The story of the 18th century Cragg Vale Coiners

When did these events take place?

This page describes the key events surrounding the Yorkshire Coiners and sets out the timeline of the story starting from David Hartley's return to Cragg Vale from Birmingham, right through to the death of the last key member of the Coiners gang Isaac Hartley, King David's brother, in 1815.

Mid 1760s
Fearing arrest, David Hartley supposedly fled Birmingham where he had served his apprenticeship to an Ironworker and brought the coining trade he had learned back to his family home at Bell House, Erringden.

14th August 1767
A copy of the inquisition of John Greenwood from Halifax, arrested in Hamburg for coining was sent to Lord Rockingham. As the man claimed to have learnt his ways from James Johnson, a Smith from Wadsworth, it is the first recorded mention of coining in the area.

9th August 1768
The Leeds Intelligencer reported the circulation of counterfeit Guineas.

14th March 1769
The Leeds Mercury reported that it was thought a gang of Coiners numbering 'half a score' was operating in the Halifax area.

1st May 1769
The first deposition was made by Joseph Broadbent against a John Sutcliffe.

Mid 1769
Two Worsted Manufacturers Association 'inspectors' were employed by Samuel Lister (a Bradford Magistrate) and John Stanhope (a Leeds Barrister) to infiltrate the gang and gather evidence against the Coiners. Lister and Stanhope died shortly afterwards before much evidence came to light.

10th August 1769
The two inspectors, James Crabtree and William Haley made their first depositions to another Sam Lister against a Stephen Morton from Stainland.

5th September 1769
Crabtree and Haley made further depositions, this time against Thomas Clayton, a man that appeared regularly in the Coiners story, and another man, James Oldfield.

9th September 1769
Oldfield gave a statement denying any involvement in coining.

19th September 1769
The Leeds Mercury reported the arrest of the first Coiners, including Stephen Morton and James Oldfield. Some of the arrests were carried out by William Dighton with the assistance of a man called James Broadbent, an informer employed by Dighton.

12th October 1769
James Broadbent gave a statement to Justice Leedes claiming to have witnessed David Hartley and James Jagger clipping gold coins.

14th October 1769
David Hartley was arrested at the Old Cock in Halifax , with James Jagger arrested at the nearby Cross Pipes at the same time.

9th November 1769
William Dighton, the Halifax Supervisor of Excise, was shot dead a short distance from his home just before midnight as he made his way home from a meeting in Halifax with Thomas Sayer, a local Solicitor. His body was discovered a short distance from his home by one of his daughters and a neighbour, Joseph Gledhill.

An examination of Dighton's body the following day by Jonathon Oldfield, a local Surgeon, revealed that Dighton had been killed by a single wound from a musket ball or slug which struck him about two inches below his left ear. The Surgeon also noted that the breast bone was also compressed but that this was not the cause of death and that the shot had killed him.

13th November 1769
James Broadbent gave a statement detailing the work he had been carrying out for Dighton and denying that he was in Halifax at the time of the murder. As a result of conflicting statements from other people he was subsequently arrested on suspicion of the murder.

14th November 1769
Lord Weymouth (The Secretary of State for the Southern Department) wrote to Lord Rockingham (First Lieutenant of Yorkshire) calling upon Rockingham's assistance to apprehend the murderers.

The London Gazette published details of a reward of £100 for information leading to the prosecution of the murderers.

19th November 1769
Matthew Normanton, Robert Thomas and William Folds were arrested on suspicion of the murder as a result of being named by James Broadbent.

20th November 1769
Normanton and Thomas gave statements confirming they had been in Halifax the evening of the murder but denied any involvement in the crime.

24th November 1769
John Royds of Halifax wrote to Rockingham appraising him of the situation in Halifax and appealing for military intervention. He also appealed for financial support for Dighton's widow.

25th November 1769
After a meeting in Bradford, the descriptions of several suspects were published, together with details of a reward to be paid on the successful conviction of the offenders.

Rockingham responded to John Royds letter thanking him for his information, indicating his support for the proposal to support Dighton's widow, and suggesting that the local Magistrates should deal with the situation rather than military intervention.

Rockingham also suggested that he would travel to Halifax to meet the local gentlemen and to show his support for the Justices of the Peace.

26th November 1769
Rockingham wrote a circular letter to the local gentlemen and dignitaries requesting they meet to discuss the situation.

28th November 1769
After arriving in Halifax to a peel of bells rung at the Parish Church that was longer than any rung for any victory in the seven years war, Rockingham attended the meeting at the Talbot Inn, Halifax. A number of resolutions were agreed in order to address the problems created by the Coiners and bring them to justice.

1st December 1769
Rockingham wrote to Lord Weymouth to explain the outcome of the meeting and calling upon Government support for Dighton's widow. He also explained that the two inspectors Crabtree and Haley had a warrant issued against them but that he was taking steps to ensure their safety from prosecution.

