David Roberts, Royal Offences > coining offences, 18th July 1739.

Reference Number: t17390718-17
Offence: Royal Offences > coining offences
Verdict: Guilty
Punishment: Death

404. David Roberts was indicted, for that he, devising and intending our Lord the King and his Subjects craftily and traiterously to deceive and defraud, on the 31st of January, in the Tenth Year of his Majesty's Reign , four Pieces of Gold, call'd Guineas, with a certain File, and other Instruments, for wicked Lucre and Gain-sake, feloniously and traiterously did file and diminish, contrary to the Statute, &c.

The Council for the King having open'd the Charge, and the Nature of the * Offence, the Witnesses were called.

* This Offence is made High-Treason, by 5 Eliz. cap. 11. Yet without Corruption of Blood, or Loss of Dower; and the Judgment is the same as in petit Treason, to be drawn and hanged.

John Sandall . I belong to the Mint. John Carter (who was concern'd with the Prisoner in filing Guineas) having made an Information, and put the Prisoner therein, I got a Warrant to apprehend him. After much Time spent in Enquiry after him, I heard he had liv'd lately at Islington. I enquired at Islington, and found that he lived next Door to the The Three Hats; but when I came to the House, the Neighbours told me, he had been gone two or three Days from thence, and had mov'd all his Goods off.

John Carter. I have known the Prisoner above three Years. When I got first acquainted with him, he had a Habitation at Coventry; that was in April three Years ago, but he was personally in London, for he had kept an Inn at Country, and came up to Town, because he could not carry on his Business in the Country any longer, and he employ'd me to go down there, and sell off his Goods. When I got to Coventry, I found most of his Goods were detain'd by his Creditors, the rest I and his Wife sold. I staid there 17 Days, and at my Return to London, I found him in Cold-Bath Fields; he came down once to Coventry, while I was there, but he did not stay above Half an Hour, for fear of being arrested.

Counc. Give an Account what Discourse you had with him, with Relation to this Business.

Carter. I had no Discourse with him, till I came to London: He had then 130 l. due to him, and from the Time of his coming to Town, to his receiving this Money, we had frequent Conversation about diminishing the Coin. The first Time I saw him was at the Duke's Head in St. John's Square; he sent for me thither about selling his Goods; but when he received his Money, he liv'd in the Broad Sanctuary, Westminster: He liv'd first in Cold-Bath Fields, then upon Saffron-hill, then at Westminster, and afterwards at Hoxton. As soon as he received this 130 l. - he and I were to go Partners in diminishing the Coin; and accordingly he went about taking a House for that Purpose in December 1736, and did take one in the Broad Sanctuary, after he had received the Money. At that Time he owed me five Guineas, and I went to his House there, and asked for him; he was not at home, but I saw he had provided Charcoal and three or four Crucibles, I saw them in his Lodging, up two Pair of Stairs; one of the Crucibles had been used: They are to melt Gold and Silver in, in a Charcoal Fire; common Coal will do, but Charcoal will do it sooner. I went from his House to the Stable yard, near the Abbey, to look for him, and there I found him at an Alehouse, where we talked about our Design of filing Guineas: I let him into the Affair, and desired him to pay me the five Guineas he owed me. Two or three Days afterwards, I went to him again, and he told me, he had found out my Method of doing it, but he could not do it as well as I; he told me likewise, that he had try'd the Liquor, Aqua Regis, but he could not make that do; then he took me up Stairs, and shew'd me how he could do them, and he fil'd two or three Guineas and an 18 s.

Piece in my Presence. This was the latter End of January 1736-7.

Counc. What Quantity did you commonly take from a Guinea?

Carter. We commonly took a Shilling a-piece from them.

Counc. Had you a Vice to put them in?

Carter. To hatch them afterwards we had. I met him once afterwards, but I did not see him work.

Counc. Then you don't put it into a Vice to file them?

Carter. No: He held it in his Hand, while he fil'd it, and placed a Sheet of Paper under it, to catch the Dust that fell. There might be about 18 Grains taken off from the three Guineas, which I saw him file, and when he had filed them, he put them into a Vice, and edg'd them. He fil'd them with a Bastard File, and edg'd them with a three square File, both which he procur'd himself. One File is enough to last three Months, and a great deal longer.

Counc And in what Manner were they done?

