During the committal trial of Aldington gang members on 17 October 1826, seaman William Spillane provided evidence about smuggling activities at Dymchurch on 6 August 1826.
Spillane’s evidence, reported in the Kentish Chronicle of 31 October 1826, was essentially as follows.
At about one am on the 6th of August, Spillane was out on duty when he heard two shots fired at Half-East Road. He ran towards the spot and saw two flashes. He first met William Wynn and then saw a party of eighty to a hundred men on the beach, about thirty or forty yards off. There was a boat nearby. Another two shots came from the shore, probably from the boat. Wynn and Spillane both fired and the smugglers fired in return. Spillane was wounded in the arms and on one side and shot was later extracted from his back. Lieutenant Johnson confirmed that Spillane had subsequently been confined to bed for five weeks.
On hearing the firing, Lieutenant Johnson rushed among the men working the cargo. He discharged a blunderbuss and saw two men fall. One of them (Bushall) later had a leg amputated after receiving a shot on that evening. Johnson said the night was so dark that it was impossible to distinguish faces, but a man in a white frock had wounded Joseph Shord.
The smugglers were pursued into the marshes but all escaped. Fourteen barrels of foreign gin were taken into possession by the blockade men, along with three muskets, one loaded with forty slugs, the others broken.
Again, Horne was called to relate his version of the events of 6 August (see below). He recalled that goods were run between Dymchurch and Hythe and that they had met at Ransley’s place that night. All the prisoners but Charles Giles and Robert Bailey were there. Horne claimed that there were fifty or sixty men on that occasion. He said that when 80 to 100 tubs are to be run fifteen or sixteen armed men are required to protect those carrying off the casks. Samuel Dennard (presumably this should have been Thomas), Thomas Gilham, and Richard Wyer were all identified as having muskets. Horne said that Samuel Bailey kept the arms but that he never knew George Ransley to carry arms.
On the night of the 6th of August the party reached the beach somewhere between midnight and two am. Ransley called out to the party to ‘come up’ and part of cargo was landed before the blockade officers interrupted proceedings. About eighty tubs were taken up in carts and guarded for four or five miles. On this occasion, Horne received a guinea for his efforts.
Edward Horn’s evidence
Below is the most interesting of the transcripts of Edward Horn’s evidence. It makes a number of references to a Thomas Piety of Ashford – quite possibly the one who later married John Bailey’s daughter Emily in Van Diemen’s Land. If it is the same person, he was transported aboard the Georgiana in 1829, having been convicted of horse stealing.
Horn also suggests a connection between Thomas Gilham and John Bailey – with their wives having been sisters! It turns out that Frances Furner and Catherine Richards were in fact sisters or at least half sisters, with Catherine having been born before their mother, Delia Richards, married William Furner.
As to the felonious Assembly 6th August near Fort Moncrief — Edward Horn states that about 8 o’clock on Saturday Evening the 5th of August Examinant proceeded to Ransley’s House with John Horn in consequence of a previous arrangement made between the two latter. After waiting there about an hour Ransley and his son in one Cart Thomas Piety of Ashford in another and John Horn in another Cart left Ransley’s House over the Frith to Jigger Green Bridge. There was a Company of between 30 and 40 men assembled at Ransley’s and Examinant walked with them to the same Bridge where they were to meet the Carts as the walking party crossed the Field they reached the appointed Place a short time before the Carts when the Carts came up Ransley in his Cart went along the Canal and the two other Carts crossed the Canal at the Bridge and proceeded to the Royal Oak a Public House in the Parish of Bonnington kept by William Huckstead. Examinant accompanied his Brother John in his Cart and James Hogben of Bilsington one who had met at Ransley’s was in Piety’s Cart. The walking Party crossed the Fields to Eldergate Bridge. Examinant’s Party did not go into the Royal Oak but turned to the left and passing Eldergate Bridge got to a Farm house belonging to Mr Selby near Burmarsh and then went on half a mile. Horn’s and Piety’s Carts stopped for the Company.
