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More about Peter Tickner (b.1713) who some researchers contend was Peter the Smuggler

Peter Tickner (The Smuggler)

These pages about Peter the Smuggler are split as follows :

Page 1. Who was Peter the Smuggler?
Page 2. Peter "Rough" Tickner's Old Bailey Trial 14 October 1747
Page 3. Peter "Rough" Tickner's Old Bailey Trial 9 December 1747
Page 4. Peter "Rough" Tickner's Old Bailey Trial 7 June 1753
Page 5. Peter "Rough" Tickner's Old Bailey Hearing 24 October 1753


Some researchers regard Peter Tickner (bap. 20 April 1713, son of Walter Tickner and Patience Haffenden) as the same Peter Tickner (also known as Peter Rough or Rough Tickner) who was involved with the Hawkhurst Gang and was twice transported to America. However others do not agree. At present there is insufficient information available to determine which view is correct but the pages of his trials have been included on this site because of the possibility they were the same person and they make fascinating reading.

Researcher Tom Browning (who holds the view that the two Peters are seperate individuals) notes :


This is my latest and, hopefully, last stab at finding out which Peter Tickner was the smuggler and, by the by, whether or not he is your ancestor! So ....

The accompanying Tickner tree (Reproduced in the Descendant Charts below) is an expanded version of one first drawn up in 2000 (give or take a coconut). Data has been taken from, or checked against, parish register entries from records held at the Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone and the East Sussex Record Office, Lewes. (ESRO) I have also used some of Angie Ray's formidable listings taken from John Owen's equally formidable web site - particularly for the date of Peter Tickner and Elizabeth Martin's marriage in 1776 which helped to fill what might have been an otherwise unbridgeable gap.

I have included what, as far as I can make out, are the first parish register entries for Tickners in Goudhurst and Hawkhurst. Although some of these entries may be unrelated, one thing is certain: there are no earlier entries for Tickners in Goudhurst or Hawkhurst parish records and perhaps they may be of help in making links in the future: for example, could there be any connection between Peter Tickner's nickname, Rough, and the early 17th century Rafe? Perhaps not! I have used the following notations: n. date of birth (but rarely), c. baptism or christening normally a few days, weeks, years even later than the date of birth; m. marriage and b. burial - like c. usually a bit later than the actual death. (Because these are different to standard abbreviations, the actual words Baptism, Burial, etc have been substituted in the Charts and elsewhere in this discourse)

Finally, by way of introduction, my interest in finding out Which Peter Tickner. I eventually realised that there was more to Peter Tickner the smuggler than just the entries relating to him and his children in the Hawkhurst parish registers. I had seen the Wadhurst records of a marriage between what I took to be another Peter Tickner and Sarah Blunt - incidentally, where and when is she called Sarah Ann? (John O's mistake and now corrected to just Sarah) - but I had assumed that they must be another couple until, thanks to meeting Paulene Warrington and Bob Tickner, I took a closer look at the Ticehurst Tickners and other connections. And now, a year further on, the results.

First, what do we really know about Peter Tickner the smuggler?

  • He was living in a farm at Sandhurst (at the time commonly called Saunders or even Sanders) to the east of Hawkhurst when taken up on a charge of smuggling in June 1747 and eventually committed to Newgate to await trial.
  • Sandhurst parish chest records show that the rates for Peter Tickner's farm were the third highest in the parish and that he paid them from May 1742 until October 1747 when, for reasons we all know, he had to leave. The exact location of his farm, though, has not yet been traced.
  • He was tried twice at the Old Bailey. First in October 1747 when he was acquitted but held in custody until his second trial in December 1747 at which he was found guilty of smuggling and sentenced to seven years transportation.
  • He was put aboard the St George which began its voyage to Virginia in January 1747/8 but, according to Lloyds records, did not leave the Downs until 2 Feb 47/8.
  • He was arrested on Blackheath on 20 Feb 1753, held in Newgate, sentenced to death in June 1753 for having returned early from transportation. Reprieved for transportation for life in September, in December 1753 he sailed once more for Virginia - this time in the Whiteing - and this seems to be the last we hear of Peter Tickner the smuggler.