Carter. Very badly: But after he had fil'd them, he wrapped up the Dust, and then we went to the Fountain, in King-street, where I told him his Method would not do, and that I could not put off any of them, for his Edging did not at all imitate a regular Mill. Some have been done so well, that no one could discover them, but the Work upon these was not like Milling. The Edging was not close enough, nor at regular Distances. After this, he solicited me to come and improve him: I told him, if he would give me the five Guineas he owed me, I would come in a few Days, and improve him. But I thought he intended to be a Villain to me, so I parted from him, and saw him no more, till I li't of him in Monmouth-street: Then he told me he was going to live in the King's-Bench, and I afterwards saw him, within the Rules, in the Mulberry Garden. I have been up Stairs in his House at that Place a great many Times, and have often seen him file Guineas there. The first Time I was there, I saw him file five or six, and he had improved himself very much.

Counc. Did he or you make use of these Guineas after he had filed them?

Carter. Yes: He gave me half a Crown out of the Money he had got by his Filings, and then we went to an Inn, at the End of St. George's Fields, and had a Pint of Wine; and from thence we went to the Three Queens and drank again, and after that, we drank at the Ship, in St. George's Fields, and at a House by the Falcon Stairs, at which Places we put off the Guineas when we paid our Reckoning

Counc. What did he do with the Dust?

Carter. I can't tell: I told him I sold mine at one Mr. Carpenter's, a Refiner, in Foster Lane, and that I always put a Bit of Copper, or some other Metal into it, to disguise it, and that the Refiner should not find it Standard.

Counc. When did you see him last before you surrendered?

Carter. About three or four Months before. The last Time I saw him, was at the Duke's Head in St. John's Square. The Advertisement in the Gazette encouraged me to surrender, and so I sent a Letter to Mr. North, and he came to me the next Day, or the Day after, and I surrendered myself, and was in Custody ten or twelve Weeks. The first Time I saw Mr. North, I impeached the Prisoner. The Advertisement was read which was published in the Gazzette, of Tuesday October the 24th, 1738.

Prisoner. Ask him who hired him to go down to Coventry.

Carter. He hired me, and gave me a Note of his Hand, before I set out. One Dowth brought me first acquainted with the Prisoner, because he thought me the properest Person to sell off his Goods.

Mr. North. I am the Person mentioned in the Gazette, to whom the Persons advertised were to surrender. In August last, a Person came to me, and said he could help me to Carter, and I gave him Encouragement to do so. At length I received two or three Letters from Carter, expressing his Desire to come and make a Discovery and upon this I went into an Alley, in Moorfields, and there I found him, and he told me the whole of the Affair, much in the same Manner as he has done now. He mentioned the Houses where the Prisoner had lived, and where he had filed Guineas. I sent Mr. Sandell to see if he could find out the Prisoner, but he was gone off, and I heard nothing of him, till he was taken at Bath.

Anthony Byam . I know nothing of the Prisoner, before he hired a House of me, in the Stable-Yard, at Westminster; he lived in it about a Fortnight, and did not seem to me to follow any Employment, but to have been a Man under Misfortunes, and Bailiffs, (as I thought) used to be after him. He begged of me to let him leave the House. I keep

a publick House within three or four Doors of that which he took of me, and I have seen Carter with him several Times at my House, - two or three Times in the Fortnight. I never observed him to sit up o'Nights, and I have been in his Room above Stairs, - not in his Bed-chamber, - and I never saw any Charcoal there. Indeed, two or three Days after he left the House there was a buzzing about, of his being a Coiner, or that he followed some such Matters. The people talked likewise about Carter, for he had been with him, (as I understood) at several other Places.

Prisoner. Ask Mr. Byam if he ever saw Carter in my House?

Byam. No; for Carter used to come to my House, and send for the Prisoner.

Prisoner. Were the Windows in my House never opened?

Byam. I never saw them open.

Counc. Did Carter and the Prisoner never come to your House together?

Byam. No; to the best of my Knowledge they never did: Carter used to come and send for him.

Evan Bedward . I keep a publick House, - the Duke's Head in St. John's Square. I know both Carter and the Prisoner; the Prisoner lodg'd at my House, and Carter came to him there several Times, about his (the Prisoner's) Affairs at Coventry. I have seen them together, both in Publick and Private; sometimes they'd be together once or twice in a Fortnight or three Weeks, sometimes oftener. The Prisoner lodged in my House several Months: He is a Carpenter by Trade, and I have seen him with a Saw in his Hand.

