Additional Information, 9 – 11 Bridge Street

The Great Berwick Robbery

Research by Sandra Whitnell


CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS
SUNDAY 9 AUGUST 1846
On 9 August Mr Thompson left Berwick, and the business of the bank was managed during his absence by Mr Burdis, who however left on 20 August before Mr Thompson’s return,

TUESDAY 18 AUGUST
Mrs Thompson also says that two nights before she heard a noise of footsteps and it is thought probable the same persons that committed the robbery with then on the bank premises making a survey

THURSDAY 20th AUGUST
John Thompson, the husband off the prisoner, was the agent. Mr Thompson occupied a dwelling house connected with the banking premises. leaving John Short in charge of the cash. On the night of the 20th, John Short slept at the bank.
Mr Thompson at time of the robbery, had been in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh visiting his mother. So far as we have been able to learn nothing has transpired to involve him in any charge or suspicion of having a guilty knowledge of the robbery.

Mr Thompson the agent of the bank, had been from home about a fortnight come on leave of absence from the directors: and Mr Burdis one of the directors, had resided in Berwick during that interval, and attended to the business of the bank establishment.

THURSDAY 20 AUGUST AFTERNOON
Parcels of silver which has been made up in the bank on the afternoon of Thursday and that day being a half holiday at the bank Mr Burdis terminated his residence at Berwick on Thursday afternoon, when he returned to Newcastle.

Mr Short the bank clerk said he balanced the books as usual at 4 o’clock and left the bank at that time, Mr Watson the bookkeeper being engaged sometime after that in making up the books. He closed the safe, and attached the bolt, so that everything was safe.
Between three and 4 o’clock in the afternoon Mr Short placed in the safe and cashbox money in notes gold and silver to the amount of £3109.11 shillings, and gave the keys of the safe etc to Mrs Thompson. He then went away, leaving Mr Watson, a junior clerk in the bank. Mr Short went to the bank again at 6 o’clock when Mr Watson was still there,

And at 9 o’clock when Mr Watson had gone. Witness then went out again, and returned to the bank at a quarter before 11 o’clock,

Ralph Watson a junior clerk in the back deposed that’s on 20 August he remained in the bank after Mr Short had left till 6 o’clock. He went back at 8 o’clock for half an hour and then you got the keys of the book safe and cash so from Mrs Thompson. He opened the cash box to get a letter, which he did not find, and he then locked up all the doors and returns the keys to Mrs Thompson.

THURSDAY 20 AUGUST NIGHT
In the absence of both of these gentlemen, Mr Short, the senior clerk, slept in the dwelling house attached to the bank on Thursday night: Mrs Thompson, the family and servants, residing on the premises as usual. The bank was closed on Thursday at the usual hour, the door was locked, and the customary precautions for security taken. The safe door is secured by a bolt which communicates with the sitting room above, and extends up into the bedroom on the third story, and when that bolt is properly shut, the safe cannot be opened without causing an alarm, that being the purpose for which it is so constructed.

Isabella Lamb, who had been nursery maid in the prisoners’ service, stated that on the night of 20 August, at 10 o’clock, she went with Margaret Arnott, another servant, into the yard with the lantern, and found everything right.

I.L. slept in Mrs Thompson’s room in a separate bed. Mrs Thompson came to the room after IL went to bed, when she took the baby out bought it back and again went out, and remained away about an hour. Prisoner came to bed about 11 o’clock, when she complained of being poorly, and went about taking a lantern with her. She was a full hour absent.

The parties retired to rest at the usual hour on Thursday night,

Mr Short the bank clerk returned to the house about 11 o’clock and went to bed immediately, and knew nothing of the robbery till he was awakened next morning by the servant girl who told him that the bank had been robbed.

(Mr Short) then went out again, and returned to the bank at a quarter before 11 o’clock, when he let himself in from the street with a latch key and, after examining the fastenings of the doors, went to bed. The window of witnesses bedroom looks into the yard of the cock and lion inn. He heard no noise during the night. About 5 o’clock he was awoke by one of the servants, who wanted the key of the outer door. He told her where it was and five minutes afterwards he was asked to go downstairs.

Isabella Lamb the nurse maid, gave a very unsatisfactory account of the matter as far as she was concerned. She slept in the same room with Mrs Thompson, it being on the same floor as the dining room into which the safe bolt passed. She said she was awoke by her mistress about 1:30 o’clock, when her mistress said she heard a terrible noise. Her mistress got up and said she saw two men in the next yard to the bank with the lantern. She went to sleep again and slept until morning.

