Thomas Fuller, Royal Offences > tax offences, 14th October 1747.

Reference Number: t17471014-4
Offence: Royal Offences > tax offences
Verdict: Guilty
Punishment: Death

381. + Thomas Fuller , late of Hawkhurst , was indicted, and the Indictment sets forth, That he, together with Samuel Austin , and divers others, upon the 5th Day of August , at the Parish of Lyn, in the County of Kent , being there armed with Fire-Arms, and other offensive Weapons, unlawfully, and feloniously carrying away uncustom'd Goods, and Goods liable to pay Duties, which had not been paid, or secured to be paid; against the Statute in that Case made and provided .

Attorney General. May it please your Lordship, and you Gentlemen of the Jury. The Prisoner at the Bar stands indicted upon an Act of Parliament made in the 19th Year of his present Majesty; and 'tis for a Crime that you have heard, and have had several Prosecutions founded upon that Act of Parliament, which makes the Crime a Felony, without Benefit of the Clergy. You know too well the Consequence of that Law, to make it necessary for me to explain the Nature of it to you. The Prisoner stands indicted for a Breach of that Law. The Prisoner liv'd at Hawkhurst in the County of Kent, a Place famous in the News-Papers for great Riots, great Disorders, committed by a Gang of Smugglers, and the Prisoner is one enlisted in that Gang, whose Business, together with the rest, is putting the Laws in defiance. About the Beginning of August last the Prisoner at the Bar, with a great Number of other Persons, all of them on Horseback, arm'd with Fire-Arms, the Prisoner particularly, among the rest, with a Carbine or a Blunderbuss, together with the rest, was on Horseback; and they were then accompanied with several drove Horses, and upon the Horses they rode, as upon those they drove, they carried great Quantities of Tea in Oil-skin Bags, and Half-Anchors, peculiar to those Sort of People; a Peculiarity it is which no Goods besides is carried, in order to elude Justice. In this Manner they came, thus arm'd, thus accounter'd; they came to a Place call'd Lyn, in the County of Kent, from thence they came to a Place call'd Appledore Road, there, contrary to Law, protecting themselves in this illegal Practice: I doubt not, but our Witnesses will give you Satisfaction of the Reality of the Fact he stands charged with, and I hope you will do the Prisoner justice.

Attorney General to William Wills . What is the Prisoner's Name?

Wills. Thomas Fuller .

Attorney-General. Will you give an Account to my Lord and the Jury, when you saw the Prisoner with a Gang of Smugglers ?

Wills. I have know him from his Infancy, tho' I never knew that he abused his Neighbours, or common People, but I have seen him among a common Gang of Smugglers. The last Time that ever I saw him was the 5th of August, 1746. with a Carbine on his Shoulder, and a Couple of Oil-skin Bags underneath him.

Q. How many People were there in Number?

Wills. I believe twenty; and there were many drove Horses; they were loaded with some Tubs, and Oil-skin Bags.

Q. Do you imagine it was Tea in the Oil-skin Bags?

Wills. Yes, because it was the general Way of Loading.

Q. What might be in those Tubs?

Wills. Either Brandy, Rum, or Wine; each Tub holds about four Gallons a-piece.

Solicitor General. Which Way was the Gang going?

Wills. They were going Appledore Road; that is, towards Old Rosmary, not towards New Rosmary.

Solicitor-General. Then I ask you; whether the usual Carriage for the Smugglers Tea is not in Oilskin Bags? Do you know of any other Commodity carried in that Way?

Wills. No, Sir. Dutch Brandy is generally carried in whole Anchors, French Brandy in Half-Anchors.

Attorney General. Did you ever see any Brandy, or other Goods, carried that way, if not smuggled ?

Wills. No.

Q. What was understood by the Hawkhurst Gang in the Country?

Wills. We understood they were a Sort of People that committed many Outrages. I can't say that I ever saw the Prisoner commit any Outrages. I have seen him twenty Times.

Solicitor General. How many were armed?

Wills. I did not see any one of them unarm'd; they were all arm'd, some with Carbines, some with one Pistol, and some with two.

Q. How many Horses might they have besides what they rode?

Wills. Near Twenty.

Q. Did the Oil-skin Bags seem to be full?

Wills. Yes.

Solicitor-General. Did you ever see Merchants carry Goods in that way?

Wills. Not to my Knowledge.

