Son of a Justice, who took to the Highway, and was executed 27th of October, 1699, for Forgery
JOHN BELLINGHAM, after having been concerned with one John Arthur in several highway robberies, was indicted at the Old Bailey, the 13th of October, 1699, upon two indictments for forgery. The first was for altering the endorsement of a bank note and taking out the name of Sir John Ellwell and putting in the name of Mr James Carr; but the evidence to this indictment being not sufficient to convict him, the jury acquitted him. The second indictment was for altering an Exchequer bill of five pounds, with a farthing a day interest, and making it a bill of forty pounds, with twopence a day interest for the same, and likewise altering the endorsement; and that he, after the 6th of August, 1699, knowing the same to be falsified, did offer the same in payment with an intent to cheat his Majesty's subjects.
The first evidence deposed that, about the 18th or 19th of July last, he met Mr Bellingham in Lincoln's Inn Walks, who told him he had a business would do him a kindness; and that he had a bank bill, but it was not fairly come by; and that thereupon he (the witness) asked him whether it was one of Arthur's bills. To which Bellingham replied: "No"; and told him if he could get him some Exchequer bills, he had a friend could make a five-pound a ten-pound one, and he would have thirty shillings for his pains. With that they parted, and he communicated the matter to the trustees of the Exchequer and got a five-pound bill, and carried it to Bellingham, and they agreed together, and he was to have ten pounds for his share, which he afterwards received of Bellingham.
Another evidence deposed that Bellingham's wife and one Mrs Easton came with the Exchequer bills, the first by the name of Hill, and the other by the name of Holmes, and bought as much linen as came to twenty pounds odd money, and offered the bill in payment which was made forty pounds; upon which he went out to advise with some acquaintance whether it was a good bill or no, who told him that it was a good bill; and then he held it up against the light, and could not see anything amiss in it, upon which he paid them the rest of the money, and they went away. However, being not thoroughly satisfied, he goes to the Exchequer, and there found it to be only a five-pound bill altered, the same bill that the first evidence produced to the prisoner; that upon this he got Bellingham apprehended, and he was carried before Secretary Vernon, and, being examined about it, after an hour's hesitation he asked if there was any mercy. To which it was replied it was not long since he had received mercy. Whereupon he freely confessed the fact, and said that nobody did it but himself. It likewise appeared that he was in the robbery with John Arthur and his brother, who some time before robbed the western mail, and were executed the 23rd of March before, and by that means he got the bank bill.
The prisoner upon his trial objected against the first evidence, and would have the jury believe he had done it himself; and as for what he had confessed before Secretary Vernon, he said it was an old maxim in the law that what a prisoner should confess before a justice should not be given in evidence against him. But he was answered by the Court that, if there was such a maxim, it was so old it was forgotten. And they asked him if he could produce any such record. To which he answered, "No." The jury found him guilty, and he received sentence of death. On the morning of his execution, 27th of October, 1699, he declared that he was born in Surrey, son to Justice Bellingham, who kept a glasshouse at Vauxhall, by Lambeth; that he had a good education given him, but in his younger years hearkened to bad advice, and, having scarce attained to the age of thirteen years, joined with some persons who made it their practice to rob on the highway. He said he could not remember one half of the robberies that he had been concerned in, but that a great part of them were committed in company with Arthur, lately executed, as above-mentioned.
He said, also, that after so many robberies justice at last overtook him, for committing a robbery on Bristow Causey, in Surrey. He and his gang killed the person they robbed —- he being something obstinate, though he had no great purchase about him —- for which he was apprehended and committed to the Marshalsea, and tried for the crime, and convicted the next Surrey Assizes. But after condemnation he made use of several stratagems to make his escape, and among the rest he, feigning himself sick, so deceived the keepers that, by means of the liberty they allowed him, he got away in woman's clothes.