Isabella Lamb The female servant who slept in the same room, and who at first professed ignorance on the subject, now positively states that her mistress was absent during the night for about an hour, and on returning washed her hands

Mrs Thompson went to bed about 10 o’clock, and heard Mr Short coming in at 11. Between 12 and one o’clock she said she heard a noise, and got up, and looked out of the window into the yard where she saw two men in the next yard. She says she awoke the housemaid and asked if she was to ring the bell. But the girl said no if there is anyone in the place we shall be murdered. She accordingly did not ring, but lay still till the perspiration poured off her. This part of Mrs Thompsons statement was contradicted by the girl and indeed the whole story seems quite improbable.

Coupled with these circumstances is a singular statement made by Mrs Thompson, that she heard some noise early on that Friday morning, and that she looked into the yard and they’re saw two men with a lantern, but that she gave no alarm to the other inmates of the house.

On her return Mrs Thompson went to bed, and in about half an hour and awoke the witness and asked “Isabella do you hear that noise? “ IL did hear some noise from the Cock and Lion yard. Mrs T looked out of the window, and said she saw two men with a lighted lantern, but IL did not get up to look.

FRIDAY 21 AUGUST MORNING
at 5 o’clock on Friday morning, a woman engaged as an occasional servant in the house rang the street bell, and the resident servant went downstairs to admit her, was surprised to find the door leading from the lobby to the bank open, and still more surprised on observing the cashbox of the bank also lying open in the yard.

She alarmed the inmates of the house; and Mrs Thompson having procured the aid of an intimate acquaintance, an enquiry was instituted. It appears that the door in the inner lobby of the house had been unlocked that the safe has been similarly opened and the bolts which pressed upon its door, in communication with the rooms above, has been raised. The cashbox had being carried to the yard, and there left opened, but only a part of its contents carried away

FRIDAY 21 AUGUST AFTERNOON
As Mr Thompson was to return home on Friday afternoon



FRIDAY 21 AUGUST POLICE ACTIVITY
In the course of Friday, however, Mr Cameron, the police officer at Tweedmouth, in conjunction with Mr Proudfoot at Berwick, was aiding in the investigation, happened to look in a water butt in the yard, And observing the water had been disturbed he put his stick in and found something soft and bulky at the bottom. He drained the water off, and then discovered two packages, in strong brown paper, with a course towel round them. These turned out to be parcels of silver which has been made up in the bank on the afternoon of Thursday. Mrs Thompson came into the yard with others, when it was known these parcels had been found and among other remarks, said she hoped the whole of the money would be found. After deliberating on these circumstances, it was determined to search the house, which was done by Mr Cameron, that’s nothing found to throw further light On the mysterious affair. In the meantime intelligence has been sent off to the head officer of the bank in Newcastle upon Tyne, when a meeting of directors was immediately held, and it was at once determined to place the matter in the hands of Mr Stevens the superintendent of police at Newcastle who received instructions to proceed to Berwick without loss of time, and investigate the affair.

Mr Thompson having only returned home on Friday night could, of course throw no light on the transaction

SATURDAY 22 AUGUST
Mr Stevens reached Berwick very early on Saturday morning, and after carefully surveying the premises and receiving such information as the parties had previously been concerned in the matter had obtained, he proceeded to examine the various inmates at the house those statements he took down in writing. This examination having been conducted privately we are unable to do more than state the substance of what transpired

Mrs Thompson, on learning the discovery of the property, fell into hysterical fits in which she continued some time and from her dangerous situation, she being at the time en ciente, it was not thought proper at the moment to take her into custody but she was placed under the surveillance of the matron of the jail. What future step maybe taken will depend upon the decision of the bank directors.

MONDAY 24 AUGUST
After Mrs Thompson has been placed under the surveillance of the matron of the jail, the directors of the bank at once determined to suspend Mr Thompson, the bank agents, who, on Monday night, delivered up the keys of the office, and has since taken no part in the bank business. The circumstances of the case, as far as he is concerned, are considered open to suspicion. He has been employed as the bank agent at Berwick for about 4 years, and in connection with the bank agency, He does business as a general commission agent. He is a native of Scotland, but has lived sometime in Yorkshire, where his wife belongs. His family consists of two children living, his wife being at present en ciente. Mr Thompson’s connection with the bank up to the time of this transaction had been highly satisfactory to his employers.

COMMITTAL TO TRIAL DATE UNKNOWN
On Saturday Mrs Thompson was fully committed for trial. Bail to the amount of £2,000 was accepted, Mrs Thompson’s husband being bound over in £1000 and the Rev Mr Wilson and Mr David Macbeath, Merchant, in £500 each. The crime charged is felony. Mr Short and Mister Watson the two clerks in the bank, and the two servant girls, have been bound over to appear and give evidence.

