A Sheriff Officer, and a most unconscionable Villain, executed at Tyburn, 18th of March, 1772, for Forgery
JAMES BOLLAND was the son of a butcher. The youth gave early proofs of a profligate turn of mind, and constantly associated with worthless people of both sexes. The term of his servitude being expired, Bolland opened a shop in the borough of Southwark, and his business afforded him a very favourable prospect of success; but through his irregularity and extravagance his trade gradually declined, and, to free himself from some embarrassments which his misconduct had produced, he sold his effects. Bolland's favourite associates for some years had been bailiffs, bailiffs' followers, thief-takers, and runners to the different prisons; and, the natural cruelty of his disposition being encouraged by the example of the worthless people in whose company he spent the greatest part of his time, he resolved to gain a maintenance by preying upon the distresses of his fellow-creatures.
Having procured himself to be appointed one of the officers to the sheriff of the county of Surrey, he hired a house at the bottom of Falcon Court, facing St George's Church, Southwark; and, having fitted it up in the manner of a prison, it was soon inhabited by a number of unfortunate persons. The people he arrested who were in indigent circumstances he took to jail as soon as the law would permit, but such as were in a different situation were entertained in his house till all their money was spent, or till they insisted upon going to prison to avoid further imposition, or till the writs by which they were detained became returnable. The money he extorted from his guests by divers stratagems was so considerable that he held the fees usually paid at lock-up houses as almost beneath his regard, and frequently distributed them among his followers and other servants.
Bolland was continually endeavouring to encourage card-playing in his house; and when his unfortunate guests had recourse to that diversion he seldom failed to join in the game; and though he suffered no opportunity of cheating them, even in the most palpable manner, to escape him, they were obliged to submit to the insult and imposition; for if they ventured to expostulate on the unfairness of his proceedings it was his custom to discharge a volley of blasphemous oaths, and to threaten that he would instantly take them to jail for daring to affront him in his own house.
Though the emoluments arising from the infamous practices of Bolland were very considerable, they were not equal to the expenses of his profligate course of life, and he procured a person to issue out a commission of bankruptcy against him; but before the commission took place he secreted his most valuable effects. He further defrauded his creditors by giving notes and other securities to a number of people who had received no valuable considerations from him; and by means of these nominal creditors he obtained his certificate in a very short time.
The infamous practices of Bolland had now rendered his character so notorious that the attorneys imagined that if they continued to employ him they should be reflected upon for encouraging so abandoned a villain; and such repeated and heavy complaints were made against him that his business rapidly declined. But instead of endeavouring to obtain better success by an amendment of his conduct he seized every opportunity of practising extortion and fraud with greater rapacity, and became a still more abominable pest to society.
Bolland was an almost daily frequenter of places where billiards and other games were practised; and at one of these meetings he fell into company with a gentleman who employed him to arrest the captain of a ship in the East India service for a debt of three hundred pounds, and promised him a handsome compliment on condition that he recovered the money, or took the prisoner into custody. The following morning the gentleman set out for the country, and in the course of the day Bolland arrested the captain, who immediately paid the debt, and costs.
In a short time the captain proceeded on his voyage, and the gentleman at whose suit he had been arrested returned to London soon afterwards. Bolland waited upon him, and said that, though he had made use of every stratagem he could possibly devise, the captain had eluded all his art, and got to sea; and in order to enhance the promised gratuity he pretended that his extraordinary vigilance to serve the writ had involved him in much trouble, and some expense, and the gentleman, being thus deceived, made Bolland a handsome present.
Upon the return of the ship from the East Indies another writ was taken out; but, Bolland having gone to a horse race, it was given to another officer. The bailiff went to Blackwall, and presently found the captain, and said he must either pay the three hundred pounds or go with him to a place of security. But when the captain showed the officer Bolland's receipt for the money he returned to town and informed his employer that the debt was discharged to Bolland previous to the captain's sailing for India.
A suit at law was now instituted against Bolland for the recovery of three hundred pounds. Justice was so indisputably clear on the side of the plaintiff that Bolland knew he must inevitably be cast if the matter came to trial; yet, at a considerable expense, he protracted a judicial decision of the case, imagining his adversary would give up his claim rather than pursue him through all the delays and chicanery of the law.
The cause at length was brought to a hearing, and judgment was pronounced in favour of the plaintiff. Bolland, being surrendered by his bail, was taken in execution. He was conducted to a lock-up house, where he remained some time, and then moved himself by habeas corpus to the Fleet Prison, from which place he was released by virtue of an Act of Insolvency.
Bolland and a person with whom he had contracted an acquaintance in the Fleet were enlarged nearly at the same time; and the latter soon after went into business, and found means to procure bondsmen for his companion, who was again appointed an officer to the Sheriff of Middlesex. Bolland now hired a large house in Great Shire Lane, near Temple Bar, but, that the outward appearance might not convey an intimation of the service and tyrannical treatment that was to be exercised within, the windows were not, according to the general custom with spunging-houses, secured with iron bars.
