Joseph Shaw

the younger (1719 - 1805) of Epsom
Receiver General of the Land Tax for the County of Surrey and alleged embezzler

The subject of this article should not be confused with his grandfather of the same name, a 'Legal Writer', Barrister of the Middle Temple, who died in 1733 - of whom particulars may be found in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (accessible via the Surrey Libraries website).

He was the son of another Joseph Shaw, and his wife Mary, believed to have been born on 10 September 1719 and baptised at St James', Westminster, 24 September 1719.

His father had already acquired other property in Epsom before the purchase of a messuage in Church Street from Josiah Diston on 31 May 1722 [H L Lehmann, The Residential Copyholds of Epsom, 7B3]. Mrs Shaw, assumed to be Mary, Joseph (2)'s wife, was interred in St Martin's church yard on 17 June 1755 and the latter followed, 2 May 1760. The real estate had descended to Joseph Shaw, son and heir, by 22 May 1760.

Richmond House, Church Street
Richmond House, Church Street on 18th June 1973
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre

This Joseph, of the third generation, was another barrister - admitted to the Inner Temple during 1747 and called in 1750. He had been appointed Receiver General of the County of Surrey before 26 July 1780 when he declared a balance in hand of £1,705. In The Reports of the Commissioners, appointed to examine, take, and state the public accounts of the Kingdom, published in 1783, the Secretary to the Tax Office had given evidence on 9 August 1780: -
"That about Two Years ago the Office adopted the present Mode of requiring the Receivers to return their Accounts every Quarter upon Oath, both of the Receipt and the Arrears, with the Names of the Divisions in Arrear.

That the Commissioners of the Tax Office have no Power or Control over the Collectors; and that the Receivers have made frequent Complaints against them: That when the Board observe considerable Arrears outstanding in any District, they write to the acting Commissioners in the Country, desiring them to enforce Payment from the Collectors; but that in general such Application has not produced any material Effect.

That the only Power the Tax Office has over Receivers is, to direct their Solicitor to proceed against them in the Court of Exchequer when they are deficient in their Payments, of which there have been Two or Three Instances in his Time; but several have been threatened with Prosecutions, which has generally produced better Payments into the Exchequer.

That most of the Receivers have constantly Balances in their Hands, to the Knowledge both of the Tax Office and the Treasury, without any Process being ordered to issue against them: No Line is drawn to ascertain what that Balance may be; but if, in the Judgement of the Office, it appears large, the Receivers are wrote to, to make further Payments into the Exchequer; that were they to be rigid in compelling them to pay as the Land Tax Act directs, he believes few of the Receivers would think their Offices worth holding."
This laxity was to lead to a scandal following Joseph Shaw's demise.

Mr Shaw's domestic arrangements

According to an unreliable obituary, around 1776 Joseph had married 'the amiable daughter of Mr Justice Gould; and, about four years after the death of that lady, he married Miss M. of Greenwich, Kent, who died in 1797' [Lehmann 7C3 suggests her forename had been Sarah]. In fact the passing of the second Mrs Shaw on 13 November 1796 was announced in Vol.80 of The Gentleman's Magazine but the other details remain unverified. It appears that Mr Shaw had moved from a home in London to reside in Epsom and, from circa 1790, he was joined by James Weston, former butler to the Hon. Society of the Inner Temple, and the latter's wife, Sarah.

A pillar of Society

Appointed a Justice of the Peace, Shaw became Chairman of the Surrey Quarter Sessions before 1788. His name may be found in local Vestry Minutes - Epsom from 1775 and Ewell in 1777/8 - and he was the defendant in Fitzherbert v Shaw after 1788. Joseph Shaw died on 9 November 1805, at Epsom, having been 'seized, as he was going up stairs, with an apoplectic fit'. Evidently he left no issue. By his Will of 24 February 1803, proved 2 December 1805 [PROB 11/1435], a life interest in all his freehold and copyhold estates was devised to Sarah Weston, wife of James Weston, remaindered to members of the Croasdaille family who were distant relatives.

He was interred in St Martin's churchyard, aged 85, on 19 November 1805 as 'Joseph Shawe'; the cortege had consisted of two mourning coaches occupied by William Northey Esq., Miss Hammond, Mr James Weston and his wife. The latter was expected to 'enjoy the estates etc at Epsom for which her husband had been so long and so faithfully labouring' but her husband died at Epsom in 1806 at the early age of 47.

Deficiencies emerge

In addition, on 26 November 1807, a writ of diem clausit extremum - an Exchequer writ for recovery of a Crown debt from the estate of a deceased debtor - came to be issued.

A letter subsequently appeared in The Scourge; or Monthly Expositor of Imposture and Folly, Vol IV: -
"MR. EDITOR, In presuming to address you on the subject of defalcations in the revenue, I trust I shall not be deemed impertinent, in requesting a page or two of the SCOURGE. It has been broadly stated in the House of Commons, that the taxes were defective to a very large amount Now, Sir, the object of this letter, is to point out in what manner that defect arises. The country, Sir, in which I have the honour of residing, boasts the honour of having for one of its representatives, GEORGE HOLME SUMNER, ESQ., a staunch friend of the government! Is it not, I would ask, a part of the duty of the county member, to watch the interests of his constituents, and see that no frauds have been practised on them? Whether Mr. SUMNER has done so, will best appear from the following extract, taken from the Oracle newspaper of the 26th of January, 1808:-

SHERIFFS' COURT, SURREY. The King v. Shaw Esq. - An Inquisition has been taken before the Deputy Sheriff for the County of Surrey, for the last two or three days, at the Queen's Head in the Borough, to ascertain what property the late Joseph Shaw, Esq., (of Epsom) Receiver General of the Land Tax for the County of Surrey, died possessed of, what debts were due to him, &c. The ground upon which the Inquiry was instituted was under the following extraordinary circumstances. So long back as the month of August 1799 (a period of nearly nine years !) Mr. Shaw was indebted to the Crown in the enormous sum of £32,800 being monies received by him in his official capacity, and never paid into the public purse. Mr. Shaw died on the 9th November 1805, having appointed Mr. George Ware and Mrs. Sarah Weston to execute the directions contained in his will. For the honest and faithful discharge of his duty to the public, a Banking-house in Pall-Mall became his sureties.

