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Author Topic: Impact of French Wars on Dover  (Read 1980 times)

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Offline Bilgerat

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Re: Impact of French Wars on Dover
« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2017, 17:55:51 »
A fascinating answer. Many thanks indeed for the trouble you've gone to.

Ditto, great information and very well researched. Just to add, the decline in privateering in the English Channel and North Sea was basically because between them, the Royal Navy and the privateers had been so successful, that there was no prey for them to hunt any more. French, Spanish, Dutch, Danish etc. merchant shipping had all but been shut down by this success. It just wasn't worth the risk to enemy ship-owners to send a ship to sea any more. None of the enemy navies had the resources to escort ships in convoy and if they sailed alone, they were more likely to be taken by a British privateer or a British warship than they were to reach their destination.
"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent

Offline RonS

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Re: Impact of French Wars on Dover
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2017, 22:09:23 »
A fascinating answer. Many thanks indeed for the trouble you've gone to.


The source quoted at the end. 

An interesting question. I've hunted high and low for two books that may give the information. But alas someone seems to have moved them......however I have a  fascinating book that gives a few details which may be useful.
[anything marked thus are my comments]
...
With the exception of my first remarks and [anything thus denoted] everything above is quoted from

Robin Craig & John Whymann 'Kent and the Sea' in Alan Armstrong (ed) The Economy of Kent 1640 - 1914 '(1995)

Offline davpott

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Re: Impact of French Wars on Dover
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2017, 21:35:15 »
I'm wondering what sort of impact - in terms of trade and travel - the wars with the French (in particular that from 1779-1783) had on Dover.

Looking through the Kent papers of the time, all the adverts seem to be for the Margate to Ostend packet boats. Presumably those from Dover to Calais no longer ran. I know that in March 1783 the vessels previously owned by Minet, Fector & Son of Dover were taken over by Mr Vercoustre Flanegan of  Ostend. The same papers don't seem to mention stage coaches or post-chaises being available from Dover to London at that time. Was that because, with the cessation of the Dover-Calais boats, there was no call for them. It seems hard to believe that the town virtually shut down because the boats weren't running.

Does anyone have more information?

The source quoted at the end. 




An interesting question. I've hunted high and low for two books that may give the information. But alas someone seems to have moved them......however I have a  fascinating book that gives a few details which may be useful.
[anything marked thus are my comments]


"Shipowners, Shipmasters and Seafarers

"Shipowning was an important activity in Kent from the earliest times, and its significance is easily underestimated. This is the result of an assumption which is often made, that Kent-owned vessels were engaged only in traffic to or from Kentish ports.This was far from the case; it is clear that some vessels of considerable size were trading deep-sea by the latter half of the seventeenth century, but that few of them were trading directly from or to Kentish ports.........the focus on these trades was overwhelmingly on London; indeed, many Kent-owned vessels would have had great difficulty in entering the small and inadequate harbours of Kent with cargo other than on high spring tides."

".......The greatest boost to local shipping came in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic War years, with new opportunities for shipowners in Deal and Dover. Earlier, William Richards junior, born in Dover in about 1735, had risen to prominence in London, becoming a Freeman of the City in 1772. He was a broker to merchants supplying ordnance and munitions for the war in America, and soon to the Navy Board in the provision of transport vessels.............
Dover's connection with the East India Company was also made manifest in the careers of the Larkins family of Dover. Thomas Larkins senior and junior, and Joh  Pascall Larkins became principal owners of some of the largest units in British merchant marine. [this family went on to be part owners of some of Britain's largest vessels of the period.costing as much as 60,000 each when built] ......By the end of the second decade of the nineteenth century, hover, little remained of what had been a remarkable Kent family enterprise."   
 
The coastal and Estuarine Trades
"......next benchmark comes with the 1786 Navigation Act which sought the official registration of all vessels of over fifteen tons throughout Britain and the colonies.......these returns the great importance of estuarial and  coastal shipping is very clearly shown.,,,,,,,,,,,sloops and cutters employed in the Downs or in (often illicit) cross-channel ventures.