So who was he?

Since he was one of many local smugglers who were alleged to have been a leader of the Hawkhurst Gang it seemed reasonable to assume that he came from Hawkhurst and that he was the son of Hawkhurst farmer Walter Tickner - who originally came from Goudhurst. Peter was baptised on 26 Apr 1713. Hawkhurst parish registers also record three children of a Peter and Ann Tickner. Two, Thomas and Elizabeth, were baptised on 16 Dec 1750 aged 18 and 12 respectively, and a third, Samuel, was baptised on 1 Apr 1753.There were, though, no records of the marriage of a Peter and Ann.
Another Peter Tickner from Hawkhurst is recorded as having married a Sarah Blunt at Wadhurst on 4 Nov 1740. Subsequently the Ticehurst parish registers record the baptism of nine of Peter and Sarah's children: beginning with Walter (baptised : 26 Apr 1741) and ending with Thomas (baptised : 12 Mar 1758). If this man was the smuggler he leaves a number of questions to be answered. For example:

  • It was customary for children to be baptised in the parishes in which they and their parents lived. How, then, could all of Peter and Sarah's children be baptised in Ticehurst unless they were resident there?
  • Peter the smuggler's absences in gaol awaiting trial, time spent at sea en route to and from the Americas as well as such time spent abroad serving his sentences make it difficult to reconcile these events with the births of several of his children: particularly Philadelphia (baptised : 25 Dec 1749); John (baptised : 22 Apr 1753 and buried : 7 Sep 1753 - where Peter is described as a labourer); Edward (baptised : 9 Mar 1755) and Thomas (baptised : 12 Mar 1758)
  • Would his wife and some of her children have been accepted as a charge against the parishioners of Sandhurst unless they had a residential qualification - which, with their Ticehurst registrations can be readily discounted?

So who was Peter Tickner the smuggler?

We know that Walter Tickner's son, Peter, was born in 1713 and, in his mid to late twenties, was about the right age to have married Sarah Blunt in 1740. But, it could be argued, he was probably too young to have been the father of Ann's son Thomas who was born in or around 1732. Of the several Peter Tickners that the 'Tickner Tree' shows to have been living in and around Goudhurst in the early 1700s only one other Peter (baptised : 2 Feb 1706/7 and son of Stephen and Mary Tickner) seems to have lived long enough to marry and become the father of the Thomas, Elizabeth and Samuel recorded in the Hawkhurst registers and, taking account of the intervals between the birth of Elizabeth (ca. 1738) and his arrest in 1747, could well have been the father of the Francis and Mary Tickner referred to in the records of Sandhurst's Poor Book .

So, whilst the evidence is not incontrovertible, it seems reasonable to assume that, although the Peter who married Sarah Blunt and whose children were all baptised in Ticehurst was probably the son of Walter Tickner, he was not the notorious Hawkhurst Gang smuggler who was arrested at his farm in Sandhurst in 1747. That dubious accolade must go to Peter, the son of Goudhurst residents Stephen and Mary Tickner. Added strength to this claim has been given by the recent discovery of a Peter Tickner's marriage to an Ann Austin at Cranbrook (where both are described as being 'of ys parish') on 2 Apr 1727. Additionally, a reference to the burial of an unbaptised child of Peter Tickner on 30 Mar 1730 at Cranbrook has been found as well as the late baptism, also at Cranbrook, on 24 Feb 1752 of Mary Tickner 'Daughter of Peter & Anne Tickner - an Adult between 17 & 18 years' and, at Benenden on 13 Mar 1751, of another late baptism, this time of 'Susannah Tickner Adult Dr of Peter and Anne Tickner'. Two years later Susannah's 'baseborn' daughter, Thirza, is baptised at Benenden. Although the anticipated late baptism of Francis remains to be found, the recently discovered information about a Peter and Ann(e) Tickner seems to give added credibility to the supposition that this man was Peter the smuggler.

