Ann Hurle – hanged for forgery in 1804.
Ann Hurle was one of twelve people to be hanged for forgery in 1804. The law took a very severe view of this offence at the time and few forgers were reprieved.
was an educated young woman of twenty two, living in London, who had devised
quite an elaborate plan to defraud the Bank of England of £500, which was a
very large sum in those days and would now be the equivalent of over a quarter
of a million pounds. The crime was
Ann returned on Monday morning with the document purportedly signed and witnessed by Thomas Noulden and Peter Verney, who both ran small businesses in
the conversation in Mr. Bateman’s office, Ann mentioned that she had recently
married and asked by Mr. Bateman why she had not taken out the power in her
married name, she told him that she feared her marriage to one James Innes was not a good one. She suggested that he had stolen
her money and then boarded a ship at
left the bank and returned on the following Tuesday. In the meantime, Mr. Francillon had become suspicious when he checked the
document. He put their main meeting off
to the following day while he did some further research, including going to see
As arranged, Mr. Francillon met Ann on the
Wednesday morning at the Bank of England.
He had previously had a meeting with Mr. Newcomb the principal clerk in
the Reduced Office and explained his suspicions. He and Mr. Newcomb had a
meeting with the Governors. Ann came to the Bank with a young man and must have
realised from the delays in seeing her that all was not well and left. She was arrested the following day in
Bermondsey and taken to the Mansion House for questioning. The young man turned out to be James Innes, who was also questioned. She was charged with the forgery and he with
being an accessory to the crime, although it seems that his case was dropped as
there is no record of a trial for him.
The case was obviously unusual and of some public interest as it was
reported in The Times of
Sessions opened on
George Francillon and Benjamin Allin were the principal prosecution witnesses. Mr. Francillon related the above story to the court and Mr. Allin examined the power of attorney document and declared that the signature was not his and that he had never signed such a document. Thomas Bateman, Peter Verney and Thomas Noulden also testified against her. Ann’s aunt, Jane, told the court that Ann had not visited Mr. Allin’s house recently and neither had Messrs. Verney and Noulden, the two purported witnesses to his signature on the document.
testimonies were cross examined at this time but Ann offered no actual defence
leaving this to her counsel. She was
thus convicted and remanded to
Recorder of London reviewed the cases of those condemned to death and made a
recommendation in each one. He then
presented his recommendations in person to the Privy Council, which was chaired
by King George III. In Ann’s case, there
could be no recommendation for a reprieve. She was therefore scheduled for
execution, along with Methuselah Spalding who had been convicted of sodomy at
the previous Sessions held on
For reasons that are unclear, the normal “New Drop” style gallows at Newgate was not to be used for these two hangings. A simple gallows was erected at the top of the Old Bailey, near to St. Sepulchre's Church.
On the morning of execution, Ann and Spalding were brought from their cells and pinioned in the Press Room. They were then taken out into the yard and loaded into a horse drawn cart covered in a black cloth which emerged from the prison at about for the short ride to the gallows. The cart was backed under the beam and the two prisoners were allowed to pray with Ordinary and make their last statements. Ann was dressed in a mourning gown and wore a white cap. She made no address to the multitude who had come to see her die but prayed fervently with the Ordinary for five minutes or so. William Brunskill, the hangman for London & Middlesex, placed the rope around her neck and when she had finished praying, pulled the white cap down over her face. The cart was now drawn away leaving them both suspended. It was recorded that Ann let out a scream as the cart moved and that she struggled hard for two to three minutes before becoming still, her hands were observed to move repeatedly towards her throat and her un-pinioned legs kicked and padded the air. No doubt the eyes of the crowd were riveted on her poor writhing form. After hanging for the customary hour, they were taken down and returned inside Newgate from where they could be claimed by relatives for burial.
angry letter appeared in The Times newspaper the following week castigating the
authorities for the execution on the grounds of cruelty compared with the New
Drop and the difficulty in seeing the prisoners and thus taking a moral lesson
from their demise. It was alleged in the
letter that the reason for the change of gallows was that the Newgate staff were too lazy to assemble the New Drop gallows. Whether this was true or whether the drop
mechanism had become defective we will never know, but it was returned to
service for the next execution, that of Providence Hansard
for the same crime on
seems surprising looking back two centuries that Ann, acting alone, would have
devised such an ambitious plan to obtain this large sum of money. However, no evidence was offered at her trial
to show that anyone else was involved, other than perhaps James Innes on the periphery of the crime. It must have taken quite some time to think
through and make the necessary contacts, such as George Francillon,
who would be able to obtain the power of attorney for her. It is hard to believe she was not aware of
the risk of failure and the deadly consequences that would follow it. In the period 1800 - 1829, an amazing 218
people were to die for forgery in