decorative top bar graphic
blank spacer

Read the book! This fascinating book by award-winning author Richard Platt tells the story of British smuggling Click here to buy

Contents of
Sussex Smugglers


1 Preface

pages 3-6

2 History of the Smugglers

A summary of the murders

pages 7-43

3 First day of the trial

pages 43-49

4 Second day of the trial

pages 49-108

5 Third day of the trial

pages 108-118

6 Appendix

by three clergymen who attended the condemned men

pages 118-132

7 Execution

pages 132-161

8 The second trial

Of Brown, the two Kemps, Fuller & Savage

pages 161-173

9 The third trial

of Diprose, Bartlett & others

pages 173-205

10 Sermon

On the evils of smuggling

pages 207-222

11 Smuggling in Sussex

From Sussex Archaeological Collections

pages 223-260

12 Gale Journal

pages 260-263






Smugglers Britain logo


6 Appendix

Having now completed the trials of these seven bloody criminals, I shall next give you the short Appendix which has been published by three of the clergymen who attended them after their conviction, and who have signed their names to the same, after which I shall give a much fuller account of their wicked lives and behaviour.

After sentence, the prisoners were carried back to Chichester gaol. The court were pleased to order them all for execution the very next day, and that the bodies of Jackson, Carter, Tapner, Cobby, and Hammond, the


five principals, should be hung in chains. Accordingly, they were carried from the gaol, to a place called the Broyle, near Chichester; where, in the presence of a great number of spectators, on Thursday, the 19th day of January last, about two o’clock in the afternoon, all of them were executed, except Jackson, who died in jail, about four hours after sentence of death was pronounced upon him.

The heinousness of the crimes of such notorious offenders may possibly excite in the reader a desire to be informed of their respective behaviour whilst under sentence of death, and at the place of execution; to satisfy which is subjoined the following authentic account, under the hands of the several clergymen who attended them alternately in gaol, and together at the place of execution:

“The first time I went to the malefactors under condemnation, being the evening after sentence was passed upon them, I prayed with them all; viz., Carter, Tapner, Cobby, Hammond, and the Mills’s (Jackson being dead just before I went to the gaol) but many persons being present, I had no opportunity of saying any thing material, and therefore told them I would visit them early the next morning, which I did accordingly.

“After prayers, I talked with them about their unhappy condition, and the heinous crimes that brought them into it. I asked them if they desired to receive the Sacrament; they all and each of them desired that I would administer it to them; accordingly I attended them again, about ten o’clock, for that purpose; and during the whole time of my performing that office, they all behaved with great decency and devotion, especially Carter and Tapner.

“Afterwards I put the following questions to them,


and desired they would be sincere in their answers as dying men; first, whether they did not acknowledge the sentence that was passed upon them to be just, and what they highly deserved? Carter, the most sensible and penitent amongst them, first answered, Yes; as did afterwards Tapner, Cobby, and Hammond; but the two Mills’s did not.

“Secondly, I asked them whether they forgave everybody; they all and each answered they forgave all the world. Tapner then owned that Edmund Richards and another were the cause of his ruin, but yet forgave them.

“Carter laid his ruin to Jackson for drawing him from his honest employment.

Curate of St. Pancras, in Chichester.”


“Both Carter and Tapner, a few hours before their execution, confessed to me that they with several others assembled together with a design to rescue Dimer out of Chichester gaol; that the only person amongst them who had arms was Edmund Richards; but that being disappointed by a number of persons who had promised to join them from the East, their scheme was frustrated and their purpose carried no further into execution; that one Stringer [1] was at the head of this confederacy, but not present with them at the time of their assembling together.

“Vicar of Donnington in Sussex.”


“Benjamin Tapner, of West Stoke, in Sussex, labourer, son of Henry Tapner, of Aldingbourne, Sussex, bricklayer, aged 27, before he was turned off, owned the justice of his sentence, and desired all young persons to take warning by his untimely end, and avoid bad company, which was his ruin. When in gaol, before he was brought out for execution, he said he did not remember he put the rope about Chater’s neck.

