THE CRAGG VALE COINERS

Written in February 1996 this little epic tells the whole story of 'King' David Hartley who, in 1765, returned to The West Riding of Yorkshire to resume the practise of coining which he had learnt in Birmingham, (known in those days to Yorkshire folk as Bromingham). Coining/clipping (reducing gold coins in size to make new ones) subsequently brought about the milling of coins to prevent devaluation, forgery and defacing. The West Riding was an ideal spot. Halifax was the centre of the wool trade and, as such was a thriving centre of commerce, with new coins constantly in circulation. The West Riding was also ideal as excise men could be seen approaching from a distance and thus, capture of miscreants was difficult. Three forms of currency were in constant use in Britain at that time. The British guinea, The Spanish dollar and the Portuguese moider. All were made of gold. All were suitable for such abuse. The coiners tools can still to be found today hidden away in the walls of houses in Mytholmroyd, Luddenden and Hebden Bridge. The Dusty Miller pub is still in use and can be found on the main Burnley Rd in Mytholmroyd. David Hartley was christened 'King David' by the locals due to his rise in status which combined both tyrannical and benevolent behaviour. His brothers were consequently christened 'The Prince of Wales' and 'The Duke of York'.

 

He came up from Bromingham in the year of sixty five,

He had spent is time there clipping merely to survive,

But informers they were talking, it was time to get away,

Thus he arrived at Bell Hole that wild and windy day.

 

Where Ling and dry grass rustle brittle stems outside the house,

Where wailing curlews circle, up clutter startled grouse,

Where the winds blow down through Bell Hole across Erringden Moor,

He returned back to the Riding where he had dwelt before.

 

His father and his brothers were weavers there by trade,

Each week they took to Halifax the pieces they had made,

Though times were hard and money scarce they welcomed the traveller home,

And he told them how they coin as fast as groats in Bromingham.

 

So carefully he laid his plans and talked to eager ears,

Whilst supping in the ale house where tongues are loose with beers,

And there he curried favour with neighbour John Wilcox,

And also David Greenwood whose farm was at Hill Top.

 

King David had two brothers, Isaac and William,

Both of whom resided near the town of Old Hebden,

And together with his father they formed a motley crew,

All they needed now was gold, even Portuguese would do.

 

With Greenwood and with Wilcox they plied there new found trade,

Even rich and famous laughed that such money could be made,

From mill owner to Runner all become involved,

Whilst King Hartley and his merry men simply devalued gold.

 

But they counted not on Parker so ruthless and upright,

Nor on William Deighton who rode the moors at night,

For the first was a solicitor, whose clients went bankrupt,

And the second was the exciseman they never could corrupt.

 

Deighton sought informers and James Broadbent came along,

And the whipping boy of the Hartley gang sung his traitors song,

First it was John Sutcliffe, they caught him tools in hand,

But Thomas Clayton fled his house, he'd heard what had been planned.

 

King David was the ringleader whom Deighton wanted most,

As often in the local inns he was heard to brag and boast,

Deighton was determined when he heard about the jibe,

And thus he offered Broadbent a hundred guinea bribe.

 

 

They both went to the magistrate where Broadbent he did swear,

That he had seen King David trim four guineas whilst he was there,

He thought he'd earn a fortune, so what could Broadbent lose?

But all that Deighton gave him was five shillings and some shoes.

 

On the 14th of October Deighton strode along Southgate

He knew that in the Old Cock Inn his bailiff friends did wait,

And also there was Hartley, talking very loud,

Buying drinks and boasting, the centre of the crowd.

 

There Deighton did arrest him and carried him away,

And they caught James Jagger too, or so the papers say,

To York the pair were taken, though Broadbent did retract,

And all this caused the blood to boil in the mind of young Isaac.

 

Twas in the Dusty Miller they planned poor Deighton's doom,

A hundred guineas pledged from a whip around the room,

Thomas and Normanton they were the chosen men,

For it rumoured they had killed before, and might as well again.

 

A calm frosty November night they hid in Bull Close Lane,

Deighton came home late that night and it's there that he was slain,

They shot him and they kicked him, but they knew they would be hung,

When Broadbent turned Kings evidence and in York Castle they were slung.

 

Twas on the sixth of April at exactly half past two,

They hung the King of Coiners for the deeds that he did do,

The other coiners fled the land to save their wretched souls,

Whilst in the walls of Mytholmroyd they hid their forging tools.

 

Dead David he was taken back through jeering cheering crowds,

To the church at Heptonstall where spire touches clouds,

To where the River Hebden flows o'er Hardcastle Craggs,

Thus he was saved a limestone grave along with other lags.

 

And in the Dusty Miller they sung a funeral tune,

Mytholmroyd and Castle Craggs were lit by an Easter moon,

'Twas poverty that drove them that's what the locals say,

'Twas poverty that drove them to clip their lives away.

 

© Joe Stead - Fore Lane Music March 1996

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