Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 02 October 2022), January 1799, trial of JAMES BLAKELY , otherwise PATRICK BLAKE MICHAEL STACK RICHARD CORNS (t17990109-40).

JAMES BLAKELY, MICHAEL STACK, RICHARD CORNS, Deception > forgery, 9th January 1799.

119. JAMES BLAKELY , otherwise PATRICK BLAKE , MICHAEL STACK , and RICHARD CORNS , were indicted for forging and counterfeiting, on the 4th of December , a certain will and testament, purporting to be the last will and testament of one John Ford , and to be signed, sealed, published and declared, by the said John Ford, with intention to defraud the United Company of Merchants trading to the East-Indies .

Second Count. For uttering the same as true, knowing it to be forged, with the like intention.

Third and fourth Counts. The same as the first and second, laying the intention to be, to defraud Charles-Thomas Cogan , Esq .

Fifth and sixth Counts. With intention to defraud Ann Cooke , widow .

The indictment was opened by Mr. Knapp, and the case by Mr. Fielding.

SAMUEL BROOKES sworn. - Examined by Mr. Knapp. I am clerk to Mr. Cresswell, a proctor, in Doctors'-Commons.

Q. Do you know the prisoners? - A. Yes, I know them all. On the 4th of December, the two prisoners, Blake and Stack, came to Mr. Cresswell's office, to prove the will of John Ford ; one of them, I believe, Stack, but cannot say positively which, produced a will, they were both together. (Produces the will).

Q. Did Stack or Blake say any thing to you at that time? - A. I do not recollect what they said, but they presented a will to me to prove; after the reading the will, I asked which of them was the executor; I first asked Stack, whether he was the executor; he said, no, and pointed to the other man, by which I understood he was the executor.

Q. Did Blakely say any thing to that? - A. No, he did not. I asked Blakely whether his name was spelt right in the will, to which he answered in the affirmative; after which, I proceeded to write a receipt, and Blakely went with me then to the Court, which was then sitting; after he had been sworn in Court, he came back to Mr. Cresswell's office with me.

Q. Had Stack been left at your office? - A. Blake went out with me, I did not observe Stack follow; but when I came back, I found him at the corner of the street; I promised them the probate next day, and one of them said, they wanted it immediately, but I cannot say which of them said that; I asked Stack, if he knew the time of the death; he said, he did not know the time, but he would procure it, and bring it in the afternoon; I did not see him again that day; they then went away, but on account of some suspicions about it, the probate was not proceeded with; the next day, Blakely came, I told him, the probate was not ready; in about half and hour, Blakely and Stackcame again, and spoke to Mr. Carr, who is likewise a clerk to Mr. Cresswell; but I do not know what passed; the next day, Thursday, they came together in the morning; I told them, it was not ready, but desired them to sit down; after which, I was desired by Mr. Cresswell to procure a constable, and take them into custody.

Q. Did any thing else pass between you and them respecting the will? - A. Not that I recollect.

Q. When did you see the prisoner? - A. Not till he was taken into custody, on the Thursday; he was brought by a constable into Mr. Cresswell's office.

Mr. Gurney, (Counsel for Blake). Q. The will was not given you by Blakely? - A. I cannot say, I believe it was Stack.

Cross-examined by Mr. Alley, (Counsel for Stack). Q. When these two men came first to the office, was any body else there? - A. No.

Q. If a man comes for the probate of a will to your office, it is nothing unusual for a friend to accompany him? - A. No.

Q.When you enquired what time the testator died, Stack was not acquainted with it? - A. He said, he did not know.

Q. Did he tell you afterwards? - A. Yes.

- CARR sworn. - Examined by Mr. Fielding. I am a clerk in Mr. Cresswell's office: On Tuesday, the 4th of December, about two o'clock, I was in the office, when the prisoner, Stack, came into the office with information, that he had been to the India-house, and found that the deceased had died in December, 1797, and that he was an armourer, and not a carpenter, as described in the will; he then went away, and attended again the next morning, but the business not being done, he went away, and returned in about an hour, accompanied by Blakely, but the business not being ready, I told them, it might be ready in about an hour more, or thereabout, or if it was not ready at that hour, and the public Register was shut, they could not have it till the morning; Blakely said, that would do; Stack said, it would not do, for it must be taken to the India-house as that day, and they went away, but never returned to see whether it was ready or not, notwithstanding I saw them both in the street after that time, conversing together.