Number and Tonnage of Kent Registered Vessels 30 September 1789

      Port                        No. of Vessels             Tonnage
 
     Deal                               4                               51
     Dover                         137                          7,419
     Faversham                 291                          5,235
     Rochester                  177                          6,712
     Sandwich                     74                          4,535

          Total                683                        23,952

[source cited PRO Cus.17/11]


 When in 1796, a parliamentary enquiry was instituted into the requirements of dock facilities within the port of London an estimate of London's regular coasting trade was furnished by the authorities.........These estimates appear to accord poorly with the reality if a typical London directory of the period is to be believed; at a minimum this suggests that something in the order of 30 or 35 voyages were made to Kent ports each week.[destination ports not listed but mention is made to voyages to Lydd, Winchelsea and Rye so they are not all Thames estuary] 


Smuggling


Kentish contraband trading had its origins in wool smuggling, from the later thirteenth century onwards..........When an English visitor returning from France in 1773 visited Van Robbe's cloth manufactory at Abbeville, he saw in their magazines , 'an amazing quantity of English wool, which they made no secret of.' Reports from Normandy in 1787 likewise indicated that the smuggling of raw wool was being practised with, if anything, increasing success; over 2,000 hogheads, comprising 6,000 cwt and worth at least 35,600 had recently been landed at Picardy and Normandy yielding the smugglers, it was calculated , 50% profit.........
....As The Times reporter during 1801, 'English wool still continues to be smuggled to a great amount into the ports of France (which) appears incredible.....considering the number of our cruisers off the enemy's coasts and the blockade of their harbours".

Privateering and Wartime Activities

...The major modern authorities distinguish 'high privateering' and 'channel privateering', defining the former as raiding deep-sea commerce using large privateers. 'Channel privateering', as its name implies, focused on the Straits of Dover and the English Channel, often but not always, deploying smaller vessels, including the celebrated cutters and luggers for which Kent was well known, However, some of the vessels which Kent merchants and mariners sent forth were of a more substantial size, up to 450 tons, very well armed and manned by large crews.
In 1779, for example, Active of Dover, 200 tons, was manned by 90 men, and armed with 42 guns. in 1777, Helena of Dover obtained a Letter of Marque [warrants issued to someone to commit what would otherwise be acts of piracy.], and was 230 tons, 60 crew and 36 guns.............

In the period of the Napoleonic wars, Dover, Folkestone and Deal remained quite active centres of privateering..........Dover privateers were engaged in a number of expeditions which resulted in captures, and, on occasion, collaborated with privateers from other ports in seizures. For example, the French vessel Robuste, 300 tons, bound from Louisiana to Bordeaux with sugar and coffee was taken by Earl Spencer of Dover, Phoenix of Jersey and Henry of Weymouth and sent into Guernsey.

[It appears that during the Napoleonic wars privateering became less popular and some owners found a safer, lucrative and more predictable employment for their vessels.]

Minet and Festor, the Dover merchants and bankers, owned a substantial number of vessels and were able to tender many successfully as transports and victualling ships. Sometimes they combined with Iggulden in offering tonnage [john Iggulden was a Deal merchant], as was the case with the Fanny, 82 tons, an armed vessel commanded by Thomas Gittins. 
.......The other major Dover banking firm, Latham,Price & Co., were also shipowners who participated in the lucrative transport service: they also obtained a license which allowed them to use a vessel to import a cargo of grain, meal or flour from any port in France between Boulogne and Conquest in 1809, a time at with Napoleon permitted the exportation of grain to Britain, despite hostilities, with the dual objective of diminishing France's grain surplus, and draining Britain's gold reserves. Some intriguing covert activities in wartime are suggested in the register documents of vessels such as Duchess of York, built Dover in 1791, which sometime before 1809 had a special license to trade under foreign colours. She was owned, along with other vessels by one Wynard Vinke, sometime resident in Dover and London, a naturalised British citizen. Several of his vessels appear to have been fast Channel cutters and luggers, perhaps singled out officially as most suitable for clandestine wartime operations.......

