Register of ancient monuments

Reference number 1005802

Remains Of Gibbet
Gibbet Street
West Yorkshire


Site visit: 09/OCT/1985

This platform upon which the gibbet was erected, stands in the middle of a small yard of the Waterworks department of the Halifax Corporation. The gibbet was re-erected here in 1645. This historic spot is noteworthy not because Halifax has a monopoly on the privilege of beheading but because it continued so long here after it had been abandoned elsewhere. Persons stealing property to the value of 13 1/2d were liable to be gibbeted. Three men were gibbeted for this same offence in 1650, the last occasion upon which it was used.

'From Hell, Hull and Halifax, good Lord deliver us!' On viewing this formidable site, one can appreciate the meaning of this phrase. Long before the French Revolution, thieves (particularly those who stole textiles) who were caught within the Halifax boundary were tried by jury. If found guilty of stealing goods worth more than 13 1/2d the sentence was death by beheading. The instrument used was a guillotine type gibbet. This consisted of two strong upright posts between which was suspended a large axe blade set in runners and supported by a long rope. It was the right of all citizens present at the execution particularly the owner of the stolen goods, to pull on this rope, to raise the blade. When released it fell upon the neck of the convicted felon. If, however, between conviction and execution the felon managed to escape over the Halifax boundary he avoided this dire punishment.

There is only one record of this happening. The first recorded execution was John of Dalton in 1286, after which at least 52 names of those beheaded are known. The last time the gibbet was used was in 1650 when John Wilkinson was executed for stealing 16yds of cloth. All that remains of the original gibbet is the platform composed of stone blocks and measuring 9ft by 9ft by 4ft. There is a flight of stone steps up the W side. It is situated in a small paved area within a small public garden. On top of the platform a replica of the gibbet instrument has been erected. However, there is no rope and the blade is fixed so it is not in working order. One of the original axe blades can be seen in the museum in the Halifax Piece Hall. A commemorative plaque has been placed nearby recording the history of the gibbet and a list of the 52 names of those known to have been executed there.

Last Updated: 07/10/2004