The Carter brothers of Prussia’s Cove

The Carter brothers were possible the best-known and notorious Cornish smugglers of the second half of the C18. There were seven of them.

Thomas Carter

Born c.1737 (no Baptism record found); married Alice Carter, Breage, 29 December 1766; had nine children; died 8 June 1818 (81), and is buried at Breage.

Not known to have been concerned in smuggling but is mentioned several times in attorney Christopher Wallis’s journal.

John Carter, the legendary ‘King of Prussia’.

Baptised at Breage, 25 March 1738; married Joan Richards, Breage, 14 September 1765; had six children and died intestate, November 1803 (aged 65); was buried in Breage, 15 November 1803; letters of administration granted, 26 September 1804 (Bond £600), to Joan Carter, widow; William Richards (son-in-law), & Elizabeth Tucker, spinster.

John was traditionally the leader (Managing Director) of the family’s smuggling business. He is not known to have actively gone to sea on smuggling voyages – but may have done so in his younger years. Essentially he stayed at home controlling the landing and distribution of goods, and the settling of accounts.

Francis Carter

Born 1744 (no Baptism record found);  married Mary Stephens, Breage by special licence, 26 October 1776; had ten children and died 19 December 1814 (70); was buried in Breage, 22 December 1814. Will (made, Breage, Gentleman, 13 August 1808), proved 3 November 1815,– administration granted to sons Henry & George. Had held Rinsey Farm on 99 year lease (on three lives – his own, and younger brothers Edward, & Charles), from Lord Godolphin (perhaps his father-in-law).

Not know to have been actively involved in smuggling. Possibly a Church Warden. 

Henry (Harry) Carter

Born Pengersick (Praa Sands) 1749 (no Baptism record found); married Elizabeth Flindell, Manaccan, 3 April 1786; had one child (a daughter) and died 19 April 1829 (aged 70); was buried in Breage, 21 April 1829.

The redoubtable smuggling commander, and outlaw, author of the Autobiography of a Cornish Smuggler. [see same for fuller details]

Edward Carter

Baptised at Breage, 15 September 1751; married Jane Polglaze, Breage, 27 December 1785; had two children (sons) and died intestate pre 18 October 1790 (when his widow remarried). His burial has not yet been discovered but letters of administration granted 2 November 1790 (Bond £300), to John Richards, Breage, Yeoman; Thomas Collier, Helston, Innkeeper; and Tobias Akins the elder, Helston, Staymaker. His widow & relict, Jane Richards, married John Richards by special licence, at Breage, 10 October 1790.

A query exists concerning the date of the death of Edward Carter suggests that the above entry may contain elements from the lives of two different Edwards. Helston attorney Christopher Wallis’s journal for 1781 carries what to my mind is an undisputable entry. Note the use of the word ‘late’:

23rd May 1781 – Attended Ch.s Carter of S.t Hilary and took adm.n [administration] to his late Brother Edward, rec.d of him 7/6.”

Roger Carter

Baptised 10 November 1754; married Rebecca Ford, St. Hilary by special licence, 30 January 1779; had no children and died intestate; was buried in Breage 4 October 1780; letters of administration granted 23 May 1781 (Bond £400), to his brother Charles, Rebecca his widow & relict, and Agnes, widow & mother.

Commander of their cutter privateer Phoenix in 1778-9, when he in company with Peter Tocque, commander of the Jersey privateer Hunter, seized several valuable, salt laden French prizes.

Charles Carter

Baptised in Breage, 11 March 1757; married Catherinda Blewett by special licence, St. Hilary, 2 February 1778; had five children and died intestate; was buried in Breage, 18 May 1803; letters of administration granted 14 June 1805 (Bond £200), to Catharine, widow, Charles Carter, Probus, Yeoman; & John Coppin, Bodmin, Yeoman.

Mentioned several times in official records, he was actively concerned in the smuggling business, and appears to have acted as general manager in brother John’s declining years.