Wednesday, 7 September 2011
My photo today is of the ruined - and I think rather macabre and mysterious - church of St Thomas à Becket in Heptonstall. It was left to fall into disrepair after being damaged in a storm in 1847. The congregation decided it was better to build a new church, which stands over to the left of the old one, giving this little Yorkshire village the peculiarity of having two churches in one churchyard. Only a handful of other places share that distinction, one being Westminster Abbey in London.
I am showing you this today because it continues yesterday's history lesson about 'clipped money'. There are reputedly over 100,000 bodies interred in the church's graveyard and one of them is that of David Hartley, "king" of the Cragg Vale coiners. He was hanged in 1770 for his part in a large-scale conspiracy to clip the edges of gold coins, melt the scraps and recast the metal to produce counterfeit money. It was big business in this area, and the government was determined to catch the offenders, whose exploits were seriously harming Britain's currency. A Customs and Excise Inspector, William Deighton, who got on to their trail, was murdered by the gang in the hope that would stop the inquiries. Suspected informers were brutally tortured by gang members. But David Hartley was convicted and hanged at Tyburn near York and many of the others were eventually caught too.