efore 1797 People capitally convicted on charges relating to forgery were rare, however between 1797 and 1818 there was a sharp increase in the incidences of forgeries resulting in 313 capital convictions, originating with the issue of two small denomination notes, the 1 and 2, and in this figure were two Ennevers. To make, utter (that is, to spend) or distribute forgeries was a capital offence and even the offence of possession was punishable by fourteen years transportation. There were many cases where, although there was irrefutable evidence that forged notes had been passed, the offender could save their neck by pleading guilty to the lesser charge of possession or turn Kings evidence to incriminate their associates.

John Ennever was living in Bath in the 1770's, he married Sarah Hibbert in 1782 and raised a family of 4 sons and 3 daughters, 2 children having died in infancy. He was thought a respectable man who worked hard to bring up and educate his children but subsequent events have cast doubts.

Their second son Joseph was the first to be caught involved in a criminal act, he was by trade a shoemaker and reputedly respectable until he allegedly became involved with forgers. In January 1807 he and his brother George were accompanying a Mary Radford when she passed a forged bank note. In the scuffle that followed Joseph Ennever & Mary Radford were apprehended but George escaped. Mary had lived with George in Birmingham as his wife before returning to Bath and during the Christmas week on the instructions of George & Joseph she had returned there with the consent of all the Ennever family who had given her 10 pounds to purchase 50 forged notes of one pound each. The details of the events were presented to the Committee for Law Suits at the Bank of England and it was ordered that Joseph Ennever be prosecuted capitally, he was charged on twelve counts including making, forging, counterfeiting and passing the forged note as he was considered an accomplice. It was decided that his parents John and Sarah Ennever were only an instrument at the hands of their son Joseph as also was Mary Radford who testified against Joseph and consequently none of them were charged with any crime. Joseph's brother George was charged but he couldn't be found after his escape. The trial took place at Taunton Castle on Thursday 26th March 1807 where Joseph was found guilty and sentenced to be hung until he be dead. He was taken to Ilchester goal to await the executioner. On 22nd April he was taken with another prisoner in an open wagon to a place about half a mile from Ilchester on the west side of the Yeovil Road, now called Gallows Field Acre. Days of execution were locally called Hang Fair days and were an opportunity for revelry, the wagon would have been followed by the hundreds of people who flocked from all around taking the opportunity to enliven the unfortunate prisoners last moments with coarse jests and insults. His behaviour was described as exemplary, although he denied to the end being an accomplice and laid the blame on his brother George and Mary Radford the woman who had passed the note. Superstition played a strong part in peoples minds and children would have attended so they could touch one of the criminals while suspended as a charm against the king's evil (tuberculosis). He was only 23 when he was hung. After the executions the crowds would have returned to Ilchester to finish off the day in the local ale houses, Joseph's body was released to his family and they made the 40 mile journey back to Bath to bury him at Weston Church.

The Bank of England would spare no expense to prevent any crime that might devalue the credibility of the English monetary system. In the case of George & Joseph Ennever a reward of 50 pounds was split between the shop keepers and police officers involved with the arrest and conviction of Joseph Ennever, and fees of 26 guineas for board and lodging for Mary Radford who gave evidence against Joseph.

Meanwhile George the eldest son, had fled to London. Followed soon afterwards by the rest of the family, life in Bath would have become intolerable after Joseph's death and the family would have hoped to make a fresh start in the capital under a new name. However they again soon had financial problems. In 1809 Sarah Ennever using the alias Morris was to appear at the Old Bailey charged with uttering and forging a promissory note. She had attempted to purchase some remnants of calico for five shillings and pay for them with a forged two pound note. She gave the appearance of innocence being confident, composed and not running away and with nothing previously known against her in London she was found not guilty.

George the eldest son had married Ann Walton in London but he continued to live and work still being involved in dealing in forged bank notes, in 1814 the police were close to tracing him, though he was using the alias Morris, he knew if he was caught unrecognised under an assumed name as a first time offender he would have more chance of escaping the death penalty, whereas under his own name with his previous involvement in crime hanging would have been inevitable. In 1815 he narrowly escaped detection again when a fellow criminal Samuel Gilbert was caught uttering forged Bank of England notes and named him, this was followed by a series of other arrests breaking a London network of forgers and dealers. London became too uncomfortable to stay so he went to Bristol with his family under the alias Morris, where he found work as a workman in the warehouse of Thomas Stock & Samuel Fry at Lewis Mead. However he soon succumbed to temptation and stole some sugar worth 1/6d, he was arrested and spent two months in jail awaiting trial. He pleaded guilty and was acquitted and discharged. Now with no work or money and a family to support he became desperate, so went back to Birmingham for the express purpose of purchasing and uttering forged notes, where he was apprehended and charged under his alias of 'Morris'. His trial took place at Warwick on 12th August 1816 at which he was found guilty and received the death sentence, however he was luckier than his brother as the judge was in a more lenient mood and due to some favourable circumstances appearing in his case, his sentence was respited and mercy was recommended on condition he was transported beyond the seas for and during the term of his natural life. George was to spend the next 10 week at Warwick prison before being sent to the prison hulk 'Bellerophon' at Sheerness where he was lucky only having to spent 18 days. When at Sheerness he wrote to the Governor of the Bank of England requesting that his wife and children might accompany him to New South Wales as he feared that without any financial support Ann would be certain to deal and utter forged notes. He was informed by the Governor of the Bank of England that he would forward a recommendation to the Secretary of State to this effect if George was prepared to reveal everything he knew regarding the fabrication and circulation of forged notes. George agreed to this and from the numerous people he named in Birmingham as well as the few remaining in London, (nearly all the dealers and utterers he had previously dealt with in London had been convicted), it became clear from the depth of his knowledge how deeply involved he had been and how long he had been dealing in forged notes.

He finally embarked for Australia on the 20th November, a journey which was to take nearly six months. The Governor of the Bank of England kept his word and recommended free passage for his wife Ann and their three children, and they were to follow him to Australia 8 months later. The naming of fellow criminals was to be followed by a series of arrests and trials with all those found guilty following George to Australia within the next year or two. His new life was to offer him new opportunities to prosper but that's another story and the subject of a book by the descendants of the Australian branch of the family. He returned to England in 1836 for an extended holiday and died 6 years later at sea on the return voyage to Australia.

William the third son was to turn up in Millbank Prison on the 1851 census while his wife Elizabeth was in St Margaret's house of Correction at Westminster. William worked as a carman and on the 7th October 1850 was moving the possessions of a Joseph Scoller. Elizabeth Ennever had lent them a carpet bag which later disappeared with the contents. On searching William and Elizabeth's home some of the missing items were found in Elizabeth's possession including sovereigns, bank notes, spoons, brush and comb and memo books. She was tried on the 28th October 1850 and found guilty but only sentenced to six months in the House of Correction as she had previously been of good character. At the time of her arrest William had been suspected but no proof could be found. However nearly two months later a bank note turned up at the Bank of England which was identified by Joseph Scoller and which could be traced back to William. Subsequently he was arrested, tried and sentenced to be transported to Australia for seven years, a harsher term, due to his history of previous convictions. However this was commuted to seven years in Dartmoor Prison. He survived his term of imprisonment in Dartmoor and died in Shoreditch workhouse in 1873.


This is adapted from my article with additional new information which was published in Family Tree Magazine 2003

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