Near Dymchurch, 16 March 1826

The following account of the Aldington Gang‘s activities on 16 March 1826 is reproduced from Felix Hull’s article, ‘The Ransley Gang in Romney Marsh in 1826’, Cantium, vol 4, no 2 (1972) which in turn follows virtually word for word the evidence that Edward Horn provided against the gang (copies of which I received some time after transcribing the Hull article).

Edward Horn states that a few days after the Run at Hythe which was on the 11th March another Run was effected near 27 Tower at the West End of Dymchurch wall at the Herring Hang near Romney Warren. On this occasion he recollects there were present George Ransley, Samuel Bailey, Thomas Gillham, Thomas Denard, Edward Punteny, Thomas Winder, William Smeed, James Smeed, James Wilson, Richard Higgens, Paul Pierce, several men from Dymchurch amongst them were Flisher Waddle and Bourn, all armed and a great Body of the working party between three and four score.

They met on the Evening as usual at Ransley’s and under his lead. At between 9 and 10 they proceeded over Bonnington Bridge across the Military Canal by the Royal Oak kept by one, Huckstead, to Sutton Barn belonging to Mr. Tilby on the Road leading to Dymchurch and after resting in the yard about half an hour they went on to a Horse Bridge across the Sewer called Tatnam Bridge into the main Road leading to Saint Marys to a Barn called Tatnam where they rested about two Hours. Here the Party from Dymchurch joined them. They then proceeded across the Marsh to a Farm House of one Sutherland called Jesson Farm then into a Field on the right hand and across the Road leading to Romney. They then crossed by the back of the Coal Wharf. They were then within 80 or 100 yards of the Beach and there they laid down on the Turf for concealment while Ransley went forward to the Beach to look out for the Boat.

In about half an hour he halloe’d to them as a signal and they then got up and went to the Boat and run the Cargo. The armed men were divided into two Parties; examinant was on the East side and so were Edward Punteny, Thomas Denard, Thomas Winder, Paul Pierce and William Smeed, he does not recollect who else. The Dymchurch armed men were stationed to the westward. A firing commenced to the westward. Immediately after they had got over the Beach towards the boat he saw a man whom he took to be a Blockade man about 10 or a dozen roods off. This man snapped his Pistol but it was only a flash and there was no firing by the armed men stationed on the Examinant’s side, all the firing took place on the west side. Several shots, 6 or 7 Pieces might be fired on that side. The two divisions of armed men might be about 14 roods asunder so that Examinant could not discern what passed on the west side. The firing lasted about 5 minutes just while they were working the Boat. They secured the Tubs but lost the Boat. One or two of the Crew accompanied them part of the way home. He understood from the talk of the Party as they returned that some of the Blockade men were wounded.

The goods are always worked at High Water and it might be between 3 or 4 o’clock when the Boat was worked. He believes they were not pursued by the Blockade Party for the firing ceased as soon as they crossed the full of the Beach. While they were running with their Tubs across the Warren to the Turnpike Road he observed a light like a Rocket in the air. Ransley frequently carried Rockets with him for signals, but by whom the light was thrown up or for what purpose he does not know.

They returned across the Marsh to Sutherland’s Farm house and along the Beach Road and about a quarter of a mile or more from that House they turned into a field on the right where they laid down their Tubs and counted them. He does not know how many there were but he believes about 100. They then proceeded to Tatnam Barn where they again rested and the men from Dymchurch then took their share of the Tubs and carried them home. They then made their way behind Sutton Barn and on to East Bridge near the chapel and got into the main road leading from Dymchurch to Aldington. They then proceeded on their way home to the Royal Oak, Huckstead’s, where they procured what is called their allowance, vizt. Bread and Cheese and Beer. It was then about sun rise. They drew up near the House, sat in a circle round the Tubs and Ransley went into the House and brought out their provisions, the Bread and Cheese and Beer, the latter in pails. The party here might be about 50 or 60. Huckstead the Landlord came to the door, but he does not recollect seeing any of the Family. They remained there about half an hour and then proceeded on towards Aldington and deposited the Tubs in a wood near Ransley’s house, who afterwards paid him 40s. for this Job and that of the 11th March.

There were several men from Ashford of this Party and amongst them Wright a Chimney Sweeper. The company met at Ransley’s and got liquor. In going to the Beach, Ransley left his Cart at Tatnam Barn. he does not recollect seeing any one belonging to that or Sutton or Tatnam Barns, they are lone Buildings, there was a light in the Warren Gate House. On their return they did not stop at Sutherland’s. On the road near Tatnam Bridge they fell in with Ransley’s cart and put about a score of Tubs into it and they left their Fire Arms at Tatnam Bridge which the Dymchurch People took possession of, except James Smeed’s Gun which Ransley’s Boy carried home in the Cart. Ransley himself accompanied the Party with the remainder of the Tubs. After leaving the Royal Oak about ten rods they passed Mr. Coleman’s Farm where two men and one or two women came out and apparently welcomed them. They then turned to the left, out of the road into the Marsh to Bonnington Bridge and to the best of his recollection Ransley gave the Soldier at the Bridge half-a-crown. The object of giving the Money was to induce the Soldier not to let anyone know they had passed – Ransley’s words were, ‘you hav’n’t seen any body, have you?’ They then passed on, up the Horse Road to the Freight and laid the Tubs in a Dyke in the wood by Ransley’s order, who was present.

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