The committal of Mrs Thompson the wife of the agent of the north of England joint-stock bank at Berwick for trial on charge of robbing the bank, has created an extra ordinary sensation in the town. The Berwick advertiser says Mr Thompson at time of the robbery, had been in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh visiting his mother. So far as we have been able to learn nothing has transpired to involve him in any charge or suspicion of having a guilty knowledge of the robbery. From the deplorable circumstances in which he is now placed, and from the very high respect in which he has been uniformly held, he is the object of universal sympathy. He has been the agent of the bank here since the autumn of 1842, and his remarkable activity and general aptitude for the business, as well as polite and agreeable manners, ingratiated him with all parties who frequented the bank. This circumstance, as well as his being a native of the neighbouring town of Kelso , and consequently previously known to many other townspeople, secure for him a very extensive acquaintance, and all his acquaintances are Greatly Depressed and gloom hangs over a large circle. His unfortunate partner shared with him in this extensive acquaintance. She is 26 years of age, the mother of three children, and a native of the neighbourhood of Leeds. Whether the acts with which she is now charged was the result of a temporary impulse or a meditated scheme, it is not at present in human power to determine. But a more deplorable and mysterious affair level we believe before occurred in this quarter. Another account states that there are reasonable grounds for supposing the miserable Woman has been labouring under an aberration of intellect for some time past. Only a few weeks ago, it seems, under the influence of religious mania she joined the Popish church.

TRIAL MONDAY OCTOBER 26TH
The trial of Jane Thompson, charged with the robbery of the Berwick bank, commenced on Monday, at a quarter sessions at Berwick-upon-Tweed, before Mr Robert Ingham the recorder. Three case excited great interest and the court was densely crowded.

The prisoner, who had been out on bail, on her arraignment, pleaded not guilty. Mr Greenwood and Mr Selby appeared as counsel for the prosecution, and Mr Granger was specially retained for the defendant.

Robbery at Berwick on Tweed Glasgow Herald Friday August 28th 1846

Considerable excitement was caused at Berwick-upon-Tweed on Friday morning last, by a rumour, confirmed by subsequent enquiry, that the premises off of the North of England joint stock bank, situated in Bridge Street, has been entered and robbed of a considerable sum of money.

The bank at Berry is a branch establishment, the head office being at the Newcastle upon Tyne. The following particulars have been supplied by a correspondence

Mr Thompson the agent of the bank had been from home about a fortnight on leave of absence from the directors: and Mr Burdis, one of the directors had resided in Berwick during that interval and attended to the business of the bank establishment. As Mr Thompson was to return home on Friday afternoon, and that day being a half holiday to the bank, Mr Burdis terminated his residence at Berwick on Thursday afternoon when he returned to Newcastle. In the absence of both of these gentlemen, Mr short the senior clerk, slept in the dwelling house attached to the bank on Thursday night;. Mrs Thompson the family and servants, residing on the premises as usual. The bank was closed on Thursday at the usual hour, the doors locked and the customary precautions for security taken. The safe door is secured by a bolt which communicates with the sitting room above and extends up into the bedroom on the third story and when the bolt is properly shot the safe cannot be opened without causing an alarm, that being the purpose for which it is so constructed.

The parties retired to rest at the usual hour on Thursday night, and at 5 o’clock on Friday morning, a woman engaged as an occasional servant in the house rang the street bell, and the resident servant, going downstairs to admit her, was surprised to find the door leading from the lobby to the bank opened and still more surprised on observing the cashbox of the bank also lying open in the yard. She alarmed the inmates of the house and Mrs Thompson having procured the aid of an intimate acquaintance, an enquiry was instituted. It then appeared that the door in the lobby of the house had been unlocked, that the safe had been similarly opened, And the bolt which pressed upon its door, in communication with the rooms above, had been raised. The cash box had been carried to the yard and there left open, but part only of its contents carried away.

From the safe £1000 of bank of England notes were extracted, £1443 of scotch notes of various two nominations, £361.10 shillings in gold and upwards of £115 pounds in silver. The cash box contains about £600 gold but part only of this was taken. All the bills running due at the bank were left, as also some letters of credit which were there deposited. A large amount of Scottish notes had been sent off to Edinburgh on the preceding day, which will account for the comparatively small number on hand. The only cause which can be conjectured for thus leaving the cash box in the yard is, that’s the parties must have taken alarm.