HHJB 31 May 2007

In previous correspondence Tom had noted :

"Peter the convict was tried in December 1747 and sentenced to transportation for seven years. He was taken to Virginia, USA in the "St. George", the master being James Dobbins which sailed from the Downs on Tuesday 2 February 1748. Then on 20 February 1753, he was again arrested for having illegally returned to England. At his subsequent trial Peter related the circumstances which led to his eventual return to England. No dates are given but his reference to a 'cessation of arms' would place this at the time of the treaty of Aix-la-Chappelle which was concluded in October 1748 but which would have taken a month or so to reach Peter: making it unlikely that he would have been back in Europe, let alone England, before, say, March 1749 at the earliest." If this is correct then it is doubtful that Peter the Smuggler was the father of Sarah (b. Feb 1748) or even Philadelphia (b. Dec 1749) both children of Peter (b. 1713). Peter the Smuggler was sentenced to death which was then reprieved into transportation for life. Again he was sent to Virginia, USA this time on board the "Whiteing" mastered by Matthew Johnson which departed in December 1753.

Tom Browning says "Hawkhurst parish records refer to Peter and Ann Tickner with three children, Thomas and Elizabeth (both baptised in 1750 when aged 18 and 12 respectively) and Samuel (baptised 1 Apr 1753) [and they] were my original selections as having smuggling connections. However Peter and Sarah [Ann] with their 'Ticehurst gang' of children seem to be favoured by (many?) others." ..... "Although it is possible that Peter may have again returned early from transportation ..... it is far harder to reconcile the Peter Tickner married to Sarah Ann Blunt and the dates of birth of several of their children to his being the Smuggler than it is to the modest tally of Peter and Ann. Nor is it possible - particularly with the almost coinciding dates of birth of Samuel (1 Apr 1753) and John (22 Apr 1753) - to postulate that Ann and Sarah Ann were one and the same lady." If Peter the Smuggler did not illegally return from America a second time then it is impossible for him to have been the father of Edward (b. March 1755) and Thomas (b. March 1758) again both children of Peter (b. 1713).

A search of the Passengers and Immigration List Indexes, 1500s - 1900s on ancestry. com has produced the following references from various books written or compiled by Peter Wilson Coldham which are possibly our Peter but as yet these have not been followed up. (Source {S216}) Reference to these books may in time give some clue as to what became of Peter the Smuggler. In the meantime the details of the trials of Peter the Smuggler are interesting reading and so are shown on Pages 2 - 5.

Year Place of Arrival Book Title
1747 America Ancestry Source 1217.2 - Bonded Passengers to America. 9 vols. in 3. Baltimore : Genealogical Publishing Co., 1983. Vol. 2 Middlesex, 1617 - 1775 334p. (Page 266)
1747 America Ancestry Source 1220.12 - The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614 - 1775. Baltimore : Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 1988 pp 462 - 920. (Page 801)
1748 America Ancestry Source 1222 - English Convicts in Colonial America. Volume 1 : Middlesex 1617 - 1775. New Orleans : Polyanthos, 1974. 309p. (Page 266)
1753 America Ancestry Source 1217.2 - Bonded Passengers to America. 9 vols. in 3. Baltimore : Genealogical Publishing Co., 1983. Vol. 2 Middlesex, 1617 - 1775 334p. (Page 266)
1753 America Ancestry Source 1220.12 - The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614 - 1775. Baltimore : Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 1988 pp 462 - 920. (Page 801)
1754 America Ancestry Source 1222 - English Convicts in Colonial America. Volume 1 : Middlesex 1617 - 1775. New Orleans : Polyanthos, 1974. 309p. (Page 266)
1748 Maryland Ancestry Source 1229.10 - The King's Passengers to Maryland and Virginia. Westminister, MD : Family Line Publications, 1997. 450p. (Page 115)
1753 Virginia Ancestry Source 1229.10 - The King's Passengers to Maryland and Virginia. Westminister, MD : Family Line Publications, 1997. 450p. (Page 144)
1748 Maryland Ancestry Source 1236.50 - More Emigrants in Bondage : 1614 - 1775. Baltimore : Genealogical Publishing Co., 2002. 217p. (Page 175)

