Cardiff Records: Volume 2. Originally published by Cardiff Records Committee, Cardiff, 1900.
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Commencing 29 September 1732.
The Cardiff Custom officials write to the Board in London under date 5 February 1732, informing them that "the Smuglers do begin in this Channel to appear already, and about a fortnight ago there was one of them, of Aberthaw & Barry, but no Boat did Venter out to her, the prosecution against Butler and Walters having so much alarm'd them." They request the Board to station in the Channel a small sloop, "built plain, without any painting or ornament, nor any Colours to be put out." They apprehend that then the smugglers "would be afraid of every sloop they saw, that came near to her burthen, when she is so disguised."
1734. Writing to London, the Cardiff officials report concerning smugglers that "At Aberthaw and Barry, when any boats goes out to em from thence, the Owners of em have always a Spye on the officer; and when they find him of one side of the River at Aberthaw, they'll land what they have of the other; and by reason there's no Boat in the Service, nor any boat on those accots to be had for love or money, and the Officer obliged to go to a bridge about two Miles round, they have time enough to secure the goods before he can get there. Nay, there is instances that they have run'd goods in the day time before the officers face in this Manner. At Barry tis the same case; if they find the officer on the Iseland they'll land the other Side of the Harbour. If the other Side of the Harbour, they'll land on the Iseland, and the officers can't get over till the Tide is out, ww[hi]chch may be five or six hours; and there is so much Cover on the Iseland, and such conveniencys for hiding of goods the other side, that an Officer has but a poor Chance to meet with em after they are landed. At Ogmore River it is the same case, and so at Aberavon."
The authorities' opinion was that the sloop Severn stationed at Portishead, should suffice to prevent smuggling in the Bristol Channel; but to this the Cardiff officials humbly demur, and crave the appointment of an effective Revenue cruiser.
1735. Account of a seizure of rum at Aberthaw. The officer saw a small boat go out of the harbour to a ship going up Channel. About noon the boat returned, and one Richard Forest came on shore very drunk, with one Thomas Sweet to whom the boat belonged. One George Robins stayed on board to keep the boat off, so that the officer could not get on board. Sweet told the officer that Robins had a mind to have a little fun with him, and that he had a few bottles of rum on board. The officer borrowed a boat and made for Robins, but the latter escaped in the direction of Barry. After nightfall, by moonlight, the officers on shore saw Sweet and Robins bring the boat into Aberthaw harbour, and a person come ashore with a cask on his back. The excise officer gave chase on horseback; and on the smugglers' being overtaken, one of their party, Thomas John, took a stone and caved in the cask.
1737. The Cardiff officials write to London denying the report that great quantities of tea and other goods are daily run on their coast. Since the Act of Indemnity came in force the smugglers have made no attempt within this district. As for soldiers, there are none in these parts, neither have there been any quartered here time out of mind. There is no occasion for them, for the country people are not so desperate in these parts as to attempt anything by force.
The Pye snow, with tobacco from Virginia to Bristol, Charles Adlam master, and the brig Priscilla, likewise with tobacco from Virginia for Bristol, John Longland master, were wrecked at Nash Point. The authorities had great difficulty to keep "the country" from pillaging the wreckage. The merchant, a Mr Chamberlain, went down there. The hogsheads were all damaged, but the people had hoisted some of the cargo up the cliff with ropes. Mr Chamberlain desires it may be thrown into the sea, in the interests of the merchants and the Revenue. The mob were very insolent, not only pilfering the damaged hogsheads in spite of the officers, but even burning the hull to get at the old iron. Three or four hundred people assembled there every night "from all parts of the Country towards the Hills; p'ticularly from a place calld Bridgend, from whence came a Gang of Ruffians the last day the Proclamation was read."
