Although the typical smuggled cargo that springs most easily to mind is alcohol, tea and tobacco smuggling was equally as common. John Wesley is said to have refused to drink tea and denounced smugglers as ‘thieves who picked the pockets both of the King and all his fellow subjects’.
One report from 1832 describes the Excise men chasing men pushing handcarts containing smuggled tobacco down Holderness Road in Hull. In 1843 the Collector of Excise admitted that he had ‘no doubt that there were landings of large quantities of tobacco’.
The Holderness coast appears to be among the last bastions of the traditional style of smuggling. The broad, straight, sweep of the coastline from Bridlington down to Spurn Point, despite having no rocky inlets with suitable smugglers’ coves, would appear to have been commonly in use for the landing of contraband up to the middle of the nineteenth century.
Hornsea’s smuggling ring is particularly notable – it’s believed that in 1836 fifty to sixty tubs of geneva (a gin-like spirit from Holland) were thought to have been landed at Hornsea. The Coastguard did however manage to recover 20 tubs from a store found on the beach. The last known smuggling run at Hornsea was in July 1846, when a fishing coble from Hull was seized with its cargo of sixty bales of tobacco.
In November 1807 a sloop called the James was wrecked and driven ashore near Waxholme with all hands drowned. Its cargo was extremely varied with goods ranging from ale and wine to domestic furniture, books and gunpowder Although the cargo was secured by Mr Baron, the bailiff, there were rumours that the mob had staved in a ‘pipe of rum’ and drunk its contents.