Mark Rogers . I keep a Publick House in St. John's Street, above Hick's Hall, I have Occasion to remember the Prisoner; he came to my House in December, two Years ago, and brought one Robert Brinkley with him; they both went into the Kitchen, and sat down: Then the Prisoner ask'd my Wife, Whether she could give him Silver for seven or eight Guineas: Yes, said she, for twenty, if they are good; upon which he pulled out a Parcel of Guineas, and 3 l. 12 s. Pieces: I was backward behind the Skittle-Ground, so she called me to the Prisoner, who immediately cry'd - Your humble Servant, Mr. Rogers. I don't know you, said I; but I know you, said the Prisoner. - Can you give me Silver for some Gold? I told him I would, if the Money was good; so he put down eight Guineas, and a 3 l. 12 s. Piece upon the Table; I took up four of them, and one of them was so rough it prick'd my Fingers: Hey! hey! said I, what's the Meaning of this! What Tricks have you been at here! I put on my Spectacles, and view'd them; Why this is rascally Work, said I; some slovenly Fellow did this, I could have done it better myself - some of them were filed into the very Letters. Is not the Gold good, said the Prisoner? I told him I believed it was. Do you apprehend I did it, said the Prisoner? No, said I, not in such a publick Place as this; if you had, I would have apprehended you, - and I wish I had done it then. There was one Guinea dated 1732, which was as fresh as if it had but just come out of the Mint, and that poor Piece was mangled deeper than any of the rest. Friend, said I, to the Prisoner, give me leave to go and weigh these four Guineas, for he had took up all the rest, while I was looking at these. He told me, I might weigh them with all his Heart; so I went to Mr. Gregory, the Tobacconist, he had Grains and other Weights, but he had no Guinea Weight; therefore he put his Hand into the Drawer, and took out 50 or 60 Guineas, and weighed these Guineas against several of his. Three of the Prisoner's Guineas wanted Six or Eight Grains, and the new Guinea would not do at all; Mr. Gregory's went down bump against it. Upon this Mr. Gregory came with me to the Prisoner, and ask'd him if the Guineas were his? He told him they were; then Mr. Gregory weigh'd them before his Face - Well, says the Prisoner, may be they are too light, - but they are good Gold - I took them of Sir Francis Child - It looks very ugly, said, I - you have a good many of them - pray where do you live? He told me he lived in Montague Close, by St. Mary Overy's Church; but he did not know any body there, for he said he had lived there but a little while. After this he told us he lived in the Minories, but he had not lived there long. While we were disputing, in came Henry Burden , and said he knew the Prisoner; but the Prisoner would not know him. Why, says Burden, you are my next door Neighbour, and you know how to use Charcoal, - I have seen a good deal go into your House. The Prisoner then told us he had a sick Child, and the Charcoal was to air the Room; Burden, after this, pulled out a Crucible, and asked him if he knew how to use that? The Prisoner said, - No; he did not know the Use of them; and, after a good deal of Talk, he told

us it would be a good natured Action to give him his Money again, and would prevent a great deal of Trouble both to him and me. Well, says the Gentleman, if you'll produce any one Guinea out of the Parcel in your Pocket that is Weight, you shall have them again. No, no, hold there, says the Prisoner, - you have got enough already. We told him again, he should go free, if he could produce one Guinea that was Weight, But he made so many Entreaties, that at last I gave him his Money again, and let him go about his Business. Some time after this he had the Assurance to serve me with the Copy of a Writ for Defamation, and he trump'd up Evidence against me for Perjury, and brought an Action against me for giving him his Money again.

Counc. Was you ever in the Prisoner's Room?

Rogers. I was in a Place which the Landlord told me was his Apartment, in Pear tree Street, by Brick Lane, but I saw no Instruments (or Tools) there. There was only a Hole burnt just by the Window.

Prisoner. I serv'd every Soul in the House with Copies of Writs, and Rogers produced a Woman with Child, before the Lord Chief Justice Lee, in his Behalf, whom I never saw in my Life.

Rogers. He serv'd every body he saw in my House with Copies, and swore there was but three Persons present when the Guineas were offer'd, whereas there was 10 or a Dozen there at the same time.

Mr. Edward Gregory , a Tobacconist, in St. John's-street, confirm'd Mr. Rogers's Evidence; and declar'd, that the four Guineas which were carry'd back to the Prisoner were the same identical Guineas which Mr. Rogers brought to him: And Mr. Rogers added, that the Guineas he had from the Prisoner to change were the very same which he carry'd to Mr. Gregory.

Prisoner. I produced the four Guineas before the Lord Chief Justice Lee, and they were Weight, and were sworn to be the same that I offer'd them.

Counc. Yes, that's true. They were sworn to be the same by Brinkley, who was with you, and my Lord Chief Justice committed him.

Prisoner. I try'd them for Scandal before the Lord Chief Justice Lee, and Rogers and his Evidences swore they did not say the Guineas were diminished, - that was the Case.

Mr. Gregory's Evidence agreed exactly with Mr. Rogers's.