None of the locks which secured the property are broken nor does the least violence appeared to have been applied to them, And how the safety box has been raised if properly secured appears a mystery. Nor can any trace be found of the manner in which the depredators gained admittance to, or make their exit from, the premises. It may have been by the back of the property, by s scaling several walls, but no trace or marks were left behind. A slender ladder was found placed against the wall which partitions the house from the adjoining property, but the officers engaged in the enquiry are of the opinion that the depredators had not use that ladder, for if they have their pressure should have caused an impression from the ladder to be made on the soil on which it rested. Coupled with these circumstances is a singular statement made by Mrs Thompson, that she heard some noise early on the Friday morning and that she looked into the yard and they saw two men with a lantern, but that she gave no alarm to the other inmates at the house. Mrs Thompson also says that two nights before she heard a noise of footsteps, and it is thought probable the same persons that committed the robbery were then on the bank premises making a survey. Information of the robbery has been communicated to the various police officers in the district and also at a distance and a most rigid investigation is being pursued on the spot, the particulars of which, however, are being kept a secret as possible, Though up to the period of my communicating this no clue has been obtained to the parties implicated (there follows details of the banknotes. )

August 21 1846. — Great sensation was created in Berwick this morning, on it becoming known that the North of England Branch Bank had been entered during the night, and notes and coin to the amount of £3,000 carried away. It appeared that Mr. Thompson, the resident agent, had been from home on a leave of absence for a fortnight. In the morning the robbery was discovered by a servant, when the safe was found unlocked... and the whole of the property removed ... A searching examination of the premises was then made, and, as the result proved, with perfect success. All the gold and the whole of the silver were discovered secreted under the stairs in the kitchen, and the whole of the notes were soon afterwards found in the bedroom of Mrs Thompson, wife of the manager, sewed up in the bolsters and bedding.
Mrs T was immediately apprehended and was tried for the offence on the 26th October, before the recorder, Mr Ingham, but the testimony of one of the female servants being somewhat contradictory she was acquitted.
Historical Register of Remarkable Events... p.211

1 Bail granted, date of article unknown
The Berwick bank robbery
On Saturday Mrs Thompson was fully committed for trial. Bail to the amount of £2,000 was accepted, Mrs Thompson’s husband being bound over in £1000 and the Rev Mr Wilson and Mr David Macbeath, Merchant, in £500 each. The crime charged is felony. Mr Short and Mister Watson the two clerks in the bank, and the two servant girls, have been bound over to appear and give evidence.

2 The Morning Post, London August 28
The Berwick bank robbery
After Mrs Thompson has been placed under the surveillance of the matron of the jail, the directors of the bank at once determined to suspend Mr Thompson, the bank agents, who, on Monday night, delivered up the keys of the office, and has since taken no part in the bank business. The circumstances of the case, as far as he is concerned, are considered open to suspicion. He has been employed as the bank agent at Berwick for about 4 years, and in connection with the bank agency, He does business as a general commission agent he is a native of Scotland, but has lived sometime in Yorkshire, where his wife belongs. His family consists of two children living, his wife being at present en ciente. Mr Thompson’s connection with the bank up to the time of this transaction had been highly satisfactory to his employers.

3 Bank robbery, date of article unknown
The bank robbery at Berwick
The authorities of Berwick have completed their investigation into this extraordinary case, and have determined upon committing Mrs Thompson, the wife of the manager, for trial at the next Northumberland Assizes. A very strong feeling of sympathy is manifested in her behalf by the inhabitants of Berwick, more especially in the more respectable circles with whom she and her husband have very extensively mixed. Few of the circumstances connected with the case had been allowed to transpire beyond those already published, the magisterial enquiry having been conducted behind closed doors. It is understood, however, that various points have been discovered, which, though trivial in themselves, are important when considered in connection with other facts. For instance, black thread exactly corresponding in colour and quality with that which the bedding had been resewed after that money had been secreted, has been found in Mrs Thompsons workbox: and it also appears that on the night of the robbery she deposited the keys to the bank in a box, or safe also in her bedroom, and placed the small key in her pocket.

The female servant who slept in the same, and who at first professed ignorance on the subject, now positively states that her mistress was absent during the night for about an hour, and on returning washed her hands. Mr Burdis, one of the directors the bank, has been engaged in an examination of letters found in Mrs Thompsons possession and one expression used to her husband, in a letter written some time ago has been much dwelt upon: it is “Burn my letters or they will tell ----?all” As soon as the unfortunate woman can be removed she will be sent to Morpeth jail.

4 The Hull Packet and East Riding Times August 2?
The bank robbery at Berwick ( further particulars continued from the sixth page)
The excitement created in the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, by the robbery of the north of England joint-stock bank, has been sustained by the discovery at intervals, during the course of the rigid investigation which was being pursued, of circumstances which seemed to indicate very clearly that the plot was circumscribed by the scene of its execution and did not extend beyond to the bank premises. It has already been stated that a ladder was found placed against the yard wall as if for the purpose of getting over the wall: but as no impress from the ladder was discovered on the soil upon which it rested and it having been ascertained by experiments that the weight of an ordinary person on it caused it to sink to a considerable depth, it was at once concluded that’s no one had passed into or from the yard in that direction, Or by means of it. Even then suspicion was not at once directed towards the inmates of the house.