“William Carter, of Rowland’s Castle, thatcher, son of Win. Carter, of East Meon in Hants, aged 39, at the place of execution and in gaol, confessed the justice of the sentence passed upon him, and acted more suitably to a person in such unhappy circumstances than any of them; he likewise at the gallows, cautioned every one against those courses that had brought him to so shameful an end.

“Tapner and Carter, when all the ropes were fixed, shook hands, but what or whether any words then passed between them, was not heard.

“Richard Mills the elder, of Trotton, in Sussex, colt- breaker, son of Mills of List, in Hants, labourer,

aged 68, was unwilling to own himself guilty of the fact for which he died, and said he never saw Chater; but being asked whether he never heard him, as he was confined so long in the next room to that in which he generally sat, made no answer.

“Richard Mills the younger, of Stedham, coltbreaker, son of the aforesaid Richard Mills, aged 37, would willingly have been thought innocent; and it being put to him whether he made that speech about the council of war, &c., and whether he was not at the consultation, denied both; but in the latter Tapner confronted him, and said, ‘Yes, young Major, you was there;’ to which Mills replied, ‘Ay, for a quarter of an hour or 


so for to that purpose. It so happened that his rope was first fixed to the gallows, and a considerable time was taken up in fixing the rest, which interim he might have much better employed than he did in gazing at the spectators, and then at the hangman (while tying the ropes of the other malefactors) till the cart was almost ready to drive away.

“John Cobby of Sidlesham, in Sussex, labourer, son of James Cobby of Birdham, in Sussex, carpenter, aged 30, appeared to be very dejected, and said but little in gaol, and little at the gallows.

“John Hammond of Berated, in Sussex, labourer, son of John Hammond of the same place, labourer, aged 40, seemed likewise very much dejected, and had little to say for himself, excepting his pretending that the threats of Jackson, Carter and the rest, were the occasion of his being concerned in the murder.

“Cobby ‘s excuse was much the same.

“They all, except the two Mills’s, seemed sensible of the heinous nature of the crime for which they died, and behaved as became men in their unhappy condition, more particularly Carter; but the Mills’s, father and son, appeared hardened and unaffected, both in the gaol and at the gallows, especially the son, who seemed by his behaviour, even when his rope was fixed to the gallows, to be as little moved at what he was about to suffer, as the most unconcerned spectator. However, just before the cart drove away, he and his father seemed to offer up some prayers to God.

Vicar of Subdeanry in Chichester.

Curate of St. Pancras.”


As Jackson died so soon after condemnation, no other account can be given of him, than he was of Aldsworth, near Rowland’s Castle, in Hampshire, labourer, aged about 50 years; and that being very ill all the time of his trial, as he had been for a considerable time before, was shocked at the sentence of death, and the apprehensions of being hung in chains, to such a degree as hastened and brought on his death before he could pay the forfeit of his life in that ignominy to which he was most deservedly doomed, and more particularly due to him as a ringleader in the most cruel and horrid barbarities and murders.

He professed the Eomish religion some years before his death, and that he died a Eoman Catholic may very reasonably be presumed from a printed paper that was found carefully sewed upon a linen purse in his waistcoat pocket immediately after his death, supposed to be a popish relique, and containing the following words, viz.:

“Sancti tres Reges
Gaspar, Melchior, Balthasar,
Orate pro Nobis nunc et in Hora Mortis Nostrae.
Ces Billets ont touche aux trois Testes de S. S. Roys
a Cologne.

Ils sont pour Des Voyageurs, contre Les Malheurs de Chemins, Manx de Teste, Mal-cadaque, Fievres, Sorcellerie, toute sorte de Malefice, Morte subite.”

In English thus:

“Ye three Holy Kings,
Gaspar, Melchior, Balthasar,
Pray for us now, and in the hour of death.
These papers have touched the three heads of the Holy
Kings at Cologne.

