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Halifax Moot Hall

Exterior shot of The Moot Hall, Nelson Street, Halifax, West Yorkshire.

The manor court was held in the Moot Hall, moot being an old English word meaning an assembly. This small timber-framed building stood close to the Parish Church, at the north-west corner, on a large common field called the Hall Ing. There was little furniture other than a rough table and a bench, which were for the lord's officers. Everyone else had to stand. The steward of the Earl of Warrenne presided over the court. There was also a criminal court known as the Tourn.

The Wakefield manorial court travelled on circuit twice a year, usually in May and October, and from 1274 it sat at the Moot Hall while dealing with cases relating to the Upper Calder Valley. Unlike most lords of the manor the earls of Warrenne held the right to carry out summary trial and the execution of thieves caught in the bailiwick of Sowerbyshire, and the gibbet, which was an early instrument for decapitation and predated the guillotine by some five hundred years, was used from 1286 until 1650.

The king granted to only a few of his subjects the privilege of holding such a court and the Warrennes received this power along with the grant of the manor as it had formerly belonged to King Edward the Confessor.

The manor of Halifax, which was part of the royal manor of Wakefield, was granted to William de Warrenne, second earl of Surrey, by Henry I in 1106. A little later the sub-manor was granted to Lewes Priory in Sussex.

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