Q. Did you see any other person conversing with them? - A. Not at that time; but about an hour or so after, Corns came in and enquired about the business, asking if the business had been fetched away, by which I understood he meant the probate of the will.

Q. Was this the first time you had seen Corns? - A. Yes, he said Blakely was related to the deceased Ford, and he had lent a little money upon the business; he went away for that day, and on Thursday, the 6th, about twelve o'clock, Blakely and Stack came for the probate; it was then determined to have these men taken into custody; while the constables were sent for, I went out of the office, and saw Corns parading before the house, and before the constables came, I returned and saw Stack going up the street; Blakely was then in the office alone, and was taken into custody by one constable; Stack had at this time got round the corner; I then took a constable up the street after Stack, and I then saw Stack and Corns conversing together, and they were both brought back.

Q. Did any thing particular pass between them at the time of their apprehension? - A. No.

Cross-examined by Mr. Knowlys, (Counsel for Corns). Q. Do not you know it to be a very common thing for persons to lend money upon a will to persons who represent themselves as entitled to a benefit under that will? - A. I believe it is sometimes done among seamen.

Cross-examined by Mr. Alley. Q. Stack told you that Ford died in December, 1797? - A. Yes.

Q. That turned out to be a correct account? - A. Yes.

Q. He also told you that the deceased was an armourer, and not a carpenter? - A. Yes.

Q. When you observed that the description of the seaman in the will was not a proper description, did not that excite a suspicion in your mind? - A. I had a suspicion before that.

Q. That of course must have confirmed the suspicion in your mind? - A. It certainly did.

JOSEPH RAY sworn. - Examined by Mr. Fielding. I am one of the clerks in the Pay-office of the India Company. (Produces the book of the Rose East-Indiaman).

Q. Who is the pay-master? - A.Charles Thomas Coggan .

Q.Turn to the entry in the book, in the name of John Ford, (refers to it). John Ford entered the 25th of February, 1797; he died the first of December, 1797.

Q. What is the manner in which he appears to be rated on board that ship? - A.Armourer.

Q. There were wages then of course due? - A. A small trifle of wages; there were some effects, which amounted to more than his wages; he was on board nine months and six days; I cannot say whether she was outward or homeward-bound when he died.

Q. Do you know Mr. Pritchett's hand-writing? - A. Yes, he is dead.

Mr. Knowlys. Q. Are you a clerk in the office where this book is kept? - A. I am the person who witnesses all the receipts in the payments that are made for all wages whatever.

Q. You are not the clerk who makes the entries? - A. No, I am not.

Q. Do you know, of your own knowledge,from what instruments these entries are made? - A. They are made from the day of the river-pay at Gravesend.

Q. There is a ship's book, is there not, in which the sailors' names are entered, and this account is taken from that book? - A. Yes.

Q. And that book is not here? - A. No.

Court. Q. Was the day he entered the 25th of February, 1797? - A. No, he was impressed upon the 13th of January; this is the impress book,(producing it); he had received two months pay at that time.

Mr. Gurney. Q. Who wrote that book? - A. Mr. Chatfield.

Q. Is he here? - A. No.

Q. You never saw Ford in your life? - A. Not to my knowledge.

Q. You know no more than these books tell you? - A. No.

Q. And these books you did not write? - A. No.

Q. Have you any memory of the payment of the monies mentioned in this book? - A. I cannot say, it is most probable that I paid the money, but I cannot say.

Q. Now produce the articles which every mariner signs? - A. Yes; here is the name of John Ford , with his mark against it; the name of John Ford is in the hand-writing of Mr. Pritchett.

Q. Was it his business to see that these articles were signed by the persons on board? - A. It was.

Q. Was there more than one John Ford on board that vessel at that time? - A. No more.

Mr. Knowlys. (To Carr). Q. Was the probate of this will in point of fact obtained? - A. No.

JAMES THOMPSON sworn. - Examined by Mr. Knapp. I am purser of the Rose East-Indiaman.

Q. Did you know a person on board that ship of the name of John Ford ? - A. I did.

Q.What was he on board that ship? - A.Armourer; we failed from Portsmouth on the 18th of March, 1797; I was on board the ship on the 25th of February, when he received his river-pay at Gravesend.

