An altercation (or two!) with smugglers

   Posted by: anne   in From the Newspapers

1849 must have been a memorable year for two of our Coast Guards, Stephen and Benjamin Mountifield.

The Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle published on Saturday 5th May 1849 reports :

Monday – Before J.O. Travers, and William Thompson, Esqrs.

It will doubtless be in the remembrance of the public that a cargo of contraband goods was some months back run from a vessel at Flathouse, and one of the officers of revenue on board, named Mountifield, was greatly maltreated; a reward of £300 was offered by the crown for the apprehension of the parties concerned.

The transaction has been in abeyance ever since, till the last Hants assizes, when a bill of indictment was preferred against four of the parties, for assaulting and resisting the above named officer; the indictment having been found against them, it was, at the insistance of the Attorney General, removed by certiorari into the Court of Queen’s Bench, and a Judge’s warrant having been issued against the parties, and put into the hands of Inspector Street, of our Police, for execution, he this day brought them before the bench to enter into recognizances, themselves each in £100, with two sureties each in £50, to appear this day in the court of Queen’s Bench, and answer the indictment, and afterwards personally to appear in the same court to receive judgement in case of conviction.

The parties are Edward Fowler, Thomas Bruce, William Mangrove, and James Gardiner, and having entered into the required recognizances and sureties, they were discharged.

Mr H Ford attended on their behalf.

Further investigation shows that Thomas Bruce, aged 30, Edward Fowler, aged 40, James Gardiner, aged 38, and William Muggeridge (Mangrove in the newspaper report), aged 40, were all convicted on 10th July 1849 at the Court of Assizes. On Friday 23rd November 1849 they appeared at the Court of Queens Bench, Westminster, for judgement.

On Saturday 24th November 1849 The Times published the following report :


The defendant and three others had been convicted upon an indictment founded on the Smuggling Act, which charged them with assaulting two revenue officers in the execution of their duty, whereby they became liable to be transported for the term of seven years, or to be imprisoned for not more than three years. On the prisoners being this day brought up for judgement, My Serjeant Kinglake addressed the Court in mitigation of punishment, and said, that it did not appear that the defendants had premeditated any attack upon the officers, nor that they had come armed with offensive weapons. Thw whole case rested upon the evodence of an accomplice named Steele, whose evidence was not corroborated by any evidence to show that either of the defendants, except Gardiner, was of the party who made the attack. Upon these grounds, and because one of the officers had fired off a pistol in a manner calculated to excite the men, he (the learned Serjeant) trusted the Court in pronouncing sentence, would award a mitigated punishment, especially as the jury had recommended them to mercy.

The Attorney-General said he did not agree in the recommendation of the jury. The case was of a very aggressive nature. The defenedants, with a large body of men, had come down to rescue a boat containing contraband goods, and had actually secured tobacco to a large amount; and in the attack which they made upon the officers, large stones were thrown, the first of which broke the jaw of one of the officers, and knocked out three of his teeth, in consequence of which it was necessary for him to be superannuated. Another officer had his thumb dislocated; and when the assailants by their numbers had overpowered the officers, htey got one of them down upon the ground, the man who was upon him called out for a knife to cut his throat. Having stated these circumstances, he (the learned Attorney-General) would leave the case in the hands of the court.

Mr Justice Coleridge then passed sentence upon the prisoners, that each of them should be imprisoned in the gaol of Winchester for the space of 18months, and kept to hard labour there.

But that wasn’t the end of the story!

The Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle published on Saturday 25th August 1849 reported :

Last evening about half-past eight o’clock, a number of smugglers assembled at Hardway, for the purpose of illtreating two coast guardmen; and on seeing one named Stephen Mountifield, James Stallard, John Brown, John Attwell jun., John Matthews, and several others began illtreating him in a most brutal manner, by kicking him and striking him with sticks, leaving him for dead. He is now lying in a very precarious state; his wife, also, on interfering, was very much beaten. They then proceeded to the Three Tuns, at Elson, where they found Benjamin Mountifield, who they treated in the same way, and who is in a very dangerous state. The police being sent for soon arrived, they with some of the coastguard went in pursuit of the party and overtook them at the Sun, public house, at Brockhurst, but from which they made their escape. Some time after they went to Stallard’s house where they found the party and tried to take them into custody, but found it quite impossible to do so as they had such a strong party, there being nearly (20?) in the house and as many outside. We are sorry to state they remain at large, though we learn one of the party was killed by a pistol shot.

The same newspaper on Saturday 22nd September 1849 continues :

At the Gosport Petty Sessions, before Admiral Purvis, Captain Samuel, and Dr. Hillyar :- James Stallard and John Attwell, who were bound over from Wednesday the 4th inst., appeared this day to answer an information preferred against them by Stephen Mountifield, a preventiveman, for a most violent assault. P.Beverley, Esq. Solicitor to the Customs, appeared for the complainant, and James Hoskins, Esq, for the defendants. It appeared from the evidence of Mountifield and several other witnesses, that on the 24th ult. about eight o’clock in the evening, as the complainant was standing by the door of his house at Hardway, John Brown struck him on the head, which knocked him down; several other persons then rushed forward and struck him repeatedly about the head – John Attwell then kicked him in the small of the back, and Stallard was in the mob urging the others on. In consequence of the illtreatment he received, he was obliged to send for asurgeon, and was confined to his bed a considerable time. The court convicted each in the full penalty of £5. After which, another information was preferred against them for an assault on Benjamin Mountifield, another preventiveman, on the same day at Elson. The same defendants, with several others, went from Hardway to the Three Tuns, at Elson, and went to the skittle ground there; soon after, the said John Brown came to the skittle ground and used the most obscene language towards Mountifield, and struck him most violently about the head and face, which knocked him down, when four others immediately struck and kicked him also, and James Stallard and John Attwell called out several times to those who were so illtreating him, “now is your time, give it to him, murder him,” The above evidence was corroborated by many other witnesses, upon hearing which, the magistrates again convicted each in the full penalty of £5. Stallard paid the penalty, but Attwell refusing to do so, he was consequently committed for two months, upon each complaint. The two Mountifields had given evidence in the morning of the same day against James Attwell, on a Custom House information, who was convicted and sentenced to six months imprisonment.

Further research shows that, on Monday 16th October 1849 at the Michaelmas Sessions, John Brown, aged 26, and John Matthews, aged 25, were both “Charged with having, at the parish of Alverstoke, unlawfully assaulted and beaten Stephen Mountifield and stand further charged with having unlawfully  assaulted and beaten Benjamin Mountifield.” They were each sentenced to 4 months imprisonment.

As a postscript it is interesting to note that Benjamin Mountifield had been married for just three weeks when this attack took place, and his father-in-law, Francis Sparshott, was the licensee of the Three Tuns in Elson.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 14th, 2011 at 00:54 and is filed under From the Newspapers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a reply

Name (*)
Mail (will not be published) (*)