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On deadly ground

By clintQB  
The Halifax Gibbet was an early guillotine, or decapitating machine, used in the town of Halifax, West Yorkshire, England. It was probably installed some time during the 16th century as an alternative to beheading by axe or sword. Halifax was once part of the Manor of Wakefield, where ancient custom and law gave the Lord of the Manor the authority to execute summarily by decapitation any thief caught with stolen goods to the value of 13d or more, or who confessed to having stolen goods of at least that value. Decapitation was a fairly common method of execution in England, but Halifax was unusual in two respects: it employed a guillotine-like machine that appears to have been unique in the country, and it continued to decapitate petty criminals until the mid-17th century.
The device consisted of an axe head fitted to the base of a heavy wooden block that ran in grooves between two 15-foot (4.6 m) tall uprights, mounted on a stone base about 4 feet (1.2 m) high. A rope attached to the block ran over a pulley, allowing it to be raised, after which the rope was secured by attaching it to a pin in the base. The block carrying the axe was then released either by withdrawing the pin or by cutting the rope once the prisoner was in place.
Almost 100 people were beheaded in Halifax between the first recorded execution in 1286 and the last in 1650, but as the date of the gibbet's installation is uncertain, it cannot be determined with any accuracy how many were dealt with by the Halifax Gibbet. By 1650 public opinion considered beheading to be an excessively severe punishment for petty theft; use of the gibbet was forbidden by Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, and the structure was dismantled. The stone base was rediscovered and preserved in about 1840, and a non-working replica was erected on the site in 1974. The names of 52 people known to have been beheaded by the device are listed on a nearby plaque.

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Tags: Architecture Landscape and travel Photo journalism History Gibbet Halifax

Voters: nicedayout, Jasper87, UrbaneMagick and 9 more


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Comments


Jasper87 Plus
9 2.3k 158 England
26 Jul 2012 7:04PM
Doesn't sound like it would make a clean cut!

Dave

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UrbaneMagick 7 172 1 United Kingdom
26 Jul 2012 8:03PM
Fantastic Clint..what a brilliant bit of history & narrative..I never knew we had such a thing in this country..let alone still viewable!!

Gareth
jdinne 16 16 England
26 Jul 2012 10:25PM
Excellent image, superb write up.

john
carper123 Plus
8 1.2k 8 United Kingdom
26 Jul 2012 10:39PM
Gruesome Clint, great description and the pictures not bad, the processing is perfect for the subject matter.
well done.
Darryl. SmileSmileWink
buxton 11 England
27 Jul 2012 8:00PM
Very interesting and great info, and well captured. Grin
Martin..
fazzer 10 54 7 United Kingdom
29 Jul 2012 6:22PM
Trust you to seek this one outWink,nicely processed and i like the inclusion of the flower to bring out the extremes of life and death

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