During the committal proceedings for Aldington gang members on 17 October 1826, seaman William Wynn provided evidence about smuggling activities at Dymchurch on 11 May, designed to convict prisoner Charles Giles. Gang member, turned prosecution witness, Edward Horn, was also called to give evidence about the events on this night.
Wynn’s evidence, reported in the Kentish Chronicle of 31 October 1826, was essentially as follows:
At about 10 o’clock on 11 May 1826, Wynn was stationed on the beach at Herring Hang to prevent smuggling activity. Around midnight a party of smugglers arrived at Herring Hang house. A boat came in and although Wynn stood about a hundred yards from her he was clearly able to see the vessel and the men aboard.
Wynn judged that about 150 men came down to the coast. They were armed and fired at him. Wynn returned fire and a volley was fired at him as the men rushed to the beach. The men were working the tubs and a second volley was fired, and Wynn took a slug in the face. His colleagues, Whelan and Regan ran to his assistance and some of the tubs were seized. Whelan had a shot lodged in his coat pocket but was not wounded. Undoubtedly some of the smugglers were also wounded.
Although the Preventive Service men were assisted by a large party of Marines, the smugglers’ superior knowledge of the marshes allowed them to escape. In their haste, a long duck gun was left behind, possibly the property of one of the wounded. The boat carrying the smuggled goods also quickly made its escape.
In his evidence (transcribed below), Edward Horn recalled that on the 11th of May he went to George Ransley’s house at Aldington Fright for the purpose of being look-out. All the prisoners in the dock on 17 October, apart from Robert Bailey and William Wire were there. They left Ransley’s house about seven or eight o’clock and went to Herring Hang, a distance of seven or eight miles. They arrived at the sea shore between midnight and two o’clock. Thomas Dennard, Samuel Bailey, Thomas Gilham and Charles Giles were all armed, as was Horn. Ransley was not.
Ransley went forward to look out for the boat and on his ‘hello’ the others ran over to the boat. Those who were armed were stationed at each side of the boat to protect the men as they landed the cargo. The party ran somewhere between 80 and 100 casks of spirit that night. Giles lost his firearms on that occasion. He was also wounded during the firing between the blockade and smuggling party. On Ransley’s instruction, Horne carried Giles forty or fifty yards away to a small green field. Giles was able to walk a little and they made their way to the high road where they met with Ransley who placed Giles in his cart and drove him away. Giles had been wounded in the neck.
Horn revealed that he had received 20 shillings for his night’s work and that the tub men were paid 7 shillings each. He said that they generally spent their earnings in Ransley’s house.
At the trial, Officer Smith reported that he had taken Giles into custody on the morning of 17 October, at or near to Bilsington, and that Giles (who initially gave his name as Wood) accounted for the wound on his neck by claiming that it was the effect of a blister.
Edward Horn’s evidence
Edward Horn states that a Run of Tubs under the Conduct of Ransley took place on the night of the 10th May at the Herring hang on the East side of Dymchurch on which occasion between 90 and 100 Tubs were run amongst the Party on this Occasion there was George Ransley, Samuel Bailey, Thomas Dennard, Richard Wire, Thomas Gillham, Charles Giles, Richard Higgins, Edward Pantery, William Smeed, Paul Pierce, Thomas Winder, James Wilson, James Hogben of Bilsington, Blisney Fickney and others whose names he does not recollect. They met in the Evening at Ransley’s to the number of about 60 where they got drunk — others were appointed to meet at the different places they had to pass. They proceeded to the Royal Oak Sutton Barn where Ransley left his Cart and then after going about 12 Roods they turned up a Green Lane to the left of there they were mustered by Ransley and Samuel Bailey and it was arranged how the armed men were to be stationed on the Shore that is, which were to be at the left and which to the right (several of them and amongst these Examinant had got their Guns from Ransley’s House). Examinant Higgins Pantery Samuel Bailey Giles Dennard and Fickney were on the west side. They then proceeded to the Coast and lay down in a small field behind Courts house. Court is a shepherd and resides about 50 yards from the Sea wall. Ransley went on the Beach to look out for the Boat and in about 20 minutes gave them a Signal by a Hulloo upon which the Party proceeded to the Boat. It was High Water and the Tide was nearly up to the Road – on the wall there was standing one of the Blockade Men near the Boat who fired his Pistol on their approach and then retreated. Thereupon the Smugglers Party fired at him and then two or three Men of the Blockade came up and firing took place on both sides and during this Time the Boat was worked which operations took up about 5 minutes and and towards the close of it Giles received a shot. Examinant did not see him fall but saw him immediately after he was down and heard him crying out. Ransley stood at this time in the Road and a Ball nearly struck him as Examinant heard him say as they were returning That Ransley called out to his Men while the firing was going on “Shoot the B_ _. That while Giles lay on the Ground he called out to his Companions to shoot him for he could not get away but Samuel Bailey and George Ransley caught hold of his Clothes and dragged him down the foot path by the Herring Hang and then Examinant gave his Gun to Ransley and took Giles on his back and carried him by Richard Waddle’s House until he recovered himself and said he thought he could walk he then walked a little way but the Blockade Party appearing to becoming on after them Examinant again took Giles on his back and run with him towards Burmarsh. It was then about two in the morning part of their party with the Tubs accompanied them. They made the best of their way to Sutton Barn where Ransley got his Cart and Giles was put into it and the Cart was then driven away by Ransley’s Boy. Examinant accompanied them as far as Bilsington Bridge and there left them and went home to Ruckinge – the sun had risen when he parted with them.
Examinant afterwards received 20/ from Ransley for this Service. Examinant knows only of Giles being wounded. The Ball had lodged in his Neck and Examinant saw the Ball in Giles House after it was taken out. But after that Dennard produced the Ball in the presence of Ransley in the House of the latter – he does not know the Surgeon who attended him – he was ill 6 or 7 weeks he things. Some of the Party went thro’ a Corn Field of Mr Cheeseman near Bilsington Bridge who was much offended about it.
There were two Chimney Sweepers from Ashford of this working Party one of them was named Wright. He thinks they crossed Jiggers Green Bridge as they went down to the Sea and that some of the Party went into the Royal Oak to get drink.
Depositions Regarding Smuggling, Edward Horn, U951/C27/1, 10 May 1826, Regarding the assembly at Dymchurch, held at Centre for Kentish Studies