In the course of Friday, however, mr Cameron, the police officer at Tweedmouth, in conjunction with Mr Proudfoot at Berwick, was aiding in the investigation, happened to look in a water butt in the yard, And observing the water had been disturbed he put his stick in and found something soft and bulky at the bottom. He drained the water off, and then discovered two packages, in strong brown paper, with a course towel round them. These turned out to be parcels of silver which has been made up in the bank on the afternoon of Thursday. Mrs Thompson came into the yard with others, when it was known these parcels had been found and among other remarks, said she hoped the whole of the money would be found. After deliberating on these circumstances, it was determined to search the house, which was done by Mr Cameron, that’s nothing found to throw further light On the mysterious affair. In the meantime intelligence has been sent off to the head officer of the bank in Newcastle upon Tyne, when a meeting of directors was immediately held, and it was at once determined to place the matter in the hands of Mr Stevens the superintendent of police at Newcastle who received instructions to proceed to Berwick without loss of time, and investigate the affair.
Mr Stevens reached Berwick very early on Saturday morning, and after carefully surveying the premises and receiving such information as the parties had previously been concerned in the matter had obtained, he proceeded to exam
ine the various inmates at the house those statements he took down in writing.This examination having been conducted privately we are unable to do more than state the substance of what transpired


Mr Thompson having only returned home on Friday night could, of course throw no light on the transaction.


Mr Short the bank clerk said he balanced the books as usual at 4 o’clock and left the bank at that time, Mr Watson the bookkeeper being engaged sometime after that in making up the books. He closed the safe, and attached the bolt, so that everything was safe. He returned to the house about 11 o’clock and went to bed immediately, and knew nothing of the robbery till he was awakened next morning by the servant girl who told him that the bank had been robbed.



Isabella Lamb the nurse maid, gave a very unsatisfactory account of the matter as far as she was concerned. She slept in the same room with Mrs Thompson, it being on the same floor as the dining room into which the safe bolt passed. She said she was awoke by her mistress about 1:30 o’clock, when her mistress said she heard a terrible noise. Her mistress got up and said she saw two men in the next yard to the bank with the lantern. She went to sleep again and slept until morning.


Mrs Thompson went to bed about 10 o’clock, and heard Mr Short coming in at 11. Between 12 and one o’clock she said she heard a noise, and got up, and looked out of the window into the yard where she saw two men in the next yard. She says she awoke the housemaid and asked if she was to ring the bell. But the girl said no if there is anyone in the place we shall be murdered. She accordingly did not ring , but lay still till the perspiration poured off her. This part of Mrs Thompsons statement was contradicted by the girl and indeed the whole story seems quite improbable.



At this stage of the proceedings it was deemed necessary to institute a more strict examination of the house and premises Than had been made in the first instance. The result was the discovery of the nearly all the property. A quantity of gold and silver were found  hidden under the celler ?.... The banknotes were found in Mrs Thompson’s bed and pillows and in the pillow of a small cot bed, which had been opened out to conceal the property and sown up again. In short one discovery succeeded another, till the entire property missing was found with the exception of?



Mrs Thompson, on learning the discovery of the property, fell into hysterical fits in which she continued some time and from her dangerous situation, she being at the time en ciente, it was not thought proper at the moment to take her into custody but she was placed under the surveillance of the matron of the jail. What future step maybe taken Will depend upon the decision of the bank directors.



The greatest credit is due to Mr Stevens for the manner in which he has investigated the affair and succeeded in recovering the whole property.



6 Glasgow Herald August 28
Bank robbery at Berwick upon Tweed
Considerable excitement was caused at Berwick-upon-Tweed on Friday morning in last, by a rumour, confirmed by subsequent enquiry: that the premises of the north of England joint stock bank, situate in Bridge Street colour had been entered and robbed of a considerable sum of money. The bank at Berwick is a branch establishment, their head office being at Newcastle upon tyne. The following particulars have been supplied by a correspondent.


Mr Thompson the agent of the bank, had been from home about a fortnight come on leave of absence from the directors: and Mr Burdis one of the directors, had resided in Berwick during that interval, and attended to the business of the bank establishment.


As Mr Thompson was to return home on Friday afternoon, and that day being a half holiday at the bank Mr Burdis terminated his residence at Berwick on Thursday afternoon, when he returned to Newcastle. In the absence of both of these gentlemen, Mr Short, the senior clerk, slept in the dwelling house attached to the bank on Thursday night: mrs Thompson, the family and servants, residing on the premises as usual. The bank was closed on Thursday at the usual hour, the door was locked, and the customary precautions for security taken. The safe door is secured by a bolt which communicates with the sitting room above, and extends up into the bedroom on the third story, and when that bolt is properly shut, the safe cannot be opened without causing an alarm, that being the purpose for which it is so constructed.

