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Wolverhampton, Wombourne, Pattingham, William Sparry, Attorney, Forgery, Tyburn,1762.
On the 7th April, 1708, in the pretty village of Wombourne, Staffordshire, a union of two souls took place. Anne Hardwick, spinster of the above Parish, married William Sparry, of the Parish of Pattingham, Wolverhampton. One of the fruits of this union, in 1712, was a son, who, following an age old tradition, was also baptised William Sparry. William senior, as far as the records can be relied upon, was a Cooper and carpenter, a trade which was always in demand. Now every father has hopes, that a son will take up the same trade, and can also be mightily annoyed when they don't. Such was the case here, the young William showing no interest in a life spent working with wood. This was a pity really, because the youngster did have a way with Timber. He was as thick as a short plank. The old man, possibly using a bit of influence, secured him a position where he could learn husbandry and ploughing. He turned out to be as good at this, as he was as a school boy. Absolutely rubbish. Not to be out done, and having a few bob put by, William senior purchased the young man a place at the best place he could think of, Wolverhampton Grammer School. Here, young William trained as a clerk, but more importantly, he was at last out of sight of the old man, who must have been vastly disappointed with his offsprings shortcomings. Somehow or other, and bribery or cheating springs to mind, the not very bright William, managed to pass the Bar Examination, and was admitted into the world of the Law, as an Attorney. Not surprisingly, and right from the start of his career. he was totally out of his depth. He simply did not have the brain capacity for the job, he could not match the advocacy level demanded, and lost most of his case's. The answer was fairly easy to arrive at, he resorted to cheating. One thing that William Sperry had been born with, was low cunning, and a very devious mind, sharpened by years of evading his fathers wrath. He now put all this to good use. For his delighted clients, ( mostly now of the crooked kind ) he could be relied upon to produce, a willing witness, or a vital document, just at the right time. His reputation, and his oily tongue, around Wolverhampton and Birmingham Law Courts, soon became a by-word for dishonesty. Proper and mostly Law abiding clients became fewer, time he thought, for a total change of direction.
At some stage in his story, William Sparry got married to a girl from Shropshire. I havn't as yet found a record of this, but it's a fact, that he fathered at least 8 children, most of whom died very young. When he moved from the area, and headed for the sprawling slums of London, he took neither his wife, or surviving daughters, with him. This ommission, on his part, will play a part in what happened later on. and is, in itself, a bit of a mystery. Needless to say, his reputation had gone before him, and it wasn't long before he was up to his evil and devious ways again. Another of Williams many failings, was his extravagant lifestyle. He liked to have the best, the only bar to this, was his constant lack of money, and he resorted to supplying forged legal documents, for a price, just as he had done in Wolverhampton. Lawyer Sperry, and he was by no means the only Lawyer with a poor reputation, was nothing but an out and out crook. There's no painting or image, from which to judge, but Sparry was a bit of a ladies man, well he seemed to have attracted quite a few, maybe it was the lure of of money. He first took up with an attractive young woman when he settled in London, an obvious choice as it turned out, she was a prostitute, and the money came in handy. He devised a scheme, using his charm, to gain some financial benefit, he began courting, and then marrying, a rich widow. Mrs Hollingworth, had been left over £6,000 by her late husband, a vast sum at the time, and a temptation to all scoundrels, including Sparry, who had devised a cunning plan. The planned marriage would not last long, and so it proved, sadly, the new Mrs Sparry passed away. ( there are some indications, that her sudden death caused a few raised eyebrows ) Her brother, amongst others however, was not a happy bunny, and challenged the supposed will of his sister. The spidery handwriting of the late Mrs Sparry, being put down to her " illness ". Furher more, no one could find any proof, that a marriage had actually taken place, at least not in the normal records kept at the time. Trust William Sparry though, just in time he produced one. Her brother challenged this as well, and also claimed Sparry had turned his sister into an alcoholic, kept her locked up, and virtually made her a Lunatic. Unable, or more likely , unwilling to grant Sparry full probate, the Judge arrived at a solution. By way of a compromise, William received only a small portion of the estate, and it was his turn to be an unhappy bunny. Such was the stink around this case that William was forced to move to Greenwich. Spotting another likely widow, he joined the Methodist Church that she was a member of, and began all over again. A £5,000 legacy, was another tempting target. This time, events caught up with him, and a very lucky widow, had a narrow escape. Despite producing a great many forged documents, to support his many swindles, his creditors finally nailed him, and he was imprisoned for debt. Only with the help of some of his crooked friends, and no doubt using some of the ill gotten gains he had stashed away, did he get out of the appalling debters prison. You would have thought, that he might have learned something from this experience, but as I said before, in some things, he was as thick as a short plank.
Securing lodging with his prostitute mistress, funds of course being now exhausted, he was soon at it again. This time, he was approached by a crony James Farr, who had a problem Sparry could help with. Farr, was what was called, " an intemperate man ", and as such, had been disinherited by his father. Farr had been told his father had died, and had left his entire estate to his housekeeper. This was a situation Farr could not let this happen, so he asked Sparry, to draw up a Will, which could be presented to a Court, before the housekeeper could do the same with the genuine Document. Meeting in an Ale House, with another very disreputable character, William Biddle, Sparry produced the false will, and Biddle signed it as a witness. The other witness was Sparry's mistress. The housekeeper was lucky, she was friendly with another Lawyer, who at once presented the real Will to the Court, and accused Farr of forgery. In a short time, William Farr, and the rather inept band of conspirators were all arrested, and flung into prison. William Sparry then made the biggest mistake of his life. Biddle and Farr knew that Sparry had hidden assets, and so they made a plea for Sparry to use some of it in their defence. Sparry point blank refused, so at the trial, the pair of them, " grassed him up " so to speak. That, despite his pleading lack of memory, and a few legitimate legal moves he had learned, well and truly cooked his goose. He, and the other two, were sentenced to death. Now for the mystery bit. Efforts had been made to trace his wife, ( the first one ), back in Pattingham, but had drawn a blank. She seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth. ( Or more likely, under it ) She had last been seen the week before he left for London. That same week, he had taken his last two surviving daughters to a relative, and told them he and his wife were both off to London. She never turned up, not even in later records, so did William Sparry do away with her. More to the point, did this information have any bearing on the sentence he was given, as others who had committed similar offences, got off with a far lighter sentence. It's impossible to find out now, William Sparry was Hanged, alongside the others, at about 11.30am, on the morning of 10th November, 1762. I know thats true, I've got a document signed by him to prove it.
A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day. ( See my Blog entry )
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