The Gallows Pole: release date, cast, plot, trailer, interviews and more on Shane Meadows' period drama

The Gallows Pole
Michael Socha and Sophie McShera play David Hartley and Grace (Image credit: BBC)

Prepare to step back through time in The Gallows Pole, Shane Meadows' first-ever period drama, which is coming to BBC2 and the BBC iPlayer this year. 

The acclaimed screenwriter, whose previous hits include This Is England and The Virtues, will be adapting Benjamin Myers' novel set in 18th century Yorkshire for a highly-anticipated three-part  series. 

The Gallows Pole will follow the real story of David Hartley and the Cragg Vale Coiners, a band of counterfeiters who produced fake gold coins to supplement small income from weaving.  

"I really wanted to delve into the history of this story and the circumstances that lead to an entire West Yorkshire community risking their lives to put food in their children’s bellies," said Shane Meadows.  

"It was during the workshopping process with the actors I realised there was also a story to tell leading up to Ben’s incredible book. A prequel that not only allowed us to understand ‘why’ the Cragg Vale Coiners did what they did, but maybe fall in love with them a smidge while they did it. It may have turned into one of the biggest crimes in British history, but it was pulled off by a bunch of destitute farmers and weavers doing what they had to to survive, and I think people will resonate with that."

The Gallows Pole

The three-part series is set in 19th century Yorkshire (Image credit: BBC)

"You can tell a story in any century if you care about the characters, but there was something so attractive about this period in British history. Large mouthfuls of West Yorkshire were about to be inhaled by the Industrial Revolution and our country and its unspoilt sides set to change forever. So it was an honour to be able to go back and hold up a magnifying glass to some of dudes that were living through it. 

"Marry that with a cast that pitches some of the UK’s finest actors alongside an awesome array of brand spanking new Yorkshire talent and you have a series unlike anything else I’ve made before.”

Here's everything we know about The Gallows Pole...

The Gallows Pole release date — when is it on BBC2? 

The Gallows Pole will premiere on BBC2 on Wednesday 31 May 2023 at 9pm, with all the episodes being immediately released on BBC iPlayer. The second and third episodes will also be show on subsequent Wednesdays on BBC2.

The Gallows Pole

Thomas Turgoose (left) plays William Hartley (Image credit: BBC)

Is there a trailer for The Gallows Pole?

Yes the BBC has now released a trailer for The Gallows Pole and this period drama looks intense. In fact everything you'd expect from a Shane Meadows project. Take a look below...

The Gallows Pole plot — what happens? 

The Gallows Pole follows of British history’s biggest ever frauds was committed in Yorkshire in the 18th century by group of rural weavers who were desperate to save their community. Now the amazing true story of the Cragg Vale Coiners is told is this gritty period drama. The three-parter opens in the 1760s with a dishevelled David Hartley, played by Being Human and This is England star Michael Socha, returning to his Yorkshire home after seven years away in Birmingham, having been attacked on the Moors by a mystery rival, the Stagman. He soon discovers his father has died and his newly married younger brother Willie (Thomas Turgoose) is struggling, as are all in the small community who have seen their livelihoods disappear due to the mechanisation brought about by the Industrial Revolution. So when David comes up with a plan to produce fake gold coins to supplement their wages many quickly agree to be a part of the scam. Yet while the illicit operation quickly reverses their fortunes, they all know it could end up costing them their lives if they get caught. 

Sophie McShera, famous as Downtown Abbey maid Daisy, plays David’s former sweetheart Grace who is livid with him for walking out on her all those years ago and later in the series look out for The Office star Ralph Ineson as local businessman Mr Arkwright. 

Willie (Thomas Turgoose) worries for his badly injured brother David (Michael Socha).

Willie (Thomas Turgoose) worries for his badly injured brother David (Michael Socha). (Image credit: BBC)

The Gallows Pole cast— who's starring in the drama? 

The cast of The Gallows Pole is as follows... 

  • Michael Socha (This is England, Time) as David Hartley
  • Sophie McShera (Cinderella, Downton Abbey) as Grace
  • Thomas Turgoose (This Is England, Looted) as William Hartley
  • Yusra Warsama (Castle Rock) as Bethsheba
  • Anthony Welsh (Master Of None, The Flatshare) as Abe Oldfield
  • Samuel Edward-Cook (Peaky Blinders, Better) as Isaac Hartley
  • Joe Sproulle (The A Word) as Joe
  • Adam Fogerty (Legend, Snatch) as James Broadbent
  • Nicole Barber-Lane (Hollyoaks) as Susie
  • Fine Time Fontayne (Peterloo) as Joseph Broadbent
  • Ralph Ineson (Peaky Blinders) as The Clothier

The Gallows Pole reveals the true story of the the amazing true story of the Cragg Vale Coiners.

