The Tathams of County Durham
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Henry Tatham (1804-1860) accused of stealing oranges

Police court case 1832


Police Court, Queen-square.-- Yesterday Mr. Edward Fordham, a gentleman of fortune from Cambridgeshire, and Mr. Edward [recte: Henry] Tatham, jun., a partner in the highly respectable house of Tatham and Son, the well-known sword-cutlers, 37, Charing-cross, were charged before Mr. Marriott, with defrauding Mrs. Esther Tomkins, a fruiterer, of No. 11, Charing-cross, out of 18s., and 2s. worth of oranges, under the following extraordinary circumstances.

It ought to be mentioned that Mr. Tatham was not charged in the first instance with the fraud, but attended at the office as a witness for Mr. Fordham, when, after the statement of the prosecutrix, Mr. Marriott directed him to be included in the charge.

The prosecutrix stated, that on the previous evening, between 9 and 10 o'clock, the prisoners came into her shop. Mr. Fordham asked for 2s. of oranges, which she gave him in a bag; he then asked her for change for a sovereign, and at the same time he gave the oranges to his friend Mr. Tatham, and told him to take them over the way. She brought him the change, 18s., which she gave to Mr. Fordham, who was about to leave the shop, when she told him he had not given her the sovereign; he insisted upon it that he had given her the sovereign, and refused to pay her; she at last sent for the police constable, and gave him in charge. They went to the station-house in Gardener's-lane, when Mr. Fordham offered to pay her the sovereign, which she refused to accept without he would admit that he had not paid her in the shop: this he declined doing.

Mr. Marriott said she had acted with great propriety in refusing the sovereign at the station-house, and asked her what money she gave him in change?

The prosecutrix replied, that she she gave Mr. Fordham a half-sovereign, two half-crowns, and three shillings.

Mr. Marriott asked her, if she could swear positively that Mr. Fordham did not give her the sovereign, and whether she had any doubt on her mind?

The prosecutrix said, that she could swear positively that he did not give her the sovereign.

The prosecutrix underwent a long examination, but her testimony was not shaken, and Mr. Marriott said, that she had given her testimony with great propriety.

A man named Benjamin was examined. He said that he was in the shop at the time when the prisoners came in for the oranges. He did not see Mr. Fordham give a sovereign. If he had, he would have seen it.

Police constable Mumford, of the A division, No. 16, stated, that he was called by the prosecutrix to take Mr. Fordham into custody. When she told him the charge, he requested him to walk with him to the station-house, and the charge was taken by Serjeant Redmond.

Mr. [Henry] Tatham, sen., the father of Mr. Edward [recte: Henry] Tatham, here stepped forward and said, that Mr. Fordham was a highly respectable gentleman, and that when he was informed of the charge against him, he went to Colonel Rowan, the commissioner of police, at a Club house in Pall-mall, and informed him of the circumstance, requesting his advice how to act, and to know whether his friend could not be bailed. Colonel Rowan, after listening to him patiently, said that it was a nice point of law, but he would give him a letter to his colleague, Mr. Mayne, who was a barrister, and better able to give his opinion on the case than he was. The letter was written, and he took it to Mr. Mayne, who, after hearing the detail of the nature of the case, wrote a letter to the inspector of the A division on duty, desiring him to liberate Mr. Fordham in his own recognizance to appear at Queen-square Police-office in the morning. Mr. Fordham was accordingly liberated, and he had now come voluntarily forward to meet any charge that might be preferred against him.

Mr. Marriott expressed his utmost astonishment that such an order should be given, and that a man under so serious a charge should be set at liberty without proper bail was taken for his appearance. He hoped that it would go forward to the public.

Mr. Goodyear, the inspector of the A division, said, that knowing the respectability of the party, he had taken upon himself to let him go on his own recognizance to appear the next morning.

Mr. Marriott condemned the conduct of the inspector, and said that he had acted highly improper in letting the prisoner go without taking bail, and that if Mr. Fordham had not come forward, he should have felt it his duty to have issued a warrant for his apprehension.

A respectable gentleman, whose name we could not learn, here stepped forward, and said he was well acquainted with both the prisoners. From their well-known respectable characters and their connexions, he considered it almost an impossibility they could have been guilty of such an offence as that laid to their charge.

Mr. Marriott asked the prisoners, if they wished to say anything in their defence?

