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Goudhurst Village and The Hawkhurst Gang


By drc726


My walk around Goudhurst Village and a little of its history. The Hawkhurst Gang (a village in Kent) one of the most famous and ruthless gangs at the time was first mentioned in 1735 and their evil influence spread from Dorset to the Kent coast. The gang were able to control the area until their leaders were executed in 1748 and 1749.
In 1740, at Silver Hill between Hurst Green and Robertsbridge a Revenue Officer Thomas Carswell was shot and killed while trying to apprehend some of the smugglers. One of these smugglers George Chapman was taken to his village of Hurst Green and gibbeted on the green.
The freedom that the smugglers enjoyed is shown in records from 1744, three large Cutters unloaded contraband at Pevensey Bay and 500 pack horses carried the goods inland without hindrance from the authorities and a lot of help from the locals.
In 1747 one of the smugglers, brought a large cargo of brandy, tea and rum over from France on his Cutter the contraband was captured and seized by Customs and put in Customs House in Poole Dorset. The gang in a violent attack on the Customs House took back the cargo.
A large reward was offered and later a man called Chater who known to the gang was seen a pub with a customs officer named Galley, it was thought he was an informer. Both men were drugged and whipped. They were tied to a horse and whipped again until nearly dead. Galley seemed dead and was buried alive. Chater was kept chained up for a few days, then was beaten again, thrown down a deep well and large stones were hurled on him until dead. These dreadful deaths such as Galley and Chaters caused national outrage and the names of smugglers was published in the London Gazette, giving them forty days to surrender or face the death sentence, also offering a £500 reward for their capture.
Although smuggling gangs were generally supported by the local population, providing much needed work/money, the murderous brutality of the gang turned the locals against them. In the village of Goudhurst (about 7 miles from Hawkhurst) the residents formed a Militia, led by “General” George Sturt, who was in fact a former army corporal. Enraged by this defiance the latest gang leader Thomas Kingsmill who was from that village threatened to burn the village and kill the resident, even setting a date for this the 20/21st of April 1747. When the gang attacked the militia shot dead Kingsmill’s brother George in the first volley of a bloody but short battle which was fought in the churchyard, the smugglers fled, most to be rounded up over the next 2 years, Thomas Kingsmill was executed in 1749.
The Hawkhurst Gang, whose evil reputation has lasted all these years, with tales of ghosts and smugglers tunnels, will once again help to boost the village as this year a smugglers’ trail is to be launched.

Village pond

Water trough

The vaillage is full of old houses with narrow roads

One of these house was once the local jail.

The church where the battle took place

The Star and Eagle once used by the smugglers

More blog posts by drc726

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loved the story - certainly justice in those days - buried alive arrghhh scary stuff - great history enjoyed it very much - also lovely pictures :):):)

15 Jun, 2011


Very interesting story Drc. I enjoyed reading it also, but my goodness I am glad I was not around at the time !!

15 Jun, 2011


Thanks Paul, Makes me shiver too Cinders.

15 Jun, 2011


I enjoyed the tour :o)))

15 Jun, 2011


Thats good TT

15 Jun, 2011


My son lived in Staplehurst and we often passed through the village; my memories are of the atrocious parking and only one car at a time being able to pass through.

Regarding the smuggling...As a boy I lived near Kinson (Bournemouth)...There is a tombstone in Kinson church at the rear of Kinson churchyard. The grave is of one Robert Trotman who was killed during an affray with the Excise men on the north shore between Poole and Bournemouth.
His inscription reads
"To the memory of Robert Trotman late of Rond (Rowde) in the county of Wilts who was
barbarously murdered on the shore near Poole the 24th March 1765."
A little tea one leaf I did not steal
For guiltless blood shed I to God appeal
Put tea in one scale human blood in t`other
And think what tis to slay a harmless brother........

The churchyard is supposedly haunted and, as young boys coming home from fishing at Longham, we used to dare each other to stand by Trotman's grave for 5 minutes alone whilst the rest waited at the gate.....

In the dusk of a late summer's evening it was scary!

16 Jun, 2011


Hi Expats - Goudhurst has not changed at all still one car at a time. I drive though Staplehurst sometimes it has grown a lot in recent years. Its odd to think of all that smuggling still goes on but now its drugs or people!

16 Jun, 2011


Thankyou Drc, I am always interested in the history of places and found this a very good blog....

16 Jun, 2011


Thats good to hear Lincslass

16 Jun, 2011


Can anyone help please? Doing a bit of research re-Hawkhurst gang. Has anyone else seen a donkey wandering the roads late at night anywhere in the Sandhurst, Hawkhurst areas? Rhumor has it that it is a donkey which was owned by a Hawkhurst gang member who was caught and hanged. The donkey is still searching for him.

5 Jul, 2011


Sorry Cobbygirl have not heard of this one.

5 Jul, 2011

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