The Yorkshire Coiners Workshops

Wednesday, 7 October 2009


A series of workshops revisit the remarkable history of the Yorkshire coiners to support the completion of a historically-informed treatment and script for a new feature film, The Last Coiner (to be directed and produced by Duchy Parade Films).

The workshops form part of a new regional collaboration, involving the History Department at the University of York and Duchy Parade Films, to promote the fuller integration of academic research and specialist knowledge within the production of public history (and particularly within the production of historical narratives for film and television).

Through informal presentations by specialists from history departments and museums, a walking tour, opportunities for object handling and the interrogation of contemporary images and texts, these workshops will look at how we can bring the coiners back to life and put historical accuracy back on the screen. 

The clipping and counterfeiting of currency was a treasonable offence, punishable by death, but estimates suggest that in the 1760s over 200 Yorkshire people risked the gallows to participate in a major coining operation. Concentrated around Cragg Vale, the coiners were reputedly led by the ‘royal family’ of ‘King David’ (David Hartley) and his brothers ‘The Duke of York’ and ‘The Duke of Edinburgh’, known locally by royal titles in recognition of their success ‘fighting the enemy of poverty’. After an extensive manhunt and a series of trials, initiated by the Mint and by the government, many of the coiners absconded, were imprisoned for life or were hanged.

If you are interested in attending please email Peter M. Kershaw, Director, Duchy Parade Films at - to register your interest or to request for further details. Attendance is free, but numbers will be limited. The first four workshops will be held in Halifax at the Square Chapel Centre for the Arts (the only surviving eighteenth-century square chapel, built in 1772). The final workshop will be held at the York Castle Museum.

Narratives and Plot: Introducing the Yorkshire Coiners
Location: Square Chapel Centre for the Arts, Halifax
Saturday 3 October 2009, 10am to 4pm

Held in the Square Chapel Centre for the Arts, Halifax (built in 1772), this workshop will open our discussions and deliberations on the Yorkshire coiners. Along with introductory lectures and an overview of the coiners history, together we will examine some of the archival materials uncovered by the project’s postdoctoral researcher (Dr Nick Tosney) and complete a substantial walking tour of the rural sites associated with the coiners.

Contributors include: Dr Hannah Greig (University of York), Dr John Hargreaves (Huddersfield University & Leeds Trinity College), Peter Kershaw (Duchy Parade Films), Prof Edward Royle (University of York), Dr Nicholas Tosney (University of York),) and the Cragg Vale Local History Group

History and Context: The Coiners and the World of Wool
Location: Square Chapel Centre for the Arts, Halifax
Tuesday 20 October 2009, 10am to 4pm

This workshop will focus on the relationship between the coiners and the Yorkshire textile industry. Many of the coiners were identified in court depositions as stuff makers, woolcombers and weavers by trade, but the Yorkshire textile industry was hit by recession following the end of the Seven Years War. How does the structure and economy of the Yorkshire textile industry inform our understanding of the experiences and lifestyle of the coiners? What did the coiners make, what textiles did they wear and how can this be translated into film?

Contributors include: Dr Catherine Bradley (University of Huddersfield), Dr Hannah Greig (University of York), Prof Pat Hudson (University of Cardiff), Peter Kershaw (Duchy Parade Films)

Characters and Motives: Controlling the Coiners
Location: Square Chapel Centre for the Arts, Halifax
Saturday 24 October 2009, 10am to 4pm

On 8 November 1769 William Deighton, the customs and excise supervisor for the Halifax district was shot by one of the coiners. Deighton had infiltrated the gang with informers, in a bid to gather evidence to bring the coiners to trial. Infuriated, the coiners sought revenge. In this workshop we will discuss the nature of Deighton’s relationship to the coiners and the social and justice systems that were mobilised in a bid to control the coiners’ activities. From the religious culture of eighteenth-century Yorkshire to the regional responsibilities of the customs and excise officer, from the role played by informants to the actions of the Charles Watson-Wentworth, Marquis of Rockingham (Lord Lieutenant of the West Riding), this workshop will consider contemporary perceptions of social order and social control. In this workshop we may also develop the biographies of key characters in the plot and discuss a series of character case-studies. 

Contributors include: Dr William Ashworth (University of Liverpool), Dr Hannah Greig (York), Peter Kershaw (Duchy Parade Films)

Props and Production: Clipping, coining and the circulation of money
Location: Square Chapel Centre for the Arts, Halifax
Tuesday 27 October, 10am to 4pm

The Yorkshire coiners were so notorious that the Halifax home of King David and the Hartley family was known locally as ‘The Halifax Mint’. This workshop will be dedicated to the discussion of money. How and where were coins clipped and counterfeits made? How did ‘light’ coins circulate in Britain and what was the broader national (and international) impact of the coining activities in Yorkshire? What was the relationship between legal tender, clipped coins, counterfeit coin, tokens and other markers of commercial exchange? And what can we learn from the coiners history about regional banking and commerce and the responsibilities and operations of the Bank of England and the Mint? Come and learn how the coiners clipped a guinea and what money meant in the eighteenth century.

Contributors include: Dr Catherine Eagleton (British Museum), Dr Anne Murphy (University of Hertfordshire).

Interiors and sets: From Yorkshires cottages to York prison
Monday 9 November, 10am to 4pm
The recreation of an authentic interior is a perennial problem for the film producer, not least for those interested in the world beyond the stately home and the National Trust set piece. Whilst the bedrooms of Dukes and Duchess have been well served in recent dramas, what did the more modest homes of the Yorkshire coiners look like? The rural cottage was not the only significant interior we should examine. York prison has a starring role in this drama as the venue in which many coiners were incarcerated. In this workshop, along with a study of the coiners’ Yorkshire homes, we will also consider the nature of prison life, the legal processes which brought the coiners to trial and the experiences of those who were sent to the gallows.  

Contributors include:  Katherine Prior (independent scholar, York Castle Museum), Prof James Sharpe (University of York), Prof John Styles (University of Hertfordshire).

See also Cragg Coiners on the Mytholmroyd Net

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