Thomas Hill 1742
In the records of the Worshipful Company it can be seen that ‘The Great Mogul’ was enrolled as a mark to Mr Blanchard, one of the wealthiest card-makers of his day, on April 1, 1741. This was an event of some interest, for more than one hundred years later ‘Mogul Cards’ were recognised as cards of a superior rank. The name seems to have been a tavern sign. ‘The Great Mogul’ was the title given to the Mohammedan Emperors of Delhi. On October 1, 1742 Thomas Hill was using ‘the Great Mogul’ as a mark and was accused by the Worshipful Company of illegally doing so. Hill refused to attend the hearing as he said that he had nothing to do with the Company. In January 1743 after the Company took legal advice it found that the Company had not sufficient legal power to insist on marks being inviolable. The Company’s Charter Rules and Regulations had become more or less obsolete and the enrolment of marks discontinued.
Old Bailey – 7th December 1743 – Thomas Hill
THOMAS Hill, of St. Martins in the Fields, in the County of Middlesex, was indicted for feloniously counterfeiting and resembling upon a certain Paper, and Thread inclosing a Pack of playing Cards, the Impression of a Seal stamped and marked, made and used, in Pursuance of a Statute to seal, stamp and mark such Pack of playing Cards with the said Stamp, to denote the Payment of the Duty of Six Pence charged on each Pack of playing Cards, intending thereby to defraud the King of the said Duty, against the Form of the Statute, for uttering, vending and selling one Pack of playing Cards with a false Seal, &c. fixed on certain Paper and Thread inclosing the said Pack of Cards, &c. and did defraud the King of the said Duty, &c. and he was charged for uttering, &c. the said Cards, &c. and this is laid to be on the 10th of November, in the 17th Year of his Majesty's Reign.
THOMAS Hill, 29 Years of Age, born of honest Parents the other end of the Town, when he was thought proper to go to School, they put him to a very good Master, who taught him to read, write, and cast Accounts, and had him instructed in Christian Principles. When he was at a proper Age, he was put Apprentice to Mr. Thurstian, a Cardmaker; (who was the Evidence against him) after his time was expired he married Mr. Thurstian's Wife's own Sister, and has now living by her a Boy and two Girls. He maintained himself and Family after a very genteel Manner; he was well respected by his Neighbours; he said he never wrong'd any Person of any Thing in his Life, but own'd the Fact for which he suffered for; but said his Brother-in-Law was the Person who first propos'd it, and likewise gave him the Money to go to Holland to have the Die made. When he came to London again, he work'd some Time at his Brothers, but having some Words with him about the Price, they parted; upon which he took a House the other side of the Water, and took his Brothers Maid along with him, whom he lived with, and had a Child by her; the Cause of his taking her was (as he said) that she would betray him, if he would not allow her so much a Year; rather than he wou'd allow her any Thing, he took her to look after his House. I reprimanded him for living with another Woman, when at the same Time he had a very honest Wife of his own. He shed Tears when I talk'd to him about it, and said he acknowledged it was a very great Crime, and was verry sorry for it, and he hop'd God of his infinite Goodness would forgive him. He has left two Brothers Behind him; one was a Perriwig-maker, and the other was an Apprentice to him; but since his Misfortunes was gone to Sea. The Night before his Execution, a Gentleman went into the Cell to pray by him, and when he had done, Mr. Hill returned him thanks for his Prayers, and said to him, Sir, I am not any Ways afraid of Death, for I hope I have made my Peace with God, thro' the Intercession of our Saviour Jesus Christ. The greatest concern I have upon my Spirits is, that I must leave my Wife, and my poor Infants behind, and what will become of them after my Decease, God alone is able to judge.
THE Morning of his Execution, he seem'd very much compos'd, till the Sherriffs Officers came to halter him, then he was very much shock'd; and as soon as he was halter'd, he sat himself down on a Bench in the Press-yard; and said to some Gentlemen that stood near him; That if he had been a Thief, or had robb'd a Subject, he should not have been in these unhappy Circumstances. When he came to the Place of Execution he then seem'd to be calm and very Devout, after he had hung three quarters of an Hour, he was cut down and carried to the Talbot in Tyburn-Road by Mistake, the Mobb that took care of his Body, was to carry him to Benjamin Boswell's, where a Surgeon waited on Purpose to bleed him. He was buried on Saturday last at St. George's Hannover-Square.
British Press – Friday 3 May 1805
Cumberland Packet and Wares Whitehaven Advertiser – Tuesday 7 May 1805
At the last Old Bailey Sessions which lasted five and a half hours, John Blacklin was indicted for feloniously vending playing cards, having a forged Ace of Spades. It appeared that he sold the cards in packs of 51 each, and in another pack he delivered as many forged Aces of Spades. The duty on a pack of cards is 2s 6d but the prisoner sold his cards at 14s per dozen packs. It was argued that the cards thus disposed of could not be deemed complete packs, but this objection was over-ruled and the prisoner was found guilty, but was recommended to mercy.
