Louis Henshall – A Trail of Fraud and Theft

Archives Volunteer Carol Mayo shares another curious story uncovered during her work in the Archives:

Louis Henshall’s story can be summarized in four words, rise and dramatic fall. He rose to the privileged position of Company Director and then fell in disgrace. Before examining his demise, I will start by looking at Louis’ family and business background.

Born in Liverpool on 23rd December 1864 to James and Mary, Louis had an elder brother Thomas, and two younger brothers William and James Their father’s working background was as a successful joiner and builder in Chester. According to one of the local Chester newspapers Henshall Street was named in his memory. By the time of the 1881 census when Louis was 16 his occupation is listed as a Timber Merchant Clerk. His employer was R. A. Naylor Limited Howley Saw Mills.  On 20th September 1888 Louis married Eliza Twiss Clare at Warrington Parish Church. Three years later the couple were residing at 220 Manchester Road with their one year old son Louis Sydney and Mary Clare, Eliza’s widowed mother. Once again Louis is a timber merchant clerk and there is another family member their nine year old son Leonard. Louis’ career did progress at Naylor’s as by 1901 he was a Timber Manager.


Employees of Howley Mills, Warrington


In 1905 Naylor’s become a private limited company and Louis was appointed the first Chairman of the Board and Departmental Manager. After years of service, he was at the upper echelons of the company. The following year Louis is cited in various regional and national newspapers. He and Orford Councillor Arthur Peacock were embroiled in a legal dispute surrounding an area of surplus land in Flag Lane in Warrington. Councillor Peacock wanted at least £100 from Henshall for the lease of the land. This resulted in the arrest of Peacock and he was charged under the Corrupt Practices Act. The case went to trial and Peacock was found guilty. His punishment was a £100 fine and barred from public office for seven years. Henshall was at first reluctant to give evidence to the Council but after due consideration he co-operated. By a vote of eleven votes to four the Council gave a “vote of thanks” to Henshall at the monthly Town Council meeting in early July 1906. For “he had struck a blow at all who disregard the honour and integrity of public life” Their admiration was to be short lived as Henshall was soon discovered to be a perpetrator of crimes.

Searching the Robberies Register Database Louis Henshall has eight entries against his name between 1908 and 1909 when information was received about his criminal activities. The offences being larceny, forgery, fraud and theft but as we shall see these were only the tip of the iceberg. On Friday 18th December 1908 a warrant was taken out for his arrest for stealing between £70 to £80 from R.A. Naylor Ltd. During the evening he was arrested at his Stockton Heath home by Chief Constable Martin Nichols and taken in a cab to Warrington Police Station. He was ready to appear before the magistrates the next day. At the hearing at the Police Court, he was charged with stealing £79 7s from the company. The court also heard how time was needed to be given to further detailed investigations and that Louis also required time to prepare his defence.  After some consultation it was agreed that he should be granted bail at £1000 and two sureties of £500 each.  These were huge figures for 1908. The £1000 bail alone in today’s terms is the equivalent of £153,909.74.   Mr. James A. Naylor was present at the court and this was significant as James Anderton Naylor was a son of the deceased owner Robert Anderton Naylor. Mr. Naylor had passed away in early February 1908 and along with the rest of the company’s employees Louis attended the funeral. After the hearing Louis was ordered to appear again at the Police Court the following week. There was so much public interest that the court room was full and many others were unable to enter. This local story had become national.


  James Anderton Naylor


Robert Anderton Naylor


The Warrington Examiner on 16th January 1909 reported that Louis had been charged with three counts of Fraud when it was discovered that he had forged invoices. The allegation was that he had paid private bills with company cheques. Louis had falsified invoices by ensuring the work or goods were paid for through the company account.  His total bail now stood at £4000 which was met and Louis was released at 19.00 p.m. Reading several other articles we discover that Louis was responsible for checking the invoices. Via this role he was able to add an item or a sum of money to a valid invoice and send a company cheque. His last method was more straight forward. Cash paid to the company was not accounted for but went into his pocket.  These were not all his offences as further charges were pending. Further evidence was heard from Mr.  Edward Howard who was one of the clerk’s employed by Naylor’s. According to him on the day Louis was suspended he discovered a package in the stores department. It was placed on a shelf behind the doors which was very unusual. Mr. Howard identified the contents. They were invoices personally delivered to Louis. Early February Louis once again applied for bail but this time it was refused and he was committed to trial. For over a month Louis was detained at Walton Jail in Liverpool until his trial at the Liverpool Winter Assizes. His trial took place at the Crown Court, St. George’s Hall in Liverpool on 8th March 1909.