The parties retired to rest at the usual hour on Thursday night, and at 5 o’clock on Friday morning, a woman engaged as an occasional servant in the house rang the street bell, and the resident servant went downstairs to admit her, was surprised to find the door leading from the lobby to the bank open, and still more surprised on observing the cashbox of the bank also lying open in the yard.

She alarmed the inmates of the house; and Mrs Thompson having procured the aid of an intimate acquaintance, an enquiry was instituted. It appears that the door in the inner lobby of the house had been unlocked that the safe has been similarly opened and the bolts which pressed upon its door, in communication with the rooms above, has been raised. The cashbox had being carried to the yard, and there left opened, but only a part of its contents carried away. From the safe £1000 of of bank notes were abstracted. £1443 of scotch notes of various denominations, £361.10 shillings in gold, and upwards of £115 in silver. The cash box contained about £600 of gold but only part of this was taken. All the bills running due at the bank were left, as also some letters of credit which were there deposited. A large amount of scotch notes had been sent off to Edinburgh on the preceding day which will account for that comparatively small number on hand.

The only cause which can be conjectured for thus leaving the cashbox in the yard is, that the parties must have taken alarm. None off the locks which secured the property are broken, nor does the least violence appear to have been applied to them, and how the safety bolt had been raised, if properly secured, appears a mystery. Nor can any trace be found of the manner in which the depredators gained admittance to, or made their exit from, the premises. It may have been by the back of the property, by scaling several walls, but no trace or marks are left behind. A slender ladder was found placed against the wall which partitions the house from the adjoining property; at the officers engaged in the enquiry are of the opinion that the depredators had not used that ladder, for if they had, their pressure should have caused an impression from the ladder to be made on the soil on which it rested.

Coupled with these circumstances is a singular statement made by Mrs Thompson, That she heard some noise early on that Friday morning, and that she looked into the yard and they’re saw two men with a lantern, but that she gave no alarm to the other inmates of the house. Mrs Thompson also says that two nights before she heard a noise of footsteps and it is thought probable the same persons that committed the robbery with then on the bank premises making a survey. Information of the robbery has been communicated to the various police officers in the district, And also at a distance; and the most rigid investigation is being pursued on the spot, the particulars of which, however, are kept secret as possible but up to the period of my communication there is no clue obtained as to the parties implicated. As various incorrect and exaggerated statements have been circulating as to the amount of property stolen, I so join the following schedule which has been made out at the bank office.

There follows a list of Bank notes and their origins this includes “£300 in gold in three bags of yellow canvas £61 10 shillings in a drab coloured cotton bag.”

7 source and date unknown
The committal of Mrs Thompson the wife of the agent of the north of England joint-stock bank at Berwick for trial on charge of robbing the bank, has created an extra ordinary sensation in the town. The Berwick advertiser says Mr Thompson at time of the robbery, had been in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh visiting his mother. So far as we have been able to learn nothing has transpired to involve him in any charge or suspicion of having a guilty knowledge of the robbery. From the deplorable circumstances in which he is now placed, and from the very high respect in which he has been uniformly held, he is the object of universal sympathy. He has been the agent of the bank here since the autumn of 1842, and his remarkable activity and general aptitude for the business, as well as polite and agreeable manners, ingratiated him with all parties who frequented the bank. This circumstance, as well as his being a native of the neighbouring town of Kelso , and consequently previously known to many other townspeople, secure for him a very extensive acquaintance, and all his acquaintances are Greatly Depressed and gloom hangs over a large circle. His unfortunate partner shared with him in this extensive acquaintance. She is 26 years of age, the mother of three children, and a native of the neighbourhood of Leeds. Whether the acts with which she is now charged was the result of a temporary impulse or a meditated scheme, it is not at present in human power to determine. But a more deplorable and mysterious affair level we believe before occurred in this quarter. Another account states that there are reasonable grounds for supposing the miserable Woman has been labouring under an aberration of intellect for some time past. Only a few weeks ago, it seems, under the influence of religious mania she joined the Popish church.



10 Lloyd's Weekly London Newspaper
Tuesday.
The excitement occasions by this extra ordinary robbery is now increased in consequence of the singular recovery of the whole of the property stolen amounting to about £3000. It was from the first apparent that’s the thief or thieves had the advantage of a perfect acquaintance with the premises, and the peculiar fastenings employed, as the robbery had been perpetrated without noise or violence. Suspicion fell naturally upon some of the parties who were in the house on Thursday night, and measures for promptly taken to prevent the removal of the property from the premises, and indeed all communication between the inmates and other parties.

