The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 26, Number 25, June 18, 2023, Article 25


The Guardian published an article about an 18th-century counterfeiting gang and tourists visiting the site of their operation today. Here's an excerpt - see the complete article online. See also the article elsewhere in this issue for a review of the novel the series was based on. -Editor

  Heptonstall village setting for The Gallows Pole
Heptonstall village where the BBC drama The Gallows Pole was filmed

Associations with 18-century counterfeiters can be seen across Calderdale, where The Gallows Pole tourism has mainly been welcomed

Anyone who has watched the BBC Two drama The Gallows Pole could be forgiven for thinking of Cragg Vale and its surrounding villages in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, as bleak and unforgiving.

But a surge of visitors captivated by the true story of a village's illegal coin-minting operation in the 1700s are finding it is anything but.

The nearby large village of Mytholmroyd and, in particular, the smaller Heptonstall, where most of the Shane Meadows series was filmed, are already experiencing an increase in tourism thanks to the popularity of the three-parter. The series tells the story of the Cragg Vale Coiners, who were said to be so successful that they devalued the pound by 9% before their counterfeit operation came crashing down around them.

Clues of a proud association with the gang are scattered everywhere in Mytholmroyd – in the Coiners restaurant, Coiners Wharf and a bar called Barbary's, after the pub in the story. In Heptonstall, cakes in the window of the Towngate tearoom have chocolate coins poking out of the top.

Outside the tearoom, Amy Schofield, a local resident, said tourism to the area tended to increase as the summer began but that over the last week there had been a noticeable boost.

Schofield said most residents were delighted that the Coiners' story had grabbed so much attention, but that the repeated periods of filming had caused a few disruptions, which had led to complaints locally. She also mentioned another problem: People here don't like it [the story] because it puts a negative light on the area and they say it makes it look bad.

A passerby interjected: It hasn't put people off, though, has it?

Benjamin Myers, who wrote the book that inspired the series, said so many people had contacted him after its publication in 2017 to say they were visiting that it led him to produce a map. The Gallows Pole has sold thousands of copies, said Myers, so for seven years there has been a regular stream of walkers visiting the real-life (and sometimes fictional) locations.

These maps are still in regular use, said Lisa Thwaites, the owner of the Blue Teapot, a vegetarian cafe in Mytholmroyd. She had been forced to binge-watch the series because customers were coming to the cafe and talking about it.

Thwaites said: The first episode, I thought it wasn't for me, the second I was getting into it and by the third I loved it.

St Thomas the Apostle church sits at the top of Heptonstall, on a hill that drops off into a breathtaking valley. It is known to literary fans as the resting place of the US poet Sylvia Plath, but it is also where the 25-year-old ringleader of the counterfeiters, King David Hartley, is buried. He was hanged for masterminding the operation.

Hartley's grave, in the cramped and uneven older part of the graveyard, was dotted with modern coins placed there in tribute to the man who brought desperately needed wealth to a place so deprived that children were starving.

  gravestone of counterfeiter David Hartley
Modern coins are left on the gravestone of David Hartley

Lyndsey Place, a bar worker at the Cross Inn, said: I don't want it to get touristy. A fireplace in the bar was the scene of a real-life murder, where a man who was prepared to snitch on the Coiners died after having hot coals put down his trousers.

A local antiques collector said he had some counterfeit Portuguese coins from the operation that he had bought before the story was well known. But its newfound popularity meant you couldn't get Coiner stuff any more, he added.

To read the complete article, see:
‘Definitely a lot busier': TV show lures visitors to coin gang's Yorkshire home (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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