William Jarman – and Customs job titles

It’s not hard to imagine what brought William Jarman to Bowness-on-Solway circa 1824. But what became of him of later is patchy. I am publishing this post in the hope that someone ‘out there’ will have some answers for his descendants*. 

It also covers some job titles of interest to people researching their family history.

Solway smugglers – and those who stopped them

The first time I ever went throught the Bowness-on-Solway parish registers, I noted: ‘…seven smugglers drowned one night and buried together.’

Where you had smugglers, you had customs and excise men. A service required more than ever after the Carlisle Canal opened, in 1823, when suddenly there was a new port and freight/passenger craft making use of it.

It is presumably the job opportunity that attracted William Jarman (born circa 1788) to relocate, with his wife Mary Ann and son William (born 1824) from London to Bowness. More children followed: Richard Henry in 1825; John in 1828, Mary Ann Amelia in 1830 and David Tillotson in 1832.

An article in 1828 records how William Jarman, RN, commander of the Preventive Service at Bowness, obtained a warrant to search a house at Kingmoor for smuggled whisky. It led to the conviction (and later, failed appeal) of a George McQueen.

The (personal and general) key points of this are:

  • William Jarman appears to have served in the Royal Navy previously
  • He was at that time a very senior officer in the Preventive Service (basically customs officers who tackled smuggling)
  • Its reach extended beyond searching ships: Kingmoor is more than 13 miles from Bowness – and inland.
  • the appeal tells us a share of the fine paid by an offender went to the customs officer who caught him.

The Bowness Hall mystery

William Jarman was clearly prospering, for a 1829 directory lists:

JARMAINE Wm surveyor in customs Bowness Hall Bowness. (sic)

Bowness Hall belonged to the Lawson family. Pattinson Lawson was living at Bowness Hall in 1824. And was ‘of Bowness Hall’ in 1834. But the 1829 directory just lists him as ‘Pattison (sic) Lawson, farmer, Bowness’. Were the Jarman sharing the property? Or did Pattinson Lawson live away from the farm a few years?

The Preventive Service

In 1829, there was talk of the Government looking to modify the Preventive Service ‘by introducing a form of duty more in unison with the Civil Service and abolishing the distinction of uniform with the heavy arms and accoutrements, the audacity and success of the smugglers rendering it necessary to adopt some more effectual plan for suppressing illegal traffic.’

However, in 1831, it was declared: ‘The Preventive Service, under the direction of the Customs, is to be retained.’

In 1833, it was noted that the Preventive Service cost £300,000 to run, but Parliament didn’t get to scrutinise how this was spent.

A tragic loss

In July 1838, William Jarman’s son John drowned in the Carlisle Canal. He was just ten years old. The inquest ‘supposed’ he had fallen overboard while trying to push off in a boat in the coal dock. His body was found after his cap was spotted floating on the water. His father was then described as ‘one of the coastguard’. No longer a commander, it would seem.

Customs revenue at Port Carlisle

It can’t have been due to a reduction in workload. A year later, it was announced that due to the ‘very great increase in the customs revenue’ at Port Carlisle, it had been moved up to a ‘higher class’ (ie status level). And the revenue collector and comptroller had been awarded a ‘considerable’ salary increase.

In 1838, Port Carlisle had collected £30,646 gross (£29,243 nett) in excise duty. (In 1839, it was actually down: £30,132 gross, £29,581 nett).

Ok, William Jarman wasn’t a revenue collector, but the figures show there was plenty of shipping for the Preventive Service to keep an eye on for smuggled goods.

Bankruptcy – and a new job description

And yet, by 1839, William was insolvent. He was described as an acting tide surveyor ‘late of Port Carlisle and previously of Bowness’. 

A tide surveyor was a senior customs officer overseeing boarding of ships to check goods. (If your ancestor was a tide waiter, that was a customs officer who did the actual boarding).

He was discharged as an insolvent on 5 Mar 1840. The commissioner said of him “… that the whole conduct of the Insolvent was highly commendable, and would no doubt be highly appreciated by all who knew him. 

He also praised Mr Allison, a grocer who had had acted as a trustee for William Jarman, saying his conduct was ‘worthy of example’.

This would be Robert Allison, who as well as being a grocer in English Street Carlisle, was involved in the Carlisle Canal and the setting up of a steam shipping company

And then?

Wherever he was in 1840, by the time of the 1841 Census, William was back in Port Carlisle and described as an excise officer.

Son William, 15, is listed as a ‘chemist’s apprentice’. 

And then…? The trail goes cold. It’s possible he died back in London a year later, but not clear what happened to his wife Mary Ann or daughter of the same name.

Cumbrian Characters

Richard Henry Jarman emigrated to Australia by 1852 (and doesn’t show on the 1851 census in England). Richard became a school teacher. 

David Tillotson Jarman emigrated to the Clare district of South Australia by 1850. David is remembered as one of the founding fathers of Byron Bay. He died there in 1908.

And William Jarman junior?

William Junior became a druggist and set up a business in Wigton, where he married Mary Scott in 1845. He was bankrupt by 1846. 

In the 1851 census he is practicing as veterinary surgeon in Neath in Wales. With him are his wife Mary and children Mary Ann, 5, born Ambleside, and John, 3, born Wigton.

On the 1861 census, Mary is back in Wigton, (occupation unreadable), with son John. In 1871, she was a boarding house keeper.

A descendant of the Jarman family (in Australia) says of her husband: 

He absconded off to South Africa by 1856 where he set up practice as a vet in Pietermaritzburg. There is a suggestion he never qualified as a vet. He died at Maryburg (Maraisburg?), South Africa in 1861.’

Further reading, and an appeal

Should you wish to read more about Port Carlisle and its people, you can order my book, Port Carlisle, a history built on hope, here:

* Should anyone reading this have any further information on William Jarman (senior or junior), do use the Contact page to get in touch. Or if you are an Ancestry member, you can always message Rod Jarman directly via there.

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