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  THE STORY OF SHOREHAM           AN OLD CUSTOM HOUSE      
                       
                             
them in the river or brooks, until an opportunity occurred for their removal.     were so fascinated with performing lions, tigers, and elephants, that they detected nothing amiss.
             
In the early years of the nineteenth century the Revenue Cutter "Hound," Captain John Butler, was stationed at Shoreham. Captain Butler was sometimes allowed to disguise his vessel by having a trawl-net hanging over the side and took a number of smuggling craft. Smugglers were the " Hound's " principal prey, but she took several small enemy privateers during the French war. On one occasion a Frenchman having taken an English vessel, Captain Butler turned the tables by opening fire upon the French ship and capturing her. Captain John Butler's cocked hat, sword, and pistols are still preserved by his descendants at Shoreham.     As the gloom of evening crept over the river many bales of tobacco were quietly put over the side of the vessel into a barge, which, with the flood-tide, went merrily off up the river as far as Beeding chalk-pits. Four vans, drawn by stout horses, were there waiting, and into these the bales were quickly loaded and they departed. Subsequently one van was traced as far as FIorsham and another found to have passed through Hurst and Cuckfield, but there the trail ended. Of the other vans no clues were discovered and nothing more has been heard of any of them
                   
      Picture    
Adventurous and daring as the old-time smugglers undoubtedly were, it may safely be said that for " coolness " and audacity the events now to be noted would be hard to beat.          
About the middle of August, 1855, a celebrated wild beast show visited the town and took up its position near the Custom House (the present Town Hall). Even in these days such an exhibition proves no small attraction, and sixty or more years ago they were less common. Among those to whom the Science of Zoology proved an attraction were the officers and men of the coast-guards and customs. Possibly this is not a matter of surprise ; complimentary tickets of admission had been distributed with liberal hand, and to a man they all went to the show.          
Never had there been such a splendid opportunity for "running a cargo." It was too good to be lost. The local smugglers had laid their plans with consummate skill and acted accordingly. Moored to the Custom House Quay was a vessel laden with about eighty or ninety tons of stone. She had entered the harbour earlier in the day. To the curious, her captain vouchsafed the information that he was ordered to lay there until a purchaser could be found for her cargo.          
                   
  from that day to this.   A man concerned in "running" the cargo, who had been left behind, drunk, boasted to an inn-keeper that fourteen tons was about the quantity of tobacco which had been " run " with so much success.  
  The vessel which had brought the stone-and tobacco-to Shoreham, left the harbour early next morning, and before the events of the previous night began to leak out, the captain stating that he had found a customer for the stone at Brighton.  
She looked an innocent craft as she lay there. Who would have dreamed that the fragrant weed was so cunningly concealed beneath her stony load ? Yet there it was, bale upon bale, and, so to speak, right under the noses of the Customs officials ; but these worthy men, almost within a stone's throw of the smuggler,    
  For " supposed negligence " in this affair, nearly all the officials at Shoreham coast-guard station were "replaced."  
  Our picture of a former Custom House at Shoreham is from a drawing in the British Museum. It was situated in Church Street, just south of the Manor House, and the building  
             
* Some very fine ship models, built by one of this family-Robert Butler -are in the possession of Capt. Purse, of Shoreham.    
             
                             
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Copyright © Martin Snow 2002 All rights reserved
Revised 27 February 2002