The Cragg Vale Coiners - Famous Fakes and Frauds

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The Cragg Vale Coiners - Famous Fakes and Frauds

The Cragg Vale Coiners (sometimes the Yorkshire Coiners) were a band of counterfeiters based in Cragg Vale, near Halifax, West Yorkshire. They produced fake gold coins in the late 18th century to supplement small incomes from weaving.


Led by 'King' David Hartley, the Coiners attained real coins from publicans and other sources. They removed the coins' genuine edges and milled them again. The coins were only slightly smaller.

The Coiners collected the shavings from the real coins and melted them down to produce counterfeits. Designs were punched into the blank 'coins' with a hammer. The Coiners then had their accomplices place the fakes into circulation. Most of the counterfeit coins had French, Spanish, or Portuguese designs.

The Cragg Coiners were so successful because the region of England they operated in was very rural.


In 1769, William Dighton (or Deighton), a public official, investigated the possibilities of a counterfeiting gang in Cragg Vale. A Coiner by the name of James Broadbent betrayed the gang revealed its existence and operations to authorities. Dighton had Hartley arrested.

The arrest made the Coiners vengeful. Isaac Hartley, 'King' David's brother, engineered a plan to have Dighton killed. On November 10, two Coiners, Matthew Normanton (or Normington) and Robert Thomas, ambushed Dighton near Halifax, West Yorkshire, and shot him.

Charles Watson-Wentworth, the Marquess of Rockingham, was recruited to hunt down the killers. He had 30 Coiners arrested by Christmas Day. David Hartley was hanged at Tyburn near York on April 28, 1770 and buried in the village of Heptonstall, W Yorks. His brother, Isaac, escaped the authorities and lived until 1815. As for Dighton's murderers, Normanton was hanged on April 15, 1775 and Thomas was hanged on August 6, 1774.

Known members

  • David Hartley, who lived at a farm called Bell House, was the leader of the gang.
  • Thomas Sunderland, Joseph Shaw, and a Mr. Lightoulers were engravers for the Coiners.
  • Other Coiners include John Wilcock, Thomas Clayton, Matthew Normanton, Thomas Spencer, and James Oldfield.
  • James Broadbent, the confessor.

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