Mr. Fordham said it was perfectly true that he went into the shop with his friend, and purchased 2s. worth of oranges. Finding that he only had 1s. in silver in his pocket, and a few sovereigns, he asked her for change for a sovereign, which he gave her. She gave him the change he was ready to admit, but that he paid her the sovereign previously he could swear it. With regard to his offering her a sovereign at the station-house, it was perfectly correct. He did so, because he did not wish to be bothered with the business, and would willingly have given her 10 sovereigns to have nothing more to do with it; but when she refused to take the sovereign without he admitted that he had not paid her, he indignantly refused, because he considered that such an admission, when he was confident in his own mind that he had paid her, would be a slur on his character and reputation.

Mr. Marriott commented on the case at some length. He said that if poor men had been brought before him on such a charge, supported by the same testimony, he would have committed them for trial, and although the prisoners were rich men, it made no difference with him, and he felt it his duty to commit them to take their trial at the next Westminster session.

The parties were then bound over to prosecute.

The prisoners were quite astonished at the decision, and an application was immediately made by their friends that they might be admitted to bail.

Mr. Marriott, after consulting with the bench, consented to take bail for their appearance at the sessions.

A gentleman inquired what bail would be required.

Mr. Marriott said that he should require the prisoners to enter into their own recognizance in the sum of 100l., and to find two sureties each in the sum of 50l.

Bail was immediately put in, and the prisoners were discharged.

Mr. Fordham is an elderly gentleman of the highest character and reputation. He is an extensive landholder, and with his family have come to London on a visit to Mr. Tatham, and to receive his dividends from the public funds.

[The Times, 02 Feb 1832]

Police Court, Queen-square.-- It will be recollected, that on Wednesday last Mr. Edward Fordham, a gentleman of the highest respectability, and Mr. Edward [recte: Henry] Tatham, jun., of the firm of Tatham and Son, sword cutlers, at Charing-cross, were charged before Mr. Marriott with defrauding Esther Tomkins, a fruiterer, of No. 11, Charing-cross, out of 18s., and 2s. worth of oranges; and on the evidence, which has already appeared in the newspapers, these gentlemen were fully committed for trial at the next Westminster sessions; subsequently, however, bail was taken for their appearance to answer the charge, and they were dismissed.

It is impossible to describe the extraordinary sensation which this decision produced amongst the friends of the accused, who immediately came forward after reading the report of the proceedings. Mr. Gurney, the King's counsel, had an interview with Mr. Marriott on the occasion, and at his solicitation, we understand, he consented to hear the case over again.

Yesterday afternoon, at 1 o'clock, Mr. Fordham and Mr. Tatham, jun., were in attendance at the office. Mr. Adolphus, Mr. C. Phillips, and Mr. Harmer attended on the part of the accused, and Mr. Isaacs, the solicitor, attended on behalf Mr. Philip Garcia, the proprietor of the fruit shop where Esther Tomkins, the complainant, lived as a servant.

Mr. Marriott, Mr. White, and Mr. Gregorie were on the bench, and the office was crowded to excess. Amongst the gentlemen present were Sir John Seabright, Bart., M.P., Lord Dacre, Mr. Byng, M.P., and a host of persons of the first respectability.

Mr. Adolphus having addressed the bench,

Mr. Marriott said, that it appeared to him that the best mode of proceeding would be to call those witnesses to character which he understood were in attendance. It would have saved him a considerable deal of pain and anxiety if Mr. Fordham had done so in the first instance. The woman swore to the fact, and Mr. Fordham called no person as to character. He was now ready to hear any witnesses on behalf of Mr. Fordham and Mr. Tatham.

Mr. Charles Phillips next addressed the Bench, after which Mr. Adolphus called the following witnesses. The first witness sworn was Lord Dacre.

Mr. Adolphus.-- Is your Lordship acquainted with Mr. Fordham.

Lord Dacre,-- I am. I have known him for many years; he is a gentleman of fortune, and of the first respectability. I believe it to be impossible that he could commit such an offence as that laid to his charge.

Nicholas Calvert, Esq., M.P. for Hertfordshire, was sworn. – He stated that he had known Mr. Fordham for many years,and spoke in the highest terms of his character. He believed that he was far more likely to give a person a sovereign than to attempt to defraud any one.

Sir John Sebright, Bart., M.P., was next called. – He knew Mr. Fordham as a highly respectable and honourable man. When he read the account in the newspapers, he was surprised and astonished, and immediately offered to come forward as a witness on his behalf.

Mr. Gurney, the King's Counsel, stated, that he had known Mr. Fordham for upwards of 30 years, and was intimately acquainted with him. He sincerely believed him to be incapable of a mean action.

Sir John Sebright said, that he was entirely of that opinion.

