Record of The Month

Forgery and Scandal at Chichester Old Bank

I first came across the story around this month’s record when volunteering at Chichester District Museum (now the Novium). The Social History Curator at the time said that sometime in the early 1800s a man -John Binstead, a drawing teacher, was charged with forging a bank note from the Chichester Old Bank on East Street. The proprietors at the time were William Ridge, Richard Murray and Charles Ridge.

Until about 1844, Country banks were not under government jurisdiction, and were able to produce their own Money legally for £5 notes. The war with France (c1792-1806) enabled banks to issue £1 and £2 notes, providing greater usage by a wide range of people, as well as an increased ability to forge notes. When the Bank Charter Act came in 1844 it brought greater control and scope for the country banks, including the regulation of bank notes.

Add Mss 1005

The online resource for the Proceedings of the Old Bailey (1674-1913) has a transcript of John Binstead’s trial (15 September 1815) which states that the bank note was observed as a forgery when Binstead handed a note to a shop keeper for payment.  When Binstead was apprehended at Arundel, he admitted the note was a forgery and that he had made several others using a Camel hair brush. One note seized at the Swan Inn, Gosport, was submitted as evidence also. Add Mss 1005 (above) in our collections at the Record Office was one such note admitted as evidence. Binstead was found Guilty and sentenced to Death at Newgate.

The Sussex Archaeological Collection Vol 45 claims that Binstead made the unusual request to Rev Cotton, the ordinary of Newgate, that ‘his hands might not be applied to persons who came to rubbed for the Wen’. A common superstition at the time was the belief that the removal of warts and cysts (Wens) could be remedied by passing a dead man’s hand over the cyst, trusting that it would be taken away by the deceased. Public hangings attracted sufferers who would rush on to the scaffold immediately after the death, and hangmen were even known to charge a fee for this.

Further scandal and a criminal court case for the bank arose, when in 1841 the Chichester Old Bank filed for bankruptcy. According to Peter Jenkins, employees of the Chichester Old Bank, William Styles Goodeve (Witness at Binsteds trial)

Add Mss 1006
Bank note for £5 exhibited at the Dolphin Inn, Chichester, as evidence against Goodeve and Williams

and William Williams were charged with embezzlement prior to bankruptcy. The story goes that both Williams and Goodeve were responsible for cashing up at night and placing money in the safe. It was a trusted system that was very rarely checked. However when checking the accounts one night, the proprietor William Newland, found a significant deficit; with the accounts showing one figure and the physical assets another. It later transpired that Williams had started taking money from the bank about 12-13 years previously, when his family was in distress, but hadn’t taken anything for several years. Newspaper reports at the time reported that both Williams and Goodeve were acquitted due to unsatisfactory evidence. The popularity of the verdicts of Goodeve and Williams reflected a general feeling that it was the proprietors who were responsible for the banks failure.

Proceedings for bankruptcy were held a the Dolphin Inn from 20th December 1841 and resumed following the trial of Goodeve and Williams in January 1842. Various newspapers at the time state different amounts for the total debt but it was estimated that the debts to the bank totalled £112,646 (£5,408,688.60 in 2005) and the dividend was 4s to the pound following the final examination 20th May 1842.

 

Imogen Russell, Searchroom Assistant

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