Old Maltonians will remember one or more instances of “Flint Jack” (alias Edward Simpson) being before the Malton magistrates for some kind of fault. On 24 March 1871, for instance, he was tried in what was then Mr. Simpson’s office, before Mr. H. J. Lesley, for sleeping in a stack near the town. His defence was that he had no money to hire a lodging. He was sent to Northallerton Gaol for a month, with hard labour. In this and in other cases, drink was his undoing.
I have an indistinct remembrance of seeing “Flint Jack” in the town, and I treasure an old pamphlet published at the “Messenger” office in 1877, which gives some account of his life. The writer of this pamphlet tells us that
“throughout the British Isles, Flint Jack has nonplussed the geologist, the archaeologist, and the historian; his life is one long imposture (fortunately, now well understood), and his victims are found in every grade of society ... ... Jack’s dupes are found alike in the curator of the British museum, and in the curiosity fancier of the Yorkshire village.”
Edward Simpson was a native of Sleights, near Whitby, although I understand that that pretty village is not anxious for the fact to be known! And in the “Whitby Repository” (1863), in an outline of Flint Jack’s life given by himself, Jack said he “believed” he was born at Carlisle, and that he had wandered from there to Hexham, Sunderland, and Newcastle, and finally to Scarboroug. Probably, however, these statements were as much fabricated as were some of Flint Jack’s antiquities! As a youth he showed his intelligence and enterprise by dealing in fossils, and so far as can be ascertained traded fairly in his profession. The first wrong course he took was when he endeavoured, at the suggestion of Mr. Dodgson, of Whitby, (in 1843) to imitate a British barbed arrow-head. The instrument he selected for forging flints was discovered almost as much by chance as the way in which the Cave Men discovered some of their weapons.
In 1884, Flint Jack appeared at Bridlington and began to manufacture British and Roman urns, some of which he sold in Scarborough and other places. He set up an ancient pottery of his own on the cliffs, and afterwards at Staintondale. His first visit to Malton was about 1846, where he set out to deceive Mr. Pycock, the antiquarian, who later on purchased an “ancient piece of armour found by Jack near Cawthorne Camps” – really nothing but an old tea tray picked up in Pickering! Then followed a “Roman milestone” and various inscribed stones, the former being sold to Mr. Copperthwaite at Malton.
The alleged mile-stone bore the inscription “IMP CONSTAN EBVR” round the Christian symbol. It was wet, dirty and heavy, and seemed a genuine antiquity. The British Museum Authorities were quite puzzled by it, and the stone remained a mystery until Flint Jack’s escapades became known.
Unfortunately, Jack now began to drink. “Till then,” he confessed later, “I was always possessed of £5. I have since been in utter poverty, and frequently in great misery and want.”
Hi journeys extended into the eastern counties, to Peterborough, Cambridge, Newcastle (where he sold out his accumulation of “fossils” at the Museum). And Ireland. Scotland was too hard a nut for him to crack. The Scots, he said, were “too canny. My journey would hardly bear expenses.”
His actual downfall followed an unwise explanation of his methods to a joint meeting of the Geological and Archaeological Societies in London. He had the satisfaction of astonishing many learned men at the evening meeting, but the news of his forgeries spread right through the country and prevented sales. Some of the articles he made were so exceedingly near the originals that experts stated that it was almost impossible to tell which were the originals and which the copies.
One of the most laughable frauds was perpetrated on Mr. Charles Hartley, the Malton chemist. Jack called upon him in 1864 with “the tooth of a mastodon,” which he said was taken from Kimmeridge clay in a brick yard in the Marishes. Unfortunately, someone who had known what Jack was doing stated publicly that the grinder had been found among a cargo of foreign bones received at Mr. Wise’s bonemill, and had been stolen by Jack and converted into his famous relic!
Flint Jack carried an old greasy hat in one hand, and in the other a small bundle tied in a red cotton handkerchief. He had plenty of assurance, which no doubt materially assisted him in his objects. The engraving at the head of this article shows the nature of the man better than any description which could be given. This portrait was taken by the desire of Mr. Stevens, the hon. curator of Salisbury Museum, in 1863. The late Mr. Edwin Hall, of Malton, also published a photograph of this strange character. In addition to the history of his life already mentioned, a friend has shown me the following pamphlets:- “Flint Jack: A Memoir and an Appeal,” by Llewellyn Jewitt, F.S.A. (1867); “Flint Jack: With an examination of his Cranium.” By professor Fowler (published about 1863 by William King, of Whitby; and Professor Fowler’s “Examination of the Cranium of Flint Jack,” reprinted from the “Malton Messenger,” 21 Aug., 1869.
Charles Jagger was the son of Mr. Jagger, spirit merchant, who occupied the premises in Castlegate next to Mr. Snow’s. He was articled to Mr. Walker, the solicitor, whose offices were at the top of Old Maltongate, opposite the Lodge gates. After leaving Mr. Walker he went for a time to London, and then started a practice in St. Michael-st., Malton.
He married Miss Smith, a Malton lady, whose brother, Mr. Smith, a piano maker (the builder of the premises now occupied by the “Malton Gazette” for a factory), married Mr. Jagger’s sister, so that the families of the two couples were doubly related to one another.
A clergyman, long since dead, used often to say that Mr. Jagger was that rare avis, an honest lawyer. He certainly was an upright, conscientious man, and a gentleman both by act of Parliament, and by nature. A well-known figure, rosy of face and active in his movements, he used to be seen daily walking on the river-side accompanied by his daughters and a big black retriever. Being very fond of flowers, he would hunt for and find bee orchids and other rare blooms.
Mr. Jagger’s practice was of the conveyancing and will-making order; he always declined to appear in any court or to have anything to do with any kind of litigious practice. Many Maltonians will remember vividly calling upon Mr. Jagger in his office, at the corner of Wheelgate and St. Michael-st., and finding him in a typical lawyer’s den; books, dust, high desk and stools. A radical change was effected in the aspect of Malton when the estate gutted the office and house which he and his family inhabited for so long in order that it might become a brand new place of business.
An unswerving Tory of the old school, Mr. Jagger would indeed have been terribly upset with the suffragettes and with the legislation of to-day. But in spite of his old-fashioned Toryism he was far more practically Liberal than many of the so-called Liberals of that day, and quite free from any suspicion of cant and humbug. He was buried in Old Malton churchyard (in the corner adjoining the Abbey grounds), leaving two daughters to mourn his loss.
SPECTATOR Bygone Maltonians, II, Yorkshire Gazette, 19th October 1912
A Golden Wedding - In the list of marriages in another column will be found the announcement of the golden wedding of Mr and Mrs Edward Johnson, of this town, and we are glad to join in hearty congratulations to them on this auspicious event. The marriage took place on the 2nd June, 1859, at St. Leonard's Church, Malton, the officiating clergyman being the Rev. J.C.A. Clarkson. Mr. Johnson was at that time a biscuit manufacturer, he and his partner, Mr. Taylor, carrying on business at the Derwent Mill, in Castlegate, which was burnt down on the night of the 19th and early morning of the 20th February, 1868. Mr. Johnson was one of the leading men of the Malton Elocution Class, who used to bring out popular plays at Malton Theatre over 40 years ago, and notwithstanding his age - he is 83 - it is only a few months ago since he gave a very good exhibition of his elocutionary power at the Malton Adult School. Mrs. Johnson was the third daughter of Mr. John Hudson, ironmonger, Wheelgate, Malton (who carried on the business now in the hands of Mr. G.F. Johnson). We are glad to be bale to say that both Mr. and Mrs. Johnson are enjoying good health.
Malton Messenger, 5th June 1909
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