Robert Harpham, executed for coining



This offender lived in Westminster, where he carried on the business of a carpenter for a considerable time with some success; but at length had the misfortune to become a bankrupt, after which he appears to have turned his thoughts to a very dishonest way of acquiring money.

Having engaged the assistance of one Fordham, he hired a house near St Paul's Churchyard, and, pretending to be a button-maker, he put up an iron press, with which he used to coin money, and Fordham, having aided him in the coinage, put off the counterfeit money thus made.

From hence they removed to Rosemary Lane, and there carried on the same dangerous business for some time, till the neighbours, observing that great quantities of charcoal were brought in, and the utmost precaution taken to keep the door shut, began to form very unfavourable suspicions: on which Harpham took a cellar in Paradise Row, near Hanover Square, to which the implements were removed.

While in this situation, Harpham invited a gentleman to dine with him; and was imprudent enough to take him into his workshop, and show him his tools. This gentleman wondering for what purpose they could be intended, Harpham said, 'In this press I can make buttons; but I will show you something else that is a greater rarity.' Having said this, he struck a piece of metal, which instantly bore the resemblance of half a guinea, except the milling on the edge; but another instrument being applied to it, the half-guinea was completed.

Our coiners now removed to Jermyn Street, St James's, where Harpham took an empty cellar, and, on the old pretence of button-making, gave orders to a bricklayer to put up a grate. The bricklayer remarking what a quantity of coals the grate would consume, the other said it was so much the better, for it was calculated to dress victuals, either by baking, stewing, roasting, or boiling. Harpham kept the key of the cellar, permitting no one to enter but Fordham; and once in three weeks he had a quantity of charcoal and sea-coal put in through the window

The landlord of the place suspecting some illegal proceedings, desired his neighbours to watch the parties: in consequence of which Harpham was soon discovered in the attempt to put off counterfeit money; on which he and his assistant were apprehended and committed to Newgate; and Fordham being admitted an evidence, the other was convicted, and received sentence of death.

His behaviour after his commitment was unusually serious; for, as he was not weak enough to flatter himself with unreasonable hopes of life, so he began to make an early preparation for the important change that awaited him. He procured religious books, and exercised himself in the offices of devotion in a very earnest manner. He likewise resolved to eat no more food than should be absolutely necessary for the support of nature; and in this he persevered from the time of his conviction to the day of his death. He desired a person to awake him at three o'clock in the morning, and continued his devotions till midnight.While he was thus properly employed, a person hinted to him that he might entertain some hope of a

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