Robert Trotman  d1765


The story of the death of Robert Trotman shows us, perhaps, the popularity that smuggler's had with the inhabitants of many villages.


The incident occurred on 24th March 1765 when the "Folkestone" cutter, under the command of Lieutenant Down, spotted smugglers making a landing on the North Shore. Down, with 14 of his men, went ashore and found about 20 free Gravestone of Robert Trotman in Kinson Churchyardtraders loading tea. An enthusiastic midshipman named Robert Wilson, jumped on to a smuggler's horse and rode into the crowd declaring a seizure before being pulled to the ground and beaten with horsewhips. Down's clerk then approached the smugglers to try and help Wilson, only to receive much the same treatment. While he was on the ground somebody aimed a shot at him and a pistol ball grazed his chest. He was then dragged into the sea where the smuggler's hoped he would drown, but he managed to swim up the chine and laid low for a while. Down finally decided to take some action and he gave the order to move forward. The men were ordered to seize the goods and the smugglers were warned that if they attempted to resist they would be shot. However, as the men set about unloading the tea they were beaten with horsewhips and one man was shot in the leg. Following this, shots were exchanged on both sides and one of the smugglers, a Wiltshire man named Robert Trotman, was killed. It was too dark for Down to see who had fired the shot, and did not even know whether it was fired by one of his men or a smuggler.


At 2pm the next day, an inquest was held at North Haven House in Sandbanks, with a jury said to have been composed of smugglers. A verdict of "wilful murder by persons unknown" was returned. The following inscription can still be read on his gravestone in the parish Church of St Andrew Atkinson, labelling the King's men as "murderers":


"To the memory of ROBERT TROTMAN

Late of Rond in the County of Wilts

Who was barbarously Murder'd

On the shore near Poole the 24 March 1765.

A little Tea one leaf I did not steal

For Guiltless Blood shed I to GOD appeal

Put Tea in one scale human Blood in tother

And think what tis to slay thy harmles Brother."