Forgery and Fraud in Somer’s Town

On the 14 June 1830 the newspapers reported the case of two ‘well-dressed men’ who appeared at Marylebone Police Court accused of forgery and fraud.

Samuel Wilkins, a former broker, and Henry White the son of a wine merchant in the City, were charged with committing fraud by cashing fake cheques on several London tradesmen. The cheques were drawn on the London and Westminster Bank  (now of course the NatWest).

In the days when trust and integrity were all that mattered it was quite easy for the men to persuade people to exchange cash for their paper bills. George Sheppard was their first victim. George owned a coffee house at 32 Charlton Street in Somers Town and Wilkins had asked him to cash a £5 cheque the week before. When he presented the bill at the bank he was told it was a forgery. Similarly, James Temple who kept the African Chief inn in the Wilstead Street was taken for £7.

Henry Withers, the bank’s cashier was called to give evidence and he deposed that Messrs. White & sons had an account with the London and Westminster  but the signatures they had on record were not those of either of the defendants. It would seem that Henry White was using his father’s cheques (and the good name of his company)  without  his knowledge.

The magistrate had a short (and unreported) conversation with his clerk and the two men were remanded to be questioned at a later date. I would imagine that he might have been keen to speak to Henry’s father because he may have wished to pay off the prosecutors and save his son and accomplice from any formal prosecution at a higher court, and so protect his reputation and their liberty.

[from The Morning Post, Thursday 14 June, 1838]

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