THIS week in 1869, the D&S was reporting that Flint Jack, the most notorious of forgers, was back in Northallerton jail, this time doing six weeks hard labour.

Flint Jack’s real name was Edward Simpson and he hailed from Sleights, near Whitby. Through his skilled sleight of hand, he forged fossils and flint arrowheads, and he made “Roman” urns. He claimed he had found them on the Yorkshire Moors, and, at a time when there was great interest in prehistoric antiquities, he sold them to collectors and museums across the country, including the British Museum.

As his faking operation in one area became known, Flint Jack – who had a plethora of nom de forgerie including Snake Billy, Fossil Willy, Shirtless and Bones – had to move on.

“After a year’s incarceration in Bedford Gaol, he had returned to his old haunts in Yorkshire, and is again a prisoner at Northallerton, and safe from practising his deceptions upon the visitors at the watering-places this season,” said the D&S. “He was employed to clean a fossil at Whitby, but sold it for 1s. He told the bench he was “superannuated with drink” when he did the act.

Flint Jack, who had a serious drink problem, faded away in the 1870s and probably died in a Yorkshire workhouse. He was, though, an extremely skilled workman and many museums to this day unwittingly display his forgeries.

He is famous enough to have his own entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and, by happy coincidence, the first exhibition of his fakes runs until September 29 at the Henry Moore Institute Research Library in Leeds.