Very early in the search, a large sum, in silver was found wrapped in towns belonging to the bank, and hidden in some barrels in the yard, and with this discovery that Berwick authorities appeared inclined to content themselves. The bank directors of Newcastle however, sent over to Mr Stevens, the superintendent of police in that town, And he forthwith instituted a more rigourous examination of the premises. The result of the search was the recovery of the remaining portion of the property, past having been secreted under the stairs, And another part in the bed occupied by Mrs Thompson, the lady of the manager. Mrs Thompson was directly taken into custody, though allowed to remain in the house. Nothing however has transpired which can fix the guilt exclusively upon her or any other person. After Mrs Thompson had been placed under the surveillance of the matron of the jail, the directors of the bank determined to suspend Mr Thompson, the bank agent, Who on Monday night delivered up the keys of the office and has since taken no part in the bank business. The circumstances of the case, as far as he is concerned, are considered open to suspicion. He has been employed as the bank agent at Berwick for about four years and in connection with the bank agency he did business as a general commission agent. He is a native of Scotland, but has lived sometime in Yorkshire, where his wife belongs. His family consists of two children, his wife being at present en ciente. Mr Thompson’s connection with the bank up to the time of this transaction as being highly satisfactory to his employers.

14 The Era November 1 1846
The trial of Jane Thompson, charged with the robbery of the Berwick bank, commenced on Monday, at a quarter sessions at Berwick-upon-Tweed, before Mr Robert Ingham the recorder. Three case excited great interest and the court was densely crowded.

The prisoner, who had been out on bail, on her arraignment, pleaded not guilty.

Mr Greenwood and Mr Selby appeared as counsel for the prosecution, and Mr Granger was specially retained for the defendant.

The first witness examined was John Short, a clark in the north of England joint-stock bank at Berwick, of which in August last, John Thompson, the husband off the prisoner, was the agent. Mr Thompson occupied a dwelling house connected with the banking premises. On 9 August Mr Thompson left Berwick, and the business of the bank was managed during his absence by Mr Burdis, who however left on 20 August before Mr Thompson’s return, leaving witness in charge of the cash. On the night of the 20th, witness slept at the bank.

Between three and 4 o’clock in the afternoon he placed in the safe and cashbox money in notes gold and silver to the amount of £3109.11 shillings, and gave the keys of the safe etc to Mrs Thompson. He then went away, leaving Mr Watson, a junior clerk in the bank. Witness went to the bank again at 6 o’clock when Mr Watson was still, there, and at 9 o’clock when Mr Watson had gone. Witness then went out again, and returned to the bank at a quarter before 11 o’clock, when he let himself in from the street with a latch key and, after examining the fastenings of the doors, went to bed. The window of witnesses bedroom looks into the yard of the cock and lion inn. He heard no noise during the night. About 5 o’clock he was a work by one of the servants, who wanted the key of the outer door. He told her where it was and five minutes afterwards he was asked to go downstairs. He did so, when he found the three indoors of the safe standing open. The cashbox and five parcels of silver containing £50 each had been taken out of the safe. He failed to the cashbox lying open in the, and a parcel of silver near it. There were no marks of violance about the safe door, or lobby door, there was a ladder placed against the wall of the yard, but on examining it Mr Robertson, for whom he sent on the discovery of the robbery, he found it had made no perceptible impression on the soil on which it rested.

In his cross examination by Mr Granger, the witness stated that the cash safe opened with a secret spring, Side is the lock, and that he could not find the spring till it was pointed out to him by Mr Watson. £50 of silver weighs 12 pounds.

Ralph Watson a junior clerk in the back deposed that’s on 20 August he remained in the bank after Mr Short had left till 6 o’clock. He went back at 8 o’clock for half an hour and then you got the keys of the book safe and cash so from Mrs Thompson.

He open the cash box to get a letter, which he did not find, and he then locked up all the doors and returns the keys to Mrs Thompson.

Isabella Lamb, who had been nursery maid in the prisoners service, stated that on the night of 20 August, at 10 o’clock, she went with Margaret Arnott, another servant, into the yard with the lantern, and found everything right. Witness slept in Mrs Thompson’s room in a separate bed. Mrs Thompson came to the room after breakfast went to bed, when she took the baby out bought it back and again went out, and remained away about an hour. Prisoner came to bed about 11 o’clock, when she complained of being poorly, and went about taking a lantern with her. She was a full hour absent. On her return she went to bed, and in about half an hour and awoke the witness and asked “Isabella do you hear that noise? “ witness did hear some noise from the Cock and Lion yard. Prisoner looked out of the window, and said she saw two men with a lighted lantern, but witness did not get up to look. Would transfer asleep, and was again awoke by the prisoner, who asked if she heard that talking. Witness did hear some talking, apparently from the cock and lion yard. The witness then stated that on going downstairs in the morning, after letting in Margaret Bell, who came to assist servants, she saw the cashbox and a parcel in the yard, and called up Mr Short. On the Friday after the robbery the prisoner begged witness never to mention that she had been out of the room on the night of the robbery.