Q. Have they not call'd this Gang by some Name?

Wills. They have made themselves too well known, please your Honour, or Worship, or whatsoever I may stile you in Honour.

[Cross Examination]

Council. Can you tell the Difference between French Brandy and English Spirits ?

Wills. If I taste it I can.

Council. You can't till but it might be British Brandy?

Wills. I can't say, it may be Geneva, it may be Tobacco, it may be Shirts of Smocks.

Council. So all that amounts to what you saw was, you saw a parcel of People on Horseback with Oilskin Bags, and Tubs, but you can't tell whether it was Tea or Tobacco, or British Brandy.

Solicitor-General. Do you believe it was Tobacco?

Wills. I can't tell what it was.

Sollicitor-General. What do you believe it to be?

Wills. If I must pass my real Verdict, I must believe it to be Tea.

Council for the Defendant. Thou wouldst he very loth to be hanged upon another Man's Belief.

Wills. Ay, so I should.

Sollicitor-General. Or upon another Man's Evidence either.

Attorney General to William Wiseman . Give an Account, if you saw the Prisoner with any Gang of Smugglers?

Wiseman. I have known the Prisoner about four Years. I saw him about the 5th of August, 1746, about a Mile from Lyn, between Lyn and Old Romney; he was along with several other Persons, it might be about fifteen or twenty. Thomas Fuller was arm'd, and to the best of my Knowledge, with a Carbine or Blunderbuss; most of them were arm'd.

Sollicitor-General. Had they any Horses besides what they rode upon ?

Wiseman. There might be thirty or forty drove Horses. They had Half-Anchor Calks and Oil-skin Bags. I imagin'd they had Tea and Brandy.

Q. Where they full?

Wiseman. They were full of something.

Sollicitor-General. Explain to the Jury why you think those Bags contain Tea.

Wiseman. The Reason why I think so, because they never carry in any other; but I don't know, I did not see the Bags open'd.

Sollicitor-General. I suppose you did not dare to ask them that Question?

Wiseman. They would have shot me dead if I had presum'd to ask them. Some of these Bags contain Half an Hundred and some a Quarter of an Hundred.

Q. During the seven Years you was in that Country, did you ever see any fair Trader, or Carrier, go with Goods in that way. Are these Gangs grown so notorious that the Country know them.

Wiseman. They are got so notorious we can't live in our own Houses. That very Person himself, the Prisoner, came to my House, and insulted and abused me.

Q. When you saw this Gang go by, did you know them enough to know what Gang they where?

Wiseman. Some of them belong'd to Goudburst, and some to other Places, but they are call'd the Hawkburst Gang.

[Cross Examination.]

Council. Canst thou tell, Friend, What is in my Hat?

Wiseman. There is something in it. There is Paper in it.

Council. Is there nothing else?

Wiseman. I can't tell.

Council. Thou canst just as well tell, what was in those Casks, as what is in my Hat. There might be Tobacco in the Bags. Or thou canst not tell, but there might be Vinegar or Verjuice in the Casks.

Sollicitor-General. You must show it was Verjuice.

Council for the Defendant. I think otherwise.

Sollicitor-General. That you don't.

Attorney-General to John Polly . Do you know Lyn?

Polly. Yes, Sir; I live there.

Q. What is your Business?

Polly. A Riding-Officer.

Q. Are you acquainted with the Method of the Smugglers Carriage of their Goods?

Polly. Sir, I have seen them several times carry Goods.

Attorney-General. I would ask you, what is their usual Package for their Tea?

Polly. In Oil-skin Bags.

Attorney-General. I ask you, whether 'tis not universally understood, when you see Gangs with such Bags, that they are Smugglers?

Polly. Yes, Sir; and what we take in our common way we find it so.

Attorney-General. I ask you, whether Brandy that is run is not in small Casks?

Polly. They are generally in Half-Anchors; they are put, Sir, Edge-ways; the drove Horses have generally five.

Attorney General. I ask you, whether it is not universally understood, when Casks are so carried, they Wine or Brandy ?

Polly. Yes.

Q. Have you ever seen any of these Oil-skin Bags opened?

Polly. I have seen them when I have taken them; I never saw any thing else in them but Tea?

[ Cross Examination.]

Council. I suppose if I was to go down into Kent, I could buy an Anchor, or half an Anchor, of Brandy, that was not run?

Polly. Not in our Country I believe, Sir; I leave you, Gentlemen, to guess what it was.

