The Downfall of Stell

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There is very little information for the period 1660-1740 There is more for the period 1740 to the 1800's.  This is was Keighley’s Golden Age. The careers of Stell, Leach and Marriner take off during this time.  It was also the time of the Evangelical Revival which William Grimshaw and Theodore Dury  were pioneers, Miles Gale was also predominant in Keighley

Taken from “Revival to Regency A History of Keighley and Haworth 1740-1820 by M.L Bamber Volume one.

Joseph Stell was the younger son of Michael Stell of Wellhead. He was baptised at Keighley Parish Church on the 6 August 1710. His father was Lord of the Manor of Oakworth which entitled him to “All those Rents, Services, Franchises, Releises, Escheats, Waifs, Estrayes, Royalties, Courts and Perquisites of Courts, Fines, Amercements, Harriotts, Commons, Fishings, Fowlings, Hawking, Hunting, Mines, Quarries, Liberties, Advantages, Emoluments and Hereditaments.” Which sounds grand and means very little. The rights of lordship could be bought and sold quite independent of the ownership of land. Stell had acquired them from John Crosley of Kersey House, Luddenden and his elder son sold them again to Benjamin Ferrand of St. Ives in 1730.1 The rights could be of considerable value in the event of an enclosure or the discovery of valuable minerals but provided little immediate revenue. By the eighteenth century the Manorial Courts rarely or never met and if Stell got £10 a year for his rights he would have been doing well by the standards of the surrounding manors.

Despite his title Michael Stell should be regarded as a prosperous yeoman farmer rather than as a gentleman. His inventory listed a herd of four milking kine, two steers and three stirks worth £17 which was more than the average but nothing out of the ordinary. His flock of thirty sheep was smaller than might have been expected on a farm with access to Oakworth Common. His will shows that he owned two other farms, one at Stairs in Far Oxenhope and the other at Hey in the Parish of Keighley. The animals, the rents of the two farms and the rights of lordship pro­vided a steady income but Stell, like many hill farmers, spent little on home cormforts. Joseph, his brother and his four sisters had a Spartan childhood like most of their neighbors. The inventory lists blankets but that first sign of gentility, sheets, is missing and none of the furniture suggests any social pretensions.

Michael Stell senior died when Joseph was fourteen. After providing £110 for a dowry for his one unmarried daughter, Amy, he divided his land between his two sons. Michael, the elder brother, got Hey and Joseph the farm at Stairs. Wellhead was to be shared between them. The will provided that they should not inherit until they reached the age of twenty four. In the meantime their brother-in-law, John Bolton, became their guardian. Under the care of Bolton Stell took the first step in his career. He was apprenticed as an engine weaver, that is a weaver of silk and what were known as Manchester smallwares or fustians, a mixture of linen and cotton.

In 1733 he emerged from his apprenticeship and on New Year’s day 1734 he married Alice Taylor. Just over a year later their first child, John, was baptised. Joseph Stell seemed set on a solid but unremarkable career. A farm, supplemented by earnings from hand-loom weaving, could provide enough for himself and his family to live on with a little bit over, which, if carefully husbanded, could be used to buy more land. This was what his father had intended by delaying his inheritance until the end of the normal apprenticeship period but Joseph had other ideas.

The farm at Wellhead lay high up on Harehill Edge. It is still there though almost engulfed by the works of the Craven Water Board. The road from Colne in Lancashire to Yorkshire. By sitting astride the farm gate the young Joseph could have watched all the Pennine world go by. There would be the clothiers, each with their galloway and its inevitable burden of cloth. There would be the constant procession of packhorses carrying limestone from Trawden and Lothersdale to be slaked and spread on the acid millstone grit soils around Keighley. There would be the cattle drovers bringing their herds of cattle from the north for sale in Lancashire and Calderdale. Most fascinating of all were the peddlers who wandered the length and breadth of the Pennines selling their wares. The most famous of these was William Darney or “Scotch Will,’ as he was more familiarly known, one of the founding fathers of Methodism, who preached and peddled his way from Scotland to Derbyshire. Darney did not reach Yorkshire until 1742 but Stell would certainly have met and talked to similar men. Today the road is of little commercial significance but Stell lived before the Turnpike era and the road through Ingrow had not been built. The Harehill Edge road was a vital link in communications between Lancashire and Keighley.

