Journal of Mr Thomas Francis the Examining Quarantine Officer of this Port for the Month ending 31st October last which on Inspection appears to us to be correct.

Mr Francis has omitted to deliver the answers of all the Masters of Ships & Vessels to whom the Preliminary Quarantine Questions were put on arrival at this Port, conceiving by the Order above quoted that he was only called on to make a return of the answers given by such Masters of Ships as were actually liable to Quarantine as in the case of the Schwan from Lisbon & which Questions were forwarded to your Honors in our Letter 14th Ultimo, but as we differ from him in our interpretation of the Order of 20th September last & feeling it necessary to put into the fullest effect all your directions regarding Quarantine we humbly crave your instructions.


21 November 1805         In obedience to your Order of 16th Instant relating to Vessels arriving from the Parts of the United States & from the West Indies.

We have to report that it is not only the opinion of ourselves and the Tidesurveyor but of many seafaring People & other competent Persons that a more eligible and desirable site for mooring Vessels, subject to Quarantine coming with Cargoes circumstanced as to render restraint necessary, is the Eastern part of Cowes Roadstead which is distant three quarters of a Mile from the Harbour Mouth immediately in sight of the Tidesurveyors Office and Watch House

The capacity of the Spot we propose would contain Thirty large Ships which we recommend to have designated by Two large Yellow Buoys between which all Foreign Transient Ships and Vessels in distress arriving at this Port liable to restraint of Quarantine (either from coming from places proclaimed contagious or from being unprovided with the Declarations required by the 42nd Section of His Majesty’s Order in Council) should be brought to Anchor.

The Moorage being of Sand and Clayey Soils is in Tempestuous Weather preferred by Masters of Vessels, when Wind bound & the depth of Water being from four to five fathoms Vessels at all seasons may ride in the greatest safety & as no accident was ever known to happen to Shipping in Cowes Roads, we submit it as an additional recommendation of the Spot we speak of.

The Watch House being so situated at the Harbours Mouth as to command a full & perfect View of every Ship in the Road, it is impossible any Intercourse could take place with the Shore without being detected by the Tide surveyor of his People. As it is our practice in all cases of Ships arriving from Foreign Parts with Cargoes whether Transient or to Import to place Tidesmen on to each Ship respectively they would at all times have it their power to frustrate any attempt on the part of the Crew or Passengers to Land without the Authority of the Tidesurveyor being first given.


22 November 1805         The Landing Surveyor in attending the discharge of the Cargo of the Louisa Carolina a Foreign Ship in distress discovered William Drayton this Morning the Extra Tidesman on board in such a state of intoxication as to be incapable of Duty and have in the consequence ordered him not to be employed again until your Honors pleasure is known.

Drayton is an Extra man at only 2/0 per diem, but is under bond for due performance of his duty. The Tide Surveyor represents to us that he has great difficulty in procuring trust Extra men on account of the smallness of the pay & that one of his Boat Crew has lately left him stating that he cannot maintain himself & family on such small allowance as 2/0 per diem. He humbly hopes as the service of the Waterguard is become arduous & fatiguing to himself & five Boatmen on account of the restrictions to which all Ships arriving from foreign parts are liable under the late Quarantine Act & Order in Council of 5 April last that your Honors will commiserate their situations & make them an addition to their 2/0 per day. They also with great humility beg to represent to the Honorable Board that the Excise Tidesurveyor who has four Boatmen under him pays his People £50 per annum though they have not one fourth of the Duty to execute.


25 November 1805         The Fox Cutter in the Service of this Port being in want of a Five oare’d Boat, enclosed we transmit and Estimate from Messrs. Brown & Darme to provide the same for the Sum of Twenty five Pounds & the Pence.


25 November 1805         Your Honors having been pleased by order of 23rd Inst. to allow Thomas Lane the Deputed Mariner of the Swan Cutter in consequence of wounds received in an engagement with a French Privateer in December 1796 to retire on an allowance of Ten Pounds per Annum.

Enclosed we transmit an application of the Swan Cutter humbly recommending James Ferris who has been several Years in your Honors employ to be deputed Mariner in the room of the said Lane.

27 November 1805 (From John Smith, Commander of the Leopard Cutter)   In answer to your Honors Letter of 25th Inst calling on me to state the number of Mariners Discharged & Run from the Leopard Cutter & the cause of their quitting. I beg to acquaint your Honors that on my arrival at Cowes to join the Tiger my complement (including the whole) was thirty, since when I have discharged Five and five deserted making me thirteen short of my proper number having entered one since. I have Twenty one including one on Shore sick & part of those onboard are by no means good seamen but the best that could be obtained, the only reason the people assign for leaving the service is the very low Wages compared with that given in every other employ; the reason of the five deserting I believe to be in consequence of their being sent to duty on Shore & no proper place being provided for their comfort fearing that punishment which usually awaits a disobedience of Orders they thought it proper to absent themselves. These were all good seamen and prior to this was always attentive to their duties. I beg to acquaint their honours I have found plenty of men (out of employ) but they refuse to come for the wages. I have therefore come here to get the Anchors completed then endeavour to get some men at Christchurch.

PS The five men who were discharged had given regular Notice (agreeable to your Honors Instructions.)


1802 - 1803

1805 - 1807

Cowes Letters Books

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

2 August 2009