James Watling, Royal Offences > tax offences, 26th May 1748.

Reference Number: t17480526-27
Offence: Royal Offences > tax offences
Verdict: Guilty > with recommendation
Punishment: Death

291. + James Watling , (commonly called, or known by the name of Tom Tit ) late of Benacre, in the county of Suffolk , was indicted, for that he, with divers other malefactors (disturbers of the peace of our sovereign Lord the King) to wit, to the number of fifty persons, or more, (whose names are unknown) after the 24th day of July, in the 19th year of his Majesty's reign, to wit, on the 10th day of September, 1747 , and in the 21st year of his Majesty's reign, did, at Benacre, in the county of Suffolk,

with fire arms, and other offensive weapons, riotously, unlawfully, and feloniously, assemble themselves together, in order to be aiding and assisting in running, landing, and carrying away uncustomed goods, and goods liable to pay duties, which had not been paid, or secured , in defiance and contempt of the King, and his laws, to the evil example of all others, against the peace of the King, his crown and dignity, and against the form of the Statute in that case made and provided.

Coun. for the Crown. My Lord, and Gentlemen of the Jury, The Prisoner stands indicted for an offence, which is made felony without benefit of clergy, by a late Act of Parliament made in the 19th year of his Majesty's reign, and which the Legislature found necessary to make, in order to put a stop, if possible, to a practice so prejudicial to the peace of the subject, and to prevent the prejudice done to the customs, and to all honest traders; and the Act says, if any persons, to the number of three or more, shall, with fire arms, and other offensive weapons, assemble themselves together, in order to be aiding and assisting in running and landing uncustomed goods, and goods liable to pay duties, which have not been paid or secured , shall be guilty of felony, without benefit of clergy. Many have been guilty, some have been brought before you, and some have been found guilty, and the Government have done all that is in their power to find out the nests of these people, who do what they can to the prejudice of their country. Gentlemen, the Prisoner is one, who has been of a gang who have insested the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk; and on the 10th of September, 1747, the Prisoner at the Bar, with forty or fifty of them, were assembled together at Benacre in Suffolk; and there was a little smuggling cutter or vessel, which was expected to come to Benacre , and the Prisoner was one who was assembled with the others, in order to receive these goods, and they did receive from this vessel about thirty hundred weight of tea, and a large quantity of brandy, and it is for this fact that the Prisoner stands indicted. Gentlemen, we shall produce our witnesses, and if we prove this fact, I do not doubt but you will find the Prisoner guilty. Call John Leader .

John Leader sworn.

Q. Look at the Prisoner at the bar, do you know him?

Leader. Yes, sir .

Q. What is his name?

Leader. James Watling .

Q. What do you know of the Fact that he is charged with?

Leader. Three weeks before Michaelmas -

Q. What Michaelmas?

Leader. Last Michaelmas, James Watling , who we call Tom Tit , was armed with fire arms.

Q. What arms had he?

Leader. A case of pistols.

Q. Had he any other arms?

Leader. No.

Q. Were any other persons with him?

Leader. Yes.

Q. How many were there of them?

Leader. Forty or fifty.

Q. Were they all armed?

Leader. Many of them were armed.

Q. Where did you see them?

Leader. Upon Benacre beach .

Q. What were they doing of?

Leader. Taking uncustomed goods out of a cutter; the goods were brought to the shore in boats.

Q. What goods?

Leader. Tea and Brandy.

Q. What was the Tea in?

Leader. In half quartern bags.

Q. What was the brandy in?

Leader. In half anchors.

Q. You have seen goods run before?

Leader. Yes.

Q. What do they usually carry in these bags?

Leader. Tea.

Q. Was the Prisoner on horseback or on foot?

Leader. He was on horseback, and he had some bags under him.

Q. What month was this in?

Leader. In September.

Q. What part of the month?

Leader. It was three weeks before Michaelmas.

Q. What makes you be so particular as to the time?

Leader. Because we made an end of harvest then.

Q. Are you sure that is the man?

Leader. Yes, I know him very well.

