Eng. (Lancashire). Parish Bury.

The registers of the parish church of Bury in the County of Lancasrter. Christenings, burials, & weddings (Volume 2) online

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THE GIBBET LAW. 71

fasten it to the block above mentioned. The axe thus fixed was
drawn up to the top by means of a cord and pulley, and at the end
of the cord was a pin, which being fixed either to the side of the
scaffold, or some part below, kept it suspended, till either by pulling
out the pin, or cutting the cord, it was suffered to fall, and the
criminal's head was instantly separated from his body. This pro-
ceeding has been differently related. Harrison tells us, that every
man present took hold of the rope, or put forth his arm as near to
it as he could, in token that he was willing to see true justice
executed, and that the pin was pulled out in this manner ; but if
tlie offender was apprehended for stealing an ox, sheep, horse, &c.
the end of the rope was fastened to the beast, which being driven,
pulled out the pin."*

Taylor, in his book before alluded to, asserts, that the line was
cut, and that no man might cut it but the owner of the stolen
goods, which if he did, he had all again ; but if he would not cut
it, he lost all ; the goods were employed to some charitable uses,
and the thief escaped. Camden says, if the execution was not
done by a beast, the bailiff, or his servant, cut the rope ; this last
in all probability, was the fact, and is so represented in Bentley's
account. The time of the execution was known by the jurors
(if they could properly be so called Avho were not sworn) holding
up one of their hands ; for it seems they were under the necessity
of being present at the execution of those whom they had found
guilty, doubtless to give it the greater appearance of justice, and
accordingly, " the bailiff, jurors, and the minister chosen by the
prisoner, were always on the scaffold with him." Wright adds,
" that the fourth psalm was played round the scaffold, on the bag-
pipes ; after which, the minister prayed with him a while, till he
underwent the fatal stroke."

• Wright, in an extract from a work entitled "a Tour through the whole Island of
Great Britain," has a story " of a countrywoman who was riding by the Gibbet, on her
hampers to the market, just at the execution of a criminal, when the axe chopt his neck
through with such force, that the head jumpt into one of her hampers, or (as others say)
seized her apron with the teeth, and there stuck for some time." It is useless employing
words about this affair, but the circumstance may serve to shew with what apathy the
country people regarded this mode of punishment; their minds were evidently hardened
by such exhibitions, and the fact developes the inadequacy of such awful administrations
of justice to produce that proper moral, and salutary effect which might have been ;mtici-
paled ;— such scenes, oft repeated, appear to harden, rather than soften— to slupify, rather
than awaken the sensibilities of man's nature.



72 THE GIBBET LAW.

' ' Having now completed the circumstantial account of this curious
custom, it is time, says Watson, to enquire how long it may have
been exercised.

" In Domesday-book, the manor of Halifax (with several others
in that neighbourhood) is put down, though not expressly by that
name, as having been part of the demesne lands of king Edward,
but at the making of that survey, in the hands of the crown ; pro-
bably therefore nothing of this sort was exercised then, nor till the
manor of Wakefield (of which this was part) was bestowed on Earl
Warren ; for in the reign of king Edward I . at the pleas of assizes
and jurats at the borough of Scarborough, John, the 7th Earl, in
answer to a Avrit of Quo warranto, said that he claimed gallows at
Coningsborough, and Wakefield, and the power of doing what
belonged to a gallows in all his lands and fees, and that he, and all
his ancestors, had used the same from time immemorial ; to which
it was answered, on the part of the king, that the aforesaid liberties
belonged merely to the crown, and that no long seisin, or prescrip-
tion of time, ought to prejudice the king ; and that the earl had no
special warrant for the said liberties, therefore judgment was
desired, if the seisin could be to the said earl a sufficient warrant."

From hence it is plain, that the charter containing these privi-
leges could not be produced, even about the year 1280; the
prescriptive right was, however, deemed good, for upon the inqui-
sition taken afterwards, it does not appear that any thing was
found for the king.

It seems to have been universally agreed, that theft was the only
thing cognisable in this court ; and yet in a manuscript in the
Harleian collection in the British Museum, No. 797, under the
title Halifax, is the following entry : " The court of the Countess,
held 30th January, 33 Edw. III. It is found by inquisition, that
if any tenant of this lordship of Halifax be beheaded for theft, or
other cause, that the heirs of the same tenant ought not to lose
their inheritance, notwithstanding any lease made in the mean time
by the steward."

