Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 01 April 2023), December 1747, trial of Peter Tickner James Hodges, commonly called and known by the name of Poison (t17471209-52).

Peter Tickner, James Hodges, Royal Offences > tax offences, 9th December 1747.

63, 64. Peter Tickner , and James Hodges, commonly called and known by the name of Poison , were indicted for unlawfully and feloniously assembling themselves together on the 22d of Dec . in the eighteenth year of his Majesty's reign, in Lidlight near Lid at the sea-coast, for being armed with fire-arms and other offensive weapons, in order to be assisting in running and carrying away several uncustomed goods, that is to say, a large quantity of tea, then lately imported from parts beyond the sea; upon which goods were duties due to his Majesty, not paid , to the great Diminution of his Majesty's revenues, and against his crown and dignity.

Solicitor General. Gentlemen of the Jury, the two Prisoners at the Bar, Peter Tickner , and James Hodges , otherwise Poison, are now indicted for having been arm'd and assembled together with other persons above the number of three, arm'd in order to aid and assist in the running uncustomed goods. And they are indicted for the offence in transgression of a statute made the 9th year of his present Majesty's reign, that if any persons to the number of three or more, after the 17th of June, 1736, shall be assembled, arm'd with arms, fire-arms, and other offensive weapons in order to be assisting in running, landing, and carrying away uncustomed goods, and upon conviction of such an offence, shall be judged guilty, and shall be transported.

The Legislator has been forc'd since to make that offence capital, but the present charge against the prisoners is within the act of the 9th of his present Majesty, which is transportation. You need not be told, because it is very notorious the different steps the government has been forc'd to take in order, if possible, to get the better of the crying offence of smuggling; they have try'd all methods, indemnit ies and punishments; they have from step to step try'd different degrees of punishment: in the 9th of his present Majesty it was thought it would be sufficient to break the practice by making it felony by transportation. You very well know that smuggling is carried on without paying duties to answer the expences of the public; and it is not barely defrauding a little, but 'tis carried on by a kind of rebellion in defiance of the Magistrate; therefore they go arm'd 30 or 40, and perhaps a 100 in a gang: there is no magistrate, or officer where they reign (if I may so say) can put any laws in execution against them. Therefore the legislator found it necessary to come to another act, and 'tis by vertue of that law it is now made capital, that was an act made in the 19th of his present Majesty: for 'tis now a struggle between the government and this banditti, which shall get the better. All offences against this act, or any former acts of this kind, may be try'd in any county; and it is on the former act it now comes before you. The Prisoners before you are of a gang well known by the name of the Hawkhurst gang. A great number associated together, to carry on this lawless practice of theirs, and they carry it on in an open public manner.

The two Prisoners at the bar are the two principal, or perhaps ringleaders of the Hawkhurst gang; the particular offence they are now charg'd with, was on the 22d of December 1744. It may be material to state to you, that we have one that happens to have an opportunity to prove the fact so clearly upon them, that they were armed themselves, together with other persons: and the witness will prove the species of goods they run, and all the circumstances belonging to it; and it may be material to observe to you, that John Bolton , one of a good character and reputation for 14 years in the government's service, but his Integrity had like to have cost him dear; he thinking the law would be sufficient to justify him in the exercise of his duty, thought to check some of their practices in the county of Kent; when he was returning back, he put up at an Inn to refresh himself, call'd the King's-Head-Inn in Shoreham; he happened to be there with two other officers, and they were soon alarm'd with a great noise and shouting, and they found the Hawkhurst gang was come: upon this, they went to hide themselves; when this gang came to the house in pursuit of these officers, they swore they would have them, or they would pull the house down; and they found the witness, Bolton, and the other two persons, Jones and Floyd; they did not get back again, but he did, and is now able to do his country justice. As soon as they found them, they tied their hands behind them, and tied their feet by the stirrup; then to strike a terror to other people, to shew how dangerous it was to oppose them, they whipt them towards Tunbridge; and when they came to Hawkhurst, then they disciplin'd them with their stirrup-leathers; and when they had done this, they carried them afterwards to New-Rumney; they were afraid of their escaping, so they carry'd them, and particularly Bolton, the witness, upon the 22d and the 24th of December, to Lidlight in the parish of Lid in the county of Kent. They took the prisoner with them, and took out the goods before him, and he was kept in their custody for a while; but afterwards he providentially got away from them. While he was there he saw the goods brought from on board the cutter. The goods that are generally run for the ease of carriage and stowage are tea, brandy or wine in small casks. The tea, when it comes from Flushing, Boulogne, or any of the opposite coasts, they put on board the cutter all in oil-skin bags; and these bags are tied together, so that when they come to shore, then they have nothing to do but throw them across the horses; sometimes they ride upon them, and sometimes they have drove horses.