They are to preserve travellers from accidents on  the


road, headaches, falling sickness, fevers, witchcraft, all kinds of mischief and. sudden death.”

The body of William Carter was hung in chains in the Portsmouth road, near Rake, in Sussex; the body of Benjamin Tapner on Book’s Hill, near Chichester; and the bodies of John Cobby and John Hammond upon the sea coast, near a place called Selsea Bill, in Sussex, where they were seen at a great distance, both east and west.

The bodies of the Mills’s, father and son, having neither friend or relation to take them away, were thrown into a hole, dug for that purpose, very near the gallows, into which was likewise thrown the body of Jackson. Just by is erected a stone having the following inscription, viz.:

“Near this place was buried the body of William Jackson, a proscribed smuggler, who upon a special commission of Oyer and Terminer, held at Chichester, on the 16th day of January, 1748-9, was with William Carter, attainted for the murder of William Galley, a custom-house officer; and who likewise was, together with Benjamin Tapner, John Cobby, John Hammond, Richard Mills the elder, and Richard Mills, the younger, his son, attainted for the murder of Daniel Chater; but dying in a few hours after sentence of death was pronounced upon him, he thereby escaped the punishment which the heinousness of his complicated crimes deserved, and which was the next day most justly inflicted upon his accomplices.

“As a memorial to posterity, and a warning to this and succeeding generations,


“This stone is erected
“A.D. 1749.”


Having now given an account of the behaviour of these seven bloody criminals, as occurred to the three clergymen who attended them after their receiving sentence of death, and who signed their names to the same; we shall now insert the account of their behaviour from the time of their being brought to Chichester gaol, to their execution, which account was taken by two persons who constantly attended on them, and is what occurred at the times the clergymen beforementioned were not present; and are inserted to make this account complete.

The seven prisoners that were condemned, together with William Combleach the gardener, committed on suspicion of being concerned in the murder of Daniel Chater, were brought from Horsham gaol, in one waggon under a strong guard of soldiers, to Chichester, on Friday the 13th January, 1748-9.

Jackson being sick, was kept upstairs in a room by himself; and the other seven, William Combleach being with them, were put in a lower room, all ironed and stapled down, and well guarded; but behaved very bold and resolute, and not so decently as became people in their circumstances. They ate their breakfast, dinner and supper regularly, without any seeming concern, and talked and behaved freely to everybody that came to see them. Old Mills looking out of a window the day after they came there, which was market-day, young Mills said to Tapner, “D...n the old fellow, he will have a stare out.”

1. Richard Mills, sen., was formerly well respected by the gentlemen of the county; but having had for many years concerns with the smugglers, and a smuggler himself, and having prevailed on his sons to go a-smuggling likewise, he lost most of his business 


and character. He frequently said, that he was only sorry for his sons, for as to himself, he was under no trouble, for he was sure that he could not, according to the common course of nature, live above a year or two longer.

A few hours after sentence was passed upon him, a clergyman who lived near him, went to see him in the gaol, in order to discourse with him and bring him to a true sense of his deplorable condition; to which purpose he recommended him to make use of his few remaining moments in preparing for eternity. While the clergyman was thus seriously talking to him about the concerns of his soul, the old man interrupted him and said, “When do you think we shall be hanged?” The gentleman, after reproving him for the little concern he discovered about the more important affairs of another world, told him he believed his time was very short, and that he thought his execution would be ordered some time the next day, but could not exactly say at what hour. Mills replied, that as to the murder it gave him but little trouble, since he was not guilty of it; but as to the charge of smuggling, he owned he had been concerned in that trade for a great many years, and did not think there was any harm in it.