The tales the travelers told, as they paused at the farm to sell their wares and pass the time of day, infected Joseph Stell with an urge to be on the move which remained with him until the day of his death. In 1733 he sold his farm at Stairs and his interest in the Wellhead farm to his brother. With the money he rented a warehouse in Keighley market place, acquired a stock of goods and started on his travels as a chapman. In later years his solicitor’s day book recorded letters from him from Chesterfield, Sheffield, Nottingham, Coventry, Darlington, Lincoln, Edinburgh, Glasgow and many other places.

Cloth naturally formed the basis of his stock-in-trade. Solid wool and worsted, lighter fustians and knick-knacks like ribbons made of silk. Some of the goods may well have been of his own making. An entry in the Parish Registers for 1740 described him as a surgeon and a deed of 1751 as an apothecary.  Too much should not be read into these descriptions. Traveling chapmen often included patent medicines among their wares. Such men were also prepared to perform small surgical operations for a fee. Frequently they were referred to as barber surgeons because they would cut hair and make wigs to order.

Somewhere on his travels, as he made the rounds of the Lancashire fairs, Stell met John Kay. Kay is chiefly remembered for his invention of the improved hand-loom for weaving cotton called the “Flying Shuttle” in 1733 but his ingenuity did not stop there. The first textile factory (Lombe's Mill) had been established on an island in the river Derwent in 1718 by Thomas Lombe for spinning silk by water power. Lombe’s success generated a number of attempts to apply water power to silk weaving but the material proved very intractable. Stimulated by Stell, Kay turned his attention to the problem and he evolved a means of overcoming the difficulty. His machine was not a complete answer. Proper silk cloth still defeated even Kay but his new machine would produce narrow silk tape suitable for things like ribbons and streamers.

In 1744 Stell took the old fulling mill at Keighley and the next year a patent for silk weaving by water power was taken out in the joint names of Kay and Stell. Production did not begin immediately. A visitor to Keighley in 1750 observed that the factory was still “setting up”. The delay may have been caused by Kay’s emigration to France. His inventions had brought him notoriety rather than fame and very little fortune. Weavers in Bury stoned his house, believing that the shuttle would rob them of their jobs. Weavers in Colchester used his invention without his permission and his attempts to invoke the patent laws met with such little success that he decided to try his luck abroad.

The next years were prosperous ones for Stell. A survey of the Duke of Devonshire’s lands in Keighley survives for the year 1748. The survey was the work of the attorney, John Moorhouse, but he evidently submitted it to Stell for his comments because it contains corrections by him. As Stell was not one of the Duke’s tenants, Moorhouse must have consulted him as one of the most knowledgeable men in the community.

By 1751 Stell had gathered enough money together to begin purchasing property. By a deed dated the 11 November he purchased from (**Taken from Samuel Whaley, a younger brother of Ferrand Whaley, was a very able man. When he returned from his apprenticeship in London, he started a trade in flax, with, among others, Holland. Almost certainly from nearby Halifax. At the same time he was estate manager for the trustees of his cousin Robert Ferrand.......he succeeded in increasing the income of the estate from £1000 to £2000. This enabled his grandson Benjamin Ferrand, to build a big new house, including stable, in 1759, which, when he later lived in London, he let for £3000. This house was called St Ives. Samuel ran his flax business for 30 years, until after the death of Ferrand Whaley, "But gave it up purely on account of Mr Ferrand's affairs which kept him fully employed".**) Samuel Whaley of St. Ives “Au that Messuage or Tenement now divided into several Cottages or Dwelling houses situate in the Market Place of Keighley together with Two Shops, One Barn, One Stable, One Chamber and all other Buildings there unto belonging, all now in the several Tenures or Occupations of the said Joseph Stell, James Parker, John Wood and George Keighley.” The purchase transformed him at a stroke from a tenant to a landlord controlling most of one side of the Market Place. Included in the same transaction were several pieces of land — Flosh Close, the Ravenroyd, the Pinnels, a close called Hardings, together with strips in both the Townfield and the Lawkholme Lane Field.

