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Smuggling was not an honest trade, but it was a highly lucrative one. The Custom and Excise officials and later on, the Coastguards had to stay ahead of the tricks and hiding places of the wily smugglers. Due to their efforts, and the lowering of taxes in the middle of the 19th. Century smuggling diminished considerably.


"As the Coastguards became more vigilant after 1832 the old fashioned "runs" became impossible. So the job had to be done in two parts; the boat from across channel would come close inshore and drop and drop the contraband overboard anchored a certain distance below the surface, for their friends to pick up when the coast was clear. The Coastguards business was to find it first and draw prize-money so they were constantly out in their boats "creeping" with grapnels over every likely spot, and they made many hauls."

Ogden's Cigarettes Cards; "Smugglers and Smuggling" No.34


Smuggling at Folkestone

By means of false bottoms to the boats a lot of smuggling was at one time carried on, especially in Folkestone, but no sooner was the trick detected than every boat so fitted was seized and sawn asunder. Nor was this confined to fishermen, for as late as 1831 a customhouse officer suspected a pleasure boat which was sailing up the Thames , gave chase to her, and after a run of 20 miles, overtook and boarded her at Blackwall. Under the floor he found a number of tin cases, full of contraband goods, the estimate value being about two thousand pounds.

At one time the Hastings smugglers resorted to a very ingenious scheme for landing their goods. Vessels frequently came laden with chalk, and a "freetrader" got a lot of tubs covered in plaster of Paris to give them the appearance of chalk. The delivery was going on all right, until one of the lumps happened to fall, the shell burst, and the kernel in the shape of a keg of spirits rolled out. A coastguard standing by at once had the whole lot seized, and a fine haul they had.


Tuck Stick

 Tuck Stick

This was a simple device used by the Coastguards and Customs to probe goods for illegal bounty stowed in amongst the regular freight in the ships holds.



The Water-Cask"The Coastguards and Customs Officers soon learned that the coasters, as well as the overseas traders, were Smuggling, and a false bulkhead shortened a hold by three or four feet was bound to be discovered. More subtle hiding-places were therefore needed, and a favourite device was the ship's water-cask, "doctored" as shown. It was proof against any ordinary examination, for the Customs probe would still be in water when it twisted as far round as the size of the bung-hole would allow."


Ogden's Cigarettes Cards; "Smugglers and Smuggling" No.28

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