When prisoners came into the house, he informed them that it was his custom to charge six shillings per day for board and lodging; adding that the entertainment would be such as should give universal satisfaction, and that all trouble and disagreements concerning reckonings would be avoided; and such as refused to comply with the exorbitant terms were instantly conducted to jail. When Bolland's prisoners appeared inclined to remove to the King's Bench or Fleet he used every artifice he could suggest for detaining them in his house till they had exhausted the means of supplying his extravagant avarice; but when their money was expended no entreaties could prevail on the merciless villain to give them credit for the most trifling article, or to suffer them to continue another hour in his house.
He also defrauded a great number of tradesmen of property to a considerable amount, and among them was an upholsterer, of whom he obtained household furniture to the value of two hundred pounds, under false pretences.
Though Bolland was a married man, he was violently addicted to the company of abandoned women; and when his wife expostulated on the impropriety of his illicit connections he applied to her the most disgraceful epithets, accompanied with volleys of profane oaths, and frequently beat her in a barbarous manner. His conversation proved the vulgarity of his breeding, and his whole behaviour marked him as a worthless and detestable character.
A young gentleman whose imprudences had drawn upon him the displeasure of his friends was arrested at the suit of his tailor, and confined in Bolland's house. His money was soon expended, and despairing of being able to effect a compromise with his creditor he expressed a desire to be moved to the King's Bench or the Fleet. Bolland in formed him that he must be taken to Newgate, that being the jail for the county, and that he could not be moved to either of the other prisons but by means of a writ of habeas corpus.
The young gentleman was greatly alarmed at the idea of being confined in Newgate, which he supposed to be a place for the reception of felons only. Bolland perceived his anxiety, and advised him to recall his resolution, saying that if he would follow his directions a method might still be adopted for relieving him from all his difficulties. Anxious to recover his liberty, the youth said that if Bolland would signify the means by which so desirable a purpose was to be obtained he would gladly embrace the proposal, and ever consider him as his most generous benefactor. Thereupon Bolland informed him that he would immediately procure bail, and then recommended him to different tradesmen, of whom he might obtain a chariot and horses, household furniture and other effects, on credit; adding, that he would find no difficulty in obtaining a fortune by marriage before he would be called upon for the discharge of his debts.
The young man was released on the bail of two of Bolland's accomplices, a chariot was procured, and a house hired and furnished very elegantly; and one of Bolland's followers assumed the character of a footman, from the double motive of assisting in the scheme of villainy and reporting to his principal all the particulars of the conduct of the imprudent young man. Reports were industriously propagated that the youth was heir to an immense fortune; and, by a variety of stratagems, effects to a considerable amount were obtained from different tradesmen, the greater part of which were deposited in Bolland's house, by way of security to him for the bail he had procured. When payment for the furniture and other effects was demanded, the creditors were for some time amused by a variety of plausible pretences; but at length they became exceedingly importunate for their money, and Bolland, now concluding that the young man could no longer be made subservient to his villainous stratagems, surrendered him in discharge of his bail, and caused him to be conveyed to Newgate.
The persons whom he had been seduced to defraud were no sooner acquainted with the imprisonment of the young adventurer than they lodged detainers against him. His unfortunate connections having greatly exasperated his relations and friends, they refused to afford him any kind of assistance, and his situation became truly deplorable. His present distress, and the upbraidings, of conscience for the impropriety of his conduct, overwhelmed him with affliction, which soon put a period to his life.
Bolland, regarding the wreck he had occasioned with apathy, went on in his course of wickedness. He provided fictitious bail for persons who were under arrest, and when he knew that the persons whom he himself had arrested were not in desperate circumstances he frequently released them, after exacting money from them, and the promise to surrender if they could not settle matters with their creditors. He applied to these people to become bail for others, who paid him in proportion to the sums for which they were arrested; and, circumstanced as they were, it was seldom that he met with a refusal, for, upon their making the least hesitation, he threatened to take them into custody and convey them instantly to prison.
He provided genteel apparel for Jews, and other men in desperate circumstances, and encouraged them to commit perjury, by bribing them to swear themselves housekeepers and men of property, in order that their bail might be admitted.
Having supplied two men of most profligate character with genteel clothes, they attended him to Westminster Hall, and there justified bail for sums to a considerable amount, though they were not possessed of property to the value of twenty shillings. After the business these three infamous associates adjourned to a tavern in Covent Garden, and, while they were regaling themselves, some of Sir John Fielding's officers took the two men who had justified bail into custody, on a charge of highway robbery. They were convicted at the ensuing sessions at the Old Bailey, and soon afterwards Bolland, being a sheriff's officer, attended them to Tyburn, where they were hanged in the very apparel that he himself had provided for them.
A publican in Cecil Street in the Strand, named Wilkinson, went into Lancashire, in the year 1768, upon a visit to his relations, leaving the care of his house to a female servant. Upon the landlord's return he found that two men had taken possession of his household goods and stock of liquors, under a warrant of distress. He asked by what authority they had made a seizure of his effects; and the reply was, that if he presumed to dispute their authority they would knock out his brains, or put him to death in some other manner.