This witness was cross examined at considerable length, and contradicted in some points the statements she had made in her examination in chief.

Margaret or not the housemaid, corroborated the evidence of the last witness as to the finding of the cash box etc and stated that she had not been disturbed by any noise on the night of the 20 August. On the following day the prisoner made the bed Mr Short had slept in on the previous night, and also two of the beds in her own room. Witness never saw Mrs Thompson make any of the beds before the robbery. The prisoner requested witness before she was examined by the magistrates not to say that she, Mrs Thompson, was out of her room on the night of the robbery. When witness and Lamb went downstairs in the morning to admit Mrs Bell, they were undressed.

Margaret Bell corroborated to some extent the evidence of the two last witnesses. She stated however that’s when they came to the door to let her in on the morning the robbery was discovered, they were both dressed, and wore light gowns.

Alexandre Robertson deposed to have been called up by the witness Short on the morning of 21 August. He went to the bank, accompanied by Broadfoot, the constable, And saw the cash box open in the yard, with notes and paper in it. Witness saw a ladder resting against the yard wall, But there were no marks on the wall, Nor was there any indentation of the soil. Witness on getting up on the ladder, Found that it sunk into the soil with his weight. He received the keys of the safe from Mrs Thompson. During Friday 21st two packages of silver were found under an inverted barrel in the yard and two other packages in the water cask.

Cross examined he said that Mrs Thompson made a statement to him, freely and without hesitation, and showed no desire to keep anything back. She said nothing to raise suspicion against her. Witness never heard a whisper against Mrs Thompson’s character.

James Proudfoot, police constable at Berwick, who accompanied the last witness to the bank, confirms his evidence as to the finding of the cashbox etc. On the following Monday, witness with Telford, another constable, searched the house. Under the stairs in the back kitchen they found five small bags: one contains two sixpences another 61 sovereigns and a half, and the remaining 3 each containing a hundred pounds in sovereigns and half sovereigns. Witness also found £434 in Scotch notes lying in a heap together, and a parcel of silver containing £14.17s. In a bedroomboth the ground floor, containing three bets, he found £100 in small notes sewed into the bolster. He ripped open the ticking of the nursery bed and found £1000 pounds in bank of England notes, And £100 in Scotch notes. In the wardrobe in Mrs Thompson’s room witness found a basket containing some thread exactly corresponding with that used for sewing up the ticking where it had been unripped. The thread used for the resewing was darker than that with which to bed had been originally sewn.

Andrew telford police officer confirmed proud foot evidence and deposed to have t himself found other large sums of money concealed in the pillow of a child’s crib.


After some other unimportant evidence, as to the identity of the notes etc had been taken the case for the prosecution closed at 11:30 o’clock on Monday night. 


On the opening of the court on Tuesday morning, Mr Granger made a powerful address to the jury on behalf of Mrs Thompson and the recorder in summing up, having carefully placed all the facts of the case before the jury, commenting upon the proof that the prisoner was not the only party could have had access to the safe, and upon the apparent incompatibility of the supposition of her guilt with her anxiety to have the senior clerk to sleep in the house, her immediate desire on the discovery of the robbery to procure efficient aid, and also her having run the risk of detection by calling the attention of the girl Lamb to voices in the course of the night, which, if an invention might have led to a discovery of her guilt, as well as other features of the case.

The jury delivered a verdict of not guilty.


Further information:
Three North of England Joint Stock Banks failed in 1847, part of a wider sequence of bank failures in England and Scotland that year. Their failure was said to have caused the withdrawal of four million pounds. A contemporary diarist noted, 'Timid men who did not like going to the banks for notes or gold in lieu of those issued, paid them to their bankers first, and a day or two afterwards asked for gold or notes (Bank of England), under various pretexts; really frightened fellows demanded the gold or notes instanter, and kept their money secreted in their houses until they could get securities'.1 Upon its failure, the Newcastle, Shields and Sunderland Union Joint Stock Bank's liabilities amounted to £1,741,572, of which £309,724 were owed to parties other than shareholders. Attempts at resuming the banks' business were made, through new share issues and a series of calls on the shareholders, but in January 1853 a shareholder named John Teather of Alstonby declined to continue the payment of his calls, and upon being sued by the company Teather entered a petition to the court to initiate the dissolution of the company. The bank's business was carried on in the interim, while plans for the formation of a new bank were made, however these came to nothing, and the bank was eventually bought by Woods, Parker & Co. in 1859.
http://familyrecords.dur.ac.uk/nei/NEI_trade_imag_trans.htm
The Bankers Magazine and Railway Digest v. 7, 1847, p.51

About the author 

Catherine Kent

Dr Catherine Kent has a background in architecture and enjoys unpicking the history of buildings and landscapes. She is an Honorary Fellow in the Department of History at Durham University.

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