Being particularly asked, if he did not know that Chater was kept chained in his turf-house, he answered very indifferently, that he could not tell, he believed he did, but what was that to the murder? But being told that his maid, Ann Bridges, had declared upon oath, that he got up when Jackson and Little Harry [2]


brought Chater to his house about three o’clock in the morning, and that he ordered her not to go into the turf-house, for there was a person there whom it was not proper she should see; he could not tell what to say, but stood seemingly dumbfounded; and an answer being pressed from him, he acknowledged that he did get up and let them in, and told Little Harry to carry him (Chater) into the turf-house, and chain him; and that he, as well as Little Harry, did look after him till the gang came and took him away the Wednesday night, but that he was no ways concerned in the murder; but at last he did acknowledge, that he did know they had agreed to carry Chater to the well by Lady Holt Park, and hang him, and throw him into it; and that Tapner took a cord for the purpose from his house.

Old Mills had been poor some time, and had left off smuggling, that is, going with the gangs to the seaside to fetch the goods, being sensible of the danger of going with others in a gang with firearms; but he got something by letting the smugglers bring anything to the house; and to blind the neighbours, he lived privately with his maid, Ann Bridges, and had, for upwards of a year, received alms from the parish, as he himself acknowledged.

2. Richard Mills, jun., had been concerned in smuggling for many years. He was a daring, obstinate, hardened fellow, and seemed capable of any mischief. He said to a gentleman, who went to see him, that he did not value death, but was not guilty of the murder


of which he was accused, since he was not present when it was done; though if he had, he should not have thought it any crime to destroy such informing rogues. After his trial was over, two gentlemen going up to see him, they told him that his brother John, [3] who had been advertised in the Gazette as an accomplice in the murder of one Hawkins, and was likewise concerned in the murder of Mr. Chater, but not then taken, was seen following the judges over Hynd Heath, in their way to Chichester. “What,” said Mills, “there has been no robbery committed upon the highway lately, has there?” Upon which the person replied, “Not that I have heard of.’’ Mills made answer, “I suppose Jack must take to the highway, for he has no other way to live, till an opportunity offers of his getting to France, which I heartily wish he may do.” After their conviction on Tuesday night for the murder of Chater, he and the rest of them were remanded back to prison, and ordered to be brought down the next day, when Jackson and Carter were to be tried for the murder of Galley, and the whole to receive judgment, when Mills

said, “What the d 1 do they mean by that? Could not they do our whole business this night, without obliging us to come again and wear out our shoes? Well! if it must be so, the old man and I will go first, but I will give the old man the wall,” as he accordingly did.

3. John Cobby seemed a harmless, inoffensive creature,


and being of an easy temper, it is supposed he was the more easily influenced to take on with the smugglers, though he declared he had not long been with them. He acknowledged that he was at the well when Chater was hung, and flung into it, and that he, as well as the rest, were all guilty of the crime for which they were condemned. He was very serious, and seemed very penitent; owned he was a great sinner; begged pardon of God for his offences, and hoped the world would forgive him the injuries he had done to anybody.

4. Benjamin Tapner was born of very honest parents, who gave him good schooling; and he always lived in good repute, till being persuaded by Jackson and some others to follow their wicked courses: which he had done for something more than two years. He behaved all the time under his confinement more decently than some of the others, and frequently prayed very dev r outly, He was always very reserved if mention was made of the cruelties he exercised on Chater. A gentleman, who desires his name may not be mentioned, went to see him on Tuesday evening, just after his conviction, who, taking him to one corner of the room, asked him if there was anything in the report of his picking Chater’s eyes out, when he declared, as a dying man, he never made use of any weapon but his knife and whip; and that he might in the hurry pick one of his eyes out with the point of his knife, for he did not know what he did, the devil had got so strong hold of him. He said he had been in many engagements with the King’s officers, and been wounded three times; and hoped all young people would take warning by his untimely fate, and keep good company, for it was bad company had been his ruin.

5. William Carter behaved himself very serious, and


said that Jackson had drawn him away from his honest employment to go a-smuggling, which was the cause of his ruin; and indeed his general character was very good except in that particular. He declared that these murders would never have happened, had not Mrs. Payne, at Rowland’s Castle, sent for him and Jackson, and in some measure exasperated them against Galley and Chater, as being informers. This Mrs. Payne and her two sons are in custody in Winchester Gaol, in order to take their trials at the ensuing assizes, when it is hoped they will meet their just reward.

