The Halifax Gibbet
Ok so weird topics fascinate me, I cannot help it, I like the weird and quirky things that happen while you are living your life. I had seen somewhere and I am not even sure where, someone asked what a Halifax Gibbet was, so of course I wanted to know to, so here it is.
A Halifax Gibbet Law gave the Lord of the Manor of Wakefield the power to try and execute a thief. The following excerpt is taken from this law:
“If a felon be taken within their liberty or precincts of the said forest (Hardwick) either handhabend ( caught with the goods) backberand ( caught carrying the goods on their back) or confessand (confessed to taking it) to the taking of the cloth or any other commodity to the value of 13 ½ d, that they shall after three market days within the town of Halifax after his apprehension, and being condemned he shall be taken to the gibbet and there have his head cut from his body.”
If you have not yet guessed what the Halifax Gibbet is yet, it was a guillotine or as some refers to it, a decapitating machine. The device would be made and an axe would be fitted to a wooden block that would be able to be placed between two columns with grooves for ease of chopping. A pulley system would have been used to raise the axe and would be secured in an upright position with a pin. When the time came for the “off with their heads” part, either the pin was pulled or the rope itself was just cut.
The first recorded execution was in 1286. It is thought that around 100 persons met their end in Halifax. The original date of the installation of the Gibbet is unknown; there could have been many more executions that were never recorded. In 1278 King Edward the I commissioned a report that claimed there were 94 privately owned gobbets and gallows that were being used in Yorkshire.
By the 1650’s public opinion changed and considered the execution method chosen as being an overly severe punishment for petty theft. The last two victims of the Halifax gibbet before its dismantling were Abraham Wilkinson who was found guilty of stealing 16 yards of cloth and Anthony Mitchell who was found guilty of stealing and selling two horses. They were both executed on April 30, 1650.
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