The Smuggler's Century: the Story of Smuggling on the Essex Coast 1730-1830

By Hervey Benham, Essex Record Office 1986, ISBN 0900360674, 212pp (Essex County Libraries E.336.268)

Summary by Pat Marsden

Refers to the fact that Wivenhoe was a Revenue cutter station from the 17th century. There was certainly a Custom House smack from Wivenhoe in 1698, and from the early days of the contract system until its end in 1788, the river supplied two notable contractors, Captain Robert Martin of Rowhedge and Captain Daniel Harvey of Wivenhoe, who built a series of cutters called Repulse, the last being wrecked in 1789.  Another local Harvey family were the most famous of the many Colneside ship and yacht builders, taking over the Wivenhoe yard in 1832 from the son of the smuggler Philip Sainty. The Yard reached the height of its prosperity in the 1870s when the proprietor apprenticed his son John Martin Harvey, who subsequently realized that his heart was in the theatre. He went on to earn recognition and a knighthood as one of the greatest actor-managers of the 19th century, bearing a name which records the linking of the two families through the marriage of his grandfather, Thomas Harvey, to a Miss Martin. There are details of Robert Martin’s career in the 18th century – in 1740 he was appointed Surveyor of Sloops for the East Coast, in 1741 he seized a Spanish privateer with his seventy-three ton Princess Mary. An abundance of people flocked to see the Spanish prisoners who were probably kept in Colchester castle.

Refers to Daniel Sutton, a noted smuggler. He was a solicitor in Colchester but lived in Wivenhoe where he constructed a quay in the late 18th century. He was Town Clerk of Colchester from 1813 – 1818 and liked to refer to himself as ‘Vice-Admiral of Essex’. He owned a cutter but was later bankrupted and his boat store at Wivenhoe was sold up, the contents including three boats, sails and spars, six guns and carriages. Sutton was subsequently ‘helped’ to emigrate to Tasmania by his family.

This page was added on 18/02/2016.

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