Our opening exhibition explores the lives of the Cragg Vale Coiners , the notorious band of local counterfeiters who produced fake gold coins in the late 18th century to supplement small incomes from weaving.
On entering the 17c building, the first room brings to life a typical weavers’ cottage room. It contains a replica c18th loom, alongside a display of weaving tools and fabric samples, showing the stages of cloth production used by home-based weavers who sought to make a livelihood, pre-Industrial age.
Walking next to the main room, you’ll be accompanied on your exhibition exploration by a wonderful soundscape. Evoking the execution scenes of ‘King’ David, and a rendition of an Execution Ballad, it was created just for our exhibition.
‘King’ David Hartley’s Cragg Vale home takes over a corner of the museum which is devoted to depicting Bell House – the Hartley’s farmhouse on Erringden Moor.
Alongside this, clothing indicative of those worn by David Hartley and William Deighton, (the excise man who lost his life at the hands of the Coiners), give the modern visitor a sense of the inequalities of wealth at the time.
A set of coining dies – a replica of the set used by the coiners, (commissioned by the same forger who created a set for The Gallows Pole) gives a glimpse of the expertise involved and along with the replica Portuguese Moidore coins, it’s easy to understand the expertise and craftsmanship the Coiners’ deployed in the making of the fake currency that almost toppled the British economy.
To place the exhibition within the Calderdale landscape, we have contemporary and modern maps and images of the moors from the After Alice project.
The story of the coiners has been re-told in the fictionalised novel, ‘The Gallows Pole‘, written by local author, Benjamin Myers
Visitors can take a seat in our Listening Chair to also hear excerpts from the book, read by local residents.
The novel has recently been adapted for a new BBC2 television series, produced by Shane Meadows.
The Museum was used as the local hostelry ‘Barbs’ for the production and part of the set remains in the main room of the museum.
‘King’ David Hartley was the leader of the Coiners and his gravestone lies in spitting distance from the Museum’s doors, amidst the atmospheric Graveyard of St Thomas’ Church.
For new visitors to the Museum. The building itself is an atmospheric and authentic Grade II-listed building dates back to 1600. Built as a warehouse, it was converted to a grammar school in 1771 and closed in 1889. The Yorkshire Penny Bank occupied it 1898 until 1954 and became a museum in August 1972.
Open from 27 May until further notice.
IMAGE: Bruce Cutts for the After Alice Project May 2023
If you wish to listen to our soundscape again, we have created a short YouTube clip, illustrated with images of the local area.