The Fall of Joseph Stell

The purchase of Samuel Whaley’s estate in Keighley marked the peak of Stell’s career. Had he been prepared to mark time and build on what he had created he might well have founded one of the earliest textile dynasties and anticipated events in Cheshire and Derbyshire by twenty years. Waiting was not in his nature. His character contained a gambling streak that he could not control. “That old rogue Stell” was notorious for his wagers. There was the time he had Captain Shillitoe’s watch at Sheffield and there was another when he instructed his solicitor to prosecute one Manklin who had refused to pay a gambling debt. The same instinct led him to involve himself in the series of risky land transactions that was to prove his undoing.  

Joseph Stell’s, James Taylor, was a tallow chandler. He owned an estate at Southowram consisting of a house, several cottages and nine closes of land, together with a house on the corner of Cornmarket street in Halifax. Taylor had run himself into financial difficulties. He had mortgaged his property to Ralph Downes of Wakefield and was encountering problems in keeping up the payments. He offered to sell the estate to Stell for £300 on condition that he took over the mortgage and paid him an annuity of £30 for the rest of his life.

For a man in Stell’s position the offer was a very tempting one. The property in Southowram was most desirable and a house in Halifax market place would be of great advantage to his business. The only snag was that he did not have £300. He solved the problem in the normal eighteenth century fashion. He approached one of the local attorneys, John Howarth of Ripponden, and asked him if he could put him in touch with someone who would be prepared to lend him money on the security of his Keighley estate. Howarth was only too pleased to be of service though he did not anticipate that he would be occupied on this piece of business, one way or another, for the next fifteen years! His day book is the source for most of the details of the twists and turns in the case, but the pages only list items for which he charged his client. The main lines of what happened are clear but some of the details are conjecture on the part of the author as it is not always easy to inter­pret the entries.

The first thing Howarth did was what every good solicitor does today when dealing with a mortgage, he investigated the seller’s title to the estate and what he found he liked so little that he sought a second opinion from “lawyer Wilson in Leeds. Wilson advised against purchase unless an Indenture of Indemnity were obtained from Taylor’s wife. Presumably Mrs. Taylor had some claim on her husband’s estate though what it was is never stated. Perhaps the estate or part of it had come to her husband through her or perhaps her marriage articles enabled her to claim widow’s right over some of it.

Stell was not to be deterred and he did not get the Indenture of Indemnity which Wilson had advised. The reason for this rash omission was the precarious state of his brother-in-law’s health. On the 21 November 1753 Howarth secured £400 from a Miss Hannah Hotham on the security of Stell’s Keighley estate, the purchase went through the next month and by the end of January 1754, Taylor was dead.

Taylor made his will on the 2 January 1754 and he inserted provisions designed to prevent the sale from being upset. In it the sale to Stell was confirmed. Taylor left £200 to his wife but only on condition that she did not contest the will. There were also some small bequests to the tenants of the cottages at Southowram with a similar provison attached.” The maneuver was to no avail. Mrs. Taylor was deter­mined to stand up for her rights as she saw them and she put her affairs in the hands of Halifax’s leading attorney, Robert Parker.

Mrs. Taylor started with the advantage that she was in possession. This left it up to Stell to get her out, which was easier said than done. Howarth attempted to persuade the tenants to pay their rents to Stell as the rightful owner, but en­countered the determined opposition of one of them, William Clapham. He appears to have been the previous owner of the estate, remaining as a tenant when he sold out to Taylor. Throughout the dispute he played an important role by stiffening Mrs. Taylor’s resistance.

