Old fireplace discovery stokes up Coiners’ legend

Steve Holland by the uncovered fireplace at the Cross Inn, Heptonstall.
Steve Holland by the uncovered fireplace at the Cross Inn, Heptonstall.
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The scene of a grisly murder committed by the Cragg Vale Coiners has been unearthed during the renovation of a historic Heptonstall pub.

Village folklore has long told the tale of how Abraham Ingham met his brutal end in the Cross Inn, then the Union Cross, in the 1700s.

The Cross Inn, Heptonstall.

The Cross Inn, Heptonstall.

Legend says Ingham was burned alive in the pub’s fireplace after threatening to spill the dirty secrets of the infamous band of counterfeiters.

Now the fireplace, thought to date back to the 16th century, has been uncovered, reigniting interest in the fascinating tale.

When Leeds-based Mood Pubs bought the pub in February, the Friends of the Cross group requested that the architecture of the pub be restored and the historic fireplace be unearthed.

“When the work started, we weren’t sure what was going to be found,” said Steve Holland, of the group.

“The fireplace had not been seen for a very long time and as more was uncovered, it was found it was this wonderful 16th century fireplace, which is just magnificent.

“The story behind it is just incredible and it’s of real historical important to the area.”

The infamous Cragg Vale Coiners produced fake gold coins in the late 18th century as a way to supplement small incomes from weaving.

Mr Holland added: “David Hartley - the “King” Coiner - was investigated by a tax man, William Dighton. He was then murdered by assistants of Hartley in Halifax.

“Later in January 1771, they were in the Cross Inn, then the Union Cross, and overheard Abraham Ingham, a farm labourer, saying he knew who had murdered Dighton and he was going to name them to the authorities.

“They grabbed him round the neck with a pair of tongs, threw him into the fire and then poured burning coal into his breeches which killed him. That’s how folklore has it.”

The pub is now classed as an asset of community value, which means it is subject to additional protection from development.

The original Yorkshire stone floor has also been uncovered and the room is to be restored to its eighteenth century glory as part of the sympathetic refurbishment of the pub by its new owners.

And when the pub eventually throws its historic doors open once again, it’s hoped David Hartley, descendant of “King” David will be involved in some way.

Peter Mason, of Mood Pubs, said: “It is astonishing. The plasterer chipped away up the wall and that was the first magical moment.

“It looks absolutely amazing.

“We’d love to hear from people if they have any old photographs - either of the pub or the old cottages next door as we’d like to restore one of those too.”

It is estimated the pub will be ready to re-open next weekend, but the ‘Coiners’ room may take longer while it is restored to its former glory.