Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 01 December 2022), September 1785, trial of JOSEPH BANNING (t17850914-26).

JOSEPH BANNING, Deception > forgery, 14th September 1785.

750. JOSEPH BANNING was indicted for that he, on the 25th day of July last, feloniously and falsely did make, forge, and counterfeit, and cause and procure to be falsely made, forged, and counterfeited, and willingly aid and assist in the false making, forging, and counterfeiting, a certain order for the payment of money, dated the 18th of July last, with the name of George Prescott thereunto subscribed, purporting to be signed by George Prescott , Esquire, directed to Messrs. Prescott and Co. for payment of 52 l. 10 s. to George Scott , or bearer ; the tenor of which said false, forged, and counterfeited order for the payment of money, is as follows; that is to say,

"July the 18th, 1785. Messrs. Prescott and Co. pay George Scott , or bearer, fifty-two pounds ten shillings. George Prescott , 52 l. 10 l." with intent to defraud the said George Prescott , Esquire , George William Prescott , Andrew Grotte , William Culverden , and John Hollingsworth .

A second count, for uttering the same, knowing it to be forged, with the like intention.

Third and fourth counts the same as the first and second, only with intention to defraud George Prescott , Esquire.

(The witnesses examined separate at the request of Mr. Garrow, Prisoner's Council.)

HENRY CLAYTON sworn.

I am clerk to Messrs. Prescott, Grotte, and Co. and have been so for some years.

Where is their banking-house? - In Threadneedle-street.

Do you know that young man? - Perfectly well.

Do you remember his coming to the house? - Perfectly well, it was on the 26th of July, between six and seven o'clock, he brought a draught to the house for payment, we told him it was past the hour, and we could not pay it him; he said he had been early by our house that morning, and was going to Cheshunt that evening, and he must come to town again on purpose; we thought it reasonable to pay him after consulting a little together, and the draught passing through the hands of two or three, we told him we must give him notes, he desired to have cash, but he took a 30 l. bank-note, a 15 l. bank-note, and 7 l. 10 s. in money, he did not seem to count it readily, he seemed to turn the notes over as if he could not read them; I told them over to him, he took them without counting them, and put them in his pocket; after he was gone, a confusion having been observed, I desired to look at the draught, and having reason to suspect it, I looked at some other draughts of Mr. Prescott's in the house, and they differed materially; he told me his horse and chaise were waiting at the Basing-house, we sent there, but we could not find any person there that answered that description.

Court. What is the Basing-house? - It is a public-house where they water their carts and horses; I put two marks on the draught immediately on suspicion.

Did you know the number of the notes? - Yes, clearly, I entered them in the waste book.

What are the numbers? - The book is here, the number of the 30 l. note is 7477, and the 15 l. note is 2476.

Mr. Garrow, Prisoner's Council. How long have you been a clerk to Mess. Prescot? - Between six and seven years.

Mr. George Prescott , many of us know, lives mostly at Theobald's? - Yes.

He generally draws by draughts? - He has frequent occasion to draw, I am one of the paying clerks, I have very frequent opportunities of seeing his hand writing, this draught was tendered to me.

You have had frequent opportunities of seeing Mr. Prescott's draughts? - I have, the draught was tendered to me for payment, it was tendered after five.

You are very sure? - Yes.

How often may that happen? - We very frequently oblige gentlemen.

I believe you do not pay after five, but to customers? - This was not a customer.

So I see, and I wish the Jury to remember that of course, after you have done paying your hurry is over? - Yes.

Then a man coming after the hour of paying, he must be subject to more notice than he would be in the hurry of business? - He certainly caused more notice to be taken.

A man coming with a forged draught would be glad to get away, I should think? - He would rather have had cash.

At the time you paid it, you believed it to be the draught of Mr. Prescott? - If I had not, I should not have paid it.

Upon comparison then you suspected it? - I did.

That suspicion however did not then decide you that it was a forgery: now I ask you, as a conscientious man, upon your oath, whether at that time you could have ventured to have sworn that that draught was a forgery? - I could not swear it was not his signature.

Mr. Prescott we all know, or at least I do, has a very large estate at Theobalds? - Yes.

He has very many occasions to sign his name? - He has.

