Meg Lane Forgers.
In the late Eighteenth century a group of criminals known as the Meg lane Coiners were responsible for many daring robberies in Macclesfield and the surrounding area, many of the thefts were to obtain gold and silver plate for melting down to form coinage using a specially constructed coin press. This is where the Ryles Arms public house plays a part in this scenario which can be found on Hollins lane, Sutton on the outskirts of Macclesfield.
There is a record of an Isaac Heath being a Blacksmith at the Ryles Arms and there is a possibility that he was the Landlord of the pub as well. It seems that his talents also stretched to being able to forge a coin press as his initials I.H. were found on the press when it was recovered.
It would appear that Isaac Heath supplied the Meg Lane Coiners with this device so they could create and use the counterfeit coins it would produce. The gang were known to operate from Meg Lane Farm which is now known as Meg Lane End and which can be found a short distance from the Ryles Arms.
Meg Lane End where the gang where based.
It is believed that the gang were captured due to a young girl who was staying with the gang and gave their whereabouts to the authorities, whether or not she was the daughter of one of the gang isn’t known, what is known is that the authorities raided the isolated farmhouse located somewhere along Meg Lane End resulting in the gang being broken up and some of its members being hanged at Chester. The coin press was found at the bottom of a well at the farmhouse and it is thought that when the gang became aware of the authorities closing in on them they tried to dispose of the evidence by dropping it down the well along with the metal dies.
The leader of the Meg Lane gang was believed to be a man known as Black Hugh Raven and along with his two companions kept a couple of ferocious dogs for protection called Rock and Chase. Their expoits were recorded in a poem called Spellbound which was written by a writer known as “Redgirdle.” The writer tells us that there was a cavern close to where the gang were located, it was here that the items that had been stolen were kept before being melted down in the furnace which could also be found here. An extract from the poem is as follows:
Quick all the treasure down is cast; the coining engines, left ’til last, he grasped the giant strength to throw, and dashed them down the steps below.
Thus having sunk th’ ill gotten hoard, he seized his cap, girt on his sword, unloosed the chains of Rock and Chase and swiftly hurried from the place.