The Cardiff officials write to London on behalf of Mr Thomas Williams, "Deputy Custr at Newport (a Creek of this Port)." They certify that the said Mr Williams "is very well vers'd in the Coast Trade, w[hi]ch is the only Business they have in that Creek (all Importation of goods from foreign Parts, or Exportac'on of goods to fforeign Parts, being confined to the Key of Cardiff by virtue of a Commission from the Court of Excheqr dated the 23d November 1685 and executed at Cardiff the 31th of December 1685.)" It appears from this document of 1737 that foreign goods could not be imported to or exported from any other place within the Port, except by Special Licence of the Commissioners of Customs.
1738. Process has issued against certain men concerned in the looting of the Pye snow; but the officials are of opinion that, unless some extraordinary gratuity is promised to the Deputy Sheriff, they will never be taken, "for he must run the Risque of his life, there being no less then thirty or forty of the Mob that live together in a little Town called Bridgend in this County, and Most of them Shoomakers."
In a subsequent letter they say they learn that the soldiers from Swansea will need to be paid about £20 a man, to take Edward David and Lazarus George, the Bridgend looters, as "they are a very desperate people." Also that they suspect the Deputy Sheriff is a friend of these men, as he did not grant a warrant on the process of the Crown prosecutor.
The officials submit that the office of Coal Meter should continue to be discharged at Cardiff by a Customs Officer, as "the Quantity of Coals &c; Dischard in this Port will not be worth any Persons while to be appointed Meter unless he is an Officer; and there is no Officer that resides at Cardiff besides the Collr and Surveyr, the last being Meter."
Jany 2. Smuggling at Penarth. "Accot of a sml Seizure made on Board of a Coasting Vessel that uses no other trade than to carry Culme for Burning of Lime and Stones to the Sea Walls . . . The Officers seeing light on Board the Vessel before day, some time before high water, made em suspect they were taking in some goods or other; for there was no other Vessel in the Harbour at that time. And when they went on Board they found the two Casks of Brandy Open and Unconcealed in the hold; and when they asked the Master whose it was and how he came by it, he Answered the Man of the house might inform them (meaning Edwards.) This Edwards has lately Built a House by the Harbour, where there never was one before, and has been an old offender . . . and we presume his living in such a place (as he is a Man of some substance) is w[i]th a Design of defrauding the King of his Customs. The King's Boat at Pennarth is Moared on his ground (but never any Acknowledgemt paid) and he has told the Surveyr that he will cut the Moarings & let her goe adrift, and likewise threatens the officers or any body Else that will offer to come Near the house in the Night time; and the Officers have no other way . . . to go to the harbour without passing Close by his house." The vessel's owner is Mr Edward Lewis.
1738 Feby 9. "William James, Extraordinary Boatman at Pennarth, was obliged by the Justices of the Peace to serve the office of a Constable; and by virtue of a Warrt was searching for some Young Timber Trees &c. that had been Cut down and Carried Away, found upon his search in one house about a gallon of Brandy in Bottles, and in the Barn belonging to this house a Brandy Cas in a Manner quite out not having above a Pint in it; and in another house a Brandy Cas having about a gallon in it, w[hi]ch he brot here last tuesday the 6th inst. but not in Due time the Quantity being so sml as not to answer Condemnac'on of it self. . . . tis Undoubtedly part of Edwards's Brandy and the Persons in whose Custody it was found offered to take their oaths they found it on the Beach near Pennarth head the Night the 18 gallons was Seized; and wee are in hopes of having the whole Villany Discovered very soon, for the Persons Concerned with Edwards have quarrel'd among themselves, w[hi]ch I hope will be a Means to discover the whole ffact, and we humbly beg your direc'ions herein. We are &c.
June 29. Desire directions as to whether the embargo necessitates their stopping passage boats that carry cattle, pigs &c. from Sully to Uphill. The stoppage of these has already been of great detriment to two fairs in this neighbourhood, by preventing the English drovers from coming over, on which the sale of cattle in this country entirely depends.
William Richards, Surveyor & Comptroller of Cardiff, having applied for an extension of leave, Llewelyn Trahern, the Collector, writes that he can well spare the said Richards, who is "a loose infirm man."