He is a magistrate for the counties of Hertford and Middlesex? - He is.

He is likewise a commissioner of the land-tax? - I believe he is.

Now from the strong likeness in this draught, was not you induced to believe, and had not you suspected, that somebody had substituted this to Mr. Prescott, as some other paper he intended to sign? - It never occurred to me.

You did not go with Mr. Smart to the prisoner's house? - I did not.

I take it, that even now, looking at the draught alone, without comparing it with any other writing of Mr. Prescott's, you would not have ventured to have sworn it was not his hand writing? - I have heard nothing from any body on the subject, I have compared his draughts, and there is a great difference.

I ask you, if that draught was put into your hands at York, where you could not compare it, upon the bare inspection would you venture to swear it was not his handwriting? - Not the signature I would not.

Then if this thing had been offered to you any where but in Threadneedle-street, and you had been disposed to have advanced money upon it, would you have done it?

Court. That is a consequence of its being Mr. Prescott's hand-writing.

JOHN FOSTER sworn.

I am likewise clerk to Mess. Prescott and Co. I remember the prisoner's coming to our house; I have not any doubt as to his person, I am sure he is the person that brought the draught: on the 25th of July, he came about six-in the evening; with a draught of Mr. Prescott's for 52 l. 10 s. drawn by Mr. Prescott, on a plain piece of paper, and not stamped.

Court. What do you mean by that observation, that it was on a plain piece of paper, and not stamped? - I never saw one of the kind before, as I recollect on a plain piece of paper: the prisoner asked if we could oblige him with the payment of that draught; that he was past our house about six in the morning, had been to Richmond, and was going to Cheshunt that evening; that he was to meet his friend at the Basing-house in Kingsland road about six, and would be much obliged to us to let him have payment; upon shewing it to the head clerk, this being Mr. Prescot's draught, we concluded on paying it; we asked him how he would have it, he said in money, as he might find some difficulty in getting notes changed in the country; we had locked up our cash, and told him we should be obliged to pay him in notes; we paid him a 30 l. note, and a 15 l. note, and 7 l. 10 s. in money, which was paid him by Mr. Clayton; he seemed confused, he did not seem clear whether it was right or not.

Court. It is sufficient that you upon inspecting of the draught, from such inspection of it you suspected it, tell us what you did? - In consequence of such suspicion, the draught was shewn about to the different clerks, and it was shewn to Mr. Hollingsworth, then we sent down to Mr. Prescott's with a description of the person, then Mr. Smart came up to me on the Thursday, and I went with Mr. Smart to the prisoner's house, but he was not at home, the next morning I saw him with Mr. Smart; Mr. Smart turned round and asked me if that was the man that brought the draught, I said he was, and I was sorry to say it; we had a post-chaise waiting at a little distance, and I went with him, Mr. Smart came with me and the prisoner, we came to Threadneedle-street, we took him into the office; Mr. George William Prescott came into the office, and asked him what he had done with the property.

Mr. Silvester. Had you any further conversation with the prisoner? - The prisoner asked me when I was alone, whether Mr. Prescott was angry, I told him I did not chuse to have any thing to say, and declined giving him an answer; when he came to town Mr. Prescott asked him what he had done with the property that he received from us, to the best of my recollection those were the words; the prisoner put his hand into his pocket, and pulled out a little pocket-book, and delivered a 30 l. note into Mr. George William Prescott 's hand, I was in the room, he did not say anything; Mr. Prescott asked him, what he had done with the other note, in answer to that he said, he passed the 15 l. banknote to Mr. Carrington Bowles, in St. Paul's church-yard.

Mr. Garrow. The 25th of July was Monday? - Yes.

The prisoner was from home when you went on Thursday? - Yes.

What time might that be? - About eight.

What message was left for him? - I do not know.

What time did you go the next morning? - Between ten and eleven.

That was on Friday? - Yes.

So that from Monday to Friday this note had been in his possession? - Yes.

I believe in that part of the world it is very well known, that Mr. Smart is the agent for Mr. Prescott? - I do not know it.

What was the date of the draught? - It was the 18th of July, a week back.

It was payable to bearer? - It was payable to Geo rge Scott or bearer, payable on being presented.