The battle did not concern Stell alone. Ralph Downes was also involved because until a decision was made neither party would accept responsibility either for the principal or for the interest on the mortgage which Taylor had contracted. For almost two years Howarth headed the entries in his day book as the case of Stell and Downes versus Taylor. In the end Downes agreed to extend the mortgage for another five years, Stell accepted responsibility for the eventual repayment and Mrs. Taylor reluctantly agreed to pay the interest for so long as she received the rents. Mrs. Taylor gained most out of the arrangement as her right to collect the rents until the dispute was decided was implicitly conceded. Stell was the loser because he was saddling himself with a potential financial millstone.

Howarth’s next move was to try and get the parties to agree to arbitration. Under this system each disputant nominated two arbitrators and agreed to abide by their decision. The idea was to try and avoid the expense of going through the courts. The result was an impasse. Two separate attempts were made in 1756 and 1759. Each time there were endless delays due to the difficulties experienced in getting the four arbitrators to the same place at the same time along with the attorneys. Stell frequently contributed to the problems by not being at home when he was required. When they did meet they failed to agree.

After the collapse of the second arbitration Howarth and Stell decided to prosecute. Howarth’s interest was now more than that of an attorney. Miss Hotham’s mortgage fell due for repayment in 1758 and Howarth organised a syndicate of men to take it over headed by himself.  The legal wheels ground slowly but Howarth was determined to win and briefed the Attorney General. The case was finally heard at York in July 1762 and judgement was given for Stell. Even now the case was not finished because Mrs. Taylor petitioned the Lord Chancellor for a retrial. Howarth’s London agent reported that Clapham had threatened to take the case to the House of Lords if necessary. In the event the Lord Chancellor did reject the petition, but Clapham had second thoughts. Still Mrs. Taylor would not admit defeat and Howarth had to move for a Writ of Eject­ment to get her out of the property. Finally in August 1763 Stell got possession of the estate he had bought ten years previously.

The complications of the Taylor case would have suggested to an ordinarily prudent man that he should abstain from further adventures until the dispute was cleared up. Stell was not an ordinarily prudent man. Kay returned to England for some months during 1758 and 1759 and the two men got together again. Since the silk weaving patent had been taken out in 1745 a new improved version of the Dutch swing or engine loom had been introduced. Kay adapted his original inven­tion so that both the old and new looms could be used with water power. Shortly after Kay’s return to France the estate of Thomas Micklethwaite in Keighley came on the market. The land was down by the Worth in an ideal position for a silk tape mill. The temptation was too great. Stell took out a second patent in the names of Kay and himself, bought the estate and erected a purpose built silk tape mill. The cost of the estate was covered by a mortgage for £800 from Anthony Cooke of Owston. When the mill was complete he found that he needed more land for a tail goit to his mill dam. In 1761 he raised a second mortgage of £300 from Cooke with which he bought Dam Close from John Blakey. To complicate matters still further the Downes mortgage on the Halifax estate became due and Stell arranged for its transfer to another lender.

Thus by the end of 1761 Stell owed £1,800. The position was eased by the termination of the Taylor case in August 1763 which enabled him to use the rents from the Southowram estate for the first time but the success of his gamble still depended on good trading conditions. From 1730, when Stell first entered the trade, until about 1750 they were good. The home market was buoyant and export opportunities numerous. After 1750 conditions worsened and trade was not helped by the outbreak of the Seven Years War in 1756. The last years of the war 1761-3 were very bad ones. Stell could not have timed his expansion plans worse.

