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The Newgate Calendar - WILLIAM CODLIN


Executed 27th of November, 1802, for scuttling a Ship, of which he was Captain

   CODLIN was a native of Scarborough, and allowed to be an excellent seaman in the north coast trade. He was captain of the brig Adventure, nominally bound to Gibraltar and Leghorn, and was indicted at the Old Bailey for feloniously boring three holes in her bottom with a view to defraud the under-writers, on the 8th of August, 1802, off Brighton. Codlin and Read were charged, as officers of the ship, for committing the fact; and Macfarlane and Easterby, as owners, for procuring it to be committed.

   The trial came on at the sessions-house at the Old Bailey, on Tuesday, 26th of October, 1802, before Sir William Scott, Lord Ellenborough and Baron Thompson. It commenced at nine o'clock in the morning, and did not conclude till twelve at night.

   The first witness was T. Cooper, who said he was a seaman on board the Adventure, originally before the mast; he was shipped in the river, the vessel then lying below Limehouse. Codlin was captain and Douglas was mate. The rest of the crew consisted of two boys, making five in all. Storrow came back and forward. There was part of the cargo on board, and the vessel sailed from Limehouse for Yarmouth, where she took in twenty-two hogsheads of tobacco, some linen, and fifteen tons of ballast. From thence they proceeded to Deal, having taken on board at Yarmouth an additional hand, named Walsh, a bricklayer's labourer. At Deal, Douglas, the mate, complained of rheumatism, and left them. Storrow went away, and was succeeded by Read. They took in another hand, named Lacy.

   The Captain said, as witness was bringing him off shore, that witness should take Douglas's berth; but witness said he was not capable, not knowing navigation. The Captain said, as long as he pleased him that was enough. They did not sail from Deal as soon as they might. The Captain said, at one time, he waited for letters; and at another, he waited for a wind. At length they sailed, five or six days before the vessel went down. The Captain gave strict orders to keep the boat free; witness put in four oars, cutting two of them to the length. Formerly they threw lumber into the boat, but the Captain ordered that none should be put there, and that there should be plenty of tholes, or pins, for the oars. He also said they should not be in the ship fortyeight hours longer. This was Friday. On Saturday he said that night should be the last: it was impossible she could carry them through the Bay of Biscay. He did not think her trustworthy for his life, and why should witness for his? The Captain then sent witness down to mix grog for himself and Read, and some of the crew. Witness was afterwards walking the quarter-deck; the Captain was at the helm, and called witness to relieve him. The Captain went below. He came up in a quarter of an hour and said to the witness: "Go down, and you will find an auger on the cabin-deck; take up the scuttle, and bore two or three holes in the run, as close down to the bottom as possible." The witness went down and found the auger; it was a new one, bought by the Captain at Deal, and was put into the handle of another auger. He bored three holes, close down in the run, with two augers and a spike gimlet, which he left in the holes. The witness came on deck and told the Captain he had bored the holes. The Captain asked if the water was coming in. Witness said, not much, for he had left the augers in the holes. The Captain said they might remain till daylight. On Sunday morning the cabin-boy was prevented from coming down by the Captain; before that he always came down and got breakfast in the cabin.

   At daybreak witness pulled out the augers and the water came in, but the Captain did not think it came in in sufficient quantity, and wished for the mall to enlarge the holes. The witness said the crowbar would do. The Captain ordered him to bring the crowbar and make the holes larger; he did so. The Captain was present all the time, and assisted to knock down the lockers, to make room. The crowbar went through the bottom, and the witness believed the augers did also. Mr Read was in bed, close by the holds; the distance might be about four yards. Mr Read turned himself round several times while the witness was boring the holes, but he never spoke; nor did the witness speak to him. The auger did not make much noise.

   When the holes were bored the witness called Read, by the Captain's order; he came on deck, but shortly after he went down and went to bed again. The bed was on the larboard side of the cabin. Read could not see the augers, but he might hear the water run, as the cabin-boy heard it, and the witness heard it himself, a small hole being left open to keep the pumps at work. Read went to bed again, but he was on deck when the hole was beat with the crowbar. Read was permitted to go down, but the boys were not. When the hole was beat through, the colours were hoisted; the boat was already out, and all hands in it, except the Captain and witness. Witness packed up his things when he was told they could not be forty-eight hours in the vessel, but he mentioned the matter to nobody. He packed them in a bread-bag which he emptied on the deck. While the holes were being bored, the Captain ordered the men aloft to take in sail; no one could possibly see or hear him, except witness, the Captain, and Read.

