Smuggling introduction

 

 

A visitor to Niton in 1860 said, ‘The whole population here are smugglers.’ The same was true of Brook and Mottistone, where smuggling was a core part of the village economy.

There was no social stigma attached to smuggling, Lieutenant Dornford and his crew of seven coastguards were charged in 1836 with collusion. Part of the evidence being their friendship with Mr Rogers of Compton Farm, ‘ a person in the habit of affording every accommodation to smugglers,’ according to the Supervisor of Excise. ‘Do you not know,’ said Lieut. Dornford, ‘that Mr Rogers’ relatives and connections are among the most wealthy and respectable on the Island? Was he not a yeoman of the highest respectability?’ The Reverend Collingwood Fenwick, the land-owning rector of Brook from 1833 to 1856 said:

The people engaged in smuggling or benefiting by it, do not feel it a moral offence and make no secret of their success when the danger is over.

But they did not always succeed. In about 1830 the Brook coastguard caught James Buckett (much later the first coxswain of the Brighstone Lifeboat), grappling for his tubs at Chilton Chine. In 1871 Lieutenant Rattray and his men from the coastguard cottages surprised Mr William Cooke (1811-1902) of Brook Green as the carriers were picking up his tubs. The sentence for James Buckett was to serve in the Royal Navy for five years, and that for William Cooke was a year in Winchester Prison.