Those in general I believe are presented the day, or the day after? - It is most common, but not general.

A man coming at the distance of a week then would not be less a subject of observation? - We do not pay great regard to dates, unless they are dated forward, if they are backward we do not.

But in order to know that, you must look at them you know? - Yes.

How many of you had looked at it? - Three, Mr. Clayton, Mr. Woodhouse, and myself, Mr. Woodhouse is the head cashier, we supposed the signature to be Mr. Prescott's hand-writing.

If that draught had been tendered to you at York, would you have believed it to be Mr. Prescott's hand writing? - I think I should the signature.

Whilst you was in the chaise the prisoner asked you if Mr. Prescott was angry? - Yes.

Had he been told the draught was a forged one? - I was not present when Mr. Smart went with the prisoner.

It was after that? - Yes.

Court to Foster. Was this draught advertised publicly at all? - No Sir.

- SMART sworn.

I am agent and steward of the courts to Mr. Prescott, but not land steward; I was at dinner when the description of forgery came in, I went to town, and in consequence of that, and of what I heard in town, I went to Edmonton to the prisoner's house.

What is the prisoner? - He is a school master, he served his time with Mr. Draper, master of the free-school there; Mr. Prescott is acting magistrate there: when I went to the prisoner's house in the evening, I asked his wife if he was at home, she said no, he was gone to Mr. Flacks; there was a house between that and Mr. Flack's, which I thought he sometimes used, he was not there, we returned and went there the next morning, and as soon as I saw him, I said Banning, how could you be guilty of this forgery on Mr. Prescott, you must go with me to London, he positively denied it.

Court. Recollect in what terms as near as you can? - He said he had done no such thing, or he knew nothing about it, or words to that effect.

Did you tell him what it was that had been forged on Mr. Prescott? - I hold him it was in vain to deny it, it was for fifty guineas, and that one of Mr. Prescott's clerks was at the door waiting to identify his person.

What answer did he make to that? - None, I then put my hand upon his collar, and led him to the door, and beckoned to Mr. Foster, and asked him if he knew that man, he said he was but too sure.

Is that the man the money was paid to? - Yes.

Court. I observed there is an expression you and Mr. Foster both use, that he was but too sure, what did he mean by that? - I believe no otherwise than that he was sorry any man should be guilty of any such offence, I believe only general tenderness; The prisoner then asked leave to discharge the children from school, and to clean himself, which I permitted; I went up stairs while he discharged the school, and put on a pair of shoes, instead of a pair of slippers which he had on before, he then came down stairs, and as we went to the post chaise, I taxed him with having copied it from a warrant, signed by Mr. Prescott, the only answer he gave me was, was not Mr. Prescott very angry when he found it out, was there no way of getting through it, them were the words, or very near them; we then reached the chaise, and I handed him into the chaise, and put Mr. Foster with him, and no other conversation passed till we came to Mr. Prescott's banking-house in London, there Mr. George William Prescott asked him what he had done with the notes, or what he had done with the property, he put his hand into his pocket, and took out a pocket book, and delivered a 30 l. note to Mr. George William Prescott ; Mr. Prescott immediately handed it over to me, I went into the other room to compare it with the number in the book, I have the notes and books all here.

Did the number correspond? - We found it did not, there was nines instead of sevens.

Which book did you compare it with? - I cannot say.

Mr. Silvester to Clayton. Was you present? - It was compared with my book, the number in the two books is mine, it is entered in Mr. Atkinson's book, the note was 7479, the book was 7477, on finding a difference, the other book was immediately looked into, and the two books agreed, upon which I took up the note and saw the alteration; then on returning into the room again, I, or Mr. Prescott, asked what he had done with the other note, he said he had paid it away to Mr. Bowles; I asked him what Mr. Bowles, he replied, Mr. Bowles print-seller in St. Paul's Church Yard; he was then taken to Guildhall and committed; I then went to Mr. Bowles, and on looking into a large bundle of notes, I found the note of 15 l. which I instantly saw had been altered.

In what particular? - By altering it from 2476 to 2496, I carried Mr. Bowles another 15 l. note, and he gave me that which is now in my possession; this is the note that I found at Mr. Bowles's.

Mr. Silvester. Did you compare that with the book? - Yes, upon our return the number was 2476.

