Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Extensive Bank Forgeries - 23 October 1850 - Brighton

This town was alarmed on Saturday evening by the discovery that a gang of swindlers were extensively and successfully, in part at all events, uttering forged notes of the Brighton Union Bank. We have made extensive inquiries on the subject, and subjoin the following details, which will be read with much interest throughout the country, the plan adopted by the gang being a new process, which offers great facilities to the operations of forgers, and is, moreover, at least as far as we are aware, the first instance on record in which it has been employed.

Commencing with the commencement of our knowledge of the affair, we may state that on Saturday Mr. T. H. Chase, the active and intelligent chief officer of the Brighton police, received by post a communication from Mr. Stevens, chief officer of the Birmingham police, that a man was in custody in the latter town on a charge of being concerned in passing forged notes of the Birmingham Banks that when apprehended be threw a bundle of notes into the fire, and that one of the fragments recovered from the flames by the police purported to be a portion of a £5 note of the Brighton Union Bank. This fragment was enclosed in the letter. It was the second or right-hand half of a note, to all appearance a genuine "promise to pay."

The banking firm is that of Messrs. Hall, West, & Boner, whose notes are engraved in the usual manner, and bear, beneath the name of the bank, a miniature delineation of the Pavilion. The writer of this article has some knowledge of lithography, and on being shown the fragment in question, pronounced it to be a print from a well-executed transfer to a printing stone of a genuine note, and his impression was confirmed on being subsequently shown other copies, of which more anon. He has since, however, reason to believe that the process by which the forgery of the printed part of the note was effected was the analogous one called the "anaesthetic," first brought into use, he believes, by a firm at Norwich, under the patronage of the late bishop of that diocese. The signature is that of Mr. West, whose writing bears the imprest of nervousness, and is not a bad imitation of the real signature. It shows itself a forgery when, and only when, it is compared side by side with the real signature.

Mr. Chase, on receiving the communication from Birmingham, immediately placed himself in communication with the bank. He was engaged in conversation with Mr. Pocock, chief clerk of the Bank, on the subject, on Saturday evening, when a junior clerk of the bank interrupted them by bringing in a £5 note, which had been brought to the office for change, and which he thought to be bad. This impression was at once pronounced to be correct. It turned out that a man of gentlemanly appearance had walked into the shop of Mr, Lashmar, draper, and purchased some articles, for which be tendered £5 Union Bank note, and that Mr. Lashmar not haying enough change, sent the note to the Bank. Mr. Chase's house happens to be very near to Mr. Lashmar's shop.

Mr. Chase ran to the shop immediately, and addressing a person who- was seated in a chair awaiting the return of the messenger sent for change, inquired if he was the gentleman who bad paid for some articles with a £5 note Yes." It is forged." said Mr. Chase. I was not aware of it," said the man. The chief officer did not care for that of course, and walked to the hall with the draper's customer. At the ball the man was strictly searched. His hat, coat, and waistcoat underwent the first examination, but the result was not important. I must trouble you," said the chief officer, to remove your trousers." The prisoner demurred and resisted but resistance was useless. His nether garment was taken off. I suppose you will want my shirt next said the prisoner. “Stockings first," replied the officer. The stockings were removed from the legs, and beneath the garters were found eight notes exactly similar to those already mentioned. I suppose," said the prisoner, you are satisfied now." "Not quite," said Mr. Chase; but no further revelation attended the prosecution of the search. The prisoner on being further interrogated, said he had no residence in Brighton, and that be lived in the City-road, London, but did not know the number. Finding in the prisoner's pocket a piece of paper on which was written Willy, St. James's-street,"

Mr. Chase inquired whether he had changed any £5 notes of the Union Bank, or received any such notes in payment for purchased articles. One of the assistants replied that a man had made a purchase for which he paid with a £5 note, subsequently changed at Mr. Tuppen's shop, next door. Thither the chief officer of police repaired, and inquired, Have you got a£s note which you can give for five sovereigns V Mr. Tuppen replied that he had, and inquired, Would he take a £5 Bank of England note No; he would prefer one of the Union Bank." Mr. Tcppen produced the identical note, which he had received from Mr. Willy, and was then made acquainted with what appears above.

Mr. Chase returned to the Town-hall, and on his way passed the shop of Mr. Lashmar, where the first note had been uttered, surrounded by a crowd witnessing the removal by Superintendent Crowhurst of a second man, who had been offering another of the forged notes at the same shop. Constables in plain clothes were immediately despatched about the town to put the tradesmen on their guard, and in the course of the evening upwards of twenty other £5 notes, the produce of the same forgery, were brought to the hall, as well as two more of the utterers, in consequence of the information. The notes of the bank are numbered by means of printing types, and the forgeries are well-executed resemblances. Economy, however, has been studied, for all the numbers are combinations of the four figures 6704, differently disposed. The plan had been well digested. The necessity of simultaneous action seems to have been perceived, for all the utterings were between six and eight o'clock. The four men will undergo an examination to-morrow (Monday) before the Brighton magistrates. Of the result we shall give a report on Tuesday. Another note has since been brought in from Lewes.

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