Q. What time was this?

Leader. About seven o'clock at night.

Q. Did the Prisoner help these out of the cutter?

Leader . Yes, and I helped them.

Q. How many do you think there were of all those that were armed?

Leader. All of them, as far as I could see.

Q. Were there three armed ?

Leader. Yes, and a great many more.

Q. Did you say this was the day after your harvest?

Leader . Yes.

Pris. Coun. Can you tell the day of the month that your harvest ended?

Leader. I did not take particular observation of that.

Q. Can you tell the day of the week?

Leader . No.

Q. When is Michaelmas ? you know that to be sure.

Leader. I cannot tell when Michaelmas is.

Q. What month is Michaelmas in?

Leader. I cannot tell.

Coun. What time was your harvest ended?

Leader . Three weeks before Michaelmas.

Q. How can you say it was three weeks before Michaelmas, when you cannot tell when Michaelmas is? what time of the year is Michaelmas day?

Le ader . The latter end of the year.

Q. What month is it in?

Leader. I cannot certainly tell the month ; for I can neither write not read.

Coun. for the Crown. Did you ever read an Almanack then?

Leader . No.

Pris. Coun. Can you be sure whether it was exactly three weeks, or more or less.

Leader . No; it was the time as I have said.

Q. Do you know the month of July?

Leader. No, I do not.

Q. Do you know what day of the week this fact was done?

Leader. It was either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Q. Did you give an information of this to any one?

Leader . Yes.

Q. To who?

Leader. To Justice Skillet and Mr. Poulson.

Q. When?

Leader. After Christmas.

Q. Did not you apply to Justice Jaques, to give an information of this to him?

Leader. No.

Q. You are sure of that?

Leader. Yes.

Prisoner. I do not know any thing of the matter.

Court. Have you any witnesses to the fact?

Prisoner. Yes, my Lord.

Prisoner's Defence.

James Fisher sworn.

Pris. Coun. Do you know the Prisoner?

Fisher. Yes, his name is James Watling .

Q. Where do you live?

Fisher. At Wingfield , when I am at home.

Q. Do you know Benacre ?

Fisher. Yes.

Q. How far is Wingfield from Benacre ?

Fisher. About twenty miles. I never was at Benacre but once.

Q. Do you remember whether you saw the Prisoner upon the tenth of September last?

Fisher. Yes, he was at work for me then.

Q. What work did he do?

Fisher. The first work he did, he helped to unload a cart-load of hemp, and the next thing he did, he gathered up a load of peas, and after he had gathered them up, he helped me to thrash.

Q. What time did he come to work?

Fisher. I cannot tell, but he came in the forenoon.

Q. How long did he stay?

Fisher . Till ten o'clock at night.

Q. You are sure it was the tenth of September?

Fisher . Yes.

Q. And was he in your presence all the time?

Fisher . Yes.

Coun . for the Crown. What are you ?

Fisher . I am a farmer.

Q. What is the Prisoner?

Fisher . He is a labourer.

Q. And goes to smuggling afterwards?

Fisher. I don't know any thing of that.

Q. Now I would ask, how you came to be so precise, as to know that the Prisoner worked with you that day?

Fisher. Because it was the last day of my harvest that I had to get in.

Q. Have you ever employed him since?

Fisher . No.

Q. Have you employed him before?

Fisher. Yes, but not very often.

Q. Did he work for you the whole harvest?

Fisher. No, for I generally do my work myself.

Q. Who worked with him?

Fisher . I did.

Q. What did you give him?

Fisher. I gave him his victuals.

Q. Do they work for victuals , and not money?

Fisher. It is usual in harvest to find them plentifully .

Q. How long is it since you saw him before to day?

Fisher. I cannot tell justly.

Q. You have seen him since, the tenth of September?

Fisher. Yes.

Q. When did you see him since?

Fisher. I saw him on the 29th of September *.

* There was another Indictment against the Prisoner on the 29th of September.

Q. What was he doing then?

Fisher. He was helping a man to remove his goods.