1743. In reply to enquiries from headquarters the Collector submits that the subordinate officials' "keeping a Couple of Cows to make their own butter & Cheese & getting a Neighbour to sow an Acre or two of Wheat for em some years in order to Enable em to live on their own P'visions Prevents their being Absent from their Duty in going to Markets to buy provision."
We have reced two letters from mr Secry Wood Dated the 26° Ult° One in regard to the Unnatural Rebellion And the Seditious & Traiterous Designs Carrying on Against his Majestys Person & Government The other in regard to the Remittance of the Kings Money. As to the former had we reced no such Letter We do Assure Your hons, that Nothing in us shd be wanting, to give You the Earliest Accot of any Seditious or Traiterous Designs, Carryed on Against his Maj tys Person & Government, And to Disclose and Make known the Same to his Majty or any thing tending thereto, that shall or may come to our knowledge.
The Deputy Lieutenants and Justices of the Peace for this County (of Glamorgan) Met last tuesday by order of his Grace the Duke of Bolton [lege Beaufort] (Our Lord Lieutenant) And Isued out their Warrts to the Sevl Constables throughout the County, requiring them that they shd make a Return of the Names & places of abode, of all Papist Reputed Papists and non Jurors, on Tuesday Next in order to proceed Against them as the Law Directs, But thank God, we hant one Gentleman in this County of any ffigure or ffortune that is a Papist or Nonjuror. And we are told that there are but Very ffew of the Meaner Sort, And every thing in this County is quiet and Easie as Yet, But what we have most reason to be Afraid of here, is, the Landing of a fforeign fforce to the Westward, The Countys of Pembroke Carmarthen and Glamorgan having not one place of any Strength to resist their progress, besides the Want of Arms. And in Case any should land Miserable must be our Condition But hope our ffleets will either Deter or obstruct their Wicked Designs.
There is no more smuggling tobacco carried on by vessels here now; "that Trade was totally put a stop to by our driving that Notorious Smugler Knight from the Island of Barry. When his armed Vessel was there, he was in such Force that it was impossible to approach the Island."
1788. The Collector sends to London a full account of two expeditions against Arthur, the smuggler. He asks them to station another cutter at Penarth; "but we are confident that Sixty Men of light Infantry are likewise wanted. How can the People of Neath and Swansey face Arthur without some such Assistance? And as in all probability the Island of Barry will be again inhabited by Smuglers, we shall not be able to approach the Place without Soldiers."
"The Island of Barry, the Fortress of Knight the Notorious Smugler."The people of the Island ill-treated Alexander Wilson and Evan Thomas, the Deputy Comptroller & Surveyor. Their chief assailant was William Doggett.
The Collector sends an account of a seizure of wool, made by Alexander Wilson, Surveyor, and Thomas Dayas, Officer of Excise. The wool was not intended to be carried coastwise, but was intended for a Fair at Caerphilly, up in the country about 10 miles from this place, to be sold to the country women for making stockings. He will endeavour to make the new Act of Parliament known to the ignorant country people as soon as possible.
The desperate "Ruffins" at Barry Island had a vessel on purpose for smuggling, and the name "John, of Combe," was painted on her stern. The Newport officer tried to board her, but his life was threatened.
1767. "The Writing Desk in our Customho which has stood
there Time out of Mind is now become so very unfirm and so Intirely
Worm Eaten! that for some Months past it has not been us'd, the
officers being in fear least it shd fall on their Legs. Your Honors
know that Business can not be carry'd on without having the
Conveniences that shd attend it, an we humbly beg an Order for
erecting a new one which in a strong Plain & convenient way has
been offer'd us for four guineas by a workman of fair & honestt
Character. Recommending this to your honors Consideration we
remain in hopes of receiving a favorable answer Your honrs faithful
& Obedt Servts
EdwdJones D. Comptr"
Certain accounts were forwarded from Cardiff to London. They were sent "to Bristol, to be forwarded from thence by Wiltshire's waggon w[hi]ch sets up at the White Swan on Holborn Bridge." Such was the usual mode of forwarding at this time.