Stell had scarcely settled into his hard earned house in Halifax when Anthony Cooke died leaving an infant son, Bryan, as his only heir. The Trustees appointed by the will decided to call in the loans Cooke had made. This put Stell in serious difficulties. The scale of his borrowings from Cooke were such that, in the de­pressed conditions of the time, finding someone else to take them on was unlikely and the only other alternative was to sell his business. Stell played for time. He tried to convince the Cooke Trustees that he was a good risk by persuading others to pledge their credit. In 1763 he executed a deed with his son, John, now grown to man’s estate, and running the new mill. When John backed out in 1766 he was replaced by John Colvile, a Glasgow merchant. The lack of action by the Cooke Trustees suggests that they had been persuaded, at least, to let the mortgages run their usual five year course. When Stell still failed to pay the money he had borrowed their patience ran out. In March 1767 they began court proceedings to recover the loans. Howarth tried to interest a Mr. Banks in the Keighley estate in May, but he refused to lend saying that too much of the value was in buildings and too little in land. In July he was attempting to interest a Mr. John Crosland, but nothing had come of his efforts two months later.

Meanwhile Stell had suffered another setback. During 1766 William Blakey was arrested and imprisoned for debt. He was one of the syndicate Howarth had put together to raise the mortgage on the Halifax estate. The only chance of gaining his release was to realise his share of the Halifax mortgage. After consulting the other shareholders, Howarth was obliged to tell Stell that they were terminating the loan. Howarth could not find anyone to take on the Keighley estate never mind the Halifax one so Stell was forced to part with the estate which he had fought so long to obtain.

September 1767 was a black month. On the 2 September he sold the Halifax estate to Howarth. On the 29 September the Cooke Trustees had him arrested for debt and Howarth only secured his release by promising that his client would make an appearance the following January, on the first day of the legal term, to answer the allegations of the Cooke attorneys. Next day Stell was back in court. This time he was charged with having ill treated a female pauper apprentice named Jane Humber. He was found guilty and fined. At first sight this appears to have nothing to do with his indebtedness, but Stell may well have been driving his work force to the limits of their endurance in a desperate bid to reduce his debts.

As Howarth had failed to raise the money, Stell decided to have one final try himself. At the beginning of November he set off on his last journey, knowing that if he failed he would have to sell everything he possessed. Howarth’s day book records the receipt of a letter from him, on the 21 November, posted at Coventry. A second letter arrived on the 5 December containing a draft mortgage for Howarth to examine. There can be little doubt that this was the agreement registered under the date, the 18 February 1768, between Joseph Stell and Thomas Banbury, ribbon weaver, of Coventry. Had Stell succeeded, where Howarth failed, and found financial salvation at the eleventh hour, at least for the Keighley estate? We may never know because at this moment Stell’s rashest gamble of all caught up with him and all the rest became of merely academic interest.

The End of Joseph Stell

Stell rode into Sheffield about noon on the 28 January 1768 and stabled his horse at the inn of John Owen. He then went out and entered the shop of John Hoyland, a silver plater, where he asked the owner if he could sell him three quarters of an ounce of liquid gold. He volunteered the information that it was not for him­self, but for a friend called Hartley. He was a clockmaker and he needed the gold to gild the numbers and hands on clock faces. Hoyland had not got much but he managed to produce half an ounce for which he charged Stell forty six shillings. Stell offered in payment two one Guinea pieces and a half Guinea piece. After examining the coins, Hoyland passed one of the Guineas to his travelling servant, Samuel Lawson, who was working close by. Lawson gave it as his opinion that the coin was gilded and not solid gold. Stell took it back, muttering darkly that he thought he knew who had given it to him, and replaced it by a perfectly good Guinea.

Shortly afterwards Lawson adjourned to John Owen’s inn for lunch where he regaled his friends in the bar with the story of how Stell had attempted to pass off a bad Guinea on his master. Among the listeners was the innkeeper’s wife, Sarah Owen. Lawson had scarcely finished his story when Stell re-entered the inn and sat down to lunch in a neighboring room. After he had finished his meal and washed it down with liquor he called for his bill which came to a shilling. He offered Mrs. Owen a Portuguese Moidore in payment. The innkeeper’s wife did not like the look of the coin at all and asked for a Guinea instead, if he had no change. Rather huffily Stell agreed, but Mrs Owen liked the look of the Guinea no better than the  Moidore and said so. When Stell angrily declared that it was full weight Mrs Owen challenged him to have both coins weighed. Rather rashly, Stell agreed and a maid servant was sent out with the Moidore and the Guinea to Mr Joseph Hancock, a cutler, who had some regulation weighing scales.

