by James Pigot (1818)
Halifax is an ancient, populous, and flourishing town, in the west riding of the county of York, seated on a branch of the river Calder, in a barren and mountainous country. The church is an old but stately and venerable pile, containing many extraordinary monuments of great antiquity. The streets of the town are mostly narrow and irregular, the houses in general are built of stone, and some of the more modern ones are large and handsome. A singular custom long prevailed in this parish, called Halifax gibbet-law. It consisted of a summary mode of trying, and capitally punishing, felons taken within the liberties, with the goods found upon them, or by their own confession; the mode of execution was beheading, by means of an instrument called a gibbet. A similar machine was for some time in use at Edinburgh; but it will be best known by the name of guillotine; an engine by which the sanguinary and savage rulers of the French republic glutted themselves with blood. This law seems to have been granted to the parish for the protection of the woollen manufactory, which was early brought to great perfection here; but has not been in use since the year 1650. Halifax is the centre of the woollen manufactory, and enjoys the benefit of water carriage, both to Manchester and Hull. This place has long been famous for the manufacture of various sorts of goods; but the staple trade consists of stuff goods of various descriptions, many of which are finished on the spot. Cloth and coatings have also been introduced within these few years, the manufacture of which is carried on to a considerable extent in the vicinity of the town; and the spinning of cotton forms now no inconsiderable branch of business in the neighbourhood. The Piece-hall, or Manufacturers’-hall, is an elegant and useful edifice, erected at an expence of about £12.000. in which goods are exposed for sale two hours every Saturday. The market is on Saturday; and the fairs are, June 24th. and the first Saturday after the 5th of November. In 1443 there were no more than 13 houses in the town; its present population is about ten thousand.