Page Updated:- Sunday, 07 March, 2021.

Published 31 May 2001



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Spared ‘the rope’
THROUGH the Internet I have been in touch with a descendant of two notorious Romney Marsh smugglers, Thomas Gilham and Richard Higgins, who escaped the hangman's noose after the murder of customs officer Richard Morgan on Dover beach. Acquitted, they were banished and sent 'down under' to Tasmania, in 1827.

Lynne Gillam, (the spelling was changed in Tasmania) who lives in Palmerston, in Australia, is a member of a research group of descendants of the Aldington gang, 14 of whom were charged with murdering Morgan, and/or with smuggling.

The researchers pool their findings, creating a data bank of information about the smuggling gang and their families and they trace descendants using e-mail and Internet facilities. Eventually Lynne hopes to set up a web site, meanwhile she can be contacted on

Thomas Gilham, of Aldington, born in April 1803 and Richard Higgins, of Bonnington, were two of Lynne's great-great-great-great grand-fathers. They were members of the notorious Aldington Gang, or 'The Blues.' Probably the last major gang of smugglers in Kent in the 19th Century they operated over a wide area, from the Romney Marshes, to Dover, St Margaret's and Deal. Headquarters were Aldington's Walnut Tree public house.

Thomas Gilham was closely involved with "The Blues" leader George Ransley, in the events that led up to Morgan's death and the ultimate break-up of the gang.

Two Bow Street Runners were sent to the coast to coordinate efforts to round up the gang after the murder, and, in October 1826, in an operation involving 120 customs men.
Ransley' was arrested at his home.

Other houses were also raided and six more smugglers were arrested, including Thomas Gilham. Others were caught a fortnight later. One report says that, altogether, 19 smugglers were rounded up.

The famous trial was at Maidstone Assizes. All denied the murder of Morgan, who was shot, but pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

Murder charges were finally dropped, because of the difficulty of identification at night. Nevertheless, on February 5, 1827 all were sentenced to hang for smuggling.

Reprieved and transported instead they disappointed a large crowd which gathered at Penenden Heath to watch the anticipated spectacle of a mass hanging!

Most smugglers took the opportunity to start a new life in Tasmania and, after working well there, were allowed to send for their wives and children to join them.

The gang members tried were George Ransley, James Wilson, Charles Giles, James Hogben, James Quested, brothers Richard and William Wire (both under 20), who were put on board the "Leviathan" at Portsmouth, and John Bailey, Samuel Bailey, Thomas Dennard, Thomas Gilham, Richard Higgins, Paul Pierce, and James Smeed, who were incarcerated aboard the "York," at Gosport.

Two men freed
Two men escaped sentence, Robert Bailey, brother of Samuel, and Thomas Wheeler, a Folkestone blacksmith. The murder charges being dropped they were freed, because they had not been charged with smuggling!

Lynne Gillam, describing what happened when Richard Morgan was shot in the 1826 incident, says that two lines of smugglers were carrying tubs of illicit spirits from a boat close to Dover beach, protected bv a circle of
Folkestone Past & Present

CHAIRMAN of Folkestone & District Local History Society Alan F. Taylor tells me there is a change of programme for the next meeting of members, on June 6.

Alan himself will be presenting an illustrated talk on "Folkestone Past and Present." The meetings of this group of enthusiasts are held at the Holy Trinity Church hall, in Sandgate Road at 7.30pm for an 8pm start. Refreshments will be available and visitors and potential new members are always welcome.
THIS fine miniature water colour painting, believed to depict a smuggling scene at the Warren is signed by J. Page and has the hint of a date ‘“02” presumably intended to imply 1902. It was shown to me by a Dover reader of Memories who picked it up at a boot fair of all places. The intriguing feature is a sketch map on the back, obviously referring to the scene and inscribed “Smuggling, Kent, 1767-1830,” and “Aldington and North Kent Gangs.” Various features connected with smuggling activities are also pin-pointed.
companions armed with long duck guns.

Morgan, with whom smugglers were angry, because he had already shot and killed Charles Keely, at Dymchurch, fired a pistol to give the alarm. Smugglers opened fire and Morgan died from a snot to the head.

The gang made off, leaving behind 33 tubs of smuggled spirits. The local Customs chief offered a reward of 500 and a free pardon for capture of any of the smugglers.

"Eventually, a member of the gang, Edward Horne, turned informant," says Lynne, and there may have been other informers. Eleven were originally charged with murder.

Many gang members were born or lived in Aldington. Others came from Folkestone -Thomas Wheeler, already mentioned, James Quested, of Hawkinge/Wootton, and James Hogben, born at Acrise, who was married in Folkestone in 1808 to Ann Kember.
Hogben had been shot in the thigh in 1920 in an earlier Folkestone smuggling skirmish.

Thomas Dennard, 21, one of the youngest to be transported was a grandson of Mary Ransley. Descendant Mark Hawes is among those tracing Dennard kinfolk still in the UK.

