EXTRAORDINARY CHARGE AGAINST A CLERGYMAN
On Monday week, a person who gave his name as Charles Bloxham, and said that he was a clergyman of the Church of England, and had officiated in Eye, in Suffolk, in the absence of the clergyman, was charged before the Lord Mayor, by the churchwardens of All Hallows, Barking, London, with taking a shilling out of the plate which was held at the doors to receive contributions. Mr Creaton, the vestry clerk, deposed that, seeing the prisoner put his hand into the plate held by Mr Plummer, as if he meant to take something out, he seized his hand and discovered that he had a shilling in it. Mr Silverlock, who held a plate at another door, deposed that the prisoner also put his hand into his plate and he believed took something out.
The prisoner, in his defence, said that he was now and had been in orders for 30 years, 20 years of which he had served one church in Worcestershire. He had two sons in London, in respectable circumstances, and instead of taking money out of the plate he had put some in. He pulled out of his purse a shilling and a sixpence together. He put the sixpence into the plate, keeping the shilling in his hand. At that moment one of the witnesses seized his hand in which the shilling was. He desired the most searching investigation into the charge. The prisoner was then remanded.
On Wednesday, in consequence of the publication of the report of the Monday’s proceedings, a number of persons attended the Police Court. Among others, Mr Henry Charles Rawlings of The White Lion Inn, Eye, who deposed that some time since, the prisoner came to his house, and told him that he was in communication with the Rev J W Campbell, the Vicar of Eye; that he was not acquainted with the Rev gentleman, but that he had received orders to preach on the following Sunday. He then left the hotel, and took lodgings in Church Street at Mr Short’s, where he resided till he absconded in debt. He repeatedly preached at Eye Church, and was not only esteemed, but was a very great favourite with the congregation.
Mr Farley of No 3 Newcastle Street, deposed: I keep a coffee house. The prisoner came to my house at the beginning of last March and stated that he was Rector of Bury St Edmunds and he went by the name of Locklaw. He lodged with me a fortnight. On Sunday morning, the 16th of March, he told me he was going to preach at St James’ Church, Albany Street, Regents Park, and I told him I should go and hear him. I could not find a church of that name, and I went to five different churches in the neighbourhood, thinking that I might have made a mistake. He never returned to my house, but he wrote me a note next morning, telling me that the omnibus in which he had been riding had broken down in Oxford Street, and that he had been prevented by that accident from proceeding on his journey, and was confined to his room, but that in a few days he would call and settle his account. He paid his first week’s bill, but he left the charges of the second week unpaid.
Alderman Wire, who sat for the Lord Mayor, said he could not think of discharging the prisoner until after further investigation; and he was accordingly taken back to prison.
On Monday last, the prisoner was again brought up when, no other evidence being offered, the Lord May said: “I had hoped that the gentlemen might have made a mistake in believing that you had committed the offence charged; but, from all I have learned of the course you have been for some time pursuing, there is but too much reason to suppose that they were perfectly correct in their suspicions. It has been shewn to me that you have been defrauding people in the very neighbourhood in which you have been officiating as a clergyman of the Church of England, and that you have been acting upon a regular system of imposition for a considerable period. In fact the whole of the information received convinces me that, although the evidence would not justify me in committing your for trial, your moral guilt is beyond all doubt. You are now discharged, and I trust that you will earnestly beg forgiveness elsewhere.
Similar reports appeared in many other newspapers.