Base Coin production in Newton St Cyres 1838

On the night of Thursday 15 February 1838, four Exeter policemen raided a cottage just outside Newton St Cyres.

APPREHENSION OF A GANG OF UTTERERS OF BASE COIN.- It long been suspected by our police that a gang of at least utterers of base coin were domiciled in the parish of Newton Sr. Cyres, from whence, on market-days and other convenient occasions, they had easy access to this city, Crediton, and Tiverton…From information received, about half past ten o’clock on the night of Thursday last, a party of our police consisting of Gingham, Sparks, Back, and Lacelles set out for a place called Fine Oak adjoining the road from hence to Crediton and in the parish of Newton St Cyres, which they reached, notwithstanding the inclemency the weather, about midnight.

Their measures were well taken, and all appeared quiet; and entry quickly effected by Gingham at the rear, and his brother officers at the front of the premises. A low murmur, denoting that the inmates were alarmed, was heard upstairs, to which the officers instantly rushed, and found James Tucker Reed otherwise Tucker, had got out of a bed in which lay two women and an infant. A child also lay curled in a maund [basket] on some hay; and another, older, lay on some straw in a corner of the room. In a room adjoining, wretched in appearance and bleak from the numerous apertures that gave pretty free admission to the driving storm, called “The apple chamber”, they found William Reed, an old man, and the father of several of the hopeful tribe. The women were Mary Ann Gascoyne Tucker, and Elizabeth Oxenham; and these were all secured. From the person of one the women was taken a paper, since found to contain fifteen pieces of counterfeit coin, of the similitude of shillings; in the bed also were found a counterfeit crown and two half crowns. They likewise found some pieces of metal, being parts of broken spoons, files, &c. In the out premises the snow lay too thick to make any discovery, but, among other purposes, these appeared applied to the very appropriate one of rope making!!  With their four prisoners, the party now returned to this city… The father and the son in this gang have both been convicted in the county.

The “Western Luminary” commented gratuitously “The woman on whom the money was secreted is young, and not bad-looking”.


James Tucker was sentenced to two years in jail, the two women got six months.


In October 1836 Maria Reed alias Tucker “late of Newton St Cyres” and Susanna Adams were charged with “tendering base coin at a beer-house on David’s Hill and also at the Follett Arms and Red Cow Inn in the same parish”. Susanna was 24; Maria, 34, was married with two children.

In 1835, Susannah Adams had been jailed for 12 months for “uttering counterfeit coin” in Plymouth, and Maria had been imprisoned for six months in 1836 for committing a similar offence in Devonport.

(March 1837) EXETER CITY ASSIZES. … the trials commenced with the case of two women, of the name of Susanna Adams and Maria Reed, who were indicted for feloniously uttering counterfeit coin. It appeared from the evidence that the prisoners had come on a joint expedition from Plymouth to pursue their vocation. Various acts of uttering were alleged against them. The prisoners were both found guilty. His Lordship said, on passing sentence, that any punishment or any admonition would be a warning to them —it would quite idle to suppose, as each of them had committed the offence immediately after receiving the warning of conviction, if now, under any mistaken notion or forgetfulness of duty, which it would if he were to acquiesce in the Prisoner Reed's request for mercy, he were to pass a light sentence upon them, as he believed they would again immediately relapse into the same course, and a heavier course of punishment would follow. – Prisoner Reed - Oh my Lord, do have mercy. The Judge- Under that impression I think it will be my duty to pass sentence on you. Reed — I hope my Lord you will be merciful for the sake of my dear children. The Judge—If you had had any consideration of that kind you would not now have needed to make this appeal. The sentence of the Court is, that you, and each of you be transported beyond seas for the term your natural lives. The prisoner Reed, before the sentence was finished fell into a violent fit, and in that state was carried out of Court. The younger prisoner was not so much moved, and assisted in bearing off her accomplice.

They were both taken to Tasmania on the Platina. Susanna died five years after her arrival. Maria married another convict, James Hunt, in 1842 and had at least two children. The Hunts ran “The Sawyers’ Arms” in Hobart, where she died aged 54 in 1857.



That same month, Maria Reed’s relatives Samuel Reed (48) and James Tucker (35) were found guilty of stealing 1500 lbs of Newfoundland salt fish from the house of Tucker’s sisters Martha and Jane in Crediton. Both men were transported to Tasmania for seven years.


James Tucker was born in Crediton in about 1802. A hatter by trade, he had a previous conviction for stealing two hats. His wife Sarah nee Squire had died in 1831, leaving two young daughters. He was transported on board the "Recovery" arriving in 1837. He received his freedom in 1844 and two years later married convict Magaret Carnan from Cavan in Ireland, who had been convicted of "coining bad money" in Edinburgh. She died in 1847, three months after the birth of their son Richard.

Samuel Reed came from Sandford, and had been a ship's steward for 30 years. He had to leave behind his wife Maria nee Bennellick and three children when he was transported on "Moffatt". He died aged 51 in hospital in Hobart in 1840, thee years after arriving in Tasmania.

Returning to the Newton St Cyres gang of “smashers”- as people who passed counterfeit coins were called: Elizabeth Oxenham had previously served 3 months in jail with hard labour for stealing two pillows and a blanket. Born in Alphington she had been William Maunder’s common law wife since 1834. A few years later in 1842 they were both found guilty of highway robbery and transported to Tasmania although it seems they then went their separate ways.


The Reeds of Sandford and Newton St Cyres.


William Reed, born in Sandford in 1764, had married Mary Tucker. He was the "old man" found in the apple chamber at Fine Oak Cottage. Many of his family were involved in making or passing counterfeit coins. He died aged 81 in Crediton Workhouse.

His eldest son Samuel had been transported to Tasmania in 1837 for stealing the salt fish from the Tuckers in Crediton.

Another son, William, had been arrested for the same offence but not prosecuted. [In 1829 this William was living in Bristol with his wife and five children. There he was unable to support himself, so the family was sent back to the Overseers of the Poor in Sandford, his birth place.] In 1850 he and his younger brother Robert, both now living in Plymouth, were jailed for possessing base coins. In 1856 Robert received a six year sentence for a similar offence. Four of Robert’s children had 8 jail sentences between them for counterfeit coin offences. The third son James was one of the gang caught in Newton St Cyres and jailed for two years. Most of Robert Reed's sons and grandsons were "twine spinners" or rope makers in Plymouth.