1769 Feby. The French snow La Concorde, of Calais, Dominique Berthe master, 140 tons burden, overset suddenly off Aberthaw. The crew got ashore in their small boat, but the vessel drifted down to the rocks westward of Saint Donat's Castle, and there stranded. "The Country People as soon as ever the Tide left her according to the savage Inhuman and Detestable Custom of the Country fell upon her and before I cd get together the officers belonging to the Port and arrive at the Place, it being almost Twenty Miles Distant, at least two thousand People with Hatchets were at work on her cutting and destroying everything they met with and carrying off the Brandy and wine in small casks a great Part of w[hi]ch they spilt in the general hurry and confusion which must ever attend a scene of such Rapacity and Devastation. I exerted myself as much as possible at the hazard of my Life and the officers that attended me indeavoring to Prevent them but to no purpose. The Justices that attended were equally unsuccessful. The Country People by taking lights on Board to work in the night set her on Fire by ww[hi]chch she was intirely destroy'd."
The County Justices met at Cowbridge and issued Warrants against four persons. One of these was taken, but the Constables suffered him to escape. A threatening letter was sent to the Cardiff Collector about his proceedings in this affair. The Collector asks to be allowed to purchase two brace of pistols and sidearms.
Having been desir'd to Report at what Creeks or places (except the legal quays) within the Limits of this Port Goods are permitted to be Landed or Shipped to or from Foreign parts or Coastwise And by what Orders of the Board such Indulgences are Granted:—This is to Inform Your Honours that according to the Information I have Receiv'd from the oldest Officer in the Port, Goods have been permitted to be Landed at Rumney Bridge, at the Bank and Old Quay below Cardiff, at Leckwith Bridge on the River Ely, and at Sully, but never without an Officer being Present, this have been the Old Established Custom and its Absolutely Necessary that the Indulgence should be Granted, but I cannot find any particular Order for the Granting the Indulgencies above mentioned.
1773 Aug[us]t Account of a seizure of china ware at Hay, near Brecon. They are to be sold at the Cardiff Customhouse, and "most of the Gentlemen and Ladies in this Country are dispos'd to buy them. We had a tedious Journey over the Welsh Mountains, and were Six days out on this Expedition."
In Consequence of your Order of the 10th Inst. we beg leave to Inform your Honours that no Coal can be ever raised within this Port in Order to be ship'd for Exportation or to be carried Coastwise, its distance from the Water rendering it too expencive for any such Sale. We therefore apprehend it's unnessesary to name any Officer of the Customs, or other Persons for any Appointment in that Commission to be issued out of the Court of Exchequer for executing the Powers given by the Act for admeasuring Waggons and other Carriages used in loading Coals on Board Ships, at the Several Ports in this Kingdom in the same manner as at the Ports of New Castle and Sunderland. We waited to see some Gentlemen who have the Coal Mines in this country in Order to be informd in regard to the state of them, and we now find that they have not the least Idea of anything here but for the internal use of the Country.
1748. The Collector and Comptroller send to London a Copy Information "made by one Thomas Jones but the sd Jones was in Drink when he made it & we have not been able to get him to us when Sober to goe before a Magistrate & the Magistrate refused to give him his Oath when Drunk." The Information states that some Irish soap was landed "at a place called the Gall Gate being bro[ugh]t up as this Deponent believes out of a Tile Boat at Pennarth." The vessel was laden with "Hillingstones" and empty Cyder hogsheads. "The Information was made on a quarrel that hap'nd betwixt the Sd Jones & Hugh Lewis, however in time of Peace we have had several instances of those Tile Boats bringing over Tea & Brandy &c; from Cornwall."
John Phillips, aged 75, of Penarth, is an object of charity, for his pension has been in arrears three years last Christmas. He has borrowed money on the credit of it, and, if the Collector had not accepted of orders for the payment thereof, Phillips "would have been Clap'd in Jail long since."