No fair merchant ever imports tea in oil-skin bags; 'tis well known by all the people in the country, when they see oil-skin bags, whose they are. Neither can any brandy or wine be imported in any cask less than 60 gallons, but they always import it in casks they call half-anchors, and they fling them the same way. Another witness saw the Prisoners on the 27th. in another place in the county in the same gang with oil skin bags and brandy, carrying it from the coast. If you are satisfied with this evidence, you will do the country justice, and prevent a great many other people from entering into such associations.

Sol. General to John Bolton . Do you know the Prisoners?

Bolton. Yes: December the 18th, 1744, I was sent down to a place called Kingsdown, and returned back again in the forenoon, when I came to Shoreham.

Q. Who came with you there?

Bolton. There was Peter Floyd and John Jones , and one of our horses being lame, we were obliged to have the horse shod; while we were there, in about an hour and a half, all of a sudden we heard a prodigious firing, and it was a gang of smuglers.

Q. How many?

Bolton. Eight of them. They came up to the ale-house; hearing of such a number coming, we went and hid ourselves, but they seeing our horses, threatened they would have us, or they would pull and fire the house down; and upon searching, they found us, and robbed us of our arms and money, and they tied us to the stirrups, and had us down to Hawkhurst; after they had us there some time, they stripped us naked all above the waist, and then they began to cut us in a very terrible manner: They put horse-locks about our legs, and kept us in chains. On the 20th, there was a vast number of horses collected together, and then we were put upon horses again, tied, and carried to New-Rumney, and eight or ten with us; and Hodges was with us at New-Rumney, and sat up with us two nights. I am positive to Hodges, he hit me three or four blows.

Q. How long did you continue there?

Bolton. We continued these to the 22d, and word was brought that the Boulogne boat was come in; then the horses were got out directly, and we were put upon horses and tied: Hodges went down with me in company with the horses to Lidlight; when we came there I believe there were two hundred horses and one hundred men.

The great length of many extraordinary trials this Sessions makes it absolutely necessary to publish them in two numbers, the latter of which, together with the remaining part of this trial, will be published in a few days.

Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 01 April 2023), December 1747 (t17471209-52).

Old Bailey Proceedings front matter, 9th December 1747.

THE PROCEEDINGS ON THE King's Commissions of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer, and Goal Delivery FOR THE CITY of LONDON; And also the Goal Delivery for the County of MIDDLESEX,


On WEDNESDAY the 9th, THURSDAY the 10th, and FRIDAY the 11th of December,

In the 21st Year of His MAJESTY's Reign.


Rt. Honble Sir Robert Ladbroke , Knt. LORD-MAYOR of the CITY of LONDON.



Printed, and sold by M. COOPER, at the Globe in Pater-noster Row. 1747.

[Price Six-Pence.]


King's Commission of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer, and Goal Delivery held for the City of London, &c.

(The Continuation.)

Q. WERE the men arm'd?

Bolton. Each of them with a carbine and a pair of pistols.