The time had arrived and his name was called, dressed in his long heavy coat Louis the prisoner appeared from the cell below. He stood in the dock resting his hands upon the iron rails in front. Watching were many notable Warringtonians including an unnamed Town Councillor, a number of prominent men, the Chief Constable and John Anderton Naylor sat with his solicitors to observe the proceedings. In total there were seventeen indictments. Louis had previously pleaded his innocence but he later changed his plea to guilty; two charges of fraud and two charges of theft. The court heard that the offences dated from 1903 until his arrest in 1908. It was recorded that Louis had stolen around £2500 during that period but there was no explanation of what the money was used for. In his summing up Lord Chief Justice Alverstone spoke of Louis’ dishonesty and how he was a trusted member of the company for well over twenty years. He also highlighted how the money could have been used for investment and speculation rather than “gambling or improper means”. There was no evidence for this either. Louis was asked to stand and sentenced was passed, four years imprisonment. The St Helen Examiner report described Louis as weeping as Lord Alverstone made his summary and when sentence was passed Louis looked dazed. In less than an hour Louis’s life turned upside down.

The 1911 Census reveals that Louis was imprisoned at Maidstone Prison in Kent. On searching for criminal records for the period I also came across an entry from the UK Register of Habitual Criminals Register 1912. To my astonishment there was Louis. No photograph but a physical description. His height without shoes 5 feet and 8 ¾ inches, fair complexion, grey hair, blue grey eyes and distinguished by a shortened first right finger. Once released he intended to return to management. Whilst Louis served his sentence his estate was in the hands of an administrator, his brother James Henshall. In early 1912 Louis was released on licence and soon after the local newspapers reported that James had sued R.A. Naylor Limited for £40 dividend. The case was held at Warrington County Court. The dividend was declared in April 1907 when Louis had 2,000 shares in the company. The defence argued that the issue had been settled and that there was an “estopell”. In simple terms due to Louis’ behaviour and character the company considered that they had correctly excluded him from receiving the £40 dividend. Judge Stanger K.C. concluded that the defence failed to prove both points and Louis was awarded £40 plus costs.

We have some indication of Louis’ activities during the war years. According to the electoral register of 1914 he was residing at Runnymeade, Belvoir Road, Upper Walton. Amongst the newspaper reports we find that Louis made a series of donations to charitable causes; Parr Hall Organ Fund, County Borough of Warrington Prisoner’ of War Funds, Army Christmas Pudding Fund and Belgian Children’ Fund. We should note that he donated to worthy causes prior to his imprisonment. Shortly before the start of WW1 both of Louis’ parents passed away. His mother Mary died 3rd December 1913 and on 30th July 1914 his father passed away. Louis later suffered another family loss as on 23rd May 1919 his wife Eliza Twiss Henshall passed away.

In June 1915 Louis visited his son Lieutenant Leonard Henshall who was a member of the South Lancashire Regiment. Now he was a patient at the Fish Mongers Hall Hospital for Officers on London Bridge. He was badly wounded as his right arm had been amputated at the shoulder, head wounds and later shrapnel splinters were removed from his shoulder blade. He told his father the men came under attack and the explosions resulted in the men being buried. Leonard suffered his wounds whilst trying to recover the men. For his actions during the Warrington Territorial Charge at Hooge (2.5 miles east of Ypres) and his later service at the Air Ministry he was awarded the M.B.E. in June 1919.  His eldest son Louis Sydney Henshall served with the South Lancashire Regiment Tank Corps and for his actions at the Battle of Cambrai he was awarded a Distinguished Service Order in early 1918.

I also wanted to discover if there were any business activities after his release from prison. By chance one of his obituaries provided the answer. Louis went into business on his own, setting up a timber firm. During WW1 he travelled through Lancashire, North Wales and Cheshire supplying timber for Government contracts. Post war he was retained as a consultant sourcing and supplying timber. Shortly after Eliza’s death in 1919 Louis moved to Deganwy, near Conwy. On 17th June 1920 Louis is once again cited in a local newspaper. The North Wales Weekly News headline “A Deal In Timber” “ALLEDGED BREACH OF CONTRACT”. He was being sued for £100 by Thomas Bradshaw a timber merchant and builder who claimed a breach of contract on a deal for timber to be used for pit props. The judge found in favour of the plaintiff but on another point of law the colliery company had not accepted the truck of timber and so Louis was awarded £23 costs.

In 1930 he was still living at Warren Road, Deganwy in Caernarvonshire. He was in good health but Louis had been advised to undergo an operation. He agreed and decided to enter Elmfield Nursing Home, Anson Road, Victoria Park in Manchester. His operation did go well but the next day he relapsed and unexpectedly passed away. Louis passed away on 30th December 1930 aged 66. Louis’ family had strong ties with Chester and so his funeral was held at St Mary’s Without – the – Walls in Handbridge, Chester. He was buried at Overleigh Cemetery where Eliza his wife, his father James and his mother Mary, and his youngest brother William are also buried. Following Louis death there is a record of his will, £29,576 19s 4d was distributed amongst his family.

What can we say about Louis? It is clear that Louis was guilty of his crimes but through his connections and financial resources he was able to continue his trade. He was in a far more fortunate position than the vast majority of people.