.........In the round, it is clear that the seaport towns of Kent enjoyed an unsurpassed level of prosperity during the French wars. So far as shipping and shipbuilding were concerned, the long term peak of tonnage was achieved in the years between 1793 and 1815........."

With the exception of my first remarks and [anything thus denoted] everything above is quoted from

Robin Craig & John Whymann 'Kent and the Sea' in Alan Armstrong (ed) The Economy of Kent 1640 - 1914 '(1995)


 

 

Offline Bilgerat

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Re: Impact of French Wars on Dover
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2017, 16:36:55 »
Glad to have been of some help :)
"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent

Offline RonS

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Re: Impact of French Wars on Dover
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2017, 14:32:10 »
Thanks for moving this, kyn. I wasn't quite sure where to put it because, in essence, my question wasn't really about military matters but about the impact of war on other aspects of life in Kent and its ports. The question actually came about because I was trying to find out about stage coach services that ran to and from Dover in the 1779-82 period. Finding nothing about them, I began to wonder if the war had resulted in some reduction in travel and trade through the port. Perhaps I should have made that clear and put my post under the Travel heading.

Offline RonS

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Re: Impact of French Wars on Dover
« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2017, 10:26:20 »
Thank you for such an informative reply, which encouraged me to dig deeper.

It seems that by 1782 boats were still running from Dover but instead of going to Calais they served Ostend instead (as did those from Margate). Furthermore, the boats were all transferred to Ostend ownership and were therefore flying a neutral flag. The advertisements of the time make the point that this ensured that they were not subject to the attentions of the privateers.

Most of the newspaper adverts seem to have been for the Margate to Ostend route, though. Presumably this was because the Margate route had suddenly become competitive, being roughly the same length of sea journey as Dover-Ostend. Previously, Dover-Calais had been much shorter than any route via Margate.

The Margate adverts also stress the availability of post coaches, chaises, and horses from Margate and also a daily coach and a diligence to and from London. It is as if they are trying to convince the public that Margate can offer everything that Dover can.


Hi Ron,

You may find the answer - which is 'not much' - surprising. What you have to remember (and I don't mean to be patronising here), is that the world of the late 1700's and early 1800's was very different to today's world. During the French Wars, there was no trade embargo as you might expect. Rich and powerful industrialists had far more political power than they seem to have today and would have made sure that trade continued pretty much as it had before or between the wars.  What you also have to remember is that people then were much less mobile than they are today. Travel, particularly international travel, was the preserve of the rich and powerful. Ordinary people rarely ventured beyond their home town or village. A journey from London to Dover for example could reasonably be expected to take a full day, longer in bad weather. What did happen was that the outbreak of war made international trade more dangerous, but it didn't stop it. A merchant ship could expect to be stopped and seized by an enemy warship or privateer, but a British warship wouldn't stop a merchant ship under British colours unless it was suspected of having deserters aboard or if the warship was short-handed, in which case it would put a press-gang aboard the merchant ship and take off some of the crew.

It might be that the war caused the Dover-Calais packet boats to stop running. Equally, it might have been the case that the boats (mostly topsail cutters) were put into the privateering trade by their owners, for which their speed and manoeuvrability made them ideal and which in time of war, would have been far more profitable...



Offline jimawilliams

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Re: Impact of French Wars on Dover
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2017, 20:32:15 »
Hi Bilgerat,
Thank you for posting such an informative reply to the RonS post.  I am currently reading "Passchendaele Requiem For Doomed Youth" by Paul Ham, as I, like so many have family significance to the sacrifices made there one hundred years ago.  The parallels in trade embargoes of 1916-17interested me (albeit with Germany in WWI).  Without trying to cause you any embarrassment I do find your knowledge and passion for all topics of "naval history" just superb.
Thank you.
"Change is the only constant"

Offline Bilgerat

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Re: Impact of French Wars on Dover
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2017, 19:02:29 »
Hi Ron,

