|North Mymms House front entrance 1870s
Photograph R. Sinclair part of the Images of North Mymms Collection
The judge described the case as "one of the most serious" he had ever had to deal with. He said it was "extraordinary" that so many "simple-minded people" had been "taken in" by the accused, and likened the case to "Alice in Wonderland".
The defence said that Pope "confined his frauds to the rich people, and was a good friend to the poor", but the court was also told by the prosecution that Pope was "mean enough to take £10 from a poor club".
Several references on The North Mymms History Project suggest that Pope was involved in the community life of North Mymms. The late Tom Nott, writing his memories in 1975 when he was 85 years old, had this to say about Pope:
"He was Mr. Burns’ agent and lived at Welham Manor before the late Major Angus Todd where he was responsible for building a large addition, and also the men’s club which stands next to the Memorial Hall."Nott also noted that Pope donated "outfits and also awarded prizes for sports and other events" at Welham Green School.
Benjamin Mallett, who was the headmaster at Welham Green School at the end of the nineteenth century is quoted in chapter four of the late Dorothy Colville's book 'North Mymms Schools & their Children 1700-1964' as follows:
"A large Union Jack, 6 yards long, with flag staff 38 ft high, had been presented to the school by SB Pope Esq. I propose flying the flag every day when school is in progress.".The North Mymms History Project has transcribed a newspaper report of Pope's trial which was published in The Beds Advertiser And Luton Times dated November 6 1908. The cutting, embedded at the end of the following transcript, is from the Peter Miller Collection.
Remarkable Story of Estate Agent's Defalcations
MR. HARCOURT'S NAME FORGED
At the Hertfordshire Assizes on Wednesday, before Mr. Justice Grantham, Sidney Boughton Pope, aged 36, described as a land agent, and of superior education, pleaded guilty to six indictments of forgery and fraud.
Pope was well connected, and was well known locally, having been for many years prominently connected with social and public life in the neighbourhood of Hatfield, and consequently great interest was evinced in the proceedings, the Court being crowded.
On one of the indictments Pope was charged with forging the name of the Right Hon. Lewis Harcourt, by executing what purported to be a mortgage deed of that gentleman's property, by means of which he was alleged to have obtained £3.530 from Mrs. Emily Bates, of North Mimms.
By means of forged mortgages he was also alleged to have obtained £294 5s, and £682 15s. 6d. from Mr. John Spencer Chapman, a London solicitor, and £650 from Mr. Hugh Douglas Lermitte. From Mrs. Mary Lyman Burns of North Mimms, as whose agent Pope acted, he was alleged to have obtained £1,920 7s. 4d, by false pretences, and also to have converted to his own use £3,823 which had been entrusted to him.
Other indictments were that Pope converted to his own use £58 3s. 6d., which had been entrusted to him on behalf of Dr. Leonard Steward Barnes, and sums of £50, £28, £10, and £12 which had been entrusted to him by William Fred Marsden.
The Right Hon. Lewis Harcourt was present in Court.
Referring to the case in his address to the Grand Jury, Mr. Justice Grantham said it was one of an exceptional character. It certainly seemed a most unfortunate thing for the county that Mrs. Burns should have appointed defendant as her agent, and thus brought him into the county. It was most extraordinary that in a county so near the Metropolis as Hertfordshire they should find so many simple-minded people (laughter). He really did not credit them with having so many simple-minded people (laughter). There was not a single crime which this man had committed which they would have thought would have taken in anybody.
From Mr. Chapman, his lordship said he understood Pope had obtained altogether £12,000 on various pretexts. Having got to the end of his tether with the wealthy people, Pope was actually mean enough to take £10 from a poor club.
The Grand Jury having found a true bill, the prisoner was put into the dock, and pleaded guilty.
