About Our Neighbourhood

Written by Fred Moore

I must record a story which was published on December 3rd 1921 in a column of the local paper called ‘About our Neighbourhood’, by a well-known writer of that time under the name of ‘Felix’. He quotes the following (dated 19th November 1821) from a recent number of the Sunday Observer – “Canterbury, November 13th”

Another very daring affair (when the brightness of the morning is taken into consideration) with smugglers took place at Sandgate about three o’clock on Saturday morning at which hour a large boat put onshore near the National School (remember the National School at that time was the present Sea Cadet H.Q. in Castle Road) and was immediately attended by nearly 400 smugglers from the country, a very considerable proportion of whom were armed with guns and pistols.

An alarm was given by a seaman of the Coast Blockade on duty at the spot; on which Thomas Moore (I was told as a boy by my father Tom Moore of several exploits of this person Thomas Moore and that he was my Great Great Grandfather), master at arms, left the Watch-house with five seamen under his command, and when within pistol shot, commenced a spirited attack on the smugglers who, in a short space of time or ten minutes had succeeded in discharging a cargo consisting of 380 parcels.

As the little band who first commenced the action became reinforced by the arrival of Mr Lowry (an Admiralty mate) with three men, the smugglers retreated up the Military Road, pursued by that officer and seven men.

The chase was relinquished after Mr Lowry had been severely wounded in the right thigh and two seamen also wounded.

Sandgate was famous, in common with ~Folkestone and other places on this coast for its smuggling incidents and I am well aquainted with a few of them, but had not previousy read of the invasion of the town by those 400 men on the occasion referred to. That must have been a warm time when the ‘spirited attack’ took place by the five seamen under the command of Thomas Moore.

note: The Coast Blockade mentioned in the above story was preceded by the Preventative Waterguard in 1817, to combat and suppress smuggling, along the Kent and Sussex coast.

When it was first established it covered our area between Sheerness at the mouth of the Swale in Kent to Cuckmere Haven near Beachy Head in Sussex.

The Coast Blackade was first set up under the control of the Admiralty and continued to operate along the Kent and Sussex Cast to repel smugglers until 1931 when it was replaced by the Coast Guards men of the first Naval Reserve, nicknamed Beach Trampers by the regulars of the Royal Navy.

To overcome the problem of housing the men of the Coast Blockade in 1818 it was therefore decided by the Government to utilise the Martello Towers, a chain of circular forts erected during the 1804 invasion threat. When none were available barracks or rows of cottages were built.