Q. Did he, with you and the ship, arrive at Bengal? - A. Yes, in the middle of September, 1797.

Q. Do you know when John Ford died? - A. I think it was on the 6th of December, 1797, just as we were going to sail from Bengal.

Q. Were you intimately acquainted with him on board the ship? - A. Yes.

Q. Do you know if he could write? - A. I always understood he could not; I have seen him make his signature by a mark three different times, two of them I have got in my pocket, and he told me at the time that he could not write.

Q. Look at the will, there is the signature of a name; do you believe that to be John Ford 's hand-writing? - A. I do not.

Cross-examined by Mr. Gurney. Q. Did you never know a sailor make his mark, when he did not chuse to write his name? - A. I have frequently seen them desirous of making a mark instead of writing their name, and I have made a point of asking them whether they can write or not.

Q. Then if he chose to tell you he could not write, he made his mark? - A. Yes.

Q. When a man makes his will, he would be rather more particular than upon any common occasion? - A. I should suppose so, I never found the will.

Q. But, however, seamen sometimes do chuse to make a mark when they can write? - A. I have seen some instances of it.

JAMES WHITAKER sworn. - Examined by Mr. Fielding. Q.Did you fail on board the Rose Indiaman? - A. Yes.

Q. Did you ever see Ford write? - A. No, I have seen him make his mark.

Q. Do you know if he was a married man or single? - A. He was a married man, with two children.

Q. Look at the name John Ford , at the bottom of that will - do you think that is his hand-writing? - A. No.

Cross-examined by Mr. Knowlys. Q. You never saw him write - how can you tell that that is not his hand-writing? - A.Because I have heard him say to a mess-mate, come down and write me a letter.

ROBERT BROWN sworn. - Examined by Mr. Fielding. Q.Were you on board the Rose? - A. Yes.

Q. Did you know John Ford? - A. Yes.

Q. Did you ever see him write? - A. I have heard him say often and often he could not write.

Q. Look at the signature to that will, is that his hand-writing? - A. I am sure it is not, according to what I have heard him say.

WILLIAM CLEMENTS sworn. - Examined by Mr. Fielding. I was on board the Rose, John Ford was a ship-mate of mine, he could neither read nor write; he has several times asked me to write for him.

Q. Look at the name of Ford to that will - do you think that that is his hand-writing? - A. I am sure he could not write like that.

Q. Did he ever ask you to write letters? - A. Yes, to his wife.

Q. Has he any children? - A. His wife, when we left England, had one child, and was ready to lie in with another.

Q. Do you know of the offer of any situation to this poor fellow, if he had staid in India? - A.No.

JOHN ORCHARD sworn. - Examined by Mr.Knapp. I am a smith, I work in Mr. Mesteares's yard.

Q. Did you know the deceased, John Ford , who served on board the Rose? - A. Yes.

Q. Was John Ford always his name? - A. His right name was John-Forder Cooke, he was christened so.

Q. Had he ever served on board a man of war? - A. Yes.

Q. Did he serve on board that man of war in the name of John-Forder Cooke? - A. He served in the name of John Cooke ; he ran away from that ship, and entered on board the Rose, in the name of John Ford.

Q. Do you know what family he had? - A. He had a wife and two children, a father-in-law, and an own mother.

Q. You were very intimate with him? - A. Yes.

Q. You became bound for him at the India-house, at the time of his entering? - A. Yes.

Q. There is an order necessary to be signed at that time? - A. Yes, I have got the order.

Q. Did he write his name to that order? - A. He did not, he made his mark.

Q. What is the use of the order? - A. I was bound for him going the voyage, and this order is for me to receive his absence money; Mr. Pritchett was the witness to it. (Produces it).

Q.(To Ray.) Is that Mr. Pritchett's signature? - A. It is.

Q. Upon a person becoming bound for a sailor going on board an India ship, does he receive an order for the receipt of his absence money? - A. Yes; and this is such an order.

Mr. Gurney. Q. Were you in the same office with Mr. Pritchett before his death? - A. I was, many years.

Mr. Knapp. (To Orchard). Q. Do you know whether Ford could write or not? - A. He could not write at all.

Q. Look at the signature to the will - do you think he wrote that? - A. I do not think he could, I never saw him write.

Q. Were you acquainted with his relations as well as with him? - A. Not so well.

Q. Did you ever hear of a person of the name of Blakely being related to him? - A. I never did.

Q. I see this order bears date the 13th of January - had you seen him before that? - A. I had seen him every day before that.