•I WAS interested to learn recently that I have a family link on the female side with the smuggling Questeds, through the Hayward family of Wye. Ann Hayward, grand-daughter of my ancestor Samuel Hayward, a beadle, of Wye, married Edward Quested, a huntsman, who was the youngest son of the notorious smuggler Cephas Quested.

Cephas was hung at Penenden Heath, in 1822 after the "Battle of Brookland," Romney Marsh in 1821, in which one preventive officer and four smugglers died. This followed a smuggling run involving some 250 men.

Sorry tale by Felix of ban on Sunday morning beer!

tt THE Herald reported two abortive

J. bids by the Chamber of Commerce to hold a meeting about publicity for the resort. No one turned up! Herald writer Felix wondered if the Chamber, which had started off so well, was dying of inertia. Felix was telling the sorry tale of hikers or walkers who had fallen victim to raids by the police which led to a ban on the serving of beer at popular watering holes on a Sunday morning - at Ben Colman's 'garden' at the old Warren Inn, sergeants' messes at Shorncliffe Camp and the lofty Red Lion or "Red Cat" nearly 700ft high, at Paddiesworth. The Herald editor had a go at the Town Council for boycotting the Herald and Folkestone Express advertising columns in promoting the town, in favour of a member of its own body who produced an advertising sheet, which, he wrote, was “filled with his own announcements of furniture and crockery sales." A poor reward, he went on, after the thousands of pounds worth of free publicity given by the two papers and a Herald illustrated visitors' guide to the resort. These had paid dividends.

John Moncrieff is made the youngest ever Mayor

| nr<| COUNCILLOR John Moncrieff be-JL99JL came one of the youngest ever mayors of Folkestone, nearly 800 years after Richard Lightfoot, the earliest recorded, was appointed, in 1358. The swearing in of Cllr Moncrieff was witnessed by 11n- M.iyur and Mayoress of Boulogne. Mr C.W. Waters, who built many houses in Cheriton, watching it grow from a small village, celebrated his golden wedding with his wife Eileen - and best man Edward Ruck and the Waters' son Leslie. Mr Waters left Horn Street school aged 10 and went to work on a farm after his father died. Folkestone & District Table Tennis Association agreed to offer to be host club for the Kent Table Tennis Open Championships, and to write to the County Association suggesting, as an alternative they could run the closed championships. Talk of the Town writer “The Roamer" was writing about the use of stone quarried in Folkestone to help build Dover Harbour and to rebuild the tower and restore the parish church at Wye after a fire -back in 1572. The quarry, worked by George Starre, was at Mill Point, opposite the Lower Sandgate Road toilgate. Folkestone men went to Wve to dress the stone.
Local man mourns brother killed in General Strike

| TWO-SEATER light aircraft, each with a

British engine and dual control, and carrying a passenger, were due to take part in a flying m-ir.ithun competition from Lympne airfield, flying each day to a different destination and back, three to six times depending on distance, between 8am and 8pm. from September 12-17. The distance to be covered totalled about 2,000 miles, flown at a minimum of 50mph and the event was quite a popular one with spectators. The winner's prize alone was to be 5.000. given by the Daily Mail, a tidy sum 75 years ago. Over 300 strikers from Folkestone, headed by a band, marched to Hythe for a meeting when local JP Mr W Holland stated that no official notice of the ending of the General Strike had yet been received. He referred to a bill poster outside the Hythc office of “that black-leg publication, the Folkestone Herald" announcing the end of the strike and also told of workers who had been “intimidated'' by employers. A Folkestone man's brother, a policeman serving in London, was killed in an accident during the strike. The PC and ex-Marine, George Simmons, 51. brother of ex-PC Stephen Simmons, of Linden Street, was hit by a car as he ran across a road and fatally injured.
Yachtsman in transAtlantic race by trimaran to USA

n“7CZ FOLKESTONE v.ichlsrnan, Nicholas Clifton, jJrnJ / Oof Godwyn Road, was taking part in a daunting 30-day challenge in single-handed trans-Atlantic race from Plymouth to Rhode island, USA. sailing a trimaran, “too small to have a radio" he worked on in a yard at Sandwich, having helped build the craft. He was one of 140 competitors. Three years before he had sailed around the world. There were immediate calls for urgent action after a London driver was killed and his wife, aged 75. seriously injured, in an accident involving three cars on the A259 road between Dymchurch and St Mary's Bay. Their Reliant car was completely destroyed. A Shepway councillor told of previous attempts to make the road safer by extending the speed limit to cover the fateful stretch of road. It was about time, he said, the authorities woke up the fact that the motor car was here to stay. The safety of children going to school along the road, was of particular concern. A helicoper whisked four young Folkestone boys, aged 9 to 13, to safety after the incoming tide left them cut off near Abbot's Cliff where they had been playing. An Army bomb disposal team was called in after the discovery of an unexploded mortar bomb near the radio station at Tolsford Hill, Etchinghill, the second recent find of its kind in that area.

If anyone should have any a better picture than any on this page, or think I should add one they have, please email me at the following address:-