The Cragg Vale Coiners

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David Hartley King of the Cragg Vale Coiners

In every age, there is a group of people who will go that little bit too far in order to make ends meet.

In the 1700’s, Yorkshire, and in particular the Calder Valley saw a group of weavers turn to counterfeiting.

They became known as the Cragg Vale Coiners, led by a character called David Hartley, King David.

Shaving off the edges of coins, they managed to smelt the metal down again, to produce their own copies of coins, whilst passing off the only slightly smaller original coins to their original face value.

Hartley, who lived in Bell House in the isolated Cragg Vale, co-ordinated & led the gang of the area who would acquire coins from publicans, often of foreign origin, and would use the metal they had smelted to punch a new pattern and create their own brand of coin.

Back in the 1700’s Cragg Vale was an isolated place. This made the passing off of the fake coins easier, as people were generally unaware of what was happening.

However, in 1769, rumours of the counterfeiting reached the authorities within His Majesty’s Excise. They despatched an officer, William Dighton, to investigate the rumours and try to track down members of the gang. After loose talk in a public house, James Broadbent was arrested and taken into custody. In an attempt to save his own skin, he turned King’s Evidence, betraying the other members of the gang. The arrest of “King” David Hartley followed shortly afterwards.

Furious at the arrest of his brother, Isaac Hartley offered the enormous sum of £100 to anyone who would kill Dighton. The Dusty Miller pub in Mytholmroyd was set as the ambush location by plotters as the site to carry out the deed, however they were beaten to the prize by Robert Thomas and Matthew Normanton who ambushed Dighton and fellow Excise men at Bull Close Lane, not far from Halifax in West Yorkshire. Dighton was shot in the head, a wound impossible from which to recover.

On 28 April 1770, King David Hartley was hanged at Tyburn, near York. His body was buried in the graveyard at Heptonstall, on the hill above Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.

His brother, who financed the murder of Dighton, escaped justice due to a lack of evidence and died an old man in 1815, aged 78 at Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire.

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