Documents relating to
Henry Sutcliffe [1784-1813]

The forgery case held at the York Assizes, involving Henry Sutcliffe, was widely covered in the newspapers of the time

In December 1812, Henry Sutcliffe, a corn miller of Cromwell Bottom, near Halifax, was charged with forging the name of John Taylor of Todmorden to a joint bond for £1,000, with an intent to defraud Messrs Rhodes, Briggs & Garlick, Bankers, Halifax.

Mr Richardson, having opened for the indictment, Mr Hullock detailed the circumstances of the case.

Mr John Garlick is a banker at Halifax, partner in the firm of Rhodes, Briggs & Garlick, he stated that in the month of May last Mr Sutcliffe (the prisoner) with whom they had occasionally done business before was at their banking house, and stated to him that he should be glad to open an account with them, and that he might occasionally want accommodating with a few hundred pounds. Witness told him if he could give them satisfactory references and security, they should have no objection to accommodate him. The prisoner said he had a friend at Todmorden of the name of Taylor who would join him in a bond; he said he was schoolmaster with whom he had formerly lived. Witness told him they would make enquiries respecting the person he proposed and inform him of the result the next time they saw him. Witness said he made the necessary enquiries and was satisfied of the account he had received of him and acquainted the prisoner the first time he saw him. The prisoner then desired the proper bond to be prepared; it was to be for the sum of £1,000, this was agreed upon between them. Witness then saw Mr Sutcliffe again at the bank very soon after this conversation and told him the bond was ready for execution and that he might as well sign it then, which he did in his presence, the execution on his part was attested by one of their clerks. The prisoner, on this occasion said that Mr Taylor was expected in Halifax soon, and he would call at the bank along with him (the witness) to execute it in the presence of the person that had attested his signature to it. Some time elapsed, and Mr Taylor not calling, they began to be impatient at the delay. When the prisoner called again, which he generally did once a week, they asked him when they might expect to see Mr Taylor; he told them that Mr Taylor was in an infirm state of health; but if they would allow him to take the bond and inform him of the necessary forms to be observed in the execution of it, he would get it signed and return it to them. Witness gave him the bond and said that they should expect the execution to be attested by two persons known to them, and with those signatures they were acquainted. The witness proceeded to state that in a few days the bond was left at their banking house by the prisoner, and given to one of their clerks and handed by him to the witness; he looked at the bond; it purported to be signed by John Taylor in the presence of John Hemingway and Ralph Milner, persons known to the witness, and whose signatures he knew from the circumstance of their having occasionally transacted business with their house and the witness was satisfied that it had been regularly executed. This bond was deposited by the prisoner as a security for any sums of money they might advance for his use. On this security they made advances to the full amount of the bond. After some time, the manner in which he kept his accounts with them not being satisfactory, they intimated to him that they wished the balance against him to be reduced ; by degrees they got it reduced to little more than £600, they then told him that if it was not settled by such a day, fixing the time, they would apply to Mr Taylor on the subject; they also caused a letter to be written to him to the same purport, this was in December; they applied to Mr Taylor, the result convinced them the bond had been forged. Witness did not see the prisoner again until he was apprehended which was early in December; he was taken into custody at Rochdale at the house of Mr William Shaw, Solicitor. Witness on his cross-examination by Mr Williams said he did not know Mr Taylor until they made the inquiry of him respecting the bond; witness had seen Mr Shaw several times the day on which he apprehended the prisoner, but did not profess to have come immediately from him. Witness saw the prisoner at Mr Shaw's and as soon as he had ascertained that he had no probable means of paying the balance of their account, he apprehended him, for which purpose he was provided with a warrant.

John James Appia is clerk in the bank of Messrs Rhodes, Briggs & Garlick; remembers receiving a bond from the prisoner on the 11th of July, which bond he delivered to Mr Garlick. This bond was produced by the witness and was shown to Mr Garlick, who having examined it said it was the bond delivered by him to the last witness at York and which he received from him as coming from the prisoner on the 11th of July.

John Hemingway lives at Elland and has been acquainted with the prisoner for about two years. The prisoner called to see him on the 11th July at noon when the witness was at dinner and said he wished to speak to him, on which he went with him into the shop

Witness is a grocer and no other person was in the shop. The prisoner asked him if he would put his name as a witness to a paper; that it was a thing of no consequence being a mere matter of form but which required two witnesses. He then produced a paper and the witness put his name to it, he the witness, did not know the contents of the paper he signed. A person by the name of Balmforth, coming into the shop, the prisoner snatched up the paper and put it in his breast. Witness did not see the name of any other person, nor did he ever see Mr John Taylor execute a bond or sign his name to any paper. This was the only paper he ever signed at the request of the prisoner. The bond being shown to the witness, he said the name John Hemingway was his handwriting. Witness has occasionally transacted business with the bank Rhodes, Briggs & Garlick. The other name Ralph Milner, whom he knows, and who lives at Elland. On his cross-examination he said the prisoner had formerly lived as book-keeper with Mr Ashworth and all the time he knew him he always borne a good character.