Cross-examined by Mr. Gurney. Q. You did not know his relations so well as you knew him? - A. I did not.

Q. Therefore, whether he had or not a relation of the name of Blakely, you do not know? - A. No.

Q. Probably he might have fifty relations that you never heard of? - A. He certainly might.

ELIZABETH COUSINS sworn. - Examined by Mr. Fielding. Q. Did you know John Ford , that was on board the Rose Indiaman? - A. Yes, I am his mother; his real name was John-Forder Cooke.

Q. Could your son John read or write? - A. Neither.

Q. You know his wife and children? - A. Yes.

Q. Was he a kind husband? - A. He was always very kind to his wife.

Q. What is his wife's name? - A. Ann Cooke .(The will of John Ford , dated the 1st day of January, 1797, read), "By which he gives, devises, and bequeaths, to his true and trusty friend, James Blakely , of the parish of St. Giles in the fields, in the county of Middlesex, labourer, all his wages, sums of money, goods, tenements, chattels, and effects, and does thereby nominate and appoint James Blakely to be his whole and sole executor. Witness J. Clancey and Wm. Brown."

Q.(To Brookes). You went with Blakely to the Surrogate? - A. Yes.

Q. Do you know the Surrogate's hand-writing when you see it? - A. Yes.

Q. Is that his hand-writing? - A. Yes, I saw him write it.

Court. Q.Then you were present when Blakely took the oath before the Surrogate? - A. Yes.

Mr. Fielding. (To Cousins). Q. Do you know of any relations of your's or your son's, of the name of Blakely? - A. No.

Prisoner Blakely's defence. My Lord, I most humbly intreat your Lordship's protection, and the mercy of the Court. In my life I never heard of the name of Blakely, nor singed it, or heard it read, till I heard it at Guildhall and here; my name is Blake. - I believe it was not five minutes from the first time that I had seen this deed till I was sworn in open Court at Doctors' Commons; not knowing the custom or manners of the place, I thought this oath, administered to me, was preparatory to what was to be done. Mr. Brookes has said, that he read it, but I most humbly beg his pardon, for it was not read; I neither saw it, nor understood it, but positively thought it was right. A man of the name of Quin was the man that delivered this will to Mr. Stack and me, in the parlour at the Whitehart, in Butcher-hall-lane; he wrote on a bit of paper, his compliments to a Mr. Kiernan, or M'Kiernan, a proctor in the Commons; Mr. Stack delivered this complimentary note to Mr. Kiernan; and Quin not only sent this complimentary note, but said that he had an open account with Mr. M'Kiernan, to the tune of forty or fifty pounds, that he had a great deal of business to do in this way; Mr. Quin seemed to be quite the manof business, he said he had business with all the the proctors in the Commons; but, however, my Lord, this note was presented to Mr. M'Kiernan; Mr. Stack, at the same time, had a printed card of Mr. Cresswell's, but said, he gave Mr. Kiernan the preference; upon which Mr. Kiernan said, it was a usual custom with the people in the Commons, when there was a recommendation, never to take the business from one another; in consequence of which, we went to Mr. Cresswell's, where the card directed; I went to the Court, but it was not read at all, as I dare say the young man, upon recollection will acknowledge; something was asked about my name, but I do not recollect what; I went over with a young gentleman to the Court, where the gentlemen were pleading, and there was an oath administered to me; I did not exactly hear the words of it, but that I should true inventory make, and give a just account; I went back to the office, and after that, I attended as the gentleman directed, expecting the business to be done; during all this transaction, I unfortunately had taken a glass or two of spirits at the house where we met; I was doubtful whether it was the same John Ford , and I woundered how Quin should know or hear of Ford's owing me money; I was rather apprehensive of doing any thing that was wrong; there was a John Ford , it is true, owed me thirty-seven pounds, but I never heard of his being in any of the Company's ships. I attended, as the proctor directed, until we were taken into custody; I was not surprised at being taken into custody in the least, for I doubted throughout that there was something wrong; for I was doubtful how it should come to the ears of Mr. Quin that the man owned me money. We were then taken to Guildhall, and committed. My Lord, I am very sorry to add, that Mr. Stack and Mr. Corns sent this John Quin an express to be off, and destroy his papers.

