THE TALE OF
WILLIAM 'COINER'
VARNEY

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FORGERY, ESCAPE AND TRAGEDY

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Did he fall through a ceiling during his capture or was he pushed by the long arm of the Law?

 

William Varney was born in 1852, one of eight children. Like so many children of the time he was without formal education and thus without prospects.

 

The young William would help out at a local mill where he learnt about machines. He was, as his brother described him, 'ever busy in tinkering something up’. William invented tin handles to attach to the earthenware jugs then used in public houses. Because he needed a source of intense heat, he produced his own coal gas. This ended in an explosion and poor William had to find new lodgings in Norton’s Place. Here he continued his tinkering but his need for cash forced him to begin his life of crime. He was soon caught and punished for his various robberies.

 

After two convictions, William planned to go straight. But he was unable to obtain a Hawker’s licence because of his previous record. He returned to his old ways and he made coin impressions using Plaster of Paris. With these he started his own Mint and soon deluged Buckingham and the surrounding area with counterfeit coins. The authorities quickly learned the source of this flood and 'Coiner' was apprehended by Constables Lait and Wate, who also found the key evidence: coining moulds hidden in the chimney.

 

William’s previous stays in the Gaol gave him the insider knowledge to help him escape. He had hidden oil to quieten the locks and a knife to remove screws about his person. The screws were replaced by wet bread camouflaged with soot. 

 

Gaoler Nobes carelessly stored his ladders outside William’s cell and on one dark night the escape took place. Protected by friends, William evaded the police. However, he finally turned himself in and received seven years. 

 

After his release, he was soon back at his old tricks. And, after a break-in, he was arrested  and 'banged to rights'.  Did he fall through a ceiling during his capture or was he pushed by the long arm of the law? We shall never know but poor William has suffered a fractured skull and permanent brain damage. He was transferred to Stone Asylum outside Aylesbury where he ended his days.