Posts Tagged ‘Niton’


Smuggling on the Isle of Wight

Smuggling became evident on the Isle of Wight probably due to high taxes and low incomes for the locals. So smuggling became a way of generating income whilst avoiding high taxes which also meant more profit for the smuggler. The Island was well known for its exports of wool and had significant trade in this area. Up until towards the end of the end of the 18th century the Isle of Wight was relatively lacking in defences against smuggling. This led to the Island being almost a smugglers paradise with its many landing points along its south coast. The numerous chines became the sights of a whole number of routes for smuggling on the Isle of Wight providing cover so the many smugglers were less likely to be caught.

For some time in certain areas of the Island the smugglers were almost unchallenged and had a roaring trade. The Isle of Wight was up until the end of the 13th century an independent principality and many of the islanders distrusted and despised rule from the mainlanders. Smuggling tales are widespread throughout the Island and many are well known to locals. It must be said however that the smugglers did not go unchallenged and the local preventive forces gradually became more and more effective at stopping the smugglers from carrying out their criminal activities.

Of all the smugglers havens on the Isle of Wight, Rookley is known for having been the smugglers capital of the Island. The main reason for this is that Rookley is located at the epicentre of the Island. On the south coast Chale was well known for being the home of the notorious smuggling clan the ‘Wheelers’ they lived in the infamous ‘Box cottage’. Bembridge was famous for its crossings to and from France.

Bembridge today is famous for its windmill which harks back to more historic times and was used by smugglers as a helpful landmark for approaching ships.

Niton was known and written of that almost its whole populace were smugglers with many posing as having normal respectable day jobs such as farmers and fishermen. However they did little farming and fishing but somehow still had plentiful amounts of cash to spend on whatever they so desired. However it was along the north coast of the Island that most of the confrontation between the smugglers and customs officials of the time took place. For a while the smugglers had little fear of the authorities and their reprisals.
This wasn’t to be forever and in September in the year of 1777 William Arnold took up the post of collector of customs based in Cowes. This was the start of the wind of change for smuggling on the Isle of Wight and gradually William gained more support in stamping out smuggling in this local area not to mention resources to do so.