Council. You are not to hang a Man for your own Thoughts; may not any Man put up Goods in this Manner ?

Sollicitor General. Did you ever know a fair Trader put Tea or Tobacco in Oil-skins; or did you ever, in the whole Course of your Life, see such a thing?

Polly. Not in our Country.

George Walker . I am an Officer in the Customs. I have lived in Kent as an Officer in the Customs at Hawkhurst, and I have lived in Sussex.

Sollicitor-General. What is the Practice of Smugglers in carrying off their Goods?

Walker. Such time as I have been an Officer, which has been ten Years, I never took no Tea in my Life upon Horses, but what was in Oil-skin Bags. Wherever I had a Suspicion, and found Oil-skin Bags, I always found Tea.

Q. How many may you have found?

Walker. Thousands of Bags; when they are in a Hurry, and taken from the Sea, they are in Oil-skin Bags; but when they carry them up into the Country, they carry them in Sacks; there is never a Gang that comes from the Sea-side, but rides with something upon their Horses, unless one that is got from a Plough-boy to be worth about 4 or 5000 l. Drove Horses carry 100 and a Half, and sometimes 100 and a Quarter.

Attorney-General. In what Casks is Wine run, or Brandy, carried?

Walker. 'Tis generally in Half-Anchors; I have known six or seven Half-Anchors upon a Horse; a Man will ride upon four very well.

Sollicitor-General. Do you know in the Smuggling-Cutters, whether Tea comes over in these Bags, and Liquor in these Casks?

Walker. There is, first, a Bag that is made of a sort of Stuff, that they make their weak sort of Sacking of, and they put the Oil-skin to keep the Wet out; there is a slight sort of Cloth that is put first, then the Oil-skin is put over that, because it should not take wet. I have known your fine Tea double-cased, but I never saw any Tea but in an Oil-skin Bag.

Sollicitor-General. You have said the Tea comes in Oil-skin Bags; now as to these Casks the Size is generally Half-Anchors, can any Quantity of Liquor be entered in Half-Anchors, what is the smallest Size Cask that any Liquor can be entered in?

Walker. Sixty Gallons.

Sollicitor-General. Did you ever see any others carry Things with an armed Force?

Walker. I have challenged People upon the Road, but it is your Duffers who carry your Spitalfields Goods instead of Run-Goods, they would pretty near imitate the Smugglers.

Sollicitor General. But do these Duffers go with an armed Force of ten or twenty ?

Walker. They have went two or three together, but never with Arms.

Nicholas Cotes . I am a Riding-Officer in New Romney.

Attorney-General. Have you seen Gangs of Smugglers ?

Cotes. I have seen them several times.

Q. What is the usual Practice that Smugglers carry their Tea and Brandy?

Cotes. In Oil-skin Bags, and Half-Anchors.

Q. Have you frequently made Seizures of Oil-skin Bags?

Cotes. Frequently, Sir.

Attorney-General. Did you ever find in these Half-Anchors any thing but Brandy and Wine?

Cotes. Never, but Brandy and Wine.

Attorney-General. Is it not the usual Way of carrying these Goods?

Cotes. Yes, Sir, always.

Q. Do you know of any Gang called the Hawkburst Gang?

Cotes. Yes, Sir; we never attack'd them, because we were over-power'd.

Q. to John Bolton . What is your Employment ?

Bolton. I am an Officer belonging to the Customs, and have been so almost twelve Years.

Q. In what part of the Kingdom have you been ?

Bolton. I have been down in Essex and in Kent; once at a time, in the Year 1744, I was carried away by a Gang of Smugglers ?

Q. Do you understand what is the usual Package that Smugglers make use of?

Bolton. I have seized many thousand Weights of Tea; they are always in Oil-skin Bags, unless small Quantities, which they carry in their Pockets; once upon a time, we met with a Parcel of Men armed, we got out fifteen Horse Loads with a good deal of Firing, and what Goods we got from them, were all in Oil skin Bags; Oil-skin Bags are the Package for Tea.

Q. What is Brandy and Wine in?

Bolton. What I ever seized was always in Half-Anchors.

Court to the Prisoner. What have you to say for yourself.

Prisoner. I thought I should have been try'd for being outlaw'd.

Guilty . Death .

The Prisoner upon receiving Sentence, begged to be recommended to Mercy, and he would serve his Majesty as a Foot-Soldier, or in any way he should command him.


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