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.

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