Prisoner Stack's defence. I have been for many years in the public life; this man, Blake, came to my home along with a man of the name of Smith, who resorted to my house in the year 1794; sometimes he came with Smith, and sometimes by himself; he borrowed money of me, and got in my debt, with regard to liquors and beer at my house, and when he had got in my debt he shunned my house; I met him by accident, at different times, in the streets of London, and asked him for this money that he was indebted to me; and he made answer, that he was poor, and would pay me as soon as it was in his power. Some time in November last, I met him at the upper end of Drury-lane, I asked him how he was; and he said, very well; I met a person of the name of Read, before I met Blake, and we went into a public-house; we were not long in the public-house before I asked Blake if he could pay me the trifle he owed me, I said, I was out of business lately, and was striving to get in what money was owing me, and threatened to summons him if he did not pay me; he made answer, and said, he had a sum of money to receive from some friend that died at sea; he told me to call at his house, No. 9, Newtoner's-lane, at a chandler's-shop, and if I would go along with him I should receive my money; I went along with him to Doctors'-Commons, he produced this will, and gave it to Mr. Brookes; Mr. Brookes and he went off together out of the office, I waited till they both came back; Mr. Blake and Mr. Brookes spoke together for some time, and after speaking together, Mr. Brookes asked Mr. Blake if he knew what time the man died; to which Mr. Blake made answer, he could not exactly tell; Mr. Brookes said, he could not get the probate ready without Mr. Blake would bring him word within a month or two of the time that he died; upon that, Mr. Blake and I went out of the office, and walked together as far as St. Paul's Church-yard; Mr. Blake says to me, as you are the youngest man, Mr. Stack, will you go to the India-House and find it out; I accordingly went to the india-House, I am well acquainted there, and if I was to do any thing wrong they would know me as well as my father or mother knew me, every one of the gentlemen knew me; I enquired, and they told me, I think, in 1797, such a day of the month; I said, it was Ford, a carpenter; and the gentleman said, there was no Ford a carpenter, there was Ford an armourer; I, my Lord, came back, and left word at the office the answer that I had got; the gentleman, Mr. Carr, I believe, said, very well, that will do, come to-morrow and it will be ready; I then went and told Blake I had delivered the message to the Commons, and that he was to call the next day, according to the order of the proctor; he said, very well, if you will give me a call to-morrow, come along with me, and you shall be paid; I called upon him, and we went there the second time, and were put off then till the third day; I parted with Blake, and said, if I am not paid what trifle is due to me to-morrow I will never come any more; I went along with Mr. Blake the third day, and went into the office; one of the gentlemen in the office asked me to sit down near the fire, he and Mr. Blake stood together; the gentleman said, you may have the probate of the will in a few minutes; when I had walked as far as the top of the street, two constables came up to me while I was speaking to Mr. Corns, and I went with them before the Lord-Mayor. I know no more of its being amiss than the child unborn.

Prisoner Corn's defence. All that I know of it is, that Stack brought Blake to my house, and askedme if I would lend him some money; accordingly I told him I would if he would give me security for it; upon which, he said, he was going to administer for a relation; and I went to Mr. Cresswell's to make enquiry about the security; I went again the next day, and I was taken into custody; that is all I know of the transaction.

Blake. I never saw Corns in my life, nor ever had a farthing from him in my life.

For the Prisoner Stack.

JOSEPH READ sworn. - Examined by Mr. Alley. I am clerk in Mr. Hawkes's accompting-house, in Piccadilly.

Q. Do you know the prisoner, Stack? - A. Yes, and I have seen Blake.

Q. Did you ever see them in company together? - A. Yes, I have. The latter end of last November I saw them at a public-house, called the Whitehart, to the best of my knowledge, in Drury-lane.

Q. Do you recollect any conversation passing between them? - A. I recollect so far as this, that I went into this public-house with Stack, and found Blake there; Stack asked him for money, which he owed him upon an old debt; Blake said, he was going to administer to a will, and he would receive money on that account, and would pay him if he would go with him the next day.

Blake. I never saw that man in my life.

The prisoner, Stack, called Robert Burnet, Esq. and three other witnesses, who gave him a good character.

The prisoner, Corns, called Lord Frederick Harvey , who had known him ten years, and two other witnesses, who gave him a good character.

Blakely, GUILTY Death . (Aged 50.)

Stack, NOT GUILTY .

Corns, NOT GUILTY .

Tried by the London Jury, before Mr. Baron THOMPSON .