We have a suspicion that this Peter Tickner is also Peter the Smuggler

Most of the following is a paraphrasing of communications from researcher Robert Tickner of Peterborough, UK talking about Peter the Smuggler. He makes the novel observation that if you take the "bo" out of Peterborough, where he lives, you get "peterrough". His actual emails have been registered as Source {S170}. Robert believes both Peters are the same individual.

Peter the Smuggler was a dominant figure of his time. His apparent association with the notorious Hawkhurst Gang and his illegal return from transportation to America are all pointers to this. How he acquired the nickname "Rough" is not really clear but it has been suggested that it was because he was very "rough" in his handling of people. We'll probably never really know. He is recorded in some records as Peter Rough and in others as Rough Tickner. There are also some Customs House documents called the Sayer Documents, letters from the Head of Customs to the Crown in one of which Peter Rough's trial is mentioned and which says the observer had never seen the court so throng`d full and when Peter was taken guilty, he shook his fist at the witnesses for the Crown and cursed them. Clearly our Peter was no angel. He was one of the few members of the gang to survive although he was transported twice. They hung around 80 members of the gang at Tyburn Tree, now Marble Arch. His last sentence was hanging commuted to transportation for life.

Kent in 1740 were lawless times and the gang members all saw themselves as free traders and were opposed to the customs duty which was being imposed on their goods. The smugglers were Jacobite supporters and wanted Bonnie Prince Charlie on the throne rather than King George and often drank his health whilst sitting in the Mermaid Inn at Rye with their pistols cocked on the bar. They saw themselves as underpaid and overtaxed and George as a foreigner taxing them to pay for wars in Holland and Scotland. Their cause was so popular that they reckoned they could summon five hundred men in an hour. At one stage they very nearly took over the country and ran the South Coast from Dover to Bournemouth.  Robert believes the Tickners were like the mafia on the South Coast. Peter is not known as the leader of the gang even though the Prosecutor at his trial said he was a principal, if not a ringleader. This was probably an exaggeration aimed at improving the chances of success in the prosecution.

However the gang certainly were a ruthless lot. They were hard men that swore allegiance to each other in the form of an oath and if you broke it you were dead. The well documented murders of Chater and Galley are a good indication of this. Chater was thrown down a well and then rocks were poured down on him until he was killed. Their favourite trick was to nail someone between two trees and light a fire underneath and then to whip and cut the person.

The problem was they rose to such a height of power that, as Robert suggests, they could only fall. Smuggling carried on till about 1840. The Battle of Goudhurst was a case where the locals rose against and defeated the gang but Robert thinks there was a power struggle between Rough and the known leader, Arthur Gray of Grays Folley at Seacox Heath. They called themselves seacocks. Peter Rough may well have been at the Battle of Goudhurst but he was in gaol when Chater and Galley were killed.

If Peter was transported and didn't return, after having 10 kids together, Robert hates to think that Peter and Sarah Ann never saw each other again but if he was transported it is probable they never did as she stayed there till she died and was buried at Sandhurst Church in 1773. If he actually was transported and didn't return, there have not as yet been any American records concerning him found.
There is a house called Tickners Wood in Cowden that's hidden in a wood. It is believed that it belonged to a James Stanford (whose gang name was Stanford Trip), an influential, wealthy money man in the gang. Trip bought Ockley Farm from Walter Snr (Peter's alleged father) and either Walter Snr or Walter Jnr (Peter's alleged brother) was resident in Trip's house at Gills Green, north of Hawkhurst when Trip was on trial for smuggling. Just up the road from Tickners Wood is Stanford and the famliy home of Trip. If Peter had returned from America, this is the sort of area where he may have been able to live fairly well concealed.

Thanks Bob


Updated : 28 Aug 2015