It was then drawing on for 11 o’clock when the Company came up they crossed the Marsh leaving the two Carts in the Road with John Horn and Piety and went to a place called Jacob Wratten’s lodge where they met Ransley his Son and Hogben of Hawkinge with a Party brought by the latter. There was also James Quested with his Cart in which the Fire arms from 12 to 16 Guns were brought. The Company when united amounted to between 50 and 60. They were mustered in the field beyond the lodge and Ransley looking out for those who were armed pointed out to them on which side they were to be stationed during the run – amongst the armed men there were Examinant, Samuel Bailey, Thomas Gillham, Thomas Winder, William Smeed, Blisney Tickner, Thomas Denard, Richard Wire, Edward Pantery, James Hogben of Bilsington and others whose names he don’t recollect. Ransley had gone forward to West Hythe to meet Hogben of Hawkinge and Quested’s Party.
After the muster they made their way to the sea side and lay down in a Field near the Circular Redoubt and close to the Road under Dymchurch Wall from 50 to 60 Roods from the Redoubt. It was then near one o’clock. After laying there about an hour during which time Ransley went up to the Sea (about 200 yards distant) to look out for the expected Boat and on his giving a Signal by a halloo they all got across the Road and over the Sea Wall to him where Examinant saw a boat laying. The Scouts then divided into two Parties leaving room for the working Party to pass between.
Examinant was on the East or left side and with him Winder, Tickney, Samuel Bailey, William Smeed and he don’t recall who besides – Gillham was one of the armed Party to the West and John Bailey was there as a Tub carrier. Examinant with his Party was posted along the road by the Wall on his reaching the Wall he looked over and saw the Boat and also a man he took to be a Blockade Man about ten or a dozen yards to the Eastward who retreated and a fire was then opened by Examinant’s Party at him and he continued retreating after which several of the Blockade Party came up from the same side and a good deal of firing was exchange on both sides. In consequence of the approach of these persons some one amongst the Smugglers called out come away and thereupon Examinant and his Party crossed the Road into the Field before all he working Party left the Boat and during this Time Examinant heard Ransley call come back you B___s and shoot them. They have got one of our men but the Scouts hesitating he continued calling out to them that there was nothing to be afraid of. Shortly previous to this and during the firing Ransley (as he afterwards said on their return) in attempting to get up the Bank or wall fell down but recovered himself and got up into the Road. Examinant did not return.
Examinant had no knowledge of Bushell one of the working party who was taken nor does he of his own knowledge know that any of the Smugglers were wounded that night. While in the field he saw a scuffle between some of the Blockade Men and the Smugglers and he heard blows given but he does not know by whom further than that as they returned home he heard John Bailey say that Gillham had broken his musquet [sic] about the Blockade Man that had attempted to seize one of the Smugglers. Examinant observed that as they went down to the sea Gillham had a Gun and that he had not one as he returned and on the Tuesday following Examinant being at Thomas Pietys at Ashford on market day he heard Ransley in the Presence of John Horn say that he thought the greater part of the Scouts were afraid ever since Giles had been shot and speaking of the Conduct of Gillham and William Smeed he said that himself Smeed and Dotchy (Gillhams‘ nick name and William Smeed with himself Ransley) would take one side to Scout at any Time and he believed the rest were afraid and Examinant observed speaking of himself that he really was afraid.
The Cargo they secured that night was between 80 and 90 Tubs and he heard Ransley say they had lost a dozen or 14 after the Boat had been worked the Tubs were carried by the Party to the Carts and put into them. The Carts then went off by Mr Selby’s towards the Royal Oak and Examinant, John Bailey, Winder and an old man named Quested (the Father of the Man who was hanged) and two or three more went over Eldergate Bridge by the Canal and along the Military Road to near Jigger’s Green Bridge and then turned across the fields to the right to Aldington Freight as this Party were going along Bailey told Examinant that his Brother Gilham (they married Sisters) had broken his musquet [sic] about one of the Blockade Men.
Examinant was paid for this night’s work by his Brother John on Ransley’s Account and at the same time he paid him also for the Dover Job 21/ for the former and 23/ for the latter.
Note — On proceeding to the shore they met a Gentleman on Horseback just beyond Mr Selby’s house who appeared to be coming from Botolph’s Bridge he must have observed them he tied up his Horse at Mr Selby’s Gate and went in.
Access to Archives Reference: Depositions Regarding Smuggling, Edward Horn, U951/C27/5, 6 August 1826, Assembly near Fort Moncrief, held at Centre for Kentish Studies