5th December 1769
Weymouth wrote to the Treasury enclosing Rockingham's letter and indicating the Kings approval to act against the Coiners. He called upon the support of the Treasury to bring the Coiners to justice.

7th December 1769
Grey Cooper, the senior secretary to the Treasury wrote to Weymouth confirming that William Chamberlayne, the Mint Solicitor, and another officer of the Mint would be dispatched to Halifax to assist in detecting and prosecuting the Coiners.

9th December 1769
Cooper wrote to Lord Rockingham confirming that Chamberlayne and a Mint 'moneyer' had been ordered to go to Halifax and that the Treasury Board had agreed that Dighton's widow would receive an allowance of £50 per annum and £200 to pay for the apprenticeship of her children in accordance with Rockingham's suggestion.

13th December 1769
Royds wrote to Rockingham confirming the arrival of Chamberlayne and Mr Sage from the Mint. He reported that they were drawing up a proclamation to encourage informants to come forward.

14th December 1769
The proclamation was published offering a Royal pardon to any person convicted of coining who then informed against two or more people, together with a reward of £40 for every person convicted. Another ten Guineas would be paid on top of this reward by the local townships.

16th December 1769
Chamberlayne wrote to Weymouth to report his initial findings. He feared that a successful conviction might be difficult since the Coiners were accusing and counter-accusing each other.

19th December 1769
The Leeds Mercury published details of the arrest of Thomas and Daniel Greenwood and John Cockroft on suspicion of coining.

22nd December 1769
An account was taken by Robert Parker from Eli Hoyle, which listed the names of forty eight persons suspected of coining.

25th December 1769
By Christmas day 1769, twenty two Coiners were imprisoned and awaiting trial.

26th December 1769
An advertisement appeared in the Leeds Mercury indicating the description of Joseph Hanson, the Deputy Constable of Halifax, who had escaped from custody after being charged with diminishing gold coin. It indicated a reward of 20 guineas over and above the sum allowed for by the Government proclamation.

1st January 1770
John Kitson gave a lengthy deposition against several men, including William and Thomas Varley, a father and son from Halifax, whose coining operation was well known locally as the 'Halifax Mint'.

2nd January 1770
The Leeds Mercury reported the arrest of seven more men in Bradford, some of whom were from the Halifax and Turvin areas. It also reported the escape of William Hartley, David Hartley's younger brother, as the constables attempted to arrest him.

6th January 1770
A lengthy statement by John Bates, Innkeeper of the Wheat Sheaf in Halifax gave a great deal of detail about his involvement in the gang and named several people. It also indicated that it was David Hartley that brought the coining trade to the area having learnt it in Birmingham.

18th February 1770
James Broadbent now made another statement but this time claimed to have been present at the murder and to have witnessed Thomas and Normanton shoot Dighton and rob him afterwards.

20th March 1770
The names and descriptions of another 10 men, including Isaac Hartley were added to the list of suspected Coiners and published in the newspapers.

24th March 1770
The Spring Assizes commenced in York before William Murray, Lord Chief Justice, and Sir Henry Gould, one of the Justices of his Majesty's Court of Common Pleas. Sixty four felons in total faced trial at the Assizes of which thirty one were accused either of coining or Dighton's murder. The presence of the Lord Chief Justice at the trials rather than just the regular Northern Circuit Judges was perhaps an indication of the importance the Government and Judiciary placed on securing a conviction.

31st March 1770
The first trial of Coiners took place when Thomas and William Varley faced charges of coining. The father, William Varley was found guilty and sentenced to death. Thomas Varley was found not guilty and released.

James Oldfield was tried the same day against evidence supplied by Crabtree and Haley. He was also found guilty and sentenced to death.

2nd April 1770
The trial of David Hartley took place and was presided over by William Murray, Lord Chief Justice. Hartley was accused of clipping four guineas with James Jagger, on the evidence of James Broadbent and Joshua Stancliffe, a watchmaker from Halifax. He was found guilty and sentenced to death.

3rd April 1770
The remaining Coiners were bailed to appear at the Autumn Assizes. The trial of Thomas, Normanton, Folds and Broadbent was also postponed until the autumn, but they were ordered to remain in gaol.

5th April 1770
David Hartley submitted an affidavit stating that Broadbent and Folds had not been involved in the murder but confirmed that Thomas and Normanton were the murderers. He indicated that his brother Isaac would provide more evidence soon afterwards.

28th April 1770
David Hartley and James Oldfield were executed by hanging at York Tyburn. William Varley, who had also been sentenced to death was reprieved and was granted a free pardon from King George III on the 5th June 1770.

25th May 1770
Grace Hartley, David Hartley's widow was bound over to give evidence against David Greenwood at the autumn assizes. She claimed he had attempted to bribe her in order to secure the release of her husband before his trial.

11th June 1770
Isaac Hartley also gave information against David Greenwood, claiming to have witnessed Greenwood clip coins with David Hartley.