It has been stated that the custom was appurtenant to the
forest of Hardwick ; and Bentley refers to Manwood's discourse of
forest laws, for an elucidation on this subject ; but it is clear that
the custom had nothing to do with a forest at all. Halifax seems



THE GIBBET LAW. 73

not to have stood in a forest ; for at the above mentioned pleas of
assizes and jurats at Scarborough, earl Warren being summoned
to answer by what warrant he appropriated to himself the divisions
of Halifax, &c. his reply was, that he claimed no forest in the said
lands, only free chase, and free warren. 2dly. Because these
privileges were so commonly exercised in other places, where there
was not the least pretension to a forest. In fact, they are in them-
selves older than any known forest laws, except those of Knute
are genuine, which Sir Edward Coke says are to be suspected.
Now if these proceedings at Halifax were not in consequence of a
forest being there, how can it be thought that they were allowed,
as mentioned in Wright, for the preservation either of the King's,
or Baron's deer.'' If of the King's, then would the King's officers
have exercised that power ; if of the Barons, why did they execute
for every kind of theft, provided the proofs were manifest ? and
why were two men beheaded for a robbery committed in Lancashire .''
The truth is, that this power was annexed to a manor, and not a
forest ; but being within the purlieu of a forest, the preservation of
the venison might amongst others, be one object of it.

It has generally been supposed, that the punishment by decolla-
tion was practised in no part of England but at Halifax, upon com-
mon offenders ; but in the Harleian MSS. No. 980. fol. 355, is the
following remark : " Aunciently the several customes of places
made in those dayes capitall punishments severall. Apud Dover
infalistatus, apud Southampton submersus, apud Winton demem-
bratus, vel decapitatus, ut apud Northampton, &c." Watson
refers to a MS. relating to the earls of Chester, containing extracts
from some records, wherein it is said, that " the Serjeants or bailiffs
of the earls had power to behead any malefactor, or thief, who was
apprehended in the action, or against whom it was made apparent
by sufficient witness, or confession, before four inhabitants of the
place, or rather before four inhabitants of the four neighboring
towns." Then follows an account of the presenting of several
heads of felons at the castle of Chester, according to custom, by
the Earl's Serjeants (Servientes pacis.) And it must have been
the usual way to behead malefactors in this county, because
in a Roll 3 Edw. II. it is called the Custom of Cheshire. These
are direct, and evident proofs, that the beheading of criminals was



74 THE GIBBET LAW.

not peculiar to Halifax, but was exercised likewise In other parts
of the kingdom ; and accordingly It seems to have been known to
be so, even In later times ; for In the second volume of HoUlnshed's
Chronicle, printed In 1577, at p. 654, Is a wood cut, representing
the execution of a man who attempted to murder king Henry HI.
The criminal Is laid within such a gibbet as that at Halifax, only
the axe Is suspended from the top by a cord, which the executioner
Is cutting with a knife, similar to an engraved representation of the
Halifax gibbet in Moll's set of fifty maps of England and Wales,
Lond. 1724, where the bailiff, or some other person is cutting the
rope. Also in Fox's book of Martyrs, vol. 1. p. 37. Lond. 1684,
Is a plate of this sort.

From whence the custom of beheading criminals with an engine
originally came, is not easy to say. It seems that Earl Morton,
the Regent of Scotland, carried a model of the Gibbet from Halifax to
his own country, where It remained so long unused, that it acquired
the name of the maiden. The Scots have a tradition, that the first
Inventor of this machine, Avas the first who suffered by it. So far
Is certain, that Earl Morton, who was executed June 2, 1581, had
his head taken off by such an Instrument as this ; for in the Continu-
ation of HoUlnshed's Chronicle of Scotland, we read, "that having
laid his necke under the axe, he cried, Lord Jesus receive my spirit,
Avhich words he spake, even while the axe fell on his necke."

It is evident that such a contrivance Avas known In Germany
before the execution of Earl Morton ; for there is a small print, by
Aldegraver, one of the German masters in 1553, representing Titus
Manllus standing by to see the execution of his son, for fighting con-
trary to his orders. The axe hangs over his neck, suspended by a
cord ; there are hollows cut in the two uprights, to direct it in its
descent, but being a side view, the method made use of to cause it
to fall. Is not represented. An officer who stands by the side of
Manllus, has his left hand on the criminal's head.

There are engravings of it In books printed so early as 1510.
In Evelyn's memoirs (1645) is the following; "At Naples they use
a frame, like ours at Halifax. The next day I saw a wretch executed,
who had murther'd his master, for Avhich he had his head chop'd off
Ijy an axe slid down a frame of timber, the executioner striking at
the axe with a bcatlc, and so the head fell off the block."



