The story of the 18th century Cragg Vale Coiners
This web site is intended to be an online resource for people wishing to learn about the coiners and their activities. Because of the extent of the gang, many people who can trace their family history back to residents of the Cragg Vale area at the time will find that their ancestors also had a part to play in the story of the Coiners.
The site is set out to answer the following questions:
Where - did the Yorkshire Coiners operate?
What - did the Coiners do?
Why - did they do what they did?
Who - was in the gang and who brought the gang to justice?
When - did all this take place?
This updated web site covers the 18th century events surrounding a gang of criminals operating in the area to the west of Halifax, whose effect on the coin in the Kingdom was acknowledged at the highest levels in Government. This resulted in the House’s of Parliament being drawn into debate over the affairs of the gang, and officers of the Royal Mint sent to Yorkshire to apprehend its members. The case of the Cragg Vale Coiners became one of the biggest frauds in British History.
Less than ten miles due south of Haworth in West Yorkshire, where Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte grew up in the early 19th century, the same rugged landscape that inspired Wuthering Heights played host to a sinister story of organised social crime, High Treason and ultimately murder, some forty years before the Bronte sisters were born.
This particular gang of Yorkshire Coiners are perhaps often referred to as the Cragg Vale or Turvin Coiners due to their base being in an area just off the Calder Valley in West Yorkshire.
They clipped and filed the edges of gold coins and return the clipped coins to circulation. Then they used the gold collected from several coins to cast blanks and stamp new coins using skilfully made dies. The new coins, usually Portuguese Moidores, were then put into circulation and as a result the Coiners made a healthy profit.
In 2017 the story was fictionalised by Benjamin Myers in the Walter Scott Prize winning historic novel The Gallows Pole and has more recently been developed into a dramatisation for television by renowned british director Shane Meadows for the BBC. The multi-episode television series is expected to air in 2023.
The photograph on the left shows the ruins of St Thomas a Beckett Church in Heptonstall with the two graves of my ancestors visible in the foreground of the picture. Beneath the gravestones lie the remains of "King" David Hartley and Isaac Hartley, known as the "Duke of York" as well as other family members. Their 'royal' titles were given to them by the members of the gang as a reflection of their status at the head of the Coiners gang. Since the publication of The Gallows Pole, visitors have started leaving coins on King Davids grave.
David Hartley was buried here in 1770 after being executed by hanging at York Tyburn for the part he played in leading the Cragg Vale Coiners, though the only charges he actually faced were for clipping a Guinea with another man.
Despite being acknowledged in many documents of the time as the organiser of the murder of the man who was instrumental in David Hartley's arrest, Isaac Hartley was never prosecuted and died an old man in 1815 and was buried in the grave next to his brother.
Yorkshire Coiners - The True Story of the Cragg Vale Gang
My own book, Yorkshire Coiners - The True Story of the Cragg Vale Gang sets out the chronological story of the Coiners desribing the original transcriptions of the court documents, newspaper reports, witness statements, letters and other documents.
Material relating to the Coiners can be found in the National Archives in Kew; West Yorkshire Archive Service in Halifax; the Sheffield City Archives; Leeds Central Library; and in the Borthwick Institute at the University of York. Over several years I visited all of these archive facilities and located all of the documents I could relating to the story of the Coiners. All of the original documents held in the archives were painstakingly examined, checked, transcribed and described in the narration to tell the story of the gang from start to finish. The book relates to all members of the gang, not just the members of my own family.
If you have an ancestor who was possibly in the gang, or are interested in the activities of the Yorkshire Coiners or the history of the area in which they lived, the book will hopefully be of interest to you. The book is now available in bookstores and online retailers, or directly from the publisher, Amberley Publishing.
The Hartley Family
'King' David Hartley is my great, great, great, great, great grandfather. A separate 'Hartleys' section of this site describes my own links to the leader of the Cragg Vale Coiners and the history of my family to the present day, including their presence in the local area after the Coiners.
A copy of my family tree, together with details of census records, probate records, memorial inscriptions and family bible records indicate the direct male link between David Hartley and me, which to my knowledge is the only direct male link remaining.
I hope this web site is of interest.
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