How long have you been acquainted with Mr. Prescott? - I have done business for him for seventeen or eighteen years, I cannot say which.

Mr. Silvester to Mr. Clayton. Look at that draught? - This is the draught I received from the prisoner, this note has two marks, the one has the initials of the person's name that gave it me, W. for Woodhouse, and C. L. for clearing book, where I had it from, I am perfectly clear it is the note I marked, and the note I received.

Mr. Garrow to Clayton. When draughts are paid in the paying hours what becomes of them? - We file them directly we pass, three times in a day we clear the file, we take off the draughts and put them in another place.

You take them off, post them, and deposite them somewhere else? - Yes.

Have you often seen Mr. Prescott write? - I have seen many hundreds of his draughts.

Look at that hand-writing? - I do, the body bears no similarity at all to his hand writing, the signature bears a distant one, he has a method of writing rounder with his Grat the bottom, and the turn at the end of Prescott commonly goes the contrary way; if this had been offered to me as one of Mr. Prescott's draughts I should have immediately stopped it.

(The draught read.)

"July 18th 1785. Mess. Prescott, and

"Co. pay George Scott or bearer, fifty-two

"pounds ten shillings. George Prescott .

"52 l. 10 s."

Court. What is the ten, figures or letters? - Figures in the body. (The draughts shewn to the Court. The bank note read, No. 7479) I know this note by two marks, the name of Dimsdale is wrote upon it before it was paid that very night, I am sure this note was paid to the prisoner, I am sure as far as any circumstance can go, I believe this very note was paid to the prisoner; the clearing clerk writes on all the notes that he receives.

Was this one of the notes that he brought home that evening, do you recollect that the note you paid to the prisoner, had the name of Dimsdale on it? - I do not.

Can you, or any of you say, except from the comparison of numbers, that this is the note you gave to the prisoner? - I believe it to be the note by the number, and name of Dimsdale, I did not observe the name of Dimsdale upon it, when I gave it the prisoner.

Then from the number, and from the number only, you believe that to be the same note that you paid to the prisoner? - I do.

Mr. Garrow to Mr. Smart. It was not till Thursday you communicated your suspicions to anybody of this transaction? - No.

Had you heard any thing of the business before he told you? - No.

Do you know when he first heard of it? - Since the transaction it was that I had the information from him.

Only just tell me the day? - Not till the Thursday morning.

The prisoner's house is on the road from Theobald's to London? - I left a fictitious message.

What was it? What message did you leave with his wife? - That I called about Captain Peters's business.

Did the prisoner know you? - For many years, he certainly knew I was his attorney; I left word I would call as the next morning.

At what hour? - I believe about ten.

Did you then find the prisoner in his business? - His wife called him out of the school to me.

Then you found him in his business? - Yes.

You described him in his slippers? - Yes.

Not in the dress of a man going to fly? - Not in the least.

He came to you directly? - Yes.

He came with you willingly? - Yes, he shifted his coat in the room above stairs, and I staid in the adjoining room.

Was anybody in the room above stairs where he shifted? - Only his wife.

Did you search his wife? - Certainly not.

Did you take her to London? - No.

If she had had any property given her she might have concealed it? - Yes.

She might have burnt it? - Yes. When we came to London he delivered me that bank note, as I before stated.

Then instead of being put under his bed, given to his wife, thrown out of the window, or put down his throat, he carried it to London? - He certainly did.

When he came to Mr. Prescott's house he instantly produced the one, and directed you where to find the other? - He did.

Without any sort of hesitation? - He did.

Now I ask you this, what are the sort of instruments which you have been accustomed to see Mr. Prescott sign? - I have seen him sign letters, deeds, and draughts.

And abundance of other things, orders of removal, orders of bastardy, and the whole of Burn's Justice? - Yes.

How many hundreds of the one do you suppose for one of the draughts - I suppose I may say two thousand to one, of those in preference to draughts.

Now pray do not you know that Mr. Prescott adopto another character of handwriting in those instruments to what he uses in his draughts? - They are so much alike I cannot tell the difference.

I ask you, Sir, excluding from your mind all comparisons of hand-writing, whether looking at this draught you will venture to swear it is not Mr. Prescott's hand-writing? - I will venture to swear that I do not believe, nor that I should never believe, it to be his hand-writing.

