Ex-Classics Home Page



Convicted at the Old Bailey, 1796, of a Confidence Trick called Cross-Dropping, and sentenced to Transportation

FORMERLY this description of fraud was frequently practised in London upon countrymen. The dupe, in the present instance, was William Headley, an ironmonger at Cambridge, who, on the trial of these robbers, deposed that on the 7th of July, 1796, he was going from Shoe Lane to the Angel Inn, St Clement's, to take a place on the outside of the coach, to see his brother in Wiltshire. He met Hodges in Butcher Row, and left him to take his place. Having taken it, Hodges overtook him in Portugal Street, but before he saw him he beheld a parcel lying at his right foot. Hodges clapped a hazel cane on the parcel, picked up the parcel, and tore away the middle part of the paper, and showed the red, which appeared like a pocket-book. He put it into his pocket, but took it out again in a minute, opened the end, and doubled it as large as he possibly could to satisfy the witness that there was something in it, and he told him he had got a finding. Witness asked him what it was, and he stopped near Mr Chorley's, the Castle, in Portugal Street. He said this was not a proper place to show it; but if witness would go in, and have something to drink, he would show it to him.

Accordingly he went in with him, and the prisoner Probin was there (that was the first time he had seen him). Hodges took out the pocket-book, unfolded it, produced a receipt from Mr Smith (which witness showed the Court), and read as follows:--

London, 20th of June, 1796.

Received of John King, Esq., the sum of three hundred and twenty pounds for one brilliant-diamond cross, by me,


This was upon a fourpenny stamp. Hodges held it rather under the table, read the receipt, and seemed very much alarmed and confused at finding it. Witness read it, and Hodges asked what they should do with the book and its contents; then he showed witness the cross, who thought it should be taken to this William Smith, the jeweller. Hodges confessed himself much at a loss what to do with it, as he did not approve of sending it to the jeweller; and asked witness if he had any objection to its being mentioned to that gentleman (Probin). There was no other person then in the room, and they did not appear before that to know one another. Witness consented to its being shown to him, and he was asked to give his opinion of this finding. Probin addressed himself to them with a great deal of politeness, and said: "Gentlemen, if you are in any difficulty, I will assist you;" and he asked if anybody was near, or if they were both together. They told him nobody was near. He asked who picked it up; witness told him Hodges. Probin then said he thought Hodges ought to make witness a present, as being a party concerned. Hodges agreed to that proposal, and said he would go to his banker to get change for some drafts to make him a present, for being with him when the parcel was found. He said he should not be gone above ten minutes; but Probin said: "I think you should not take the pocket-book with you," and proposed it should be left with witness. Hodges went, and returned in about ten minutes, very hot, and said he had seen his banker, but he was obliged to go to the Exchange, and he should not see him again till four o'clock.

The business was then put off till four o'clock, and a meeting was appointed at the Angel, behind St Clement's. Probin asked witness his name and where he came from, and he told him; and Hodges gave him his name and address, saying he came from Worcester, and was in the hop business. Witness forgot the name Hodges gave, but was sure it was not that of Hodges. Probin gave his name as William Jones, No. 7 Charing Cross. Probin then said Hodges ought to have the pocket-book and the valuable property in it till four o'clock. Probin then asked witness what he would leave to have the property left with him till four o'clock: he asked him if he would leave one hundred pounds as a security for his meeting them. Witness pulled out some papers he had concealed in his stocking, and took therefrom a bill for one hundred pounds; it was a bank bill on demand. Probin took it out of Hodges's hand, turned it over, and examined it; said it was pieced, but it would do very well. Witness left the note in the care of Hodges, and departed.

About five minutes after he showed the cross to a friend, and, from what he said, witness was alarmed, and went to inquire for Mr Jones, No. 7 Charing Cross, but he could find no such person; and about two or three o'clock he gave information at Bow Street, and described the persons of the parties concerned. This event took place on Thursday, and Mr Headley saw them in custody at Bow Street on the Monday following.

Mr Lamb produced the bank-note, which the prosecutor deposed to as the same note he left with Hodges, the same number, and he also knew it by being pieced.

John Furmean, a jeweller, said there was no intrinsic value in the diamond cross. He would not give anything for it if offered to him for sale.

Mr Francis Salkeld, one of the cashiers of the bank, swore that he gave value for the one-hundred-pound bank-note, and also to his writing on the face of it "W. Hodges, Holborn." The prisoner represented himself to be William Hodges, the witness supposed, by his writing that upon it. He gave ten ten-pound bank-notes, as appeared by the book. On looking at four bank-notes, which were found on Probin, the witness said they answered in date and number to the four in his entry.

Probin, in his defence, said that the notes which were found on him were Hodges's, who, having been intoxicated the preceding night, had given him his pocket-book to take care of. Hodges made no defence. They were both found guilty, and sentenced to be transported each for seven years.


Previous Next

Back to Introduction