The argument had naturally upset Mrs. Owen, who believed that Stell had offered the coins, knowing that her husband was out and that she was only a woman. While she was waiting, she went into the bar and told the occupants what had happened in order to gain some support if Stell should make a scene. The result was a con­siderable hubbub because among the inmates was a Captain Shillito, who was still smarting from losing his watch to Stell on a previous occasion. The noise made Stell realise what a dangerous position he had put himself in and on the pretext that the maid was taking rather a long time, he left the inn to retrieve his coins from Hancock’s shop. When Mrs. Owen observed Stell leave, she too set off for the cutler’s shop and, by using a short cut, arrived before him.

When Mrs Owen entered the shop the Guinea was on the counter and Hancock was in the process of weighing the Moidore on the scales. She just had time to implore him to hold on to the coins before Stell entered the shop. He asked Hancock about the Guinea and the cutler replied that it was a very bad one and then, while they waited for him to finish weighing the Moidore, Stell surreptiously removed the Guinea from the counter. The Moidore also proved to be bad and, remembering what Mrs. Owen had said, Hancock asked Stell to produce the Guinea again so that he could check its weight. Stell blustered and demanded that Hancock return the Moidore. Mrs. Owen now took Hancock aside and told him what had happened at the inn and that she had seen among her customers in the bar, Joseph Alilwood, one of the constables of Sheffield. For reasons which will become clear later, Hancock took a serious view of the incident at the silver plater’s as well as what had happened at the inn.

Reluctantly Stell accompanied Hancock, Mrs Owen and the maid back to the inn, where the whole matter was placed before Allwood. Stell was again asked to produce the disputed Guinea. He refused, saying that he had “put it by”, and he claimed that the Moidore, which Mrs Owen had produced, was not the one which he had offered in payment for his lunch. Allwood decided that there was enough evidence to merit further investigation and Stell was taken into custody.

The next morning Stell was brought before two of the Sheffield magistrates, Walter Oborne and Samuel Shore. In their presence the Moidore was cut and shown to be of copper. Stell still maintained that it was not his, at which he was pressed to produce the Guinea and the Moidore which he claimed was the correct one. Stell now pretended that he had lost them. There seemed no possibility of the loss having taken place after the return to the inn and the two coins were certainly weighed by Hancock, so if Stell was telling the truth, he must have dropped them between Hancock’s shop and the inn. A search party was formed, consisting of Stell, Allwood, another man called Leonard Webster and a young cordwainer named Robert Frith.

The first part of the way lay through the inn stable. The stable was dark and candles were lighted so that the search could proceed. Nothing was found but Frith, who was a sharp lad, noticed that Stell had one of his hands under the tail of his greatcoat and that there appeared to be something in it. As the party pre­pared to leave the stable to examine the garden, Stell hung back and dropped something under the stairs leading to the hay chamber. Frith immediately called Allwood’s attention to Stell’s action. The object proved to be a paper parcel in which there were six coins. Allwood called off the search and took Stell back to Oborne’s house. The coins were all weighed in the magistrate’s presence and every one was found to be bad.

The position was now very serious. False coining was a capital offence. With the original Moidore and Guinea, Stell might well have pleaded that they were passed on to him in the course of his trade, as he had done earlier at Hoyland’s shop, but to deliberately try and get rid of the coins implied a guilty conscience. Stell knew that everyone in the inn suspected him and that, once the examination of the route had proved fruitless, there would be a demand that he should be searched. However matters were not yet quite hopeless. False coining was rife throughout the West Riding and juries were reluctant to convict, knowing that the death penalty was involved.

