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Home > Archive > Committee for Lawsuits Minutes 1802-1908

Committee for Lawsuits Minutes 1802-1908

Archive Catalogue Reference: M5/307-342

On the 24 June 1802, the Court of Directors appointed a Committee for Lawsuits which was to be responsible for ‘the purpose of managing prosecutions in future’. Those involved in the Committee included the Governor or Deputy Governor, as well as five directors and a secretary. A solicitor from Freshfields was also present to aid the legal business of the Committee.

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The minutes of the Committee cover 1802 to 1908, and thus contain a very comprehensive insight into the prosecutions that were conducted by the Bank.

Many of the minutes reflect a period in time when the forgery of low denomination notes was particularly rife across the United Kingdom. Entries in the minutes include details of the charges brought against individuals; trials at assizes; whether a plea bargain would be offered to the prisoner; and responses by the Bank to petitions sent by those convicted.  For example, on 14 January 1819 the Committee minutes record a petition sent from Sarah Ward, a mother of four who was a prisoner in Newgate facing transportation for the ‘uttering’ (circulation) of forged notes. The minutes record the verdict that that 10 shillings, 6 pence would be awarded to help Sarah Ward during her stay in prison. The circumstances of many of the prisoners can also be found in the Archive’s Freshfield collection – the papers of the Bank’s solicitor.

In addition to illustrating the different types of prosecution cases that the Bank was handling, the minutes also demonstrate how the Bank offered monetary rewards for those who could provide information relating to forgers. Payments which were awarded to those that had detected unscrupulous behaviour are recorded by the Committee minutes. One particular entry notes that on 9 April 1807 the Committee awarded ‘£50 to the Right Honourable John Forster to be distributed for the apprehension of Simon Boutell agreeably to the award advertised.’ The Bank’s proactive encouragement of the public to come forward with information illustrates how much of a threat the Bank deemed the criminal act of forgery to be.

On 6 April 1911 the Court of Directors minutes record that ‘on the proposal of the Governor it was agreed that the Committee for Lawsuits be not re-appointed.’ However, the Bank of England Archive only holds minutes to 1908.








1846-1855 1896-1908
The Committee for Lawsuits also compiled a separate volume of the letters and orders which were sent to the Bank of England's solicitor's Freshfields.