Edward Burdet confirm'd both the former Witnesses. He happen'd to go with two Friends to drink at Mr. Rogers's when the Prisoner was there with his Guineas, and his Evidence was the same with theirs. He added, that the Prisoner abused Mr. Burden for calling him his Neighbour; but when the Thing was plain, he beg'd he would drink with him, and told him it should not cost him a Farthing, but the Witness refus'd, and told the Prisoner he did not like him. He farther observ'd, that Roberts had Charcoal frequently brought in; that he always appear'd drest like a Gentleman, and Brinkley us'd to go on his Errands. And tho' the Prisoner (upon his being tax'd with using Charcoal) had declar'd he had no Grate in the House, yet the Witness depos'd, he saw one carry'd in, and the Person by whom it was sent was by him (the Witness) directed with it to the Prisoner's House. This Witness farther inform'd the Court, that he seldom saw the Prisoner's Windows open; but once (on a Sunday) he saw him at the Window, in an odd Motion, sweating, (tho' in Winter-time) and concluded he must have been doing something at the Fire.

Thomas Ubank , who lived with Messrs Allcraft and Stevens, Refiners, in Foster Lane, deposed, That the Prisoner had sold Gold to them several Times. The first Gold he sold them was Rings, and such things, which were melted for him. That he had brought three Ounces of Gold, at several other Times; particularly, at the latter End of the Year 1737, and the Beginning of the Year 1738. He believed he had brought Gold to sell four or five Times, in all; and it was always a little worse than Standard; for if it had been Standard, it would have been suspected. He said further, That one Prestland was the Man who first brought him to their House.

Mr. North informed the Court that he had been to enquire after this Prestland, but his Master had acquainted him, that Prestland had absconded, and had sent him a Letter, in which he declar'd that he had got out of the Way, because he would not be subpoena'd upon this Trial, as a Witness. The Letter was produced and read.

July 19. 1739.


'' I Am told, That Roberts will be try'd To-morrow, '' and that I shall be subpoena'd; so I '' think to keep away till the Trial is over. I '' shall keep out of the Way till To-morrow Afternoon; '' then I shall wait on you. I am,

Your Humble Servant,


Carter informed the Court, that he saw Prestland last Monday Morning, and, That he (Prestland) told him he would come if Mr. North sent for him; but if he did come, he should be of Service to Roberts, for he had been with him at the Pawn-Broker's to buy Gold.

Mr. Cooling deposed, That he had went to the Bath, last Spring, and saw the Prisoner there, whom he had known before: And having seen the Advertisement, he informed Mr. Baron Thomson (who was then at Bath) that he had seen the Prisoner: That he got proper Assistance, and went to the Prisoner's Lodging; That he being above Stairs, his Wife called out to him to take Care of himself; That he stood at the Top of the 2d Pair of Stairs with an Axe or a Hatchet in his Hand, and said, - God damn you, Gentlemen, stand off, - I'll chop down the first Man that comes here; That they went for a Gun, and having loaded it, one Mr. Mullins clapped it to the Prisoner's Breast; upon which he surrendered.

Henry Woolcot and Richard Jefferies confirmed Mr. Cooling's Evidence, with Relation to the Apprehending the Prisoner. They both added, That he told them (when he was in Custody) he knew there was a Reward for taking David Roberts , and they were welcome to it.

Elizabeth Bosworth , with whom the Prisoner lived in Cold bath Fields, deposed, That they liv'd two Months in her House, and paid her honestly; she observed they were in Necessity, and she never saw any Gold, or Crucibles in his Room, tho' she had often been in it; That they never made any Fire, but eat their Victuals with her. She farther said, that she nursed a Child for him, when he lived in Pear-tree-street, and that he had no Grate in that House; That the Prisoner used to go out in the Morning to Work, and came home o'Nights, and employ'd Men in his Business.

Richard Williams had known the Prisoner three Years. He lodged in the Witnesses's House three Years ago, but knew little of him since that Time.

David Wallis , a Peruke-maker, had made a light Bob-wig, and an almost black one for the Prisoner, who paid him three Guineas for them.

John Taylor , of Pear-tree-street, got acquainted with the Prisoner last Michaelmas was twelve Months. He kept a Publick House, and had changed many Guineas for the Prisoner. In particular, he had changed four Guineas at a Time for him, the Day he opened; which Guineas he had paid away, and they had not been objected to.

Francis Dawson deposed, That the Prisoner took a House of him at Islington, and left it before the Advertisement came out, because Mr. Rogers had sued him to an Execution.

John Wallis had worked under the Prisoner four Years ago, as a Carpenter, but he knew little of him since.

Elizabeth Bosworth added, that she had been in every Room in the Prisoner's House, except the Garret, and she never had seen any Charcoal there. Guilty , Death .

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