THE GIBBET LAW. 75

And from a Polish journal it appears that not long since two an-
cient benches, to which two small tables with carvings in wood were
attached, stood beneath the choir of St. Nicholas' church in Kalisch.
One table represented the martyrdom of St. LaAvrence, and the other
the death of some unknown martyr by an engine similar in every
respect to the Gibbet in use here. The table is deposited in the
museum of Polish antiquities at Pulawy.

It was first introduced into France during the revolution, by Dr.
Guillotine a physician, and hence its name there.

It is a circumstance worth remarking, that this power of the
Barons, to inflict capital punishment, was kept up at Halifax, a
considerable time after it had ceased in every other part of the
kingdom. This, however, as I take it, (says Watson) was merely
accidental ; the privilege (as it is called) was not taken away from
any place, by act of parliament, but dropt by degrees, as the motives
for its continuance became less necessary. And surely it was but
right, as the tenures in capite ceased, that the liberties therev/ith
granted- should cease also. As Halifax however was a j^lace of so
much ti-ade, this custom which struck such a terror into thieves in
general, was found to be so highly beneficial to the honest manu-




111 K Gli-iJSEL



76 THE GIBBET LAW.

facturers there, that they kept it up as long as they dare : And
it is very probable that it had not ceased when it did, if the bailiiF
had not been threatened, after the last executions, that if ever he
attempted the like again, he should be called to a public account
for it.

The foregoing account appears to have been drawn up by Watson
with so much accuracy that I have in few places presumed to alter
it. The records of executions before the time of Elizabeth are lost ;
but during her reign twenty-five persons suffered under it, and from
1623 to 1650 there were twelve executions. This is certainly a
formidable catalogue, for the time it takes in, and has doubtless given
rise to the expression, "From Hell, Hull, and Halifax, good Lord
deliver us," which says Fullek "is part of the Beggars' and Vagrants'
Litany : of these three frightful things unto them, it is feared that
they least fear the first, conceiting it the furthest from them. Hull
is terrible unto them as a town of good government where they meet
with punitive charity, and 'tis to be feared are oftener corrected than
amended. Halifax is formidable unto them for the law thereof,
whereby thieves, taken in the very act of stealing cloth are instantly
beheaded with an engine, without any further legal proceedings."



THE ADVOWSON,



The following grant may be considered as the oldest evidence on
record relating to the Parochial Church of Halifax. It is printed in
the Monasticon, vol. i. p. 617, and the following is extracted from
Archbishop Corbridge's Register at York, fo. 9. It purports to be
a grant and confirmation, from an Earl of Warren to the Priory of
Lewes in Sussex, of certain churches within the Manor of Wakefield,
and other places. I have before had occasion to refer to it in con-
nection with the manorial history.

In Leland's Collectunae, vol. i. p. 238, is the following "Wil-
liam the first (Earl of Warren) cam into England Avith William
Conquerour, and foundid the priorie of Lewis the xii yere after the
conquest in the yere of our Lord 1072."

"Sciant presentes & futuri, quod ego Wiliielmus, Comes de
Warrena, dono, concedo, & hac presenti carta mea confirmo, Deo
& S. Pancratio,* de Lewes, & monachis ibidem Deo servientibus,
pro salute animse mese, & Willielmi patris mei, et omnium suc-
cessorum nostrorum ; Ecclesiam de Conningburgh, cum ecclesiis,
capellis, terris, et decimis, & omnibus ad eas pertinentibus ; scilicet
Ecclesiam deBraythewell cum pertinentiis. Ecclesiam de Donigthon
cum pert. Ecclesiam de Herthill cum pert. Ecclesiam de Fislak cum
pert. Ecclesiam de Hetfeld, cum capella de Thome, et omnibus pert.
Ecclesiam de Parva Sandale, cum capella de Hernoldesthorp, cum
omnibus pert. Ecclesiam etiam de Wakefeld, cum capella de Horbyry,
& omnibus pert, suis, Ecclesiam de Halyfax cum omnibus pert, suis,

• Sir Henry Spelman in his treatise of ancient deeds and charters observes that it was
ordinary, in ancient times, (o make grants to persons intellectual and invisible, as God him-
self, the blessed Trinity, the Church, the Apostles, the Saints, &c. who had beenlongdead :
but after the time of Henry iii (he observes with little delicacy of expression) God's omni-
potency was in point of law disabled to purchase, or to take by grant, &c. ; and so also was
the spouse, the church ; for the law thinks it no reason the wife should be in bettercondition
than her husband. The whole army of saints were hkewise disabled.



