Yorkshire Forged Banknote Gang

On 17th May 1828, a gang of 8 people from the Todmorden area, including:

appeared at the York Summer Assizes and were charged with

feloniously uttering & disposing of forged bank / promissory notes, etc.

They were all sentenced to death but none of these sentences of execution was actually carried out, and they were sent to prison hulks.

George Stansfield, Jonathan Stansfield, Isaac Briggs and Matthias Pilling were later transported to Tasmania.

George Scholes & Sarah / Sally Shackleton admitted King's evidence and were acquitted.

It is not yet known what happened to John Fielding and Henry Sunderland.

The case was widely reported in newspapers of the time

Henry Sunderland, George Stansfield, Isaac Briggs, Jonathan Stansfield, John Fielding and Matthias Pilling, were placed at the bar for uttering forged notes. In ordering judgement of death to be recorded against them, Mr Baron Hullock said

It may be proper that I should inform you all that none of you must expect to stay in this country.

All your lives will be spared, and, as respects some of you perhaps improperly so for a more ruinous system of profligacy in each and all of your cases, never before occurred. There is scarcely a bank in this part of the country but which has been defrauded by you; or, at least those persons who have unfortunately taken your notes have been defrauded, if the banks have not.

It is absolutely impossible that you should expect any further mercy than that your lives should be spared.

As for you Henry Sunderland, at your time of life, you ought to have been endeavouring to make your peace with God instead of spending a considerable portion of it as you have in these nefarious practices. Those who are behind you, should they be apprehended, will, almost certainly, pay a much higher price as a penalty for their iniquity.

You may think yourselves most fortunate and prepare to leave the country for the rest of your lives


The York Northern Circuit [July 1828] reported

Most Extraordinary Detail Of Facts about The Yorkshire Gang of Utterers of Forged Notes & Base Coin

There has not for many years been a discovery of such an extensive gang of utterers of forged notes and base coin representing both gold and silver as the one to whom six men who have been convicted at York belonged.

Other two were also taken into custody but for good reasons admitted as evidence against the six. Five of the delinquents having chosen to plead guilty, the particular facts connected with their cases of course did not come out, therefore the following narrative, certainly extraordinary in itself would be read with interest.

It was well known for a great length of time by the bankers all round the neighbouring country that forgeries were continually being committed upon them and that to a very great extent, but still no clue whatsoever could be got that was likely to lead to a discovery of the wholesale dealers; and the execution of the notes being in some instances well done, many of them being even good imitations of the beautiful designs of Messrs Perkins & Heath, and even a fair copy of their elaborate design for the back of the notes that the danger to be apprehended became alarmingly great.

It was known that there were Settle, Leeds, Blackburn, Kirby Lonsdale and many other provincial bank forged notes in circulation and at length it was ascertained beyond all doubt that there were no less than ten plates of various banks at work.

The Bankers therefore, resolved to use every means inn their power to detect them and under the direction of Messrs Carr & Robinson, eminent Solicitors of Blackburn, they employed Mr John Kay, who is chief officer of police at Blackburn and a very intelligent man. In all probability, Harrison, who was chief witness against them all, was fixed upon by Kay to trace them out, but the introduction of the one to the other is immaterial.

It was however known that Harrison had as far back as 1821 been sent to Ireland, for the purpose of detecting persons who were known to be forging country bank notes there, in which pursuit he succeeded and a man named Quinn was there executed. There can be but little doubt but that Harrison had been on the look out for some considerable time, but without success.

In the course of last summer a man named Marsden, who lived near Harrison at Preston and knew he had been employed as stated, happened to be at work with George Scholes (the prisoner admitted as evidence) in boring for coals near Rochdale, he became intimate with Scholes and about Christmas last Marsden accidentally discovered that Scholes was in the practice of uttering forged notes and in the course of a little time Scholes offered to introduce Harrison to the persons from whom he purchased them and held out a flattering prospect of the profit that was to be derived from the trade.

Marsden, knowing as before stated, that Harrison had been employed before to find out such persons, mentioned this circumstance to him and this led them to Messrs Carr & Robinson and they were by them employed under the authority of Messrs Birkbeck & Company, bankers at Settle. Under the directions of Mr Kay it was determined that Harrison, Marsden & Scholes, should proceed into Yorkshire with the understanding that Scholes should be kept in the dark as to their real object and he was led to believe that they would be able to circulate the notes extensively and Scholes, Harrison and Marsden could find the money for all their purposes. They accordingly arranged with Scholes and actually carried on the delusion for four months during which period they made no less that fifteen journeys from Blackburn and Preston into Yorkshire, to the vale of Todmorden, a place admirably adapted for such nefarious trade being situate at the foot of a chain of mountains or fells – one of which is known to all as Blackstone Edge – on which mountain or fells no doubt the manufactory was carried on.

During their fifteen journeys they purchased forged 51 and 11 Bank of England notes, the provincial notes of six bankers – counterfeit half sovereigns and half crowns to the amount in nominal value of more than one hundred pounds.

