The Goldsmith's Company V. Horatio Warren and Samuel FullerTaunton Assizes-1849Horatio Jennings Warren and Samuel Henry Fuller were tried on an indictment charging that the defendants had in their possession, without lawful excuse, a certain ware of silver, to wit, a spoon, having the mark on it of the die used by the Goldsmiths' Company, which had been transposed or removed from another ware of silver by Hubert Sawyer Couzens, they well knowing the same to have been so transposed and removed. There were other counts, omitting the name of Couzens. There was another indictment, charging the defendants with having been guilty of the same act as regarded a soup-ladle.
The case excited the greatest interest, the prisoners being large and opulent silversmiths of Bath. They were taken into custody on this charge in December last, and only liberated on finding bail to an immense amount.
Mr. Cockburn* said that he appeared for the prosecution, which was instituted by the Goldsmiths' Company, to whom by law was intrusted the duty of watching over and protecting the purity of the precious metals used for the purposes of manufacture in this country, and the charge was, that the two defendants had in their possession a mark used by the Goldsmiths' Company, that mark having been transferred and removed from one piece of metal to another. By law, it was necessary for the purpose of selling any article of gold or silver that it should have impressed upon it the mark of the Goldsmiths' Company; and that provision of the law was adopted for a twofold purpose: one, for the purpose of securing the duty to be paid to the revenue; and the other, and still more important one, was to protect the purity of the metal; otherwise it would be impossible for purchasers of gold or silver articles to ascertain whether they were made of pure metal; therefore, the law provided that all such articles should be sent to the Goldsmiths' Company to be assayed and the mark affixed. Parties not complying with these provisions of the statute were liable to penalties; but, inasmuch as with a view to evade penalties parties might have recourse to forged or counterfeit marks, an Act of Parliament, the 7 & 8 V. c. 22**, had been passed for the purpose of making any such forging or counterfeiting the mark a felony, punishable by transportation. The charge was that these defendants had in their possession a silver spoon, upon which was a mark of the Goldsmiths' Company, which had been transposed from one piece of metal to another. The facts of the case were briefly these:– In December last the Goldsmiths' Company received information which induced them to send down one of their most efficient officers, named Hough***, to Bath, to the shop of the defendants, who carried on business as goldsmiths and silversmiths in that city. Hough purchased some silver articles, and, examination confirming previous suspicion, on the 9th January he was sent down again, with instructions to apply for a search warrant. He procured the warrant, and seized these two articles with 100 others. The spoon in question was of an antique pattern, but was of modern manufacture. It appeared to Hough that the Goldsmiths' mark on the spoon was of the ancient date of 1774, as the company altered their mark every year. The spoon was seized and taken to London; and, upon removing the gilding which was upon it, it became palpable that the mark had been soldered in. It would be found that there was running along the whole length of the shank a plain and visible mark where the one part had been soldered to the other, so that it appeared that the part whereon the mark had been originally placed had been taken off another article and had been put on this spoon, so that the mark was transposed from one piece of metal to the modern spoon. In this way the revenue was defrauded, and by such means the silver to which the mark was affixed might be of less purity than the Act of Parliament required. This spoon was formed of three pieces of silver of different qualities. The bowl was four dwts. under the standard, the shank was three dwts. under the standard, and the handle, upon which the mark was placed, turned out to be one dwt. above the standard. It further appeared that, when the seizure of their goods was made, the prisoners sent to one Mitchell****, who was then engaged in making similar articles for them, and induced him to bury these articles in his garden, and to give up or destroy his books. The motive of the accused had not been alluded to. It might have been to defraud the revenue; it might have been to give to a modern article the appearance of an antique one, as some persons would give a high price for antique plate. But the Act of Parliament gave the go-by to all questions of motive. It was indifferent what the motive might be. With a view of preventing fraud upon the revenue or upon the public, it sought to prevent fraud of every description; and if a person had in his possession an article with the mark so transposed, with a knowledge of it, the offence was complete, and the person was liable to penalties.
Evidence was called, which supported the statement for the prosecution.
Mr. Crowder, for the prisoners, admitted that they had attempted to evade the duty imposed by the Acts of Parliament, and had exposed themselves to penalties, for which they might be sued; but it was not therefore to be imputed to them that they had been guilty of a felony. The case came within the fifth section of the Act, which rendered parties liable to a penalty of Â£10. for evading the duty. He submitted it was an addition and not a transposition, and therefore the case came under the fifth section, rendering the parties liable to a Â£10. penalty. The object was to give the appearance of antiquity to the article and to evade the payment of the duty. He did not mean to justify such tricks of trade; it was like a man giving a receipt without a stamp, which would subject him to a penalty, but not to criminal punishment.
Lord Denman summed up, and said it was a charge of the most simple character. The only question was whether this was to be called a transposition of the mark from one thing to another, or whether it was to be called an addition. He thought the taking it from one article, and applying it to a new thing, was transposing the mark.
The jury found the prisoners guilty of an addition, not of a transposition.
The verdict was received with great applause.
Source: The Annual register of world events: a review of the year, Volume 91
By Edmund Burke--Published in 1850
Although the Company were disappointed with the verdict, Warren and Fuller did not get off lightly. For the lesser offences they were fined a total of Â£450 and before they were granted bail, they both spent a month in prison.
The Company were very much out of pocket because of this trial, their legal costs amounted to Â£732-3s-4d after deducting costs allowed by the court. They were entitled to one half of the fines and a request to the Treasury to grant the full amount was refused.
* Later to become Lord Chief Justice.
** The Gold and Silver Wares Act 1844. (See: viewtopic.php?f=38&t=36011
*** This was Thomas Hough, the Weigher at Goldsmith's Hall and later to become the Senior Silver Assayer. Thomas Hough was apprenticed to Jonathan Hayne (Grimwade 1408, 2978, 3646) in 1827. After being granted his Freedom in 1835, he applied and was appointed to the position of Drawer at Goldsmith's Hall.
**** Possibly Thomas Mitchell (Grimwade 3449).