Published On: Sat, Nov 8th, 2014 on 3:28 pm

10 things you probably didn’t know about Halifax

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Halifax is a small town in West Yorkshire rich with history and culture.

Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about Halifax, which range from fascinating to the obscure.

10. Thieves were beheaded at the Halifax Gibbet

Halifax Gibbet

Halifax was notorious for a guillotine that was used to execute criminals by decapitation.

Long before the French Revolution, thieves who were caught in Halifax were tried by a jury. If found guilty of stealing goods worth more than 13 1/2d, they were sentenced to be beheaded at the ‘Halifax Gibbet’.

At least 50 people have been recorded being beheaded by the guillotine, and a man named John Wilkinson was the last to be executed in 1650 for stealing 16 yards of cloth.

A road named Gibbet Street has been named after the guillotine, and a replica stands at the bottom of the road.

9. Hysteria made locals believe a ‘Halifax Slasher’ was on the loose

In 1938, locals reported attacks that were believed to be committed by a mysterious man who had ‘bright buckles’ on his shoes. He was nicknamed the ‘Halifax Slasher’.

The first attack involved two girls who claimed they were attacked by a man with a mallet. Other attacks, not involving a mallet, followed suit.

These attacks resulted in mass hysteria, with rewards being offered to catch the culprit and vigilante gangs roaming the streets. Several men who were mistaken for the ‘Slasher’ were supposedly beaten up.

After detectives examined the case, they came to the conclusion that there was no ‘Slasher’ at all. One of the victims confessed to harming themselves and others made similar admissions.

8. Dean Clough Mills was the largest carpet factory in the world

Dean Clough Halifax

Dean Clough Mills is a centre for business and arts, located on a site that was once the world’s largest carpet factory.

It was built during 1840 and 1860 for carpet manufacturer Crossley and by 1860, it was the town’s biggest employer. It covered around 20 acres.

In the twentieth century, the firm was taken over by Carpets International, but the scale of operations reduced and the mills were closed down in 1983.

The mills are still present today, and hosts space for small businesses, galleries, and has conference facilities.

7. 400 youngsters were caught drinking in a Halifax club

In 2005, the Tramshed Zoo Bar faced losing its licence after 80% of its 400 revellers were discovered as under-age.

Some of the youngsters were reported as so drunk they could ‘barely stand up’, according to inspectors at the time.

Police also found some doormen standing outside who were not registered and one was arrested after police seized a knuckle-duster.

The bar supposedly became one of the first clubs to be closed down under the 2003 Licensing Act for having under-age drinkers on its premises.

6. A scene from “Brassed Off” was filmed at the Piece Hall

The Piece Hall Halifax

The Piece Hall in Halifax opened in 1779 built as a place for handloom weavers to sell their pieces of cloth.

It grew overtime to become a central landmark in Halifax and a location for local businesses and merchants to sell their goods.

The Piece Hall was also used in several television programmes and films, including the film “Brassed Off” starring Pete Postlethwaite and Ewan McGregor.

In the film, the Piece Hall is the setting of the National Brass Band Championships.

5. Halifax was home to a school dubbed as ‘Britain’s worst’

The Ridings School was located in Ovenden, and was labelled as the worst school in the country after it gained national media attention.

From 1996, there were concerns about poor behaviour and low standards. Teachers at the school threatened to walk out over the poor behaviour of pupils, Ofsted did an emergency inspection, and the school faced a temporary closure after fears that the school was running ‘out of control’.

A former chief school inspector was once quoted in the press for saying: “It was clear, that the school could not account for the whereabouts of their pupils or guarantee their safety.”

Headteachers tried to improve the school, but it was closed by the council in 2009.

4. The man who designed the Town Hall designed Parliament

Halifax Town Hall

In 1834, the Palace of Westminster in London was destroyed by a great fire, so a public competition was held to develop a design for its rebuilding.

An architect named Charles Barry was chosen the winner of over 90 other architects, and over the next several years he worked to create the Houses of Parliament.

In Yorkshire, the small town of Halifax received its charter of incorporation in 1848. A Corporation met in the Old Assembly Rooms and planned for a new Town Hall.

A number of designs were put forward on how the Town Hall would look and in 1859, the committee decided to consult Sir Charles Barry for advice on which one was best. He proposed a design of his own.

Barry submitted his sketches, they were approved, and work began on the Town Hall later.

Sir Charles’ son, Edward Middleton Barry, was able to take over the work when Sir Charles died in 1860.

3. A Halifax man became a Governor of Washington

Ernest Lister was born in 1870 and immigrated from Halifax with his family to the United States when he was 14 to be near his uncle, who was the mayor of Tacoma, Washington.

Lister was elected to the Tacoma City Council in 1894 as a Populist and was appointed chairman of the State Board of Control in 1896.

In 1913, he became the eighth Governor of the state of Washington.

He was re-elected in 1916, and remained in the position until his death six years later. He died one day before his 49th birthday.

2. Wrestling legend ‘Big Daddy’ was born in Halifax

Shirley Crabtree Big Daddy

Shirley Crabtree, better known as ‘Big Daddy’, was a professional wrestler famous for his record-breaking 64-inch chest.

He was born in Halifax, was a former rugby league player, worked as a coal miner and a lifeguard before becoming a professional wrestler in 1952.

Traditionally entering the ring in either a sequinned cape or a Union Flag jacket and top hat, Big Daddy faced opponents such as Dave “Fit” Finlay, Drew McDonald and King Kong Kirk in his career.

After he retired, he spent most of his days in Halifax. In 1997, he died of a stroke at the age of 67 at Halifax General Hospital.

1. Michael Jackson performed in Halifax

In 1979, Michael Jackson performed at the Halifax Civic Theatre with the Jackson 5.

They had been booked for two shows in the evening and although the second performance was nearly a sell-out, the audience for the first was sparse.

According to Trevor Simpson’s book of pop-music memories of Halifax, ‘l Small Town Saturday Night Vol 2’, an argument broke out between the Jackson 5 from the moment they arrived at the theatre which led to one of them asking for a separate dressing room.

Three girls managed to go backstage, and a photo was taken of that moment.

Michael Jackson Halifax

Image courtesy: Trevor Simpson ‘l Small Town Saturday Night Vol 2’, Thomas Allen’s ‘A New and Complete History of the County of York’ (1829).

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  1. Sally says:

    Love this! Do Huddersfield next :)

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