George Byng, Esq., M.P., declined being sworn, but said that he would state his reasons for coming forth on this occasion. In the first place, he was not personally known to Mr. Fordham, though he had always known that the family was of the first respectability; he had always heard the name of Mr. Fordham mentioned with the greatest respect. When he heard of the offence with which he was charged, he felt for him, and that induced him to come forward, for he considered that if the character and liberty of Mr. Fordham were not safe, he himself was not safe from such a charge.

George Christopher, a wine-merchant, was called on behalf of Mr. Tatham, jun. He had known him ever since he was in his cradle, and believed him to be a steady, active, and industrious young man, wholly incapable of such an offence as they laid to his charge.

James Ashley, Esq., a banker, had known Mr. Tatham from his childhood, and bore testimony to the honour and integrity of his character.

Mr. Charles Phillips observed, that if it was necessary, he had a number of other witnesses to call forward.

Mr. Isaacs, the solicitor, said, that when this transaction occurred between Mr. Garcia's servant and Messrs. Fordham and Tatham, he was from home; but the moment he heard of it, he was so convinced that there had been some mistake on one side or the other, that he had sent for him (Mr. Isaacs) to apply to have the recognizances withdrawn.

Mr. Garcia said he was quite convinced of the respectability of the parties, and had no doubt that there had been a mistake.

Mr. Isaacs said, that had not the present proceeding taken place, it was his intention, as the professional adviser of Mr. Garcia, to have applied to have the recognizances withdrawn.

Mr. Marriott said, that about an hour after the first examination in this case, on a representation being made to him by a friend of one of the accused parties, he had directed the recognizances to be stayed. He congratulated Messrs. Fordham and Tatham on the result of this investigation. The magistrate concluded a short address by stating, that the first impression on his mind on hearing the case was quite obliterated, but that what he had done had been from honest and conscientious motives.

Messrs. Fordham and Tatham then received the hearty congratulations of a host of friends who had come forward.

Mr. Marriott ordered all the recognizances entered into by the bail to be immediately withdrawn.

[The Times, 04 Feb 1832]


1. Edward George Fordham, the first defendant, was born in London abt 1783 and so was about 49 years old at the time of the case. He is listed in the 1851 and 1861 censuses as a landowner and farmer, of 200 acres, at Odsey, Guilden Morden, Cambridgeshire. His wife was Elizabeth Kirkman, daughter of Joseph & Mary Kirkman, born in Holborn 08 Jun 1786; they were married at Berkhamsted on 10 May 1808. He died near Royston, Cambridgeshire in about Aug 1868 aged 86.

2. Henry Tatham, junior, the second defendant, misnamed in both The Times reports as “Edward”, was born at 37 Charing Cross on 06 Feb 1804, son of Henry Tatham, senior, a sword cutler at that address. At the time of the case he was thus just short of his 28th birthday. He joined his father in the business, and after his father's death in 1835 carried on in partnership with his younger brother Charles, and then alone after Charles died in 1846. He is variously described as a sword cutler, truss maker and gun maker. The business later failed, and Henry was made bankrupt in Jul 1858. He died in about May 1860, leaving a widow and a son, Oswald Fordham Tatham. A second son, Archibald, was born on 24 October that year, some months after his father's death.

3. Henry Tatham, senior, was born on 31 Dec 1770 at 61 Frith St, Soho, and had a business at 37 Charing Cross as a gun-maker and sword-cutler. He may have had a Royal Warrant, since in 1798 he is described as “Swordmaker to the King”. His wife was Mary Ann Kirkman, born in Holborn 08 Jun 1782, elder sister of Edward Fordham's wife Elizabeth Kirkman; they were married at Berkhamsted on 01 Dec 1802. Henry junior and Charles were the eldest of their 11 children. Henry senior died on 14 Jun 1835.

4. George Christopher, character witness for Henry Tatham junior, was born in Limehouse on 06 Oct 1779, son of William Christopher, a prosperous Hudson's Bay merchant, and his wife Mary Tatham. She was Henry Tatham senior's aunt, so Henry and George were first cousins. The links between the families were strengthened further when, in 1842, George's daughter Louisa married another cousin, Montagu John Tatham. George Christopher was the founder of the wine merchants Christopher and Co, which later passed into the Tatham family and became one of the highest regarded firms in London, carrying on trading until the 1980s.

5. The links between the Tatham and Fordham families carried on later into the 19th century: in Apr 1871 the wife and 7 children of Henry senior's youngest son Ralph Tatham were living at Odsey Grange, Guilden Morden, close to the Fordham family (Ralph himself was in Ceylon and their eldest son Ralph was away at Norwich School).

Henry Tatham junior (1804-1860)

Linked toGeorge Christopher; Henry Tatham; Henry Tatham

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