Thursday, 23 July 2009

A 19th century scam

Here's a bit of light relief I stumbled across. It seems elaborate scams are nothing new.

On Tuesday morning last, Mr. Ashcroft, proprietor of the Sportsman public-house, Margaret Street, Haggerstone, received a letter purporting to come from his brewers', Messrs. Charrington, Head & Co., Mile End Road, and requesting his attendance there without delay. Without losing a moment, Mr. Ashcroft hurried off, but had not gone many minutes, when two men of gentlemanly appearance drove up to the door in a pony-chaise, and, having hastily alighted, inquired for the landlord, saying they had come express from the brewery for him, where he was anxiously expected upon business of great urgency. Mrs. Ashcroft told them her husband had just gone to the brewery, on which they expressed some disappointment at missing him, but having, as they said, a great deal of business to do in the course of the day, requested they be accomodated with a pen and ink in the bar-parlour, wanting, as they said, to run over and arrange a few pricvate transactions. They were accordingly accommodated; and, having been served with some brandy and water, proceeded to business. After a short tie a third person, supposed to be in the confederacy, came to the bar and called for a glass of ale, tendering a sovereign in payment. Mrs. Ashcroft went into the bar-parlour and opened a drawer, from which she took the change, depositing the sovereign. The man at the bar hurrying her at the time by calling out that he was in haste to fulfil an engagement of importance. Anxious to oblige him she hurried out, leaving the key in the drawer, and whilst hunting the change her back was to the bar-parlour. The bustle and the arrival of other customers drove all thoughts of the key out of her memory. In a very short time afterwards the two gentlemen came out of the parlour, wished Mrs. Ashcroft good day, and expressing a hope that her husband had not neglected to call at the brewery, re-mounted the chaise and drove off. Scarcely had they gone when a sudden misgiving flashed across Mrs. Ashcroft's mind. She hurried immediately into the parlour, where she found her fears verified, the drawer being locked and the key gone. She instantly had the drawer broken open, and found that 30 pounds in gold and 12 pounds in silver had been abstracted. In some time afterwards Mr. Ashcroft returned and was remarking to his wife the unaccountableness of the note purporting to come from the brewery, where, on his arrival, he was told that no communication had been forwarded to him by any one connected with the establishment, when the mystery received its solution, as she related to him what had occurred immediately after he left. The men can be easily identified. They are both about five feet seven inches high, and were dressed in black. One of them seemed about forty years of age, and rather stout, the other somewhat younger, and more slender. The pony was a bright bay, very spirited, and the black harness appeared to be almost new."
Daily News, Saturday, May 3rd, 1851, page 6.

I'm surprised at how sure they are of identifying the two men. Five feet seven inches and dressed in black doesn't seem like much to go on to me.


MentalDental said...

£42+ plus in the till? Blimey, that must have been a serious amount of money in 1851.

Like you, Ron, I find it hard to see how the description of the men was likely to lead to their arrest. The description of the pony seems rather better.

Ron Pattinson said...

Someone must have known that they had that much money. Work it out. At about 3d a pint I make that the equivalent of 10,000 quid.

jonbrazie said...

It seems like something fishy is going on. One stout and one slender? Sounds like movie character robbers to me.