Smugglers, heroes, pubs and mischief in Poole.

Updated: Mar 22

The perfect storm for smugglers came with an unpopular tax when duties were imposed upon beer, cider and cherry during the time of "Pym" and the long parliament. These taxes were producing an annual income of over six hundred thousand pounds, a nice little earner indeed. Things went from bad to worse with the start of the Napoleonic war with France, when additional duties were placed upon malt, spirits, wines, tobacco and various other articles. The income this generated for the state was huge. It is recorded that at the death of King George 1, the annual income derived from the Excise had amounted to nearly two and a half million. The Government loved it, the people hated it, and the smugglers just jumped for joy with all the new opportunities coming their way. To demonstrate this point, the loss on tobacco alone was estimated to a third of the amount the whole duty placed on it

Poole at the time was a most unsavoury place, populated by daring men and adventures who were all looking for great expectations and adventure, a prime recruiting ground for smugglers. People talked in hush voices in the dark of the night, never looking at the faces of strange looking men hiding in the alleyways with a horse and cart. a saying of the time in Poole "If Poole was a fish pool, and the men of Poole fish, There be a pool for the devil, and a fish for his dish". Reading newspaper articles of the time, it become apparent that not all citizens viewed smugglers with fear and dread, in fact to many they become local heroes and besides would you turn down a keg of "Bishop's Tipple" just to look away!.

In Longfleet and Parkstone, farmers with no duress lent smuggling gangs their waggons , labourers and even their horses, and their barns to store their bounty. Pool was ideal for hiding goods with its little streets and homes with countless hiding places. Drains were also included on the smugglers list. The drain running from Caroline Row through to the Quay was used time after time, with reports of rough looking men just disappearing into the night like ghosts, while in reality they had entered the passages of Caroline Row along with their booty into the cellar of a public house. The Inn in question was called the "Bakers Arms" (long since disappeared).

The notorious New Inn Pool , without doubt used by smugglers

"A little tea, one leaf, I did not steal,

For guiltless bloodshed, I appeal,

Put tea in one scale, human blood in others,

And think what 'tis to slay thy harmless brother."

Poole Cutoms house today

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