The Halifax gibbet

The Halifax gibbet – a form of guillotine which between roughly 1500 and 1650 chopped the heads off of around 100 people – will be commemorated by the installation of a new ‘heritage board’ giving details of its working and history, alongside the replica gibbet in the town’s centre.

The gibbet owed its existence to an obscure law that gave the Lord of the Manor the authority to order the execution of any thief caught with stolen goods to the value of 13½ pennies or more.

An axe head was 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.