Their first introduction by Scholes was to Henry Sunderland, the old man of 72 years of age, who was tried and pronounced to be guilty.

This old sinner was once in the employ of Mr Rawdon, the banker at Halifax, as a gamekeeper, and there is good reason to believe that he has been dealing in forged notes for more than forty years, and among the rest those of his master (Mr Rawdon).

Before their departure it was necessary that Harrison should be introduced to Scholes; and this was done in the following manner and will show that Scholes's confidence in Marsden was very great.

It should be premised that during the whole four months the name of Harrison nor Marsden transpired at any of their interviews with the gang, but they all three, viz Harrison, Marsden and Scholes, passed by the names of James, Joseph and George.

In the first week in January last, Harrison saw Scholes at Marsden's house and asked him if his name was not Scholes, and he said it was, and asked him if his name was not Harrison; they afterwards went out for a walk and during their walk Harrison asked Scholes if he had any more notes about him, Scholes replied

Why do you ask me about the notes?

to which he replied

Has not Joseph spoken to you about me?

when Scholes admitted he had and that he then had three notes, but they were not with him and added

I have two Bank of England notes in my umbrella

Harrison remarked that it was a queer place to keep notes in, when Scholes replied

They are safer in my umbrella that they would be in my pocket

and said they were in the brass part of the umbrella at the top; the other note he said was at home, that he had paid it away once and that it had been returned to him on account of his putting his name upon it, but he would never put his name on another note. He said he had paid the note away at the White Lion in the back of Longridge Fell. He then told Harrison that he would bring the note from Blackburn and he might have it if it would do him any good, and he would cure his name being upon it.

A few days after Scholes called upon Harrison and gave him a one pound Bank of England note and a Craven Bank note, the latter Harrison kept and Scholes desired that he would go out next morning into the country and pass it away and he must have half the money when he had paid it. Harrison & Marsden met Scholes the next night and gave him seven shillings. Scholes said that he was glad it had gone and hoped it would not come again. He said he had been dabbling in notes for three years and he got them from Henry Sunderland of Wytholme Royd (Mytholmroyd) in Yorkshire and if they could raise a few pounds he would go with them there to buy some and it would do them all good. Harrison told him he would see if he could raise a friend that would advance some money and Scholes told him that he hoped he might be able to do so

as there was no hazard at all in getting the notes

On the following Wednesday evening they again met Scholes and agreed to go next morning with him to Wytholme Royd, which they did.

On the 19th they were introduced for the first time to Henry Sunderland and from him purchased five forged notes of which Scholes took one.

They shortly after, namely on the 28th January, met Sunderland at Rochdale and again on the 6th February at Wytholme Royd but on neither of these occasions did they succeed. The old man seemed desirous of trying their patience.

On the 21st February, they went to the Elephant & Castle at Wytholme Royd when Scholes went out for Sunderland who soon came with him. Scholes gave Harrison two forged five pound Bank of England notes saying

these are what Henry has given me for you

Harrison objected to them saying they were not what he wanted. Sunderland replied

they were very good ones of the sort, take them for they will do you good

and they eventually took them.

Marsden appears to have discovered, before his communication with Harrison that Scholes had in his possession a considerable amount in silver coin and a forged note when he said to him

I can trust you with anything, the note is not so good as it should be

and this single declaration it was that led to all that followed and the detection of the gang. Having then got introduced the occurrences took place which came out at the trial of Sunderland, the most remarkable of which was the manner of Scholes introducing his two friends. He went down upon his knees and said that

he wished his legs might never straighten if Marsden and Harrison were not Jannock (good, staunch) and did not stand true

After some private conversation with Scholes, the old man said

lads, you shall have what you want

at the same time requesting them to go to another house as they would be handier in the morning, saying to them

If you will be true to me you shall have what you want and I'll be a friend to you; I'll find anything from a pound to a sixpence

and that he could get them different sorts of notes besides sovereigns and silver. They then proceeded to make their bargain, as stated on his trial and made an appointment for the following Monday but one, and Sunderland told them if they behaved well he would take them to the place where the notes were made; they had two Bank of England plates – one for ten and the other for five pound notes. They met him according to appointment and smoked a pipe with him and Sunderland wished to know what they were

wearing with him

(i.e. the amount they would deal for); they gave him £21.10s but they could not get any notes that day but their stay all night led to their being introduced to George Stansfield and three of the prisoners as friends.

At this meeting there was however nothing done and although they stayed for four days in and about the neighbourhood, after the old man had got the money they saw no more of him except on the evening of that day when he came to them drunk and told them that the man he was to have the notes from was drunk and he could not get them.

On the 6th February they next met Sunderland and then he told them he had never been so ill in his life as he had since he saw them before, when he thought what a state he had left them in. He left them for a considerable time and on his return told them that the notes that they wanted were in an unfinished state and they could not have them at that time, but he might have Bank of England notes if they liked. They declined that offer and told him they had rather wait for the others.

