11th May 1758.

In 2013 there were 700,000 fake banknotes in circulation. Image: Pic. Librey.Alamy.

In 2013 there were 700,000 fake banknotes in circulation.
Image: Pic. Librey.Alamy.

In the 18thc over 200 offences carried the death penalty, for young and old alike, which included petty theft and forgery.

Today in 1758, Stafford linen draper Richard William Vaughan was hanged at Tyburn for forging a Bank of England note. He was the first to be so convicted.

It appears he needed the money in order to get the permission of his potential father-in-law to marry his daughter. He was exposed by one of the engravers.

So when he should have been arranging his nuptials he was standing trial at the Old Bailey Court, London, on the 7th April for: ‘defrauding the Governor and Company of the Bank of England.’

A year later in 1759, the white £10 note measuring (8in by 5in), was first issued in that ‘annus mirabilis’, because of Britain’s costly victories in the Seven Years’ War, gold was in short supply, hence the need for paper money.

From 1797 to 1821 Britain was off the Gold Standard and the Bank issued ‘small notes’ of £1 and £2 on 26th February 1797, but these were discontinued owing to forgery.

Forgery was always an issue, people being not used to paper money ,and forgers were easily able to pass them off; no note was immune from imitation. What one engraver could make, another could copy.

In 1830, the Forgery Act abolished death for a number of offences, but retained it for forty-two kinds of forgery. Two years later, the Act was repealed and death for all forgery abolished, except that of Wills and of Powers of Attorney, for the transfer of government stock.

In 1855 Victorian printing technology found a weapon in the stereotype, so now every bank note could be printed identically, without variations, which it was hoped would defeat the forger, but not to be.

The biggest forgery came in World War II, with Operation Bernhard, the Nazi’s efforts to fake £134 million of our currency, in a plot to ruin the British economy. The Bank of England spotted fakes in 1943 and responded by stopping issuing notes above £10.

One result of this Nazi attempt to flood the country with forged notes was that the large £5 notes were replaced, as despite most of the  counterfeit notes being dumped in an Austrian lake, some filtered through.

Apart from notes, Britain in the 18thc always regarded ‘coining’ as a major offence and Catherine Murphy and her husband were executed for the offence.

However as she was a woman, the law dictated she be ‘burnt at the stake’, at Tyburn, on 18th March 1789, the last woman to suffer this punishment, though, ‘humanely’, she was strangled prior to the burning.

In 1786 two-thirds of the coinage was fake and few silver coins were genuine. It is still a problem today with £1 coins.

(1) A blue new £5 note came on 21.2. 1957.

£10 note on 21.2.1964.

£20 note on 9.7.1970.

£50 note on 20.3.1981.

Ref: wikipedia.org/mary_channing.

Ref: uk/news_and_information.

Ref: newstoday.co.uk.

Ref: paperpast.natlib.govt.nz

Ref: googleimages/banknote forgery re Pic.Ref.

Ref: guardian.com. P.Anderson and J. Papworth. 19.10.2013. How to Spot a Fake Banknote.

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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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