   They left the vessel at eight o'clock. Several boats came off on the signal. The people in them said they (Captain Codlin and his people) had met with a sad misfortune; they answered yes. One boat asked if they wanted any assistance, and offered to tow them on shore. The Captain said she was his while she swam, and they had no business with her. The Swallow revenue cutter then came up and took the brig in tow, fastening a hawse to the mast; the brig, which lay on her beam-ends before, immediately righted, and went down. Witness had no doubt that she went down in consequence of the holes. Read's trunk had come on board at Deal; it was sent back the next day. Witness helped it into the boat. It was full of linen when it came, and was not locked. Witness did not know what it contained when it went back. Captain Codlin and the whole crew went to the Ship Tavern at Brighton. Read said to a lady who came to see him that he had lost everything belonging to him, and that he was ruined. Easterby and Macfarlane came to Brighton on Tuesday; they went to the Ship Tavern. Easterby asked where the holes were, and of what size. There were some carpenter's tools on the floor, which had been brought from the vessel. Easterby asked if the holes were of the same size as the handle of the chisel that was among the tools; and, being told they were, said the witness should prepare the handle to plug the holes, in case the ship should come on shore, as she was then driving in. Macfarlane was in the room, but witness could not say whether he heard, as he spoke in a low voice. Easterby said Codlin was a d--d fool; he had made a stupid job of it: he should have done the business on the French coast, and then he might have made the shore of either country in the boat, in such fine weather. Macfarlane discoursed with them, but witness did not hear what he said. Macfarlane and Easterby ordered the Captain and witness to go to London together and take private lodgings, in which they should keep close, or they would be under sentence of death. Macfarlane took seats in the coach for them, and paid their passage. Read wrote on a piece of paper where witness was to go to in London, to Macfarlane's house. Witness received nine shillings as wages, and Macfarlane gave him a guinea; this was after he had described the size of the hole. He could not say whether the others were paid their wages. Witness came up with one of the bags, the Captain being stopped by a gentleman (Mr Douglas). The boy was put in his place at five or six in the morning. Read went with witness to the coach offices; Macfarlane came after, and Easterby came with the boy, who was apprentice to Storrow. Only one pump had been worked for a length of time in the ship, the other was not in order. There was a gear for the other, but the Captain did not want to find it. The Captain sent the boy down for his greatcoat; the boy, on his return, said the water was running. The Captain said it was no such thing, it was only the water in the run; and told the boy to go forward. He ordered witness to go down and see, but jogged him as he passed, and told him to say it was nothing. Witness, on coming up, said it was only the water in the run. Witness stayed in London two nights, and then went to his mother, near Saxmundham, in Suffolk. Having no money, and failing to get a ship, after several applications, he walked the whole way, which is eighty-eight miles. When he arrived, his mother told him there had been people after him, about a ship; and there had been handbills, offering a reward. He immediately sent for the constable of the place, Mr Askettle, and surrendered himself, to whom he told everything, desiring him to take him to London.

   John Morris, George Kennedy, Lacy, and James Walsh corroborated Cooper's testimony. Storrow proved the intent of the voyage, that it was to defraud the underwriters. The insurances were also proved. Several witnesses gave Read and Macfarlane a good character.

   As it appeared that Read had taken no active part in the business, and as one of the witnesses had intimated that he was deaf -- the learned judge observing that it was possible he could not hear the conspirators talking, and the boring of the ship, etc. -- he was acquitted, and the rest found guilty; but two points of law having been elucidated by Mr Erskine in favour of Easterby and Macfarlane, judgment was accordingly arrested, for the decision of the twelve judges. The prisoners heard the verdict with much firmness -- Read, with composure; Easterby, apparently with indifference, looking around him; Macfarlane's features showed he was inwardly much affected, though he bore himself with firmness.

   Sir William Scott then pronounced sentence of death on Codlin in an impressive manner. Codlin retired with a firm and undaunted deportment, taking a respectful leave of the Court as he went out.

   Previous to his execution he freely communicated to Mr Dring all the circumstances of his crime. At Brighton, he said, between five and six guineas were given him, and he was urged to go off, being assured that if he was taken he would be hanged. On Saturday morning, 27th of November, 1802, he was brought out of the jail of Newgate to proceed to undergo his sentence at the docks at Wapping.

   He was conducted from Newgate, by Ludgate Hill and St Paul's, into Cheapside. A number of peace officers on horseback were at the head of the procession. Some officers belonging to the Court of Admiralty, with the City Marshals, followed next. The sheriffs were in a coach, as was also the ordinary of Newgate, the Rev. Dr Ford. Codlin was in a cart, with a rope fastened round his neck and shoulders. He sat between the executioner and his assistant. As he passed down Cheapside, Cornhill and Leadenhall Street, and onward through Aldgate and Ratcliff Highway, he continued to read the accustomed prayers with great devotion, in which he was joined by those who sat with him in the cart. He ascended the ladder to the scaffold without betraying any emotions of terror. His body, after hanging for the due length of time, was cut down, and carried away in a boat by his friends.

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