Bury and Norwich Post – Wednesday 8 May 1805
Isaac Maydwell and James Knype were yesterday tried at the Old Bailey upon separate indicments charging them with feloniously uttering cards with counterfeit and forged stamps. The evidence to prove the uttering of the forged stamps was nearly the same as in Blacklin’s case but there was this most important difference, that in the cases of the present prisoners there was no evidence of their having any connexion with Lee who was the maker of these forged cards. The defence of the prisoners was, that they believed the cards were of French manufacture and that they were only dealing in smuggled cards. The Jury found them both Not Guilty. They are very young men one of them a shopman to a haberdasher and the other a book-keeper to an inn.
The source of ‘Blacklin’s’ cards
In the case notes from the Old Bailey which are available to access on-line there is an incredible amount of detail behind the summary of ‘Blacklin’s trial’ as reported in the daily press. What we can learn from the case file is the source of the cards sold by Blacklin. It appears that Blacklin was a long standing customer of Thomas Lee who was a registered card maker, first registered ace 4 February 1802, though none known with his name on it and details of Thomas Lee are very scant, not surprising after reading the trial notes. From the testimony of a buyer of Blacklin’s cards we are told that the name on the ace of spades was HART and we are also informed that the aces did not have the ‘additional duty’ marked on them as he believed they had been made before the additional duty had been imposed. Testimony of Edward Wright card maker by business and employee of Thomas Lee. Wright confirmed that Lee carried on his business at No. 43 Fetter Lane and that Blacklin was a regular customer and purchased playing cards in various packages ranging from six dozen to a dozen gross. The cards were put in plain wrappers (not stamped in in the way the trade is legally carried on). None of the packs had aces, all were wanting. Blacklin was furnished with aces separately to make up the packs of cards fifty-two. The Aces were not procured from the Stamp-Office but furnished by Lee himself. It was confirmed that the sheets of aces used by Lee only contained 10 aces unlike the legal sheets which contained twenty.
The court was advised that during proceedings ‘Lee’ had absconded.
Edward Wright responding to questions from the prosecution also confirmed that duty aces delivered from the Stamp Office would have the card makers name upon them but those manufactured at Lee’s have the name of Hart upon them. Wright was not acquainted with any maker by the name of Hart whilst he was in the employ of Lee but he did know of a Hart in the trade but ‘he left off about 7 years ago”.
Joseph Reynolds Card maker was also working for Lee during this time and was sworn in to give evidence for the prosecution. He confirmed that Blacklin was one of Thomas Lee’s principal customers and took delivery of all the forged aces in the name of Hart which made up the greatest part of Lee’s trade.
Nathaniel Merchant and Charles Edward Berresford both from the Stamp Office both confirmes that the aces in the name of Hart recovered from the premises of Blacklin were forged. The most significant fact being that aces recovered had die numbers of 112, 113,114, 115 and 116 which had not been registered by Hart at the Stamp Office. Hart who was to go bankrupt and out of business in 1789 had not registered any Ace of Spades with a die number over 80.
See below for the complete article..
To acquire new and interesting playing cards is always a great experience and a rewarding one for the collector. When the cards come with letters and a rich history about their owner they burst into life and open a door into the world of merchants, sea travellers and much much more...
I was familiar with the name of W Gurney Benham as author to the well known book 'Playing Cards' a History of the pack and explanations of its many secrets published in c.1931 but had not realised that he was born and bred in my Home town of Colchester and had been a past Mayor.
Sir William Gurney Benham, FSA, FRHS giving him his full title was born 16 February 1859 and died 13 May 1944. In summary, he was a newspaper editor, published author and three times Mayor of Colchester.
His first job was as a journalist in Wiltshire in 1881. In 1884 he took over the family printing business and began his 59 year editorship of the Essex County Standard. From 1892 to 1929 he edited the newspaper jointly with his brother, Charles Edwin Benham. He is now mainly known for his many publications, many of which are transcriptions of official documents from mediaeval times, particularly those related to his home town of Colchester. He also compiled a number of books of quotations. It was remarkable that he was able to collect and arrange some 50,000 quotations and proverbs. As a printer he had a strong interest in the history of playing cards and published two books on the subject; 'The History and Secrets of the Pack' and secondly 'A Short History of Playing cards'.
Colchester is famous for being the 'oldest Recorded Town in Britain' but also is well known for the Oyster Feast which is held annually in Colchester Town Hall. I was fortunate to find on old Oyster Feast invitation and menu card at local antique fair for sale and was much surprised to see that W Gurney Benham was also a much accomplished artist. I have since discovered two further examples dated 1902 and 1936 both of which have excellent drawings by W Gurney Benham....
A mediaeval scene with lots of famous dinner party guests all with connections to Benham's home town of Colchester.