Sunshine on Southwold's iconic lighthouse which stands guardian of Southwold and this coastline. Lovely long days at this time of year so come and explore coast and countryside.

The Wenhaston Smuggler

menu
The Wenhaston Smuggler

The Wenhaston Smuggler by Keith Johnceline

In 1855 an unsigned letter was delivered to the vicar of Wenhaston, Thomas Greenwood, expressing concern about a certain inhabitant of the village who, the writer claimed, had been smuggling for twenty-five years. In his letter the writer advised the vicar that the man in question, who he refused to name in fear of himself being killed, possessed a wherry, horses, carts, his own men and was at one time landlord of the Harbour Inn at Southwold. He further claimed to have knowledge that the goods were landed at the bridge at Wenhaston and then sent by carrier to Ipswich or to his brother in law in Norwich, a draper. The writer was very anxious that his name was not published!

Roy Clark, in Black Sailed Traders, writes that in 1830 a George Butcher of Wenhaston owned two wherries, one of which was later passed to a Mr Turner. In the diaries of James Maggs, who was described by their editor as Southwold schoolmaster, auctioneer and general factotum, there are several references to George Butcher. On 12th March 1843 he sold Commerce to Mr Butcher for £240, while on 22nd February 1844 Sole Bay was launched for George Butcher. He was at that time the owner of the Harbour Inn at Southwold. On 15th October 1855 George Butcher sold Venus to William Ayliffe for £70. The most damaging entry in the diary was on 30th November 1855, when James Maggs escorted George Butcher to Ipswich Gaol for smuggling.

George Butcher was born in 1803 and at the time of his conviction was fifty–two, described as a coal and seed merchant living at Hill House, at the top of Blyford Lane, Wenhaston. He was 5 feet 4 inches in height and had a fresh complexion, brown hair and hazel eyes. Born in Westleton, he was married with two children, at the time of his arrest aged twenty–five and twenty-one. He was charged with offences against customs, and was taken to Ipswich Gaol on 1 December 1855 to serve his sentence of nine months. When taken to the goal he was wearing two coats, one waistcoat, one pair of trousers, one pair of boots, a shirt, and possessed two handkerchiefs and £7 11s. 1d. in money.

It was interesting to see on the next page in the Ipswich Gaol Book the entry for a Mr Foreman, a labourer of Blackheath, Wenhaston. He was taken to the gaol on 1st December for the same offence and received the same sentence, nine months. He was forty–two and described as having a sallow complexion, brown hair and grey eyes. He was also married with two children and was born in Halesworth. Undoubtedly a member of Butcher’s gang.

On being released from prison George Butcher carried on with his coal and seed business, as shown by entries in White’s Directories for 1855, 1865 and 1874. He was still living at Hill House. An entry in the Parish Register for 26th August 1875, however, records the burial of George Butcher, aged seventy–one.

Sources:
Ipswich Gaol Book.
Alan Bottomley, ed., The Southwold Diaries of James Maggs, 2 vols, Suffolk Records Society, 25-26 (1983-84).
Roy Clark, Black-Sailed Traders (1961).
White’s Directory of Suffolk (1855, 1865, 1874).
Census Returns, 1841, 1861.
Atton & Holland, The King’s Customs, 2 vols (1908).

Keith Johnceline, Wenhaston, March 2000.
Back to the History Index

Back to our Featured Reports

Some Favourite Websites For July 2024:

Pub StopsHalesworth or Darsham Pub-Stops Guide

This web site is a light hearted attempted to travel the local rail network, from Halesworth or Darsham, stopping at fine pubs and where possible encouraging similar real ale loving folks to do likewise!

Cranbourne, WalberswickLuxury Self Catering cottage on the Heritage Coast with it's own swimming pool

Cranbourne is tucked in a peaceful corner of Manor Close with the excellent village shop nearby and central to Walberswick making all the attractions within easy walking. A heated outdoor swimming pool for summer use is protected by a lockable gate. Without detracting from the house in any way, Cranbourne unobtrusively includes features enabling less mobile visitors to equally enjoy their stay.

Southwold Model Yacht RegattasBoating down on Southwold sea front

The Southwold Regattas are held every year on the boating lake by the pier. Events are open to all and new sailors and spectators are very welcome however new sailors should contact the committee before turning up to the event.

Halesworth Local Food DatabaseA directory of high quality local food producers and retailers

Halesworth and the Blyth Valley enjoy easy access to all kinds of amazing local food producers. There are organic farms, rare breed farms, artisan cheese producers, several local breweries and independent shops selling this wonderful local food

Michael BullenWalberswick based watercolourist and Artist

Watercolours are a moment in time with all the depth, light and simplicity of a haiku and just as elusive. Michael's paintings and prints can be viewed at his Studio overlooking The Market Square in Halesworth.