Q. Who subpoena'd you to be a witness?

Fisher. I had a subpoena from Mr. Kelly.

Q. Was you never spoke to, to be a witness, before the subpoena came down?

Fisher. Not that I know of.

Q. Do not you know whether any body asked you to be a witness, before the subpoena was served on you?

Fisher. Do you mean who served the subpoena ?

Coun. for the Crown. No; I mean, who spoke to you, to know what you could say?

Fisher. I never was spoke to by any body.

Q. Did any body ask you, whether you could say any thing material with respect to the Prisoner?

Fisher . There was a letter came, which was shewed to me.

Q. Who was it brought by?

Fisher . By Henry Connell , to ask, whether I could recollect these things, and the days.

Q. What days?

Fisher . The 10th of September, and the 29th of September.

Q. What was it at your own house?

Fisher. It was at a neighbour's house.

Q. Did he ask you whether you could speak to any other particulars?

Fisher . No.

Q. Did he ask you any thing with respect to smuggling or running of goods?

Fisher. No.

Q. Have you seen the Prisoner since the 29th of September?

Fisher. I have seen him go backwards and forwards by the front of my ground.

Q. Has he never said any thing to you about this since?

Fisher. No, never.

Q. Has he never spoke to you about the letter?

Fisher. No.

Q. Who did the letter come from ?

Fisher . From Mr. Kelly.

Q. Who was it wrote to?

Fisher . It was wrote to Mr. Connell.

Q. Was there any subpoena came with it?

Fisher. There was a subpoena came with the last, but there was none with the first.

Q. Did you never see the Prisoner at the bar at Benacre ?

Fisher. No, I never was at Benacre but once in my life.

Q. Was there any thing said to you about a reward, if you was a witness?

Fisher. Only for my own charges.

Q. Mention some particular sum , what sum was it ?

Fisher. Such a sum as I desired to be spent.

Samuel Barber sworn.

Pris. Coun. Do you see that John Leader , that was examined just now as a witness?

Barber. Yes.

Q. Do you know him?

Barber. Yes; I have known him a great many years.

Q. How many years?

Barber. About sixteen years.

Q. Where do you live?

Barber. In Cheapside.

Q. Did you live at Benacre ?

Barber. Yes.

Q. How long did you live there?

Barber. Thirteen or fourteen years.

Q. How long have you left it?

Barber. About fourteen years.

Q. Do you ever go backwards and forwards to Benacre ?

Barber. Yes; I have an estate there of about sixty pounds a year, and I am generally backwards and forwards three or four times a year.

Q. Pray what character does he bear?

Barber. He bears a very bad character, with respect to stealing poultry and other things.

Coun . for the Crown. You must not go into that, what is his general character?

Barber. It is very bad.

Q. What is the report of the neighbourhood as to his character in general?

Barber. It is that of a very disorderly fellow.

Pris. Coun. Has he ever been in Prison?

Barber. He has been committed.

Q. Do you think he is a man, that, upon such an occasion as this, is to be believed upon his oath?

Barber. I don't think he is; his father and he always had a bad character, and his father had no visible appearance of living but only keeping a few cows.

Council for the Crown. What business are you?

Barber. A linen-draper.

Q. Are you in the linen-drapery business for yourself?

Barber. I am a servant.

Q. What, an apprentice.

Barber . I am a journeyman.

Q. Where did you live before?

Barber. At Saxmundham in Suffolk.

Q. What was you there?

Barber. I was in the linen and woollen-drapery business.

Q. What, for yourself?

Barber. No.

Q. Is not Benacre a famous place for smuggling?

Barber. I have not lived there a great many years.

Q. What age are you?

Barber. About twenty-four.

Prisoner's Council. You say you have known him about sixteen years.

Barber. Yes.

Q. Then you knew him at eight or nine years of age, and he had a bad character then, had he?

Barber. Yes , he had.

Counsel for the Crown. Where is your estate?

Barber. At Benacre .

