The Coiners & Coining

A coiner is anyone who produces counterfeit coinage

This Foldout looks at some aspects of the coiners and coining:


The practice of producing counterfeit coins had long been carried out.

From 1561, it was a crime of Misprision of Treason to manufacture counterfeit foreign coins. For anyone forging British coins, the charge was High Treason, and the punishment for this was:

This punishment was later modified and in many cases, the offenders were executed by hanging at the Tyburn. Some were taken down after execution and put into chains and hung on Beacon Hill for all to see – the bodies remaining there for several months.

The edges of coins had been milled since 1662 in order to deter the clipping or filing of silver and gold coins, but this was not sufficient to prevent the practice. In 1662, a number of people in Halifax were involved in the production of counterfeit copper tokens.

In the spring of 1681, 13 men from the village of Stock, near Skipton, were tried at York for clipping coins.

In 1688, the Rev Edmund Robinson of Holmfirth and his son, Ben, were found to be coyning at Bank End, their house outside the town. The father was tried and hanged at York, but the son was acquitted and was later given work at the Royal Mint.

Birmingham was known for the production of counterfeit coins, and the word brummagem meaning cheap and showy, or counterfeit, originates from that time.

The Lothersdale district, near Keighley, was known as Beggars' Valley on account of the coining there.

In December 1843, several people were charged at Leeds with counterfeiting offences: John MacMellin was imprisoned for 8 months with hard labour; Ann Green [27] was transported for 10 years; Elizabeth Blackburn [48] was imprisoned for 6 months with hard labour;

The Halifax Coiners

Brothers William Burnley and John Burnley were mentioned as coiners in 1500, and James Waterhouse and Lawrence Holdsworth are recorded in 1530. In 1662, several Halifax parishioners coined copper tokens.

Around 1760, several gangs in upper Calderdale were involved in the production of counterfeit coins.

There was a list of about 80 coiners: 30 of them from Cragg Vale, 20 from Sowerby, 15 from Halifax, 7 from Wadsworth, and 6 from Warley and Midgley.

The gangs paid a high price for a good genuine gold or silver coin, then clipped the edges, and finally they filed the old coin to produce a new edge before returning it into circulation. The resultant shavings were melted down to make copies of foreign coins, such as French Louis d'ors, Portuguese moidores, Spanish pistoles and other foreign gold coins which – because of a shortage of English coinage – were legal tender and were widely circulated in England at that time – the Methuen Treaty [1703].

The Cragg Vale coiners concentrated their efforts on reproducing the 1772 Portuguese 4,000 reis coin.

In 1835, constable John Brierley discovered a set of dies which the coiners used to manufacture such coins.

Typically, a guinea coin would be reduced in value by 2/6d to 4/6d, although extreme examples of 5/3d or 5/4d are recorded. David Hartley is said to have paid 20/- for the use of 20 guinea coins for half an hour.

A report at the time says that

Almost every woolcomber in the north keeps a file for that purpose

People from all levels of society were involved in the trade. Many well-known, wealthy and respected local families were involved indirectly in coining, supplying gold coins to the coiners, in return for a share in the profits. In 1769, Joseph Hanson, the Deputy Constable of Halifax and innkeeper of the Upper George Inn, Halifax, was arrested on charges of coining.

The geography of Calderdale – with its remote farms and cottages providing a good look-out – and the fact that it was a busy trading centre, made the area an ideal location for this yellow trade – producing and passing off such fraudulent coinage – at a time when the official money of the kingdom was distrusted and the legally required weight for used coins was less than that of new ones. Britain's foreign wars also meant that little official time and money was available for issue and renewal of British currency. The Industrial Revolution placed a further strain on the coinage system as more workers required payment in cash, rather than kind.

The British government's attention was first drawn to the situation in 1767 when a Halifax man – Daniel Greenwood – was arrested in Hamburg for clipping Danish coins. Under the assumption that he had most likely offended in England, HM Customs and Excise followed his trail to the Calder Valley.

The most famous gang was the Cragg Vale Coiners and their leader David Hartley. They met at a drinking place – known as Barbary's – at Mytholmroyd where they plotted the murder of the exciseman William Deighton who was looking into the scandal. Deighton was murdered near his home in Bull Close Lane, Halifax on 10th November 1769 by Matthew Normington and Robert Thomas. He had been shot twice, once in the head, and had then been robbed, kicked and trampled.

In 1771, Abraham Ingham was overheard in the Union Cross, Heptonstall saying that he knew who had murdered William Deighton, and a gang of Coiners promptly threw him on to the fire – and poured burning coals down his breeches – killing him.

Because of confused evidence and other factors, most of the Coiners were acquitted of Deighton's murder, but others – including David Hartley – were sentenced and hanged in a series of trials 1769-1774.

It was reported that nearly £3½ million pounds' worth of unlawfully diminished gold coin had been paid into the Bank at the Mint, and that this had been reduced in value by around 9%

References to the Coiners

The following entries are relevant to the Coiners and their activities

Bacchus Lodge, Halifax
Bacchus Tavern, Halifax
Barbary's, Mytholmroyd
Blue Ball, Soyland
Jonathan Boulton

Cragg Vale Coiners
Cross Pipes, Halifax
Cross Pipes, Rishworth

William Deighton
Dusty Miller, Mytholmroyd

Hinchliffe Arms, Cragg Vale
Holder Stones, Stoodley
Hoo Hole, Cragg Vale

Viscount Irwin

Francis Alexander Leyland
Abraham Lumb

Murder Stone, Mytholmroyd

Matthew Normington

Old Cock, Halifax

Christopher Rawson

Spread Eagle, Halifax
Joshua Stancliffe

Turvin coiners
Tyburn, York

Union Cross, Heptonstall
Upper George Hotel & Posting House, Halifax

Charles Watson-Wentworth

Yellow Trade

A List of Coiners

Others involved in Coining

The following people were involved as Coiners, their Victims, or Informers Local individuals who were involved in coining included:

Others were:

This & associated entries use material contributed by Steve Hartley

© Malcolm Bull 2024
Revised 12:33 / 3rd April 2024 / 34484

Page Ref: MMC146

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