David Hartley (? to 28th April 1770)

 

Here I am outside the first church to be built in Heptonstall. It’s a beautiful ruin rendered useless after it was struck by lightning and set on fire. Just outside its walls lies lies counterfeiter “King” David Hartley who was hanged for nearly destabilising the British economy. Aptly someone had left a coin on his grave in line with his face.

 

He was an iron worker who lived nearby in the hills in Cragg Vale. His home became the headquarters of a counterfeiting gang of which he was the leader. He used his trade to cover up a lucrative business producing counterfeit gold coins. He shaved the edges off coins then filed them so the loss was undetectable. From the shavings he made counterfeit coins - thousands of them. He was so well-organised his operation spread to neighbouring farms, down into the valley and into towns. As the gang worked in farms up in the hills away from the hub of life they went undiscovered for years. David was soon operating a highly-successful cottage industry and oversaw about 30 Coiners. Owners of taverns, inns and workhouses covertly bled the fake currency into circulation. Soon he was known as “King David” and so much fake money was introduced into the British economy that real money was starting to depreciate.

 

Soon the operation became too big to keep secret and government crown excise officer William Dighton went to investigate. He infiltrated the gang, a Coiner crumbled and shopped the gang in exchange for his freedom. Dighton arrested "King" David and the whole operation collapsed. David’s brother Isaac put up a £100 reward for the murder of Dighton. It worked - two fellow Coiners ambushed Dighton in a dark lane in Halifax and shot him dead. This wanton affront against the state probably got his brother hanged. The Coiners may have ended up in prison but killing a government official was sacrilege. Most of the Coiners were caught but some of the collaborators who'd become wealthy weren’t.

 

On Saturday 28th April 1770 “King” David was hanged in public from the neck until he was dead. The crime being committed in the north meant he was executed at York’s Tyburn gallows which is now near the York Racecourse. The two Coiners who shot William Dighton were also hanged (Dick Turpin was also hanged there.) Since 2012 there's been a 5000 metre "Parkrun" running event held every Saturday morning and lots of people trot over the site of the gallows where hundreds were choked to death.

 

The graveyard at Heptonstall is small so I sound found the grave. I should have put another on it but was only carrying notes. Two women sat nearby were watching me as I took the usual photographs. They were drinking what looked like champagne which must have tasted so good it prevented them from sating their curiosity and coming over (though locals probably know the grave.) I went back to the car to get a 10p coin and upon my return found a family of four stooped over the grave. I didn't want to disturb them, did a salute and left.

 

The Coiner's former home and headquarters where what equates to millions of pounds of fake money was manufactured was for sale at 2017 at £950,000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Coiners home and headquarters was for sale in 2017...

Bell House and Coiners barn

 

Coiners barn