Without any comparison of hand-writing? - I should have ventured to swear I did not believe it to be his hand-writing.

Will you venture to swear that Mr. Prescott uses precisely the same character of hand-writing in these instruments and in draughts? - I ask you whether there is any intentional difference? - I believe none; when I taxed him with copying his handwriting, then he denied it, and asked if Mr. Prescott was not angry.

Without offence one may ask whether Mr. Prescott would not be angry that any person should receive his money who had no right to it? - Mr. Garrow would in the same situation.

- ATKINSON sworn.

I am a clerk in Mr. Prescott's house, I never saw him write.

Look at these two bank notes? - Here is my hand-writing, Dimsdale and Co. on both; the 30 l. I am very particular in; I received it on the 25th of July, and the 15 l. appears from the book to be received on that day, but I am not so particular to one as the other, as I have omitted putting dates to them; I do not know to whom they were paid.

Mr. Garrow. I take it for granted you are what we call an out-door clerk? - No, I am not; I receive these in exchange of draughts, I received the 30 l. from a customer, it is customary in the clearing house to put a letter. I have very good reason to know it comes from there; after I bring home the bank notes, I give them to the clerk, and what becomes of them afterwards I know not.

JOHN RUSSELL sworn.

I have lived with Mr. Prescott upwards of twenty years; I am his land steward; I have often seen him write.

Look at that draught? - I do not believe it to be his hand writing, it differs in the G, in the first place, and in the flourish after the stroke across the T.

If you had seen that note any where else, should you have taken it to be Mr. Prescott's hand writing? - I should not.

Mr. Garrow. Whether, independent of all you have heard, upon a bare inspection, you would not have taken it to be his hand writing? - If the note had been tendered to me for money, I should not have given money for it, I should have looked to the signature of it, which I am so well acquainted with, and upon the inspection of it I should have been satisfied it was not.

Would you upon the bare abstract view of it have sworn that it was not his hand writing? - I certainly should.

Court to Clayton. Have there not been many thousand pounds of these draughts paid without objection? - Yes.

Court to Prisoner. Mr. Banning, do you wish to say anything to the Jury in your own defence before your councel calls your witnesses.

(The prisoner made no reply.)

Court to Jury. Gentlemen, I ought to state to you what has passed between the banker's clerk and me just now, the two different notes appear to be entered without any dates, they are entered once in the clearing book when the clerk brings them in, then they are entered again in the book with the bills set down, the numbers correspond, and both entries are made, not one book from the other, but both from the notes themselves; so that it appears from the books scarcely possible that there could be a mistake in the figure in both the books.

JOHN COCK sworn.

I live at Edmonton, I have known the prisoner about twelve years.

What business does he follow? - He was an usher to the school; I knew him when he was apprentice to the school-master; I had two of my children at his house at the time he was apprehended; he had a very good character for honesty, was entrusted with parish affairs, and every thing of that kind.

JOHN BROWN sworn.

I live at Edmonton, I am a plumber and glazier, I have known him from a child down to this time; his general character has been a very good one, I have no children old enough to go to school, or else for any thing I know they would have gone there.

FRANCIS CARTER sworn.

I live in Moorfields, I am a surveyor, I have known him three years, he is a school master by profession, and lately he has taken upon him to write for painters; his character is a very good one for all I know.

BENJAMIN CARTER sworn.

I am a baker at Edmonton, I have known him fifteen or sixteen years, he bore a very good character.

RICHARD GOOD sworn.

I live in Bishopsgate-street, I am a stationer; I knew this young man two years, he dealt with me, I always took him to be a very honest character.

HENRY RICHARDSON sworn.

I live at Edmonton; I am a hair-dresser and shop-keeper; I have known him from his childhood upwards, he bore a general character.

- SKELTON sworn.

I have known him ten years, I have intrusted him to settle my books and affairs, and always found him very honest and just.

Court. It appears clearly that this was a man trusted as a man of good character.

GUILTY , Death .

He was humbly recommended by the Jury to his Majesty's mercy, having a wife and a very large family.

Tried by the first London Jury before Mr. RECORDER.