The next morning, the 30 January, Hancock returned to the magistrate’s house, accompanied by a man named Henry Longden. His evidence was absolutely damning and knowledge of it had guided Hancock’s actions from the time that he realised Stell was involved. Longden deposed that two years previously Stell had approached him with a sheet of copper which he asked him to cut up into squares for buttons. Longden was immediately suspicious and consulted Hancock about the legality of the request. Hancock was also suspicious, but he told Longden that there was nothing illegal about the job, so Longden executed the commission, sending the squares of copper by carrier to Stell at Keighley. Shortly afterwards Longden received from Stell a bag which contained the copper squares and “a piece of Iron or Steel in imitation of a Dye, with impressions of a faint head upon it and a Letter in which he desired this informant to stamp the impression of a faint head upon one side of the pieces of copper”. Again Longden consulted Hancock, who advised him to have nothing to do with the transaction. Longden then returned the pieces of copper and the dye without doing the stamping.

Though Stell still claimed that he was making buttons no one now believed him and a search warrant was issued to Edward Todd, one of the constables of Sheffield and Jonathan Webster, gunsmith, to go and search Stell’s premises at Keighley. The search was carried out on the 2 February and the two men reported that they found “a Tool called a Counter Punch and divers other Tools and Instruments which seemed to these Informants to be proper and useful Tools for edging or milling Money and did also there find diverse round pieces of Copper or other Metal some of them edged or milled in resemblance of the edging and milling of Lawful Money of the Realm and also there and then found certain pieces of Lead with impressions thereon resembling the Coin of the Kingdom.”

There could be little doubt about what Stell had been doing. He had bought sheets of copper which Longden had obligingly cut up into appropriately sized squares. He had then rounded the edges, possibly using his water driven machinery. The next step was to have a die made with the King’s head upon it. Where he got it from and how he got the stamping done after Longden refused to play is impossible to determine but, as the last section of the chapter will show, there were a number of people with the necessary expertise. After stamping on the King’s head the edges were milled in imitation of genuine coins. Finally, the coins were gilded with liquid gold such as that supplied by Hoyland. With evidence of what he had been doing, step by step, no jury could do other than convict. He was found guilty and, on the 16 July 1768, he was condemned to death. Shortly afterwards he was hanged at York.

The most striking feature of Stell’s career was its similarity to that of the great and notorious Richard Arkwright. Arkwright, like Stell, started as a barber surgeon and itinerant chapman, touring the fairs. As Stell fell in with John Kay, so Arkwright struck up an acquaintance with Lewis Paul. Kay probably got nothing out of his silk weaving machine as he never returned to England, but Stell’s dealings with him seem to have been more honest than those of Arkwright with Lewis Paul. Like Stell, Arkwright set up a mill, at Cromford in Derbyshire, and, like Stell, he staffed it with pauper apprentices. Why then did Arkwright succeed and become in eighteenth century terms a millionaire while Stell ended in failure and ignominy?

The account of Stell’s career shows that it was not difficult for a man, wishing to start in business, to raise money if he had a piece of land which could be used as security. The major snag arose later. There were no banks and mortgages were universally for the limited period of five years. If trading conditions were good but, if trade was bad, the manufacturer was placed in an impossible position when the five years were up. To be successful a manufacturer needed a long period of prosperity so that he could pay off the mortgage out of his profits or he needed an alternative source of finance. After 1755 wars and depressions punctuated periods of prosperity with such dismal regularity that it was a very lucky man who survived by the first method. Arkwright was fortunate in having the backing of the wealthy stocking manufacturer, Jedediah Strutt, until he had no need of mortgage finance. Stell had no such wealthy backer. Perhaps if Stell had not got involved in the Taylor case; perhaps if he had insisted on the Indenture of Indemnity “lawyer Wilson” had advised. Perhaps . . . but “that old rogue Stell” was always a gambler.