British Executions

William Adams

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Crime: forgery

Date Of Execution: 18 May 1757

Crime Location:

Execution Place: unknown

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown



A Custom-House Officer in London, executed at Tyburn on 18th of May, 1757, for Forgery

WILLIAM ADAMS was in a position of public trust. The department in which he served the public was the examining of certificates of over-entries on the duties on wines. This gave him an opportunity, with the greatest security, of committing the crime for which he suffered, and it is possible he might long have continued the practice had not an accidental omission of a date led to the discovery.

It was usual for merchants landing their wines to pay the duty; but if upon trial they appeared to be so damaged as not to be saleable, upon a proper application, and giving up the wines for the King's use, they were furnished with such certificates as entitled them to the repayment of the duty.

It was a certificate of this kind which Adams forged; and though such certificates are usually signed by six different persons, who are severally checks upon each other, yet he had counterfeited the names and signatures of all these, and actually received the drawback on ten tuns of damaged wines, amounting to two hundred and fifty-two pounds, for the use of Phineas Coats, in whose name the certificate was forged. But it being immediately discovered that a figure in the date was wanting, and he offering to supply it himself, a suspicion arose, and an inquiry was occasioned; upon which it was found that not one of the clerks whose signatures appeared knew anything of the matter.

Adams was apprehended, committed, and brought to trial at the Old Bailey for this forgery. He had little to urge in his defence further than that it had been a practice to receive such certificates as cash; that he had received this particular certificate as such; and that if it was forged he knew nothing of the forgery. This had no weight against the evidence which appeared against him, in the opinion of the jury, who, without hesitation, pronounced him guilty. He was executed on the same gallows with three other men.