78 THE ADVOWSON.

Ecclesiam de Dewesbyry, cum capella de Hertesheved, & omnibus
pert, suis Ecclesiam de Birton cum pert, suis, Ecclesiam de Majori
Sandale cum omnibus pert. suis. Et si forte terrse in quibus sitK
sunt predictse ecclesise in alterius alicujus dominium quam in meum,
sive per homagium et servicium, sive per maritagium, sive alio
quocunque modo devenerint, volo nibilominus et percipio, ut prae-
dictse ecclesise, et omnes alise quas habent de feodo meo, prsedictis
Monachis ad sustentionem eorum libere et quiete semper remaneant,
ita ut nuUus omnino hominum in eisdem ecclesiis aliquod jus advo-
cationis sive presentationis sibi posset vendicare preter ipsos Monachos
meos, quibus totum jus quod unquam habui, vel habere potui, in
eisdem ecclesiis, dedi et concessi, nuUo mihi vel heredibus raeis in
eisdem ecclessiis jure retento. Hiis testibus Radulpho de Warren,
Hugone de Petroponte, Radulpho de Playz, Rob. de Frivele,
Reginaldo de "Warren, Adam de Poning, Gwyd de Mencecourt,
Will, de Drosaio, et multis aliis."

It will be observed that this grant, like most of our charters at
that early period, is without date ; and hence has arisen the doubt,
to which of the Earls Warren it is to be attributed. At this distance
of time it certainly imports but little who was the donor ; I have
given the opinions both of our ancient and modern historians as
they bear upon the question ; they may be read with interest, but
yet leave the point involved in a little obscurity.

DuGDALE has attributed the grant to the first Earl of Warren,
who died in 1088, shortly after Domesday was finished, although
no notice is taken of a Church at Halifax in that return ; on the
contrary it is said "In Wachefeld, kc. sunt duo Ecclesise;" the
churches of Wakefield and Sandal being at that time in existence.

" I would rather" says Watson "attribute the grant to the second
Earl of Warren, who died in 11 38, and who, I have reason to believe,
was the first of that family who ever possessed any estates in
Yorkshire, except Coningsborough and its dependencies." In
Watson's Memoirs of the Earls Warren, this grant is certainly placed
among the charters of the second Earl, and is there stated as having
been so entered in the Chartulary of the Priory of Lewes, and con-
firmed as the grant of that Earl, in a charter of Thomas, Duke of
Norfolk, at the request of John Ok, prior of Lewes and the convent
there, in the Castle of Lewes. ,



THE ADVOWSON. 79

Mr. Hunter Is of opinion* that the grant was that of the third
Earl, and not the second, and assigns as a reason for transferring
this important charter to the third Earl, from the second, to whom
it had theretofore been usually assigned, that " in the Monasticon,
vol. i. p. 15 of the second edition, is a charter of a William, Earl
Warren, who must be the third, because one of the witnesses is
Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury. Among the lay witnesses
to this charter we find the names which are appended to the charter
before referred to (when treating of the Manor, p. 50) namely, the
three bishops, Ralph, Gundulph, and Wakeline, and some others,
and placed nearly in the same order. Secondly, in a Chartulary of
the priory of Lewes, then in possession of the Earl of Dorset,
DoDswoRTH read an account of the donation of the above churches,
accompanied by the ceremony of cutting a lock of hair from the
heads of the Earl and Reginald his brother,! in the presence of
Archbishop Theobald and other distinguished ecclesiastics. Theo-
bald was not seated in the archiepiscopal throne, till some time after
the death of the second Earl."

This point being settled, it remains to prove to which of the
Saxon parishes this wild and waste district, now constituting the
Parish of Halifax, had antecedently belonged. It could only have
belonged to Morley, or to Dewsbury, which were the parents of all
the filial churches in the hundred, (wapontake }) but its dependance
upon the latter is not proved by any ancient pension, like those due
from Bradford, Thornhill, Mirfield, Huddersfield, and others. We
must therefore have recourse to other evidence.

Now in the endowment of the vicarage of Dewsbury, A. D, 1349,
is a recital of the great tithes, out of which certain payments are
reserved to the incumbent of the church of Dewsbury, and among
these are included " decimse et portiones garbarum de Halifax debit,
et ab antiquo solvi consuet." How or when the payment ceased is
immaterial — it once existed. In confirmation of this Watson says
"I have seen a deed at Plaintrees, in Shelf, wherein mention was
made of tithes in the township of Hipperholme, which was parcel

• Hunter's South I'orkMre. Vol. i.

+ Mr . EUis speaks of this as the most curious mode of investiture he had seen. De
Vaines notices a charter which was attested thus : "presonti scripto sigilli mei robur apposui
cum tribuspilis barbcR viffcn."



