UTTERING is the offence of passing a forged document to someone to defraud them, usually money. It is a serious offence, but in the 1800s, it was more so, as we will see.

In 1817 Joseph Allen lived at Onston near Weaverham. A quiet country village not used to seeing offences more common in the cities.

But a crime of uttering forged bank notes was committed by Joseph Allen, who lived at a farm with his wife, seven children and his mother.

Allen was a market trader in Manchester dealing in cheese, flour, and fruit, and so on.

Suspicions in Manchester and Cheshire were raised due to the bank notes with which he paid for his wares to sell at the market and his day-to-day living.

The notes uttered by him were marked and presented to Mr Nicholson, a solicitor in Warrington. Some of the witnesses later appeared at his trial at Chester Assizes.

Samuel Woodward, a joiner at Acton Bridge, was paid by Allen £9 in £1 notes. He paid £8 of them to Mrs Okell for potatoes. She, in turn, used them to pay several people, all of whom returned the notes to her and then she passed them to Mr Nicholson.

The evidence was mounting, and the police acted. PCs William Tinsley and Caldwell from Warrington attended Allen’s farm.

PC Tinsley searched the house leaving PC Caldwell to detain Allen and his wife.

On a desk, he found thirteen £1 notes; and nearby were a further six. On most of them were written the names Jelley and two other names in ink that was barely dry.

When questioned about this, Allen said that he did not want to use them as they were rather ragged, and he was going to return them to the person he got them from, Joseph Jelley.

An officer from the Bank of England inspected the suspect banknotes and declared them counterfeit.

He stated that he believed them to have been printed on the same plate, and the handwriting on them was in the same hand – this related to the forged signatures of the persons who usually signed them at the Bank of England.

Joseph Allen was indicted for uttering forged notes.

Most of the witnesses gave evidence that they had known Allen for some time and found him to be a good and honest man.

When Allen was invited to comment, he stated that he had received all the notes from Jelley and others, a story that he stuck to throughout.

A miller at Onston, John Davies, said that he had never dealt with as honest a person in his life.

Samuel Hignett of Onston Hall was Allen’s landlord at a farm in Onston, said that he paid rent on his farm of two to three hundred pounds a year, and he believed him to be an honest man. In fact, most of the witnesses who were called vouched for their faith in Allen.

Sir William Garrow, the Chief Justice addressed the jury at Chester Assizes; the character witnesses all vouched for the respectability of Allen. But if he denied having forged notes in his possession and was then found with more when arrested, it must indicate a degree of guilty knowledge.

The jury found Allen guilty as charged.

The Crier of the Court then instructed all present to be silent while the sentence of death was passed on the prisoner.

The Chief Justice and magistrates then put on their hats, and the Chief Justice told Allen that he had been tried and found guilty by a jury of his countrymen of a grievous and aggravated crime.

He had paid £140 (today worth £12,302.51) in forged notes to several different persons. It had then become his duty to pronounce upon him the awful sentence of the law, that all the court may know his fate.

To see a man that had filled so respectable a situation and guilty of so great a crime, he told him, that it was now up to God to show mercy as there was no chance of any on earth. He continued at length until the time came to sentence him, “that he, Joseph Allen, be taken to the place from whence he came and then to a place of execution, where he should be hanged by the neck, till his body is dead... and may the Lord have mercy on his soul”.

Allen exclaimed, “Eh! dear, dear, what a great change I shall shortly undergo”. While on the way through Chester Castle prison. On arrival at the Gloverstone, the county-boundary where the sheriffs were waiting; he was handed over.

The cavalcade moved off and travelled along Bridge Street, into Watergate Street and arrived at the city gaol.

The preparations for the drop were completed, and he ascended the steps to the platform where the executioner applied the noose.

After prayers, he gave the word, and the platform fell, and he was ushered to ‘that dread bourne from which no traveller returns!’.

On completion, his body was taken down and conveyed by hearse in a handsome coffin paid for by some gentlemen from Weaverham.

The following Sunday, his body was interred in Weaverham Churchyard. The people of Weaverham had a collection for his wife, mother and seven children as they were rendered destitute by his loss; his mother died a week later of a broken heart.

What, you must think, happened to Jelley and Allen’s brother, who were also implicated in the crime. Joseph Jelley was tried at Lancaster Assizes and was acquitted. Samuel Allen, his brother, was also tried at Lancaster, was found guilty and sentenced to 14 years transportation to the Colonies. The forgers of the notes were not found.