1752. The Officers report that "of late Years there are so Many little Shops set up in the Country for Selling Tobacco &c within a sml Distance of this Town & Newport & Aberthaw that they cant be less in Number (as we conceive) than four score or a hundred, and Chiefly by Ignorant Illiterate people that Dont understand one word of English who Seldom come for their own goods but Send by a Carrier more Ignorant than themselves and how Such people can take the Oath required on the back of the Certificate . . . is humbly Submitted for your Consideration."
The Indian Prince, of Bristol, John Watkins commander, homeward bound from Guinea, laden with rum, sugar, cotton, ebony and about a ton of "Elephant's Teeth," was stranded a league to the westward of Aberthaw, and was promptly pillaged by the country people.
1782 July 12. The Collector reports to London and mentions that "In regard to Bonds likewise as are given on the Exportation of Coals, we have no Coals Exported from this Port, nor ever shall, as it would be too expensive to bring it down here from the internal part of the Country."
August 17. "We have seized and brought into this Port, a small Vessel of about 18 Tons, a Smuggler, very well Built and will do Exceedingly well for a Customhouse Boat at Pennarth. She has sustained some Damage by striking on the Rocks at Bracksea Point near Aberthaw where she was left by the Smugglers at the appearance of the Officers at Aberthaw. A Horse was likewise taken loaded with Brandy."
In answer to enquiries from headquarters, the Collector reports that "The Teloscope was bought without any order, but is thought very necessary, as we can see every Vessel that goes to the Flat Holmes an Island where Smugglers at present run a great deal of Goods, and cannot just now be prevented by us as our Boat is too Old to go into any Sea."
1784 April 3. Report of a seizure of wine on Barry Island. "Tho[ma]s Knight a Noted Smuggler who resides a great Part of his Time on the said Island," told Thomas Hopkins, Waiter and Searcher at Barry and Sully, that the wine should remain there; "which Wine on entering the House a Second Time was all removed from thence. . . . . . The said Knight carries on a very Considerable Trade in the Smuggling Way, and is so strongly supported, that there are but particular Times that I can venture to send my Officers to the said Island, he has sometimes I am informed 60 or 70 Men with him from on Board a large Cutter on the Smuggling Trade, which we suppose Knight to be the Proprietor of."
Novber 18. Correspondence re seizure of tobacco. "it's with great Truth we assure you that the People here are in such Dread of Knight and his Gang, that we found a difficulty in finding People to Work for us."
1785. "Herewith we return you Griffins Petition relative to his Boat seized at Knights Island of Barry . . . . . and beg leave to remark beside, that we can't conceive any body has any Business there, who is not connected with Knight in Smugling."
March 29. "Hond Sirs—We have enquired for what Cause Evan Thomas (who was to have been Admitted to the office of Deputy Comptroller at this Port) is under a Sentence of Excommunication, and find it was for Defamation and excessive Abuse a like behaviour which in his Liquor he is daily guilty of. He is the most improper man for Business that ever was thought of; nor is he likely to get rid of the Sentence of Excommunication now standing out against him, he has no Money to pay the Expence of the Court, nor does he care the least about it."
On board the Cardiff Castle, one of the market vessels running to Bristol, the officers seized (with other articles) "a box containing 2680 plain round copper pieces, about the size of halfpence . . . and as this part of the country abounds with copper pieces passing current as halfpence, tho' intrinsecally not worth a farthing, it is clear that the pieces above mentioned were designed for the like purpose, and that they were purchased considerably under the value for which they were intended to pass."
1797. Report that "owing to the shallowness of the water at this port at Spring Tides, and the consequent inconvenience to the Trade by reason thereof, no Holidays (except the Sabbath) have been strictly observed at this Port."
