The Halifax Gibbet
The most notable forerunner of the guillotine was in use in Halifax, England, from 1286 until 1650. Convicted criminals - those who stole goods assessed by four constables to be worth over 5p. - were taken to the gibbet on market day for execution. When the offender was placed with his head on the block every man nearby took hold of the rope and gave a mighty pull to unleash the pin and allow the blade to crash down, thereby placing justice into the hands of the people.