Random Fact

The first magazine to have a car advert was Scientific America in 1898. The advert was placed by the Winton Motor Car Company in the USA and invited readers to "dispense with a horse".

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The first mention of the French Revolutionaries’ choice method of relieving aristocrats of their heads comes from Halifax, West Yorkshire. According to official documents the Halifax Gibbet was used to execute at least fifty-three people between 1286 and 1650.

The gibbet was a monolithic wooden structure created from two fifteen foot high uprights capped by a horizontal beam. The blade was an axe head, attached to a wooden block that slid up and down via grooves in the uprights. This device was mounted on a large, square, platform which was itself four foot high.

Medieval Halifax was an extremely affluent town with a vibrant textiles industry; the gibbet being used to deter temptation getting the better of would-be thieves. Punishments were so severe that the Beggar’s Litany, a prayer by poet John Taylor, contains the lines “From Hell, Hull, and Halifax may the Good Lord deliver us.”

It wasn’t until 1789 that Dr Joseph Ignace Guillotin proposed that France should use a similar device. However, much to his family’s dismay, his name became inextricably linked to the machine. Historians estimate that the French sent 15,000 people to the guillotine. However, it’s the Nazis who really got heads to roll; between 1938 and 1945 they decapitated a staggering 40,000 criminals.

An engraving of the Halifax gibbet

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08 Jan 2011
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