Ralph Milner lives at Elland, has known the prisoner two or three years, saw him on Saturday the 11th July, he overtook the witness at Salter-Hebble as he was going to Halifax and asked him to ride behind him, which he did. Witness stopped at the Old Cock, the prisoner going forwards, but he soon came to him at his inn, and the witness accompanied him to get a marriage licence. Witness then went with him to the Red Lion, they were in a room together, there were two or three other persons in the room. Prisoner told him he was his name short of a witness, he then pulled a paper out of his pocket and said it was a mere matter of form and a thing of no consequence, upon this representation the witness signed his name to it. It was folded up and the witness did not see any other name until the prisoner took it up after he had signed it when he saw the name of John Taylor. Witness never saw John Taylor sign any bond or any other paper. Witness knows Mr Garlick and has occasionally done business with their house. Witness, in answer to a question by the prisoner's Counsel, said he had known the prisoner for two or three years and that he has always borne a good character. In answer to the questions by the Court, witness said he understood from the prisoner that the paper was to be given to the bank, but it was of no consequence, being a matter of form and did not see any other writing on it.

Mr Justice Le Blanc

If you do not take more care how you sign papers without knowing their contents, you may sign the bond as a principal instead of a witness

Mr John Taylor, junr, stated, that his father keeps a school in Todmorden, he knows the prisoner who was an assistant in his father's school nearly three years. Having looked at the bond he said the signature was not the hand-writing of his father. Witness, on cross-examination, said, he saw the prisoner in the month of May last and enquired of him how he was going on in his new situation, prisoner said he was doing tolerably well but wanted a friend to give security for him to the bank, which would give him an advantage in the market. He asked the witness if he was willing to give security for him, but this the witness declined saying he could not do anything of the kind. The prisoner had always been upon friendly terms with their family and the witness never saw anything amiss of him until this unfortunate affair. Witness said there was some similarity in the signature of John Taylor to the writing of his father but he did not believe this to be his writing.

Michael Stocks, Esq., is a magistrate in the West Riding. The examination of the prisoner was taken in his presence, no promises or threats were held out to induce him to make confession. Mr Garlick was examined in the presence of the prisoner, who had no conversation with Mr Rawdon Briggs, who was present, nor with Mr Garlick. When the witness had taken what the prisoner said down in writing, he asked him if it was correct, he replied, it was. The examination was then read, it was dated 15th December 1812, and stated, that the examinant deposited a bond, dated 27th June, at the banking house of Rhodes, Briggs & Garlick, on the 11th July, which bond was deposited there by him as security for monies they might advance on his account, that the name of John Taylor was not written by John Taylor, but was put there by him, the examiner. The bond was then read, it was drawn up in the usual form of banker's bonds, for the security of £1,000, as a security for any advances which might be made on account of the prisoner, and purported to be signed by Henry Sutcliffe, and one of the banker's clerks, as witness, and by John Taylor, whose signature was attested by John Hemingway and Ralph Milner

Mr Garlick said the prisoner had borne an excellent character up to this transaction; he (the witness) had made enquiries into it and found it most excellent. Mr Garlick was so much overpowered by his feelings as scarcely to be able to speak.

Mr Justice Le Blanc said

Prisoner, you have heard the charge against you and the evidence, do you wish to say anything in your own defence?

The prisoner in a low voice, said


Mr Williams, Counsel for the prisoner, said he had a number of witnesses to the character of the prisoner, but after the excellent character which had been given to him by the witnesses on the part of the prosecution, and particularly by the prosecutors, he did not think it necessary to trouble His Lordship or the jury with calling them.

Mr Justice Le Blanc said

To be sure you cannot carry the character of the prisoner higher than is done by the witnesses for the prosecution. It was not necessary in cases of this nature to make out the charge of forgery, this was what could seldom be done, but unfortunately, that, as well as a charge of uttering, were too clearly made out for him to be able to suggest any doubt to the Jury on either of three points. The punishment was the same in both. His Lordship having recapitulated the evidence, again observed that it was a case on which he did not know how to state any possible doubt. It appeared that the prisoner had unfortunately engaged in business for which he had not sufficient capital, and which had induced him to apply to the bank, and not being able to procure the security he had promised, he adopted that criminal mode of inducing the bank to make him the advances he required

In a case of real doubt character ought to have weight and to turn the scale in favour of the prisoner. But in a case like the present, its only effect could be to make one regret that a person who had hitherto maintained an irreproachable and excellent character, should have engaged in such a transaction.

After the jury had consulted together for about a minute, one of the jurors addressing his Lordship, enquired why John Taylor whose name was affixed to the bond was not called and examined on the subject. Mr Justice Le Blanc said

the prosecution could not call him, the rule of law would not permit it, the prisoner might have called upon him, but they would be able to from the evidence an obvious reason why he did call upon him.

The Jury, after consulting for a few moments found the prisoner guilty – DEATH.

Mr John Garlick one of the partners in the bank recommended him to the mercy of the Court.

Mr Justice Le Blanc said

I am not surprised at your feelings, Sir, but this is a crime of a very serious nature.

This trial excited more than ordinary interest from the respectable rank which the prisoner had maintained in society, and on account of the unusual circumstances attending the case.

The prisoner, who is about 29 years of age, has had the misfortune to lose his arm, he has not been married a year and was a person much respected. He conducted himself with great fortitude during the trial, but seemed evidently affected by the emotion of Mr Garlick, who burst into tears as he was stating the result of his enquiries into the character of the prisoner


© Malcolm Bull 2022
Revised 13:13 / 19th January 2022 / 16065

Page Ref: X432

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