Security At Sea

Security At Sea

For Poole, safe seamanship was fundamental to success, security at sea was key. The presence of foreign pirates and privateers along the Dorset Coast was often a problem, and local ones were also a threat always to be taken into account. In some years the Channel and the Narrow Seas were known to have corsairs and Barbary pirates from north Africa, often patrolling in a small fleet and lying in wait for the flotillas of boats from the south west of England on their way to or from Newfoundland.

Even after the emergence and growth of the migratory cod fishing and processing activity in Newfoundland each year it was necessary for mariners to make judgements about the pirates and the likely risks between here and there. The number of vessels in the fleet in any year varied and in some years would decline to zero from some of the home ports, for fear of the hazard.

Navigation was also an issue as was the lack of mapping of sea routes and coasts. Experience counted for confidence in making voyages of any length.

The period began with Elizabeth the first and the government passing to the Burgesses of Poole the responsibility regularly to keep track of what was passing through ports and creeks throughout the area. The Crown was fearful of invasion by the French at the time and wanted to be in a state of readiness. But it was also clear that smuggling was a growing problem, during the 1580s and the economic depression. The arrival of tobacco in C17th increased it further. The evasion of customs duties destined for the Exchequer was the cause for this growth and it remained a problem throughout the period, growing again in William and Mary’s reign when the crown put up taxes to pay the army; and yet further after the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

Related Posts

Piracy and Poole, 1580-1730
Author: Don Nutt                       Elizabethan Days At the start of the period Piracy was rife in the Poole area and Lloyd saw it as one of Dorset’s important industries[1], “having its rich men even as the wool trade had”. A syndicate, involving local wealthy people and members of the establishment, was believed to exist that controlled the ports, as in other parts of the country. Commentary on the “Dorset Piracy Scandal”[2], so-called, in 1577 implicated …
Poole Smugglers, 1580-1730
  Authors:   Cynthia Wall & Susan Jabbari Introduction Roger Guttridge’s book, ‘Dorset Smugglers’ has been used extensively in assembling this summary note. According to him the word “smuggle” probably dates from the Scandinavian languages. The Danish smugle which literally means “smuggle” and the Swedish smuga means a lurking “hole”, the Anglo-Saxon smugan “to creep” is probably related to the Icelandic prefix smug which stems from smjuga means to “creep or “creep through the hole”. The …
Poole’s Governance then and maritime security
. Fishermen and traders alike cared very much about their safe passage free from risks from pirates and privateers. Life was hard enough without having to deal with the loss of goods or catches to other seamen. At the beginning of our project period piracy from French and Barbary pirates was rife in the Poole waters and further afield there were always such risks to business. Privateering was pursued by most countries and deemed acceptable …
The Smuggler’s Curse
Copy of an original letter written by a smuggler to a Captain Bursack of the Revenue Cutter Speedwell and was found in Poole Custom House during renovations. The gentleman in question, a one J. Spurier, is hopping mad that Captain Bursack has dared to interfere with his (un)lawful smuggling activities and says as much in very colourful language! ‘Sir, Damn thee and God Damn thy two Purblind Eyes thou Buger and thou Death looking son …
The Pirate Code
Pirates are considered to be a brutal, lawless lot.  But on board ship, they live under a set of rules called 'The Pirates Code' or 'Articles of Agreement'.  Each Captain had his own set of rules for the ship and crew under his command but they followed a general pattern.  These included discipline, compensation, share of the booty and compensation for injury.  Each crew member must make his mark or sign on the Articles whilst …