The Gallows Pole reveals the amazing true story of the Cragg Vale Coiners led by David Hartley in 18the century Yorkshire. (Image credit: BBC)

The Gallows Pole also sees the screen debuts of an ensemble of first-time actors, including Stevie Binns as Mand, Jennifer Reid as Barb, Soraya Jane Nabipour as Darya Hartley, Olivia Pentelow as Hannah, Charlotte Ockelton as Gwen Hartley and Dave Perkins as Tom Hartley.

The Gallows Pole

Michael Socha stars as David Hartley (Image credit: BBC)

Interviews: Michael Socha and Sophie McShera on starring in The Gallows Pole caught up with both Michael Socha, 35 and Sophie McShera, 37, to hear much more about this remarkable but little known rebellious piece of history in The Gallows Pole… 

What can you tell us about David and Grace? 
Michael Socha says: "When we first meet David he’s been stabbed in the stomach and collapses in the local pub after walking home across the moors from Birmingham. He narrowly survives, but has a spiritual awakening and believes he’s been given a second chance, so he decides to help the people he loves get out of the terrible state they’re in. I remember thinking he was the weirdest hero ever, because as soon as you think he’s going down one path, he goes down another, but it’s a role I was desperate to play and I took it more seriously than I’ve ever taken any other acting job."
Sophie McShera says: "In Shane’s original idea, Grace and David get back together quite quickly, but the more we looked at that, the more that didn’t make sense. He’s been away for seven years and hasn’t been in contact, so there’s no way Grace would take him back straight away.She’d be furious. They were childhood sweethearts and then he just disappeared one night, so she makes him suffer a bit." 

This was the biggest fraud in history when it happened and it almost brought down the Bank of England . It’s amazing to think that isn’t it? 
Sophie says: "They were only trying to feed their families, but it ended up getting way out of hand! At the start it was easy to convince people to get involved because they were so desperate, but as the story unfolds you see fractures start to appear in the group. David and Grace keep it all together, because he’s got his reputation and a lot of brute force, while she’s nurtured quite a few relationships in the village. They’re a dream team!" 

Did Shane Meadows allow you guys to do much improvisation while filming? 
Michael says: "We had an outline rather than an actual script, or at least if there was a script, I never saw it! There was some wicked dialogue in the outline, which I couldn’t wait to say, but then the story would change direction based on what had been filmed the previous day and I wouldn’t get to say it! 
Sophie says: "We all worked on the characters together in workshops for months and at the end we’d do candlelit hotseats, where you have to sit in the middle of the room as your character and answer questions from everyone else in the cast. Shane said he’d seen that Michael and I bickered quite a lot, which made him change the scene where Grace and David meet after seven years apart. Shane's amazing, because he said “Well, if you don't want Grace to get back with him, we don't have to!” 
Michael adds: "I remember you got quite offended during the hot seat sessions didn’t you…
Sophie replies: "Yeah, because when someone asked who David had missed more when he was in Birmingham out of Grace and his brother Willie and you said Willie. I was outraged!" 

Sophie, you’ve played Daisy the kitchen maid in Downton Abbey and now you’re playing a struggling weaver, do you fancy playing the Lady of the Manor in your next period drama? 
Sophie says: 
"Maybe I’m a bit delusional, but I actually feel like Grace is the Lady of the Manor in her own way! She's respected in that community and she's powerful. So it felt amazing to play some with that kind of status." 

Sophie McShera as Grace.

Sophie McShera as Grace. (Image credit: BBC)

Where was The Gallows Pole filmed? 

The three-part series was filmed on location in Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, with most exteriors filmed in the Yorkshire village of Heptonstall, where David Hartley was laid to rest. Indeed Thomas Turgoose, who plays William Hartley in the period drama, posted an image of some cast members by his grave on Instagram. 

Shane Meadows on The Gallows Pole cast

"Putting this cast together has been an absolute joy. To be working with actors I’ve grown up with and/or have been desperate to work with, alongside oodles of incredible ‘as yet’ undiscovered (Yorkshire based) talent, is an absolute honour and I’ve not been this passionate about shooting a project in years!

"After some initial rehearsals back in spring, me and the team went on an ‘open casting’ odyssey, watching over 6,500 self-tapes from unrepresented actors and actresses and were blown away by the quality of tapes that were submitted. We went from hoping to find one or two new faces to making up half of the entire cast from those tapes and I believe it’s going to create a series quite unlike anything else I’ve ever worked on. 

"This is the 18th century yes, but viewed through a slightly more anarchic lens and will (like my previous work) have a soundtrack that fits the mood like a psychedelic glove, rather than historical expectations.”

Sean Marland

Sean is a Senior Feature writer for TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week, who also writes for He's been covering the world of TV for over 15 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are I'm Alan Partridge, The Wire, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.