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Joss Snelling - Smuggler

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Researched and Written by Bob.
All images - Bob.

Some of the following information is well documented, other material has been sourced from Parish Records, old maps and other archive sources.
Items marked* = accounts vary.
Items marked** = names or spellings may be incorrect due to the illegibility of handwriting in archived items.

Joss Snelling:
Born - 1741 in Lanthorne Road, Broadstairs, Kent.
Wife - known to have been married but, to-date, name unknown.
Daughter - Mary** (or possibly May).
Son - George.
Grandson - Jim (son of George).

Some accounts state that Joss Snelling used the alias of John Sharp (note the identical initials).

Joss was the leader of the "Callis Court Gang" whose members went on to include his son and grandson.

George Snelling was known to be the skipper of the sailboat "Bee" which was used in connection with smuggling.

Due to his success, most of Joss Snelling's "business activities" are unrecorded. However, he did make a couple of court appearances for smuggling offences but always "got off" with a fine and retained his liberty.
Reports indicate that he was fined 100 on each occasion which was a great deal of money in those days but by all accounts he quickly paid up.

Most of his smuggling is believed to have taken place in the Broadstairs' area between Joss Bay and Botany Bay and at Stone Bay, although he is also known to have had smuggling connections around Margate and possibly at Dumpton Gap.

Coastline Map

March 20th 1769, Joss Snelling and his gang were bringing contraband ashore at Botany Bay when they were ambushed by a Revenue Patrol acting on a tip-off (another account states that the patrol came across them by chance).
Following a fierce fight on the beach, Joss and four of the gang (several dying of their wounds) escaped up Kemp's Stairs where, at the top, they were challenged by the local Riding Officer.
To effect their escape this officer was shot, some accounts suggest it was Joss himself who pulled the trigger, others state that the officer later died or that he was merely wounded.
Joss and these men then fled towards the Reading Street area where a later search of dwellings revealed the bodies of several smugglers.

This event has since become known as "The Battle of Botany Bay".

Pictured right - the location of Kemp's Stairs, as shown on maps dated c1792, c1799 and 1877.

Ten* of the gang were killed (other accounts state nine or fifteen).
Six* were captured (another account states eight).
Of those captured, four (all*) were later hanged at Gallows Field in Sandwich.

Map showing Kemp's Stairs
Although, following this event, the Callis Court Gang was depleted of manpower it was not long before Joss was back in business with an even greater force of men.

Pictured below, left - a view, from the beach, of the probable location of Kemp's Stairs. Today, this route is still (inadvisably) used by the more adventurous as a means of passage onto the beach.
Pictured below, right - a view across Botany Bay looking towards Foreness Point, the arrow indicating Kemp's Stairs.

Views of Kemp's Stairs

Other smuggling associates of Joss Snelling:
Jeff** Mutton.
John** Mutton.
David Mutton.

Stone House, at the sea-end of Lanthorne Road, was apparently used by the gang for storage. Joss Snelling was known to have lived further up Lanthorne Road at Callis Court Cottage, hence the name of his gang.
Both these properties are believed to have been connected to the beach at Stone Bay by a tunnel which, for much of its length, was big enough for a fully-laden horse to pass through.

Pictured below - possible entrances, now sealed, to this tunnel at Stone Bay.

Possible tunnel entrances, now sealed

Pictured right - a view of Stone Bay looking towards the direction of Viking Bay.

Pictured below, left - The Seven Sisters Caves, situated between Botany Bay and Kingsgate Bay. These are believed to have been used by the gang to store their contraband until it could be moved safely under cover of darkness.
Why they are called the Seven Sisters, when they only comprise of five caves, is unknown.
Pictured below, right - a close-up of the lower cave which serves as an entrance into this system.

View of Stone Bay

View of the Seven Sisters Caves

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