The Halifax Gibbet was an early beheading device that predates the guillotine and was used for executions in the town from around 1280 until the 17th Century. It is believed the Gibbet was used as a deterrent against stealing pieces of cloth, the town’s main industry at the time.
Many towns across Yorkshire also had Gibbets but Halifax gained notoriety by continuing the custom of Gibbet Law long after it had been abandoned elsewhere. Its notoriety was fueled further with publication of John Taylor’s poem of 1622, The famous beggars’ litany “From Hell, Hull and Halifax, Good Lord deliver us”.
The only way to escape the Gibbet once convicted was for the condemned to withdraw their head before the blade fell and flee across the parish boundary over the Hebble brook. John Lacey famously achieved this feet in 1617 but foolishly returned 7 years later and was executed as a result. The Running Man pub in Pellon Lane, Halifax, pays tribute to Lacy’s temporary reprieve. The last executions on the Gibbet were those of Anthony Mitchell and John Wilkinson in 1650, after which the Gibbet fell into ruin and was lost until it’s rediscovery in June 1839 near to where the remains of 2 skulls had been found. These were believed to be the remains of Mitchell and Wilkinson.
In 1974 a 4.6m high, non-working replica was reconstructed on the site and still remains on Gibbet Street today. The original Gibbet blade is also still in existence and can be seen on display at Bankfield Museum.
Opening Times: No Restrictions
Access: Disabled access is good although there are steps up onto the Gibbet platform
Address: Gibbet Street, Halifax, West Yorkshire, HX1 4JW
Website: The Halifax Gibbet