Henry Fauntleroy 1784-1824

Lived in Headley - Hanged for forgery

From Chambers Biographical Dictionary:-

FAUNTLEROY, Henry (1784-1824)

English banker and forger, son of a Dorset bank clerk who had formed a private bank in London. He succeeded his father in 1807 as managing partner when the firm was in difficulties, and commenced a massive fraud which brought forgery to something near an exact science. He was arrested in September 1824, tried and found guilty of forging with intent to defraud the Bank of England and other parties of around £20,000, and after unsuccessful appeals was hanged.

From Headley 1066-1966 by Canon Tudor Jones:
In some notes by Mr. Laverty he states that by the end of the 17th century the original family of Fauntleroy had disappeared [from Headley]. But there was living at Curtis Farm 150 years ago Fauntleroy the banker who was hanged for forgery. He forged, not for himself but for his bank; and his case finally put an end to hanging for forgery. He was "a tall man and used to wear white trousers, white waistcoat and black coat." Two Headley farmers went up to his execution.

Local legend says that Henry Fauntleroy lived at Curtis Farm, Headley, at the time of his arrest (though he was actually arrested at an address in Berners Street, London). We are told that John Lickfold when a tailor's apprentice came to Headley (some say he walked from Guildford) in 1824 to measure Fauntleroy for a suit, but found him to have been already arrested.

Below, we reproduce an article from a local newspaper dated 21 March 1925, on the publication of 'The Trial of Henry Fauntleroy and Others' by Horace Bleackley.

"Henry Fauntleroy was a remarkable young man. In repose his placid and clean-cut features seemed to betoken a simple and gentle disposition. But close inspection would reveal a perfect picture of resolution and strength. He believed that he bore a striking resemblance to Napoleon, and he aspired to be regarded by the world at large as a Napoleon of commerce.

"His marriage was an unhappy one. He married to save himself the ordeal of a duel. He soon separated from his wife and then according to the author plunged from one love affair into another, at the same time remaining ostensibly the devout son and inflexible man of business. Fauntleroy was connected with a bank in Berners Street, London.

"Trusting him implicitly, the partners were content to leave the whole conduct of the establishment in his hands. At the time of which the author writes, England was at war with France. There was a scarcity of money and owing to the failure of one of the firms of speculative builders to whom they had advanced money, the Berners Street bank was involved in a loss of £60,000. The Bank of England scenting danger, began to refuse their acceptances and their credit was exhausted.

"So Henry Fauntleroy threw honesty to the winds and adopted the expedient of forgery, which at that time was punishable at the hands of the hangman. Among the clients of the Berners Street bank were innumerable holders of Consols, long and short annuities, Navy loans and other Government securities. Fauntleroy had a list of their stocks and was familiar with all their signatures.

"In every case the device was successful. The defrauded proprietor was never allowed to discover the theft. Forgery was used to cover forgery, until eventually nearly £400,000 worth of Government stock had been appropriated.

"How many hundreds of thousands of pounds Fauntleroy made out of his forgeries will never be known. His trial lasted only five hours and he was sentenced to be hanged. Fauntleroy heard the announcement of his doom with composure. And although she had been so deeply wronged his wife remained faithful to him to the last, seeking constant interviews. A crazy teacher of languages, inspired with a desire for notoriety, begged to be allowed to take the forger's place on the scaffold.

"Fauntleroy made a careful toilet for his execution, which was witnessed by upwards of a hundred thousand people. His case finally put an end to hanging for forgery.

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