6. John Hammond was a hardened, obdurate fellow, and very resolute, and always had great antipathy against the King’s officers and others concerned in suppressing smuggling; and often would let drop words out of his mouth, and that he did not think it any crime in killing an informer; but when he came to receive sentence he began to cry very much. He frequently lamented the case of his wife and four children, and said that was all that touched him; as for dying he did not mind it.

7. William Jackson died in his room about 7 o’clock the same night he received sentence of death. He had been one of the most notorious smugglers living in his time; and most of them, as well as Carter, gave him the worst of characters, and that he was even a thief among themselves; for when he knew that any of them had got any run goods, he would contrive to steal them away from them. He reflected on himself, after receiving sentence, for what he had said on his defence, that Tapner only was guilty; for he declared they were all concerned; and that when he had been concerned in the murder of Galley, he contrived to bring Cobby, Hammond, the three Mills’s, Stringer, Tapner, and the


rest, to be concerned in the murder of Chater, lest they might, one day or other, run to the government, and make themselves an evidence, but by being guilty of murder, it would be an entire bar to them.

The afternoon preceding their execution, a person came to take measure of Jackson, Cobby, Hammond, Carter and Tapner, in order to make their irons in which they were to be hung in chains! which threw the prisoners into very great confusion, and they seemed under a greater concern than ever they had shewed before. But when old Mills and his sou were told that they were exempted from that part of the punishment, they seemed to be mightily pleased at it, and contented to be hung only as common malefactors.

But it deserves particular notice, with respect to Jackson, that he was no sooner told that he was to be hung in chains, but he was seized with such horror and confusion, that he died in two hours afterwards; and though he was very ill before, yet it is believed that this hastened his end, and was the immediate cause of his death.

The foregoing accounts are a melancholy proof of the dreadful effects which are the fatal but too frequent consequences of the offence of smuggling a crime which, however prejudicial to the kingdom in general, and to every fair trader in particular, perhaps may not, from an inattention to the many and monstrous mischiefs derived from it, have met with that general detestation and abhorrence it so highly deserves.

But a perusal of these sheets, shocking to every reader, cannot fail to alarm the nation, and open the eyes of all people, who must reflect with horror upon a set of dissolute and desperate wretches, united by a parity of inclinations and iniquities, formed into


dangerous gangs and confederacies, that encouraged by numbers they might exercise cruelties and commit barbarities, which, abandoned as they were, they singly durst not attempt. Villains! not to be won by lenity, despising and rejecting proffered pardons, proceeding from crime to crime, till they arrived at the highest and, until now, unheard-of pitch of wickedness: who, not content with defrauding the King in his customs and revenues; not satisfied with violating the properties and possessions, pursued the lives of his subjects and servants, whose very blood could not satiate their malice tortures were added to aggravate the pangs of death.

Before we take leave of these wretches, and begin upon the account of that most notorious villain and murderer, John Mills, and the rest, as promised, we think it will be very necessary to inform our readers of their several behaviours at the place of execution, not mentioned before in the account given by the three clergymen.

[1]        This Stringer is Thomas Stringer, who stands indicted as a principal in the murder of Daniel Chater, but is not yet taken.

[2]        Little Harry is Henry Sheerman, who was condemned at the last assizes at East Grinstead for the county of Sussex, for the murder of Galley; and stood also indicted for the murder of Chater, but was tried only on the first indictment. He was executed at Rake, near where Galley was buried, and there hung in chains. An account of him at his trial, under condemnation, and at the place of execution, will be inserted in the following pages.

[3]        This John Mills is the same person as went by the name of Smoker, who was condemned at the last assizes at East Grinstead, for the county of Sussex, for the cruel murder of Richard Hawkins, and is hung in chains near the Dog and Partridge on Slindon Common; and whose trial follows this account of the seven condemned at Chichester.