At that interview Harrison and Marsden introduced the subject of the plates and told Sunderland that they had purchased one. This was done in the expectation that he probably would propose the sale of a plate to them. In that, however, they failed; but the old man told them if they be true to him he would find them the best bottoms (meaning paper) that there was. The old man, it would appear, was all this time very shy with them and acted as through he was determined to put their honesty to the test.

At this interview they made nothing of him and on the 19th of the same month they had another appointment with him but it was two days before they got to see him – and they got two five pound Bank of England still pressed for the country notes and old Sunderland at Length said he would go up to George's (Stansfield's) and fetch some of the sort they wanted as they had been to a good deal of expense, but on return he said that the Constables had been there looking after the presses that they had missed them – they were out of the way; and that Stansfield dare not come as the Constables were about. He told them that

if any misfortune happened to them in printing they must not blame him for it.

They then parted and agreed to meet the following Wednesday at Betty Mitton's at Lombard's.

They met Sunderland according to the appointment and he inquired how they had got on with the two £5 notes – Harrison told him one of them was gone and they would then ware four pounds with him and that he must do something towards their former expenses, he said I will, and I will not keep you long – I will go and fetch your orders and will bring you notes of different sorts. He then went out and Harrison watched him go into the house of one Holden(who is not yet apprehended) - all three after that went into a wood appointed and the old man came to them and gave them a small parcel saying

There is what you want, there are different sorts of notes

That parcel contained ten forged Kirby Lonsdale notes. Scholes wanted some of them and had two. Before they parted Sunderland asked them how soon they would come again and they appointed the next Wednesday but one, and he appointed them to meet

at Hoodley Pike (Stoodley Pike) as there was no house near and it would be more private

He also promised them they should have all they wanted but did not keep that appointment. With regard to Stansfield who was met on one occasion with Sunderland, it would appear that he thought he had got hold of a valuable connexion and that he wished to induce the three to leave old Sunderland and deal with him, for in their very first conversation he told them that

he could have notes of any sorts at a lower price than Sunderland could as he and his father were master millers

We are master millers and make country notes and can afford to sell them lower than Henry can

He also said that 10s a piece was too much to give for them, there would be nothing got by them at that price. They appointed to meet Stansfield on the 6th March, but he was not at the appointed place, but Harrison went to his house and found him at home; he told Harrison he could let him have Bank of England notes, but these Harrison told him would not do as he wanted country ones. Stansfield said

then you'll get none in this neighbourhood for there are none.

If you have any money to ware and will lend it to me, at this time it would be of great service to me, as my wife is lying in, and I will give you the satisfaction when you come again with the sorts you want

Harrison then lent him £21 10s On the 17th February they went to Stansfield's house, they then went to a public house together and on their way Stansfield told Harrison

you shall have them, meaning the notes he had before applied for or anything else I can do for you

Stansfield asked him if he could do with four half-sovereigns, he told him they were not things he wanted. Stansfield replied

if you will take them they will do you good and at this time I am wanting of a few shillings

Harrison bought four for fourteen shillings. Stansfield left them at a public house and promised to return again that night, but did not.

Their next interview was on the 12th March.

Stansfield told them he would make up the difference between them, and wished to know what Harrison would then ware with them. He agreed to let him have thirty shillings. Stansfield left them at a public house and returned in about half an hour and asked them to go out with him. As they were walking down a hill a short distance from the public house (Marsden being a few yards before them) Stansfield said to Harrison

Look under that stone and see if you can find anything

On Wednesday evening, Henry Sunderland, Jonathan Stansfield, John Fielding, Isaac Briggs, George Stansfield and Sarah Shackleton from of neighbourhood of Todmorden in the parish of Halifax, passed through this town on their way to York Castle, variously charged with having uttered divers promissory notes &c to the value of £1 each knowing the same to be forged, with an intent to defraud William Gibson & Company of Kirkby Lonsdale, William Birkbeck & Company of Settle, Williams Brown & Company, Christopher Beckett & Company of Leeds, and Rawdon Briggs, Esq of Halifax.

The first mentioned prisoner Henry Sunderland, further stands charged with having uttered and paid two forged Bank of England notes of the value of £5 each with intent to defraud the Governor of the Company of the Bank of England. George Stansfield is further charged with having uttered and paid certain counterfeit money – namely, four half sovereigns and eight half-crowns for a lower value than their proper denomination, knowing the same to be base and counterfeit. Another prisoner of the same gang has been sent to Lancaster Castle on a similar charge, the offence having been committed in that county.

Last evening, two other prisoners, Matthias Pilling, a publican at Todmorden, and George Scholes, both aged men, passed through this town on their way to York Castle, charged with being parties in the offences for which the above named prisoners were committed


© Malcolm Bull 2023
Revised 15:15 / 4th September 2023 / 24039

Page Ref: MMY146

search tips advanced search
site search by freefind