80 THE ADVOWSON.

of the rectory of DeAvsbury." The Parish of Halifax therefore was
taken out of Dewsbury, which there is every reason to believe was
the mother church of this part of the country, Paulinus, Archbishop
of York, having preached there in the year 627.

The Church seems to have been endowed with an ample glebe,
and the rector had certainly a Manor, which by degrees came to be
described as the Manor of Halifax. This is proved as follows. In
the general survey of the Duchy of Lancaster, A. D. 1577, is this
return ; " Halifax cu' Heptenstall. — Maneriu' ib"m parcel, possession
nuper Prior' de Lewes com. Sussex est infra cur. visus franc pleg.
cum tumo Dom. de Wakefield, ad man\im nup. Regis Hen. VIII.
devent. ratione dissolutionis nuper Prior, de Lewes, modo in manu
Rob. Waterhouse.

It was the manor of the rectory therefore which the Waterhouses
held, by grant from the crown, after the dissolution of the priory of
Lewes. But why Halifax cum Heptenstall ? At the time of the
endowment of the Vicarage of Halifax, A. D. 1273, there must have
been a glebe belonging to the parochial chapel there, which was
considered as part of the glebe of the rectory, and consequently of
the rectory manor. From the foundation of the Church to this time,
a period perhaps of 160 years, the benefice, though the advowson
had been granted to the monks, was rectorial and presentative.
Accordingly we find it, not very long after the Conquest, yet
after Domesday, going under the name of a rectory, and Adam de
Copley, a younger son of Hugh de Copley, of Copley, in Skircoat,
near Halifax, named as one of the Rectors, if not the first, for he
was grandson of Adam de Copley, who was slain at the siege of
York, in 1070.* Whether any thing particular was given to the
rectors of this church, besides the tithes and other dues, to which
they were entitled by law, no evidence remains to shew, except in i
the instance of an undated deed, a copy of which Watson stated to \
have been in his possession, and ran thus : " Ego Rob-'tus filius Ric.
de Talvas, dedi, &c. Tho. fil. Ric. de Coppley totam illam terram
quam Ricardus pater mens quondam tenuit de Deo et Sco". Johanne
Baptista et ecclesia de Halifax in villa de Hipperhome ;" And in

• " Now certainly, it is a fact capable of proof that there might be an Adam, rector of
Halifax, about the year 1130, reckoning according to the order of nature, from his grand-
father's death ; and he might be born at Copley, but the age of local surnames was not yet.'
— Dr. Whitaker's Loidis et Elmetr, p. 331.



THE ADVOWSON. 81

another deed, without date, there is mention made of land lying
"inter assartum sacerdotis, et magnam viam in Hipperhome;" but
whether the same as the above is not clear. This latter deed seems
to be older than the founding of any chantry in Halifax church, and
the former, doubtless, belonged to the Rectors or Impropriators,
otherwise it had still belonged to the Vicars, which it does not.'
There is reason to believe the income was something considerable,
both from the very large extent of the parish, and because we find
persons of no mean account possessed of the living, such as Adam de
Copley, whose family was the most flourishing at that time in these
parts. Its wealth rendered it an object to foreigners, and other
improper persons, who were obtruded on the monks, as they com-
plained, by great men, meaning no doubt their own patrons, the
Earls Warren. This is intimated in the endowment itself.

Of these wealthy and too useless ecclesiastics little is known.
The last rector, however, we know to have been William de
Chameur, a Frendiman, who ceded the rectory of Halifax on being
promoted to the bishopric of Lofon in his own country. On his
resignation the appropriation took place, and the prior and convent
of Lewes presented to the newly endowed vicarage one Ingolard de
Turbard. who, after the celebration of high mass by Gilbert de Sc~to
Leofardo. Vicar General to Archbishop Walter Gray, was solemnly
inducted into the same in the presence of Gilbert de Angell, rector
of ThornhiU, Tho. de Boleau, rector of Birstall, Thomas, rector of
Heaton, then rural dean, and others. From this period the suc-
cession of incumbents (with one or two exceptions) is clear and
certain. The endowment of the vicarage, as will hereafter appear,
was ample ; from the extent of the parish, and the value of the
patronage, the benefice has always been an object of ambition to
considerable men. their memories have been Avell preserved ; and
there is perhaps no parish church in the kingdom in Avhich the
arms of the incumbents have been continued through a period of



Online LibraryEng. (Lancashire). Parish BuryThe registers of the parish church of Bury in the County of Lancasrter. Christenings, burials, & weddings (Volume 2) → online text (page 8 of 52)