Smuggling days and officers turning a blind eye while the honest suffered

HMS Illustrious leaves Portsmouth for the last time
Picture: Shaun Roster

RETRO: Watch the last voyage of HMS Illustrious from Portsmouth

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On this day in 1818 a rowing boat beached near Fort Cumberland, Eastney, Portsmouth.

Eleven men got out and looked around to see if they were being watched and then unloaded their cargo. But the activity was observed by an officer at the fort who watched until they had finished and began to transport their cargo up the road.

He approached them and the smugglers fled leaving him in possession of 1,132 yards of French silk, 19 Angola shawls, 132 pairs of Angola gloves, 86 pairs of silk stockings, 42 snuff boxes, 672 pairs of kid gloves, 225 yards of cambric or chambray, 16 silk sashes and one fur petticoat.

According to Mr Moncreaff, the borough inspector of weights and measures, smuggling was rife and local tradesmen were willing recipients of goods which they sold on.

Farm labourers were employed to help and coastguards were sometimes bribed to turn a blind eye.

On one occasion it was reported that smugglers buried a customs officer up to his neck in the shingle on the beach after it was discovered he was honest – John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.