4th August 1770
The Autumn Assizes began in York and those men that had been bailed at the Spring assizes were ordered to surrender for trial.

David Greenwood faced charges of clipping on the evidence of Isaac Hartley and the evidence noted that he had also been charged with fraud for attempting to bribe Grace Hartley to the sum of £20.

When the trial of the murderers took place, the case against Thomas and Normanton could not be proved, mainly because of the unreliable evidence of Broadbent and both men were acquitted. Folds was also dismissed as it was recognised he had no part to play in the murder. Broadbent was also released.

8th January 1771
Abraham Ingram, a labourer, was brutally murdered in Heptonstall as he had claimed he would inform against the murderers. He had his head thrust into a fire and red hot tongs clamped around his neck before having his breeches filled with burning coals.

19th September 1771
Joseph Broadbent claimed that he had been told by John Sladdin of a meeting between Isaac Hartley, Thomas, Normanton and Thomas Clayton, where Hartley agreed to pay the men 100 guineas to kill Dighton. He claimed Hartley had also supplied the weapons and afterwards disposed of them.

8th October 1771
John Sladdin gave a statement supporting the one made by Joseph Broadbent and claimed to have been present at the meeting, but had declined to be involved in the murder.

10th January 1774
Matthew Normanton was re-arrested but this time was charged on suspicion of coining.

2nd May 1774
Thomas Clayton gave a statement, having been arrested a few days earlier, and claimed to have been present when Thomas and Normanton shot Dighton.

3rd May 1774
Robert Thomas confessed to being present at the murder but claimed that his gun had not fired. He also admitted that he had shared the money that Normanton had robbed from Dightons body.

16th July 1774
The Assizes were opened in York by Mr Justice Gould and Mr Justice Blackstone.

21st July 1774
Robert Thomas was found guilty of Highway Robbery and sentenced to death.

22nd July 1774
Mathew Normanton was bailed to appear at the Spring Assizes.

6th August 1774
Robert Thomas was executed by hanging at York Tyburn.

9th August 1774
Thomas's body was gibbetted (hung in chains) on Beacon Hill, Halifax, overlooking the town. His body was arranged so that his right hand pointed to the scene of his crime.

14th March 1775
Jonas Shackleton gave a statement to Robert Parker in which he claimed to have overheard Normanton bragging about his involvement in the murder.

18th March 1775
Matthew Normanton was charged to appear at the Assizes but failed to appear. He was found guilty in his absence and sentenced to death.

22nd March 1775
When the Constables turned up to arrest Normanton at his home at Stannery End, he fled down the valley but was arrested shortly afterwards hiding in bushes at Spa Laithe.

15th April 1775
Matthew Normanton was executed by hanging at York Tyburn. An hour before his execution he confessed to his crime and stated that David and Isaac Hartley had been the men that had pressed him and Thomas to commit the murder.

17th April 1775
Normanton's body was gibbeted on Beacon Hill, Halifax, alongside the rotting remains of his accomplice.

7th October 1778
A statement was made against John Bolton by four men, which recorded their search of his house for coining tools. They found a collection of coining tools, copper blanks, copper pieces and counterfeit copper coins. A subsequent search of the house of his father Jonathon Bolton, revealed more evidence of coining. The two Bolton's were arrested.

6th March 1779
John, Jonathon and another man Jonas Bolton faced their trial at York. John Bolton was found guilty and sentenced to death. Jonathon and Jonas Bolton were acquitted.

30th March 1779
The Leeds Mercury reported that those capitally convicted at the Assizes had been reprieved. John Bolton was set free.

13th July 1782
John Cockroft, Thomas Greenwood and John Wood faced charges of coining at the York Assizes. All three were convicted and sentenced to death.

22nd August 1782
Cockroft, Greenwood and Wood were reprieved on condition that they were transported to a penal colony in Africa.

7th June 1783
Bread riots took place in Halifax with the rioters raiding corn warehouses in protest at the prices being charged. The riots were led by Thomas Spencer who had faced trial initially with Thomas, Normanton, Folds and Broadbent. Spencer had also been named in some of the depositions and examinations as the man who collected the money from those who subscribed to pay for Dighton's murder.

12th August 1783
Spencer and another man that joined him, Mark Sattonstall, were found guilty at York assizes and sentenced to death.

15th August 1783
Spencer and Sattonstall were executed by hanging on Beacon Hill, Halifax, alongside where the remains of Thomas and Normanton still hung in their chains.

5th March 1815
Isaac Hartley, the man who had been named in many depositions and examinations as the man that had arranged the murder of Dighton, obtained the weapons, paid the murderers and disposed of the weapons, died at his home at White Lee, Mytholmroyd at the age of 85 years. Despite there being so much evidence against him, he was never charged in connection with the murder.

8th March 1815
Isaac Hartley was buried at Heptonstall in a grave alongside his brother 'King' David Hartley.

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