Clerks in the Bank of England, executed before Newgate, 24th of June, 1811, for Forgery
FORGERY was formerly an offence which was never pardoned, a determination on the part of the Crown laid down in the cases of the Perreaus and of Doctor Dodd, whom no interest could save from an ignominious death. The ancient punishment for this crime was thus minutely described in a London periodical publication for the year 1731:
"June 9th.-- This day, about noon, Japhet Crook, alias St Peter Stranger, was brought to the pillory at Charing Cross, according to his sentence for forgery. He stood an hour thereon; after which a chair was set on the pillory; and he being put therein, the hangman with a sort of pruning knife cut off both his ears, and immediately a surgeon clapt a styptic thereon. Then the executioner, with a pair of scissors, cut his left nostril twice before it was quite through, and afterwards cut through the right nostril at once. He bore all this with great patience; but when, in pursuance of his sentence, his right nostril was seared with a red-hot iron, he was in such violent pain that his left nostril was let alone, and he went from the pillory bleeding. He was conveyed from thence to the King's Bench Prison, there to remain for life. He died in confinement about three years after."
The crime for which Armitage and Thomas suffered was of the very worst description of forgery -- a scandalous breach of public trust -- a robbery upon the very corporation they were bound to protect from the nefarious attempts of others. They long had practised impositions on the Bank of England, unsuspected, and in the meantime maintained a show of integrity.
Towards the latter end of August, 1810, Robert Roberts was apprehended on suspicion of being concerned in the many forgeries which for some time had been practised on the Bank of England and the commercial part of the metropolis. He was brought to one of the public offices, and from thence remanded to the house of correction in Coldbath Fields. In a few days, in company with another prisoner, of the name of Harper, he effected his escape, and the public were surprised at seeing large printed sheets of paper pasted on the walls of the City, announcing this extraordinary circumstance, and offering a large reward for their apprehension, but particularly for the discovery of Roberts, the other belonging merely to the gangs of smaller rogues.
Notwithstanding the large reward offered for his apprehension, Roberts evaded the strict search of justice. It was known that he had carried off a considerable sum of money: his proportion of the success of the forgeries wherein he was implicated, and for which only the unfortunate subjects of this case suffered. At length he was identified at a tavern on the Surrey side of Westminster Bridge, where he had taken up his lodgings as a private country gentleman detained in town on his own concerns.
Roberts, to save his own life, impeached Armitage and Thomas, two clerks filling places of great trust in the Bank of England, as the immediate agents of the many forgeries which had been of late committed on that corporation; and he was admitted evidence against them on the part of the Crown.
Richard Armitage was first apprehended: he was brought to the public office in Marlborough Street on the 8th of April, 1810; and after a short examination was committed to the New Prison, for trial at the next Old Bailey sessions. Among the witnesses bound over to give evidence against him was Mrs Roberts, the mistress of his base accuser. His forgeries of dividend warrants were to the amount of two thousand, four hundred pounds.
On the 2nd of May following, C. Thomas was apprehended and brought to the same office, on a charge of having forged several dividend warrants; and, after three separate examinations, was also committed for trial.
This prisoner was a bank clerk in the Imperial Annuity Office, and the warrants forged were to obtain the dividends of a person who had been dead about three years, and whose executors had not applied for his property. It appeared that three hundred and sixty pounds had been paid out of the bank, and the prisoner's name was signed as an attesting witness. It was also proved that bank-notes, with which the dividends were paid, were found in the prisoner's possession. Under these circumstances the prisoner was fully committed for trial. This was one of the cases disclosed by Roberts.
Armitage was fully committed, and Roberts and his wife were the principal witnesses against him.
The trials of these unfortunate men were unattended by any other circumstance worth noticing, further than that, independent of the evidence of Roberts and his wife -- which, unsupported, would have received little credit -- full proof was adduced of their guilt. They were consequently found guilty, and received sentence of death.
On the 24th of June, 1811, Armitage and Thomas were executed at the Old Bailey, pursuant to their sentence. The former, from severe illness, was under the necessity of being supported by a friend while ascending-and during his continuance on the scaffold.