On this Day 26th October 1893

Penzance Lawyer on the Wrong Side of the Law, part two

Yesterday the arrests; today the hearing. The Penzance newspapers have updated the story as news has come in by telegraph during the day. Mr Wellington Dale has hurried over to Bodmin to act for the defendants – and it will be understandable if Mr Lanyon feels his situation the more keenly at this point, as he places his future in the hands of a professional rival.

Bodmin Gaol

Bodmin Gaol, now a restaurant but not a pleasant experience for Lanyon and Stevens in 1893.

The prisoners appear “before Mr. H. D. Foster, county and borough magistrate, on charges of forging and altering the will of Miss Wellington, of conspiracy to forge, perjury at the Assizes, and agreeing jointly to commit perjury”. We may imagine them still bewildered by their sudden fall from grace, and grateful that they have been allowed seats. This new and explicit charge of forgery is a shock: following the inquest, talk of perjury had been in the air – but the matter has suddenly become even more serious.

There is some to-and-fro between the prosecuting and defence lawyers. The prosecution wants the accused to be remanded for a week. The defence demands more detail, so that a case might be prepared. “To fling a charge like this at the prisoners seems very slipshod way of doing things”, says Mr Dale, and insists that he is entitled to further information. The prosecution suggests otherwise, and stick with their allegation “that the evidence given by the prisoners in supporting the will was false”. At this point the lawyers and the magistrates’ clerk apply themselves to a discussion as to whether the county magistrates can even try a Penzance case. Nobody seems to know.

It is perhaps at this point that Mr Lanyon – “his head in his hands on the table, audibly sighing” – becomes tearful. He is quite overcome with the gravity of the charges and the prospect of being remanded while the court entertains interminable legal argument and delay. Mr Stevens is “much more composed”; the Cornish Telegraph goes so far as to claim him “unconcerned”. He is, the Cornishman will advance by way of explanation, “an elderly man”; the years have granted him stoicism, and perhaps he has been more prepared for today’s events all along.

At the end of the hearing the two Penzance men are granted bail, on their own recognisances of £500 each, plus £200 each in sureties. Today’s Cornishman, in its final edition, urges its readers not to rush to conclusions. After all, “not one title of incriminating evidence is yet forthcoming”. It has been a terrible 24 hours, for Mr Lanyon probably the worst in his young life. But at least he is going home, back to the quietness and respectability of Morrab Place. For now.

Sources

Cornishman Thursday 26th October 1893 page 3

Cornish Telegraph Thursday 26th October 1893 page 5

The National Archives currency convertor suggests that the equivalent of £500 in 1893 would be over £30,000 today.

This trilogy will be concluded on November 8th. Readers will have to wait until then for the verdict, just as Messrs Lanyon and Stephens waited in 1893




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