Mr. Abbot attended the Inquisition as Counsel on the part the Crown, and Mr. Dampier for the sureties.

Mr. George Ware and Mrs. Sarah Weston, were examined with respect to the property in their hands. They gave a very satisfactory account of the disposal of the property, and the debts due, which consisted of the remnant instalments of two bonds given to Mr. Shaw under the following circumstances for the payment of money lent by him to the two persons whose names follow.

The first was a bond by which Thomas Evance, Esq. bound himself to pay to Mr. Shaw the sum of £3200, so much being advanced to that gentleman, in equal half-yearly payments of £100. There was a condition, that if he regularly kept up his payments, the remaining £1000 should be forgiven. The bond of course was dated in January 1796. Mrs. Weston was examined, and stated that the whole of the instalments had been paid by Mr. Evance with the exception of the last, which was not yet due.

The next bond was that of Peter Thompson Botham, Esq., Deputy Receiver General, for the sum of £4000, to be paid by instalments. The bond was dated the 15th July, 1805, and the instalments due had been regularly paid. On the examination of Mrs. Weston, as to the money advanced, she admitted - that the monies were belonging to the public; that Mr. Botham when he had made his collections, and brought them to Mr. Shaw, would often request loans, and Mr. Shaw accommodated him with part of his collections.

The rest of the evidence applied solely to the property which had come into the hands of the executors. The amount of the sums received by Mr, Ware being £1718 18s. 11d. of which sum £1500 had been attached by the sureties, and a balance consequently remained of £218 18s. 11d. Mrs. Weston was examined as to the freehold and other property. It appeared that there were some small cottages of very trifling value, about two acres of land, and a meeting-house, which lets for £25, per annum all at Epsom; the rent of the meeting-house not received for the last two years. There was other property in Kent, which, however, being out of the county, this inquisition could not touch.

The jury found all the foregoing circumstances to be true, consequently the sureties will have a small modicum as a satisfaction for the immense sum for which they are answerable to the crown.

On perusal of the foregoing extract, it must be obvious to every reader, that the commissioners of the taxes, at the head of which is Mr LOWNDES, are not so attentive to their duty as they should be. Here it is evident, that a sum of THIRTY-TWO THOUSAND POUNDS is secreted, and embezzled by the receiver-general of our county, upwards of six years before his death - that a period of three years elapses after his decease, before any means are taken for the recovery, and at length, at the period I am writing, thirteen years subsequent to the embezzlement, a sum of £3200 only is paid into the Exchequer; that sum has been recovered by the activity of a gentleman, who submitted a plan for the approbation of government, which no doubt will be adopted, and which plan will prevent future receivers from retaining such large balances in their hands."

The case of Noel v Weston, 12 November 1813

Matters dragged on for another 5 years with the widowed Mrs Sarah Weston disputing the availability of copyhold assets to offset claims made upon sureties of the late Joseph Shaw. Sir Gerard Noel, Bart., of the bankers Noel Templer & Co, then instituted legal proceeding against her. On 18 June 1814, in the London Gazette, it was announced that by decree and order of the High Court of Chancery the copyhold land and houses at Epsom and Ewell were to be sold to meet Shaw's debts. Thomas Butcher, Auctioneer, of Surrey was directed to offer 61 lots at auction on 19 & 20 August 1814 in the Spread Eagle, Epsom. Included were a capital mansion and several dwelling houses at Epsom, a small compact farm with 30 acres [Marsh Farm] at Ewell, and land dispersed in the common fields, 100 acres - valued at £700 p.a. upwards.

As indicated by the late Hans Lehmann, it appears that completion of the sales of certain of the properties notably a moiety in the former New Tavern and the capital messuage in Church Street (3C20 & 7C3), were delayed but let for that income to be applied in accordance with Noel v Weston - accounts to 1820 are held in the national Archives under C 101/68& 69. On 15 September 1820 the Church Street property was surrendered to the current occupier, William Farlar.

Report of the Select Committee on Receivers-General for Land and assessed Taxes in 1821 Evidence on pages 25 & 26 of this report explain why no interest had been charged for over 16 years but entertained an expectation that the large outstanding balance shown in the following account could yet be cleared -

Arrears Statement - Click image to enlarge
Arrears Statement - Click image to enlarge

Overall, the sums involved will be seen to have been immense.

The deprived legatees

The widowed Mrs Sarah Weston had retired to Canterbury before 15 September 1820 and then disappears.

Henry Gould Starkie Croasdaile (b.1789) rose to become Captain in 10th Madras Native Infantry but, after his service in India, became mentally deranged. His sister and father, Henry James Alexander Croasdaile, became estranged, one from the other, over the younger Henry's treatment but eventually, during 1826, he was accommodated in 'Dr Wright's Lunatic House' [Warner Wright's Heigham House 'Retreat'] near Norwich. He died at Heigham on 15 May 1847.

Henrietta Charlotte Croasdaile (born 7 September 1788) married Richard Taylor Raynsford on 13 January 1835. She died, aged 85, on 14 January 1874 in 11 Keppel Street, London.

Brian Bouchard © July 2012

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