This pamphlet describes the link between the town’s chief industries – shipbuilding and smuggling. Robert Sainty, ship builder of Wivenhoe served a sentence in Chelmsford gaol for smuggling soon after the battle of Waterloo. Fishermen, hoymen and boat builders participated in this ‘free trade’ activity. Large scale smuggling runs mostly took place between Clacton and Walton, but Wivenhoe men were involved, and also operated on a more modest scale, picking up a few tubs of spirit or tobacco from a supply ship out at sea. The Captain of the ‘Pearl’ himself pleaded guilty to having tobacco and liquor on board against the law. Wivenhoe was a very busy port in 1750 because large vessels could not reach the Hythe owing to the state of the river. Customs officers were stationed in the town which was also the headquarters of one of the revenue cutters. Wivenhoe men served aboard the revenue cutters and could earn a good wage. In 1742 Rebecca Durrell received £12 when her husband was drowned. Describes how Captain Daniel Harvey’s ‘Repulse’ chased a smuggling cutter too near the French coast and ran aground resulting in the crew spending 13 months in Calais prison. There were five ships in all called ‘Repulse’ each being bigger and better than the last. The ‘Repulse’ was hated by the smugglers. Contraband goods were smuggled ashore between Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea and were often hidden by farmers before being distributed. One gang comprised horse thieves and highwaymen as well as smugglers. It was believed that there were many hiding places in Wivenhoe private houses. Smuggling alcohol was the cause of much drunkenness and seized liquor was often sold too cheaply by customs officers.
Smuggling and Wivenhoe
By Workers Educational Association, no date, 4pp (Essex County Libraries E.WIV)
Summary by Pat Marsden
This page was added on 12/02/2016.