Q. You say you have been there three or four times a year.

Barber. Yes.

Q. How long have you had that estate?

Barber. I have been in the possession of it ever since I was of age.

Q. Where was you born?

Barber. I was born at Benacre .

Q. When did you see Leader last before this?

Barber. About a month or six weeks ago.

Q. Was you in company with him?

Barber. Yes.

Q. Who was there besides?

Barber. There were several other persons.

Q. Where was it?

Barber. In the Old Baily. I was drinking a glass of wine with one Welch, and this Leader was with us.

Q. How many were there of you?

Barber. Five or six persons.

Q. How long were you together?

Barber. About half an hour; I had sold Welch and old house and some timber.

Q. Had you any business with him, with respect to the trial?

Barber. No.

Q. Have you seen Leader at Benacre within this twelvemonth?

Barber. I cannot say.

Q. Have you within these two years?

Barber. I don't know.

Q. Have you within these five years?

Barber. Very like I might, but I cannot be positive.

Q. Do you know one Fox?

Barber. Yes.

Q. How long have you known him?

Barber. About ten years.

Q. When did you see Fox last ?

Barber. I cannot tell.

Q. Have you seen him within a month?

Barber. Yes.

Q. Have you seen him within these three weeks?

Barber. I believe not.

Q. Have you seen him within a fortnight?

Barber. No.

Q. So you are acquainted with Fox.

Barber. Yes.

Q. Did you go to see him in Newgate?

Barber. Yes.

Q. This is a very pretty thing, for you to go and see smugglers in Newgate. Do you know Jefferies?

Barber. Yes, I know him.

Q. Do you know Custins ?

Barber. Yes, I saw him there.

Q. Do you know Watling.

Barber. I do not know him.

Q. Do you know Cunningham ?

Barber. I do not.

Q. How often have you seen these people in Newgate?

Barber. I have seen them twice.

Q. Was you subpoena'd as a witness?

Barber. Yes.

Q. Who subpoened you?

Barber. Mr. Kelly.

Benjamin Branson called in behalf of the Crown.

Counsel for the Crown. Do you know Leader?

Branson. I have known him seven years.

Q. What is his character in point of honesty?

Branson. I never knew any harm of him than only being intangled with the smugglers.

Q. Where did he live?

Branson. At Benacre , within two miles of me; he was intrusted with things among the smugglers , and he was honest in that.

Q. Had he a bad character in other things?

Branson . It was reported, that he was guilty of a bad action once, but I don't know that.

Pris. Coun. Do you know any thing of his thieving?

Branson. There was something said of his taking some eggs out of a nest, but I never knew any such thing of him in my life.

Q. Did you ever hear any body give him a bad character?

Branson. No, only the smugglers, to screen themselves.

Q. Do you think he is a person that is to be believed upon his oath?

Branson, Yes, I believe he is.

James Welch , for the Crown.

Counsel for the Crown. Do you know John Leader ?

Welch. Yes, I have known him twenty-four years.

Q. Where was his residence?

Welch. At Benacre .

Q. What was his character?

Welch. I never heard any thing bad of him till these things came out about smuggling.

Q. Did you ever hear any complaint against him till he turned against the smugglers?

Welch. I never heard any thing against him before this, except the story of the eggs; to be sure he was but meanly brought up.

Q. Do you think he is to be believed upon his oath?

Welch. I cannot tell.

Q. Do you think he would swear falsely?

Welch. No, I don't think he would.

Pris. Counsel. Did you ever hear the custom-house officers give him a bad character?

Welch. They are not to speak against the King's witness.

Q. Do any of the King's officers give him a bad character besides the smugglers?

Welch. No, I never heard any of them in my life.

Q. What is his character among those that are not smugglers, if you was to ask them?

Welch. Who must I ask?

Counsel for the Crown. Are there not a great many smugglers at Bonacre ?

Welch. Yes, there are very few others; I believe I have seen 200 of them on the Beach at one time.

Guilty, Death .The Jury recommended the Prisoner to the Court for mercy .


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