The Michaelmas Quarter Sessions of 1855 saw charges of passing on counterfeit coins against Richard Broome and Robert Kent. The depositions from the archives reveal what appears to be a pub crawl by the defendants, starting at approximately 7 o’clock in the morning on Friday 17th August 1855. The pair are accused of using knowingly counterfeit coins of a high value to buy ale and taking the change in legitimate currency.
The first drink of the morning
The first witness, Thomas Stanley, an innkeeper in Southam, states that between 7 o’clock and 8 o’clock, on the morning of Friday 17th August, 1855, his servant came to him asking for change, giving him a coin he took to be a two shilling piece. When his servant, Emma Dale, looked at the change he had given her she said she had thought the coin was a half crown. Emma Dale then gave Broome and Kent the correct change for a half crown.
When questioned Emma Dale stated that Richard Broome and Robert Kent had come into the passage asking for a pint of beer, she asked if they meant ale to which they said yes.
‘The prisoner Kent gave me half a crown. I gave it to my master and he gave me one shilling and nine pence saying: “Oh it is a two shilling piece”. I took the one shilling nine pence to the prisoner Kent he said “It was half a crown I gave you,” and I replied, “It was not.” I said “I will go and ask the Master”. The master came in the door and I said, “that was a half a crown I gave you”, and he took it out of his pocket and looked at it. He said “Oh yes,” and I said “You have got to give the man another sixpence.” I think the Master gave the prisoner the sixpence but I won’t swear whether he did or I did. They arrived about five minutes before and left together.’
And another pint
After leaving Thomas Stanley’s inn, Richard Broome and Robert Kent were next seen at The Black Dog, on Market Hill, Southam, between 8 o’clock and 9 o’clock in the morning. The innkeeper was Ann Bloxham but Richard Broome and Robert Kent were served by her 22 year old daughter Elizabeth. Again they asked for a pint of beer and were asked if they meant ale. They paid for the ale with a half crown which Elizabeth Bloxham suspected was a counterfeit coin and she passed it to her mother for safe keeping.
Richard Broome and Robert Kent drank the ale and left the Black Dog, meeting another person up the street. Eventually the suspect half crown was passed to Mr Smallbone, Inspector of Police.
And finally one more for the road
The pair then made their way along the Banbury Road and stopped next at the Cuttle Inn, Long Itchington where the innkeepers were Esther and George Green. Yet again they asked for a pint of beer, not ale, and paid with a half crown, receiving the correct change of two shillings and three pence in legal tender. After they had quickly drunk the pint they left the inn along the same road. Esther Green looked at the half crown they had given her, thought it was a counterfeit coin and sent a customer, George Fell, after them.
When George Fell caught up with Richard Broome and Robert Kent he challenged them about the bad coin. They examined the coin and threw it to the ground agreeing it was counterfeit. They offered George Fell the change they had been given by Esther Green which he took and asked for the three pence to pay for the beer too. As George Fell was leaving to return to the Cuttle Inn he saw Robert Kent pick up the counterfeit half crown and put it in his pocket.
Later in the day both men were arrested by Police Constable Thomas Bunton before being taken to the Inspector of Police Richard Rathbone in Southam, after complaints from the three innkeepers.
In their defence
Both Richard Broome and Robert Kent pleaded innocent to the charges against them and defended themselves in court at a time when defence lawyers were a huge expense for the ordinary man. Richard Broome and Robert Kent had recently being discharged from the army after spending eight years on a prison hulk in Portland for desertion. They argued that they did not know the half-crowns they were spending were counterfeit as they had been out of the country, serving in Canada, for so long they were no longer familiar with English currency, having being paid in dollars.
After their release from prison they were given two pounds three shillings and five pence which included two gold sovereigns. They went to Reading Races and got drinking there and argud this is where they were given the counterfeit half-crowns as change.
Guilty or not guilty?
Both Richard Broome and Robert Kent were found guilty of the crime and were sentenced to 18 months of gaol with hard labour but what do you think?
Perhaps they were unused to English customs, having asked for beer at each Inn. In 1855 this was an Americanism, beer being known as ale in England at the time or were they readying their defence in advance? Why did Robert Kent pick up the half-crown he agreed was counterfeit after being confronted by George Fell? Why stop for three pints in such as short space of time? But in their own defence they highlighted they didn’t resist arrest or run from George Fell when confronted, surely a sign of innocence?
The depositions for the case can be seen at Warwickshire County Record Office (ref. QS30/24), go see the depositions for yourself and decide. The names of the two Inns mentioned are not referenced in the Quarter Session depositions but have been found through the 1851 census. Both still exist under the same names, The Black Dog and Cuttle Inn. I have been unable to find Thomas Stanley or Emma Dale on the census records to discover the name of the first inn Richard Broome and Robert Kent visited.