Smuggling in and around Burton Bradstock

The history of Burton Bradstock could not be written without reference to its illegal seafaring association. There are many legends of the activities of smugglers operating in the area, as Burton Bradstock was a key landing place at the centre of Lyme Bay. According to experts in the 19th century, "if there was any smuggling at all in south-west Dorset, the preventive officers could be sure to find it at Burton Bradstock for this had long been a noted contraband centre and official fears of a great revival in the trade there after the peace in 1815 were well-judged. Here and at Swyre, two or three miles to the east, the Northovers had a finger in every tub and provided regular employment for the keeper of Dorchester Gaol" (more about the Northovers later).

Smugglers circa 1800 Smugglers at work circa 1800

Softground etching by J.A.Atkinson - Source: Alan Hay collection

The following material is largely taken from an excellent book by Roger Guttridge (click here for brief biography) entitled 'Dorset Smugglers' and published by Dorset Publishing Company - sadly now out of print (see Books & Publications). We are very grateful to Roger Guttridge for giving us permission to use his book.

Click on section of interest:

Smuggling since 1700: The 1700's
The 1800's
In the 20th century
Three notorious smugglers: Jack Rattenbury
Isaac Gulliver
The Colonel of Bridport
Methods of smuggling in the second half of the 18th century  
Women smugglers  
The main smuggling centres in Lyme Bay  
A smugglers' song  
Stories of some less well known local smugglers  
Smugglers role of honour  
More details of smugglers who were caught  
Smugglers' dictionary  

Greyhound Excise cutter on a wind and chasing - 1794

Back to History