‘The Gallows Pole’ reviews round-up: ‘Compelling’ drama is ‘riotously entertaining’

This is England director Shane Meadows made his TV debut with The Gallows Pole last week!

Based on Benjamin Myers’ novel, the BBC’s new three-part period drama is set in 18th Century Yorkshire.

The Gallows Pole is a fictionalised telling of the remarkable true story of the rise and fall of the Cragg Vale Coiners.

With Michael Socha (Being Human) leading the cast, other familiar faces include Sophie McShera and Cara Theobold from Downton Abbey.

Socha plays the enigmatic David Hartley, who assembles a gang of weavers and land-workers to embark upon a revolutionary criminal enterprise that becomes the biggest fraud in British history.

Watch the trailer here:

The Gallows Pole is airing in the UK on Wednesday nights on BBC Two, and all three episodes are already streaming on BBC iPlayer.

We’ve rounded up a spoiler-free selection of reviews to help you decide if you’d like to watch the series:


“The roughcast look, feel, performances … wit and earthy intelligence combine to make this a drama of rare quality in every sense.

“It is funny, moving, enraging, shocking by turns and always compelling. Not to be missed.” ★★★★★ – The Guardian


“If you skipped The Gallows Pole because you saw the listing and thought: “Nah, I’m not in the mood for a grim-sounding 18th-century costume drama” (my instinct was similar) then I urge you to reconsider.

“Because it is riotously entertaining and upends most of what you expect from a period drama, tosses it in the air and refashions it as something entirely distinctive.” ★★★★ – The Times


“With a script that’s frank, daft and laugh-out-loud funny … this is less of a committed retelling of the gripping tale and more of a three-hour galavant through Meadow’s zany imagination. And it’s a joy to be along for the ride.” ★★★★ – Evening Standard


“Meadows has crafted one of the most utterly unique dramas in years, a mash-up of his own sensibilities with historical storytelling, along with some psychedelic imagery thrown in for good measure.

“As such, both Meadows super-fans and those looking for something innovative and off-kilter will likely find themselves enrapt by the ever-changing tone and unknowable nature of his series. But for others, mileage may vary.” – Radio Times


The Gallows Pole is innovative, and very self-consciously a different kind of period drama…

“But all too often, The Gallows Pole is just plain bewildering, and you rarely find yourself asking what happens next, which is really the greatest failing of all.” ★★★ – The Independent


“Wonderfully naturalistic and intriguingly odd…

“While his political concerns are never terribly mistakeable, they’re always firmly embodied in characters who, like actual human beings, have plenty of more personal things to worry about. There’s also the wonderfully naturalistic acting he gets from the whole cast.” – The Spectator


“Shane Meadows swaps polemic for community – and folk horror … Although different in tone to his cult film This is England, this eerie drama about the Cragg Vale Coiners features some familiar faces.” ★★★★ – The Telegraph


A broadcaster in the US hasn’t been confirmed just yet, but we’ll let you know when it’s announced.

Benjamin Myers’ novel The Gallows Pole is available on Amazon.