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In common with the other counties situated on the south coast of England, Dorset has a long tradition of smuggling, shipwrecking and even piracy. It is said that it was arguments between the twin boroughs of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis over smuggling that led Elizabeth I to combine them to form the basis of the modern town of Weymouth.
It was the nearby Dorset village of Fleet which inspired and provided the setting for J. Meade Falkner's novel, Moonfleet, a tale of old smuggling days made into a film in 1955 by Fritz Lang and starring Stewart Grainger.
Most Dorset families can point to a smuggler in there past, my own, (although as yet unproved), being no exception. Many of these stories have been documented by Rodney Legg in his fascinating book Dorset Smuggling, and there is an excellent collection of artifacts in the the Portland Museum. However in all the tales of smuggling in Dorset, one man appears more often than any other, and has been give the approbation of The King of the Smugglers and whose operations ranged from Poole in the east to Lyme Regis in the west.
Isaac Gulliver, the gentle smuggler who never killed a man, and with his gang, ran 15 Tuggers bringing from the Continent to Poole Bay gin, silk, lace and tea; all harmless commodities by today's smuggling standards. Gulliver's men even wore a uniform - the traditional smock of the Dorset farm hand.
Isaac Gulliver was born in Semington, near Trowbridge, in the neighbouring county of Wiltshire, to "Isaac Gulifor and Elizabeth his wife" a far from noble family, and there is even some doubt about his parentage, as in drawing up his will in 1765, Isaac Gulliver senior referred to "my son or reputed son Isaac Gulliver, otherwise Matravers".
Isaac was almost certainly following the family trade by becoming a smuggler, there is evidence to suggest that his father was also a smuggler, as an Isaac Gulliver is recorded in that capacity as frequenting the New Inn, Downton, Hampshire  when son Isaac was only twelve. That group operated into Bitman's Chine, now known as Canford Cliffs Chine, Poole. It was this deserted heath, with its endless sandy beaches that would provide innumerable opportunities for Isaac junior in his twenties and thirties.
On the 5th of October 1768 he married innkeeper's daughter Betty Beale at Sixpenny Handley parish church. His father-in-law's hostelry, the Blacksmith's Arms, Thorney Down, was on the main road from Blandford to Salisbury and horse-shoeing was William Beale's other trade. He is said to have disapproved of the liaison but quickly adapted to reality as Gulliver would take over tenancy of the inn. His first daughter, Elizabeth, was born there in 1770 and his second, Ann, in 1773.
Those who think that smuggling has, of necessity, to be carried on somewhere near the sea, might note that Sixpenny Handley is around 30 miles inland, which is a long way to travel, loaded and under cover of darkness. Gulliver, though he had a liking for spirits and lace, might well have had another string to his bow - an enterprise founded on the availability of deer on the Chase ... and a tomb adjoining the local church where 'hot' venison could be stored for the duration of the hue and cry.
In a Blandford paper of 1770 it is related how the Excise Superintendent came with a posse of Preventive-men to seize a sotre of tea, tobacco, and brandy which lay hidden in a cottage in one of our hamlets [Sixpenny Handley]. On their return to Blandford, they beat off an attack made by the Free traders and brought their spoil safely to the Excise man's house. That night Blandford was held up by a body of 150 armed horsemen who persuaded the Excise man's wife, at pistol-point, to give back the contraband, with which they rode away in triumph.