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1774: Smugglers' violent clash with Cuckfield Excise Officer

Reading Mercury - Monday 27 June 1774

Artist's impression: members of the Hawkhurst smuggling gang are confronted in 1744

Yesterday fortnight Mr Wildman, Excise Officer at Cuckfield, having information of some smuggled goods, which were laid up near Pease Pottage gate, a little distance from Crawley, he, with two dragoons, went and made a seizure thereof, but by the time they had loaded it on their horses, a body of smugglers came to the spot, and made demand of the goods, which Mr Wildman not complying with, they immediately knocked him off his horse, when a warm engagement ensued, wherein the soldiers kept a continual discharge on the smugglers from their pistols, till the ammunition was totally exhausted, when they immediately drew their swords, and four of the smugglers having then got Mr Wildman down in a dyke, one of the officers went with a drawn sword to his assistance, with which he made a path at a smuggler's body, which the man luckily evaded, and turning about knocked down the soldier; but the other coming up at that instant, made a violent blow with his sword at the smuggler’s head, but striking below his mark, the man received a dangerous wound on his shoulder; another smuggler was terribly cut across the thigh, and ’tis reported one lost his life; however, they at last gained the victory, and sent the officer and dragoon’s home with broken heads, and otherwise terribly bruised, while they marched off in triumph with the contraband goods.

Acknowledged with thanks to Ric Norton "The Georgian Underworld".



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