Q. Was Tickner at Lidlight ?

Bolton: Yes; I was as near to him as I am to you. Hodgers had a pair of pistols and a carbine; to the best of my remembrance, Hodger's was a brass carbine, and Tickner's was an iron one; and most of them were arm'd, some with a carbine and a pair of pistols, some in bags and some on their backs.

Q. When they came to Lidlight, what did they do?

Bolton. Some were standing about, and some were landing of tea in oil-skin bags. I believe, to speak within compass, there were five tun contained in oil-skin bags: I saw their loaded horses, and there was a waggon with four oxen and two horses, and a cart with two oxen loaded with brandy and wine. As to the brandy, I drank some of it upon the Beach. The prisoner Tickner, after he had loaded the horses, went away, and left a great many people upon the Beach.

Q. What reason had you to apprehend it was tea?

Bolton. By all their discourse, and it was in the same package as I always seiz'd it; and the brandy was in half anchors.

Q. From what discourse did you conclude this to be tea and brandy?

Bolton. By their discourse of its coming from Boulogne; and they intended I should be sent over to Boulogne.

Q. Did you see them aiding and assisting in carrying away these goods?

Bolton. As for Tickner, I saw him loading the horses; as to the other, I did not see him load; but I saw him there armed with the rest: I saw three or four boat loads come from the cutter.

Sol. Gen. How long have you been an officer in the customs?

Bolton. Twelve years.

Q. Are you acquainted with the package of tea and brandy?

Bolton. There is a canvas within side of the oil-skin, and the tea is within that, and generally put up in quarter of hundred bags; sometimes there will be two bags tied together, then they tie knots, and throw them across the horse; they did it the same as I always saw it.

Cross examination.

Council. How many times have you been an evidence against people concerned in this practice?

Bolton. I believe twice.

Council. Was you ever an evidence at Rochester? and was you not an evidence the last Sessions?

Bolton. I answered the question as to the manner of their smuggling tea.

Q. Did not you know that Tickner was in custody in Maidstone ?

Bolton. I don't know whether I did or not.

Council. Did not you know that he was to take his trial at Rochester assizes ?

Bolton. I heard he was in custody.

Council. Surely you can recollect the time. How came you not to remark the time, when you first heard that Tickner was in custody? can you tell whether it was two or three months ago? when did you first give your information against Tickner ?

Bolton. I can't say.

Council. When you first heard he was in Maidstone goal, how came you not to prosecute? how came you to recollect this 18th of December?

Bolton. I can't but remember it.

Sol. Gen. Do you think any man whipped as he was, could ever forget the day?

Council. What habit had they?

Bolton. They had both of them light coats; Tickner loaded his horse near to me.

Council. Can you pretend to say you knew what was in those bags ? can you tell that it was tea ?

Bolton. I believe it was; they pegg'd one of the casks of brandy, and I casted it.

Council. How do you know it had not paid duty?

Bolton. I believe it had not, they waited two or three days for the boats coming from Boulogne.

Council. So it is upon your belief, that these goods had not paid duty?

Bolton. I saw it brought from the sloop, and the brandy I drank of.

Council. How came you to be in that country?

Sol. Gen. They carried him there and whipped him.

Bolton. We were to have been put on board the vessel, but the sailors belonging to the smuggling cutter would not take us on board; the smugglers fired at the sailors, and the sailors fired at them.

Serjeant Hayward. I am sorry to hear that.

Council. How long have you known Tickner?

Bolton. I can't say that I ever knew him before I saw him upon the Beach.

Council. How many times have you seen him since that?

Bolton. While I was with them I saw him four or five times.

Sol. General to Edward Anderson . Do you know Tickner the, Prisoner at the bar ?

Anderson. Yes, Sir.

Q. Where did you see him?

Anderson. I saw him at a place called Waddon, in the county of Surry, about the 6th or 7th of September, 1744, he was loaded with oil-skin bags and half anchors, and five or six men, and six or seven drove of horses loaded with oil-skin bags and half anchors

Q. How long have you lived in that county?

Anderson. Many years; I was bred and born thereabouts, I never saw any tea belonging to smugglers, but what was packed in oil-skin bags; all that I ever seized was in oil-skin bags.