Mr. Travers Humphreys, who prosecuted, said the prisoner, by pleading guilty to the indictments, had admitted to having obtained £5.126 by forgery and £5,575 by fraud; total of £10,700 in the course of five years. In addition to that, evidence also showed that the prisoner received about £8,000 from Dr. Barnes, for the purpose of investment, not one shilling of which had ever been invested. The prisoner was a man of good family, his people being of undoubted respectability. He was well educated, and was a clever accountant. He first obtained a position at Coutts Bank, where he remained five years, during which time he carried out several forgeries.
In 1898 he was appointed agent to Mrs. Burns, of North Mimms Park, at a salary of £250 year. Pope gave up his position at the Bank, and went to live at North Mimms. Just about that time he got to know Mr. John Spencer Chapman, a solicitor, practising in London, and Pope led Mr. Chapman to believe that he was a man of considerable private means. He expressed a desire to be articled to Mr. Chapman, and told the latter that Mrs. Burns had arranged that Messrs. Spencer, Chapman and Co. should act as her agents, on the understanding that he (prisoner) remained at North Mimms and did the actual work. That story was a total fabrication.
His Lordship said Mr. Chapman, in his own interests, ought to have made inquiries into this story, and have communicated with Mrs. Burns.
Mr. Travers Humphreys: It does sound like a fairy story, this transaction between an articled clerk and an astute London solicitor Mr. Chapman advanced £12,000 at various times, thinking he was financing the banking account of the North Mimms estate, which Pope was supposed to be keeping.
The Judge: "Alice in Wonderland" is not in it.
Mr. Travers Humphreys said prisoner continued to live at North Mimms in good style, and kept a motor-car, and told the local residents that he was a partner in the firm of Messrs. Spencer, Chapman, and Co., and not an articled clerk.
The Judge: I suppose nobody in the parish had ever heard of a book called "The Law List". I should have thought somebody would have looked it up.
Mr. Travers Humphreys: It is fair to say that the smallest inquiry on the part of anybody in the last five years would have shown this man to be a fraud. That inquiry was never made. Dr. Barnes reposed in the man his most implicit confidence, and gave the whole of his income as he received it to the defendant for the purposes of investment.
Counsel than told how prisoner induced Dr. and Mrs. Barnes to part with £3,500 in the belief that it was to be advanced to Mr. Lewis Harcourt at an interest of 7 per cent in return for a mortgage on his house in Berkeley Square and on Nuneham Park. The signature of Mr. Harcourt was forged for the purpose. Then there was the case of "Cecil Arthur Harper," who Pope led Mr. Chapman to believe was a friend who wanted money. Harper was said to be the son of a general who had left a will making the son his sole legatee. Mr. Chapman obtained money from one of his clients, which he handed to Pope for Harper.
As a matter of fact, the story was a concoction, and the money went into Pope's pocket.
Money was obtained from Mr. Lermitte on the pretext that Mrs. Gaussen wished to raise money on her property and timber. The money was advanced, but was not repaid at the time agreed upon, and repayment was postponed on the understanding that a guarantee was obtained from the trustees, who included the Earl of Enniskillen. Pope obtained this, but it was a forgery, and he himself provided the names of trustees. Large sums of money were obtained from Mrs. Burns on the pretext that it was desirable that he should purchase certain property. This money went into Pope's pocket. Other money was obtained from a sick and medical club which the prisoner formed, and £100 for investment from a chauffeur, the money constituting his life's savings.
Mr. Dickens, for the defence, said the prisoner took the full responsibility for what he had done, and understood the gravity of it. He came of a very good family, his father being a professor of Oriental languages at Oxford. Prisoner obtained a scholarship, which he did not take up, and then went to Coutts Bank. He was the last person in the world fit for the post of an estate agent, having no business knowledge, and being of foolish and extravagant habits, and absolutely reckless in financial matters. Once he commenced these frauds he could not stop. He had no vices such as gambling, the money going entirely in reckless extravagance. He confined his frauds to the rich people, and was a good friend to the poor.
The judge said it was a very bad case, and he must doubt whether the defendant confined his frauds to the rich. It was one of the most serious cases with which he had ever had to deal. He must pass a severe sentence. The prisoner would go to ten years' penal servitude.
The Beds Advertiser And Luton Times
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