Wilkinson made application to Justice Kynaston, and made an affidavit that Bolland had no legal claim upon him. A warrant was granted for the recovery of Wilkinson's goods, but before it could be put into execution the greater part of them had been moved from the premises. The following day Bolland caused Wilkinson to be arrested for five hundred and fifty pounds, which was falsely alleged to be a debt he had some time before contracted. The unfortunate Wilkinson, being unable to procure bail for so considerable a sum, moved himself to the King's Bench. The attorney employed by Wilkinson was an accomplice of Bolland, and, under the pretence of defending him against the machinations of that accomplished villain, he extorted from him his last shilling; and after the unhappy man had suffered a long imprisonment, in a most deplorable state of poverty, he was restored to liberty, by virtue of an Act of Insolvency.
A captain in the navy going on a voyage, and leaving his wife insufficiently provided with money, she contracted a debt to the amount of thirty pounds, for which she gave a note. The note not being paid when it became due, the creditor ordered Bolland to serve a writ upon the unhappy woman. After she had remained some days a prisoner in his house he procured bail for her, on her paying him five guineas. In a few days she was again taken into custody, Bolland urging that, upon making inquiry into her affairs, the bail deemed themselves not secure, and had surrendered her from motives of prudence. Terrified at the idea of going to prison she paid him ten guineas to procure bail a second time; but he insisted on having a bond to confess judgment for the furniture of her house, as a collateral security. Being ignorant of the nature of the security proposed, she complied with the terms offered by the villain, who, on the following day, entered upon judgment, and took possession of her effects. When she discovered that she had been made a dupe to the consummate art and villainy of Bolland, the unfortunate woman was driven almost to distraction, and while in that state of mind she attempted to set fire to the house, in consequence of which a warrant was granted to apprehend her, and she was accordingly committed to Newgate. In a short time the husband returned to England, and Bolland bribed an infamous woman to swear a false debt against him, in consequence of which he was arrested, and being in confinement at the time of his wife's trial at the Old Bailey, she was deprived of that assistance he might have afforded her. She was convicted, and sentenced to suffer death; but her cause being espoused by a number of humane persons, they drew up an authentic state of her case, which was presented to the King, who was graciously pleased to grant her an unconditional pardon.
Bolland was ordered by an attorney in the City to serve a writ on a colonel in his Majesty's service for one hundred pounds, and he arrested the gentleman the next day and was paid the debt and costs; but, instead of delivering the money for the plaintiff's use, he declared that he had not served the writ. The attorney, however, soon learned that the debt was discharged, and commenced a suit against the sheriffs; and the persons who had become sureties for Bolland were compelled to pay the hundred pounds, with full costs.
The colonel had neglected to take Bolland's receipt, and of this circumstance the villain determined to avail himself. He, a second time, arrested the gentleman for one hundred pounds. The action was bailed, and a trial ensued, in the course of which a witness swore that he was present when the colonel paid Bolland one hundred pounds, and costs, in discharge of the writ. Thereupon the jury pronounced in favour of the colonel.
Though Bolland's character was notorious throughout the kingdom, he might, perhaps, have continued his depredations much longer had not his infamous practices been exposed in the newspapers. When the sheriffs were informed of Bolland's villainy they were highly exasperated against him, and suspended him from acting as their officer, and assigned the bail bonds as security, by which the parties he had injured might obtain some recompense.
The office of upper City Marshal becoming vacant by the decease of Osmond Cook, Esq., Bolland determined to dispose of part of his infamously acquired property in the purchase thereof. The place was put up for sale by auction, and he became the purchaser for two thousand, four hundred pounds. Having paid the deposit money, it was lodged in the Chamberlain's office, and he anxiously waited for the approbation of the Court of Aldermen, which was all that was wanted to give him that power over the citizens which he was predetermined to abuse.
A letter was addressed to the Lord Mayor and Court of Aldermen exhibiting Bolland's character in all its horrid deformity, and on proper inquiries being made the facts appeared to be well founded; in consequence of which the Court of Aldermen refused him the place, and ordered the Chamberlain to return the deposit money.
He declared that he would commence a suit at law against the Court of Aldermen for the recovery of damages; and when the recorder communicated to him the very strong reasons that had induced the Court to deem him unqualified for the place of City Marshal he behaved in a manner extremely reprehensible.
His last crime was forging the endorsement of a bill of exchange for one hundred pounds, for which he was apprehended, and tried at the Old Bailey. His counsel exerted their utmost abilities to prove that he had not committed forgery, but the jury found him guilty of the indictment. When sentence of death had been pronounced against him the recorder pathetically exhorted him to employ the short time he had to live in preparing for eternity.
On the morning of his execution he acknowledged that he had been guilty of innumerable sins, but declared that the fact for which he was to die was not committed with a view to defraud. He was hanged at Tyburn, and his body was taken to Highgate in a hearse, and in the evening carried to an undertaker's in Prince's Street, Drury Lane, whence it was conveyed to Bunhill Fields for interment.