The Commrs having rece'd informac'on that one Richard Robinson a Notorious Smugler who lives at Guernsey carries on a considerable Clandestine trade by Exporting from that place Tea Brandy Rum Tobacco & other prohibited goods & running the same on Your Coast—That he imploys two Vessels in carrying on the sd Illegal Trade one being a Pink of about 70 or 80 Tons whereof the sd Robinson is Master & sometimes one Canivet that goes along w[i]th him. This Pink has three Masts & is painted by the stern w[i]th blue & white fflowers in it having a head afore w[hi]ch is ready to Sail the next ffair Winds and has aboard 1000 w[i]th of Tea besides great Quantitys of Wine bottled & Brandy. The other Vessel is a Sloop of about 40 Tons, whereof one Pasco or his Son pass for Masters going both of them together. She is painted of Red by the Stern and hath a Mermaid before & is Sailed for Your Coast on the Smugling. The Commrs direct you to give it in strict charge to all the officers of Your Port carefully to look out for the said Vessels to prevent them Runing their Cargoe reporting to the Board Yr Proceedings w[hi]ch is what I have in Command to Signify to you & am &c
Being inform'd that goods are run on a Sm1 Iseland called the fflat holmes within Bristol Channel And it Appearing that the King's Boat station'd at Ely Ouze within your Port is near the said Holmes You are to order the officers belonging to the said Boat frequently to Vissit this Iseland to prevent any frauds being committed there. We are &c
Gentlemen—I send you herew w[i]th a Description of Henry Rogers of Crowan in ye County of Cornwall who In the Defiance of the laws opposd in a Forceable Manner the Undersherif of the Sd County in ye Due Execution of his office & who together with his Accomplices has Committed sev1 Murders and other most Notorious Violances and Outrages & is since fled from Justice. . . .
He is about 40 Years of Age a large Bond Man about 6 foot High inclinable to be fat. Has a Sallow Complection Stoops in his Shoulders and has an Awkward Clownish Gate and way of Talking with a Remarkable Grin. He wore when he went away a peruke But his Hair was prety long under it.
Gentlemen—Having Rece'd Information that a Vessel is Dayly expected at the Flat Holmes who is to Come to an Anchor there at Night and send Her Goods Ashore by her Boat in order to be Conceald till opportunity offers to Carry them to other places We Direct You to Communicate this Information to the Officers at yr Port Barry and Sully and Direct them to use their utmost Endeavours to Prevent these frauds Reporting to us the Success. We are yr Loving Friends,
The Bridge over Rumney River being only one Mile from Cardiff and the Collr being Allowd ten pounds pr Annum to Ride the Coast We shall Esteem it Part of the Collrs Duty to Gaurd that River by Land the Surveyor and his Boatmen being to Gaurd it by Water.
Observing that Mr William Richards the Surveyor of your Port at the Salary of Thirty pounds pr Annum acts also as Deputy to the Compr there which is Inconsistent We have wrote to the Patent Comptroller to Appoint another Deputy in the Room of the said Richards who is to Forbear Acting in that Capacity for the future But he is with the Assistance of the Boat and Boatmen under his Direction to take particular Care in Gaurding Rumney River by Water and Attend his proper Duty as Surveyr at his Present Salary of Thirty lb. pr Annum w[hi]ch We think a Sufficient Allowance to Encourage him to Do his Duty And Mr Jans being of oppinion that it will be for the Service for the said Richards to Attend at Pennarth at the Mouth of Your River when there are no Vessels Lading or Discharging at Cardiff You are to order him to Attend at Pennarth for the Gaurd of that Place and Rumney River.
[Mr Jans having reported that the coast thereabouts is not well guarded, and that most of the coasting vessels discharge at Carlyon, the Deputy Customer of Newport is to have such vessels well rummaged on their arrival.]
Gentlemen,—We Rece'd yr Letter of the 24° Ulto Relating to Ed: David & Lazarus George Two Desperate Fellows of the Town of Bridgend who were Convicted at the Last Assises for Being Concernd in the Riot & Plundering the Ship Pye Snow stranded upon yr Coast And you Acquainting us that Mr Leyshon the Attorney Concernd for the Crown will Endeavour with the Assistance of the Soilders Quarterd at Swansey to Apprehend ye sd offenders Before the Next Sessions But that it will be Necessary to Offer a Reward of 20 lb. a Man for taking of them to be Distributed Among the Soilders & Others who shall best Diserve it We Aggre to what is Proposd & Direct You to offer a Reward Accordingly Reporting to us yr Proceedings. We are yr Loving Friends.