You may find the answer - which is 'not much' - surprising. What you have to remember (and I don't mean to be patronising here), is that the world of the late 1700's and early 1800's was very different to today's world. During the French Wars, there was no trade embargo as you might expect. Rich and powerful industrialists had far more political power than they seem to have today and would have made sure that trade continued pretty much as it had before or between the wars.  What you also have to remember is that people then were much less mobile than they are today. Travel, particularly international travel, was the preserve of the rich and powerful. Ordinary people rarely ventured beyond their home town or village. A journey from London to Dover for example could reasonably be expected to take a full day, longer in bad weather. What did happen was that the outbreak of war made international trade more dangerous, but it didn't stop it. A merchant ship could expect to be stopped and seized by an enemy warship or privateer, but a British warship wouldn't stop a merchant ship under British colours unless it was suspected of having deserters aboard or if the warship was short-handed, in which case it would put a press-gang aboard the merchant ship and take off some of the crew.

It might be that the war caused the Dover-Calais packet boats to stop running. Equally, it might have been the case that the boats (mostly topsail cutters) were put into the privateering trade by their owners, for which their speed and manoeuvrability made them ideal and which in time of war, would have been far more profitable.

All this changed however in 1807, when Napoleon embarked on a campaign of economic warfare against Britain. At the time, he was the master of Europe and he felt that a trade embargo might help his cause. He would have been aware that his soldiers in Poland for example, were wearing greatcoats made from  woollen cloth woven in Yorkshire and boots made in Northampton. The Industrial Revolution was in full swing and the great mill towns in the north of England could produce vast amounts of cloth for a fraction of the price paid for the same material made in France. In late November 1806, Napoleon had issued the Berlin Decree which forbade ships from France, nations allied to France and neutral ships from trading with Britain. Six weeks later, the British retaliated, with the Government issuing Orders in Council forbidding trade with France or her allies. In addition, later Orders made it clear that cargoes from neutral countries destined for France or any of her allies was also forfeit. This was a godsend for the British privateering trade because it meant that cargoes from neutral countries bound for France were then fair game.

This led to two things. Firstly, the explosion of smuggling on the Kent coast. If traders couldn't land their cargoes from France in British ports, they'd land them on a beach instead, away from prying Customs Officers. It led to smuggling of goods from France and continental Europe becoming a very lucrative trade and a lot of people got very rich out of it. Secondly, it led to enterprising merchants simply finding ways around the restrictions, such as sending goods to France via round-about routes. The Orders in Council also made prisoner exchanges more difficult, so the military actually used the smuggling networks to perform them after 1807. This led to the strange sight of shanty towns inhabited by French soldiers growing up around the beaches and small harbours used by the smugglers. Released on parole, these men would turn to trading or casual work to support themselves and found themselves integrating into local communities while they were waiting for the smugglers to take them home.

The wars therefore would have had no effect whatsoever on the prosperity of the Port of Dover, or on any other Kentish ports, until the advent of the Orders in Council. Such was the level of protests over the Orders in Council that they were repealed in 1812, just weeks before the outbreak of war with the USA. In fact, the Orders in Council and the impact they had on American trade with France and continental Europe were amongst the reasons why the war broke out anyway.

Out of interest and I'd recommend it anyway, but the book 'In These Times' by Jenny Uglow devotes a whole chapter to the Orders in Council, their impact and the imaginative ways British traders found to get around them.
"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent

Offline RonS

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Impact of French Wars on Dover
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2017, 11:48:27 »
I'm wondering what sort of impact - in terms of trade and travel - the wars with the French (in particular that from 1779-1783) had on Dover.

Looking through the Kent papers of the time, all the adverts seem to be for the Margate to Ostend packet boats. Presumably those from Dover to Calais no longer ran. I know that in March 1783 the vessels previously owned by Minet, Fector & Son of Dover were taken over by Mr Vercoustre Flanegan of  Ostend. The same papers don't seem to mention stage coaches or post-chaises being available from Dover to London at that time. Was that because, with the cessation of the Dover-Calais boats, there was no call for them. It seems hard to believe that the town virtually shut down because the boats weren't running.

Does anyone have more information?

 

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