Troubador While the Gentlemen Go By

Released: 04/03/2022

eISBN: 9781803139012

Format: eBook

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While the Gentlemen Go By

A story behind the Battle of Goudhurst


It's the Spring of 1747. A soldier returns home to the picturesque village of Goudhurst in the High Weald of the southeastern English county of Kent.

William Sturt had been caught on his first smuggling run in a set up orchestrated by his boyhood arch rival, Thomas Kingsmill. A Justice of the Peace, loathe to see him hung or transported to America under the nation’s harsh laws, cut a deal that Sturt joined the army

Kingsmill has now risen to become the leader of the Hawkhurst Gang, the most notorious – and violent - of the organised crime gangs.

Goudhurst’s villagers are fearful - some have abandoned their houses and left for good. Sturt forms a militia to fight the Hawkhurst Gang, but when they rumble the militia’s plans, Sturt has fewer than 30 hours to mount a defence. Will the militia succeed, or will the gang burn Goudhurst to the ground?

Today, April 21st, is the 275th anniversary of the Battle of Goudhurst and I'm officially launching my book, While the Gentlemen Go By, to mark the occasion.

Here's what the Kent Messenger had to say:

It's a ripping yarn. Hope you enjoy!

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A well written, interesting little tale, and, based on real history, a fascinating insight into the little known lawless times of life in 18th century southern England. Builds up slowly then reaches a gripping climax - well worth a read.

by Martin Mitchelson

Chris Tweedie

After our mother died I stayed in her house until the funeral. One of the tasks the family set me was to sort out the bookcase. I recognised the Lewis Carroll works I had known all my life, but next to them was a volume I had never seen before, its gold lettering on the tan spine: Sussex Smugglers - Chichester 1749 - Reprint.

It was the seventh edition of the three trials over 18 months and confessions of members of the savage Hawkhurst Gang. A letter inside showed it had been gifted to our grandfather, a long-time Editor of the Folkestone Hythe and District Herald, who had a lifelong interest in smuggling.

One line intrigued me. It read: "The Battle of Goudhurst was the beginning of the end of the Gang."

As a former news reporter, I know a good story when I see one ... but what was the Battle of Goudhurst?

Six years later - and a lot of internet, maps and book hunting - I've tried to pick my way through the many retellings of the tale, past the embellishments and inaccuracies and to give some sense of the human reasons for the confrontation.

The title is taken from the last line of The Smugglers Song by Rudyard Kipling. I hope you enjoy reading While the Gentlemen Go By as much as I've been absorbed with writing it.

It's a ripping yarn.

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