Smuggling took place all along the Humber and there are several mentions of illegal activities around Hessle.
Here are a few incidents relating to smuggling off Hessle where there was probably quite wide involvement in ‘free trade’. The situation of the Humber banks would have been ideal for smuggling.
In 1340 Wiliam de Herwych was transporting wool without paying duty. His ship, the Waschewe, of Hull, carried wool belonging to John le Goldbeter of York to Flanders. The boat was loaded off Hessle
In 1789 customs officers boarded a keel, from York, off Hessle where they discovered six casks of spirits and fourteen bales of tobacco hidden under a legitimate cargo of coal.
In 1882 three thousand pounds worth of tobacco was found in a workman's hut on the Humber bank close to Hessle having been landed from an American ship. A Hull man was arrested and found to have a long record in the smuggling trade over Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire.
It is also related that one of the landlords of the Three Crowns was not averse to supplementing his income through ‘free trade’. Apparently he smuggled tobacco and hid it in his vegetable plot. He was discovered digging up the contraband when customs men made a return visit, only a few minutes after departing from searching the house.
As recently as 2000 incidents of smuggling were recorded when a vessel sailed into Hessle Haven with cigarettes concealed beneath a shipment of timber.