Cross examination.

Council. How often have you seen Tickner before?

Anderson. Several times before, and since; I have drank with him, I was in his company at Waddon.

Council. When had you the first information that he was taken up?

Anderson. I saw him brought to town through the Borough.

Council. How long ago did you give your information ?

Anderson. I gave information to his Majesty's Solicitor, that such a person was guilty of such an offence; I did it voluntarily.

Council. Did not you hear he was taken up?

Anderson. I went and told that I knew such a person.

Council. Did not you know that he was a farmer ?

Anderson. I was not acquainted with his farming business, he was always accounted a notorious smuggler.

Sol. General to Foster. Give an account in what manner tea and brandy are stowed.

Foster. I have been an officer of the customs above thirty years, and in the course of that time, I have seized large quantities of run goods, forty or fifty tons at different times from gangs of smugglers, and I never met with any goods in oil-skin bags but tea; and whenever I found these bags, I was certain they were nothing else but tea, and when I opened them they always proved to be tea. Now as to brandy, it is much the same as to package, especially when it comes from the water-side; they bring it in half anchors, in order to carry them easily upon horses. I don't know that I have found an half anchor, but has had brandy; as to the difference between tea that has paid the duty and what is run, I apprehend is this; no tea can be imported into England, but must be brought to London, no private person is permitted to bring it any where; I never knew any tea imported but in casks or tubs, nor do I know that liberty is given for any body to import, but to London.

Q. What do you take to be the reason of their stowing it after that manner?

Foster. I apprehend the reason is, that it might be portable; they generally when they are loaden, are tied with cords to be put more readily into sacks; and when they are so tied, a man may easily set upon the bags.

Cross examination.

Council. Suppose a person had a mind, could he not put lace in those bags?

Foster. I don't say they might not, but I never met with any such thing.

Sol. General. Five tons of lace for instance.

Foster. If they were lace or silks, it would appear in another shape, you would see the rolls; if silk was put into bags it would appear, if there is tea in those bags, it will appear as oats or other corn to fill it around.

Council. Suppose a man had a mind to lay out five hundred pounds in linen, and carry it in that manner ?

Foster. I think there is no doubt at all, but when any man sees these bags he can tell; he can tell whether it is piece goods, or tea, or coffee; besides, linens are never imported in oil-skin bags, they are commonly in casks.

Cross examination.

Council. They that purchase tea at the Custom-house have proper authority to put it into these bags, have they not?

Foster. Yes, but I never knew it done; for it hurts the tea, and gives it something of a taste.

Court to Tickner. What have you to say by way of defence?

Tickner. I never saw Bolton but once, and for curiosity, I got off my horse and went and saw him; I heard a great noise, I was plowing in the field, and went out of curiosity. I went up to the hedge to see them go down; it was on a Friday, and the next day he swore to me. I never saw the man before, I never saw nor knew any thing of him. I could prove that I loaded five bags of hops, and sent them to London that morning.

Hodges. I never saw the man, the witness.

Both guilty of the felony whereof they stand indicted.

[Transportation. See summary.]

Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 01 April 2023), December 1747 (t17471209-52).

Old Bailey Proceedings front matter, 9th December 1747.

THE PROCEEDINGS ON THE King's Commissions of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer, and Goal Delivery FOR THE CITY of LONDON; And also the Goal Delivery for the County of MIDDLESEX,


On WEDNESDAY the 9th, THURSDAY the 10th, and FRIDAY the 11th of December,

In the 21st Year of His MAJESTY's Reign.


Rt. Honble Sir Robert Ladbroke , Knt. LORD-MAYOR of the CITY of LONDON.



Printed, and sold by M. COOPER, at the Globe in Pater-noster Row. 1747.

[Price Six-Pence.]


King's Commission of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer, and Goal Delivery held for the City of London, &c.