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Hull, Hell & Halifax


The cry:

From Hull, Hell and Halifax, Good Lord deliver us!

is said to be a thief's plea to be spared the punishment offered at the three places.

In 1639, John Taylor published a book entitled News from Hell, Hull, and Halifax, and his poem of 1622 includes the above plea.

In 1709, the proverb was explained in the British Apollo journal

The Proverb is of Modern Origin, and ow'd its introduction to an Order made, by the Magiſtrates of HULL and HALIFAX, to Whip all Beggars out of the Town, who came anear 'em. This provoked the ſuffering Mortals to add HELL, to make the Third to two alike deteſted Places

It has been suggested that the quotation is properly:

From Hull, Elland, Halifax, Good Lord deliver us!

A longer form of the litany reads

There is a proverb and a prayer withall,
That we may not to three strange places fall;
From Hull, from Hell, from Halifax, 'tis this,
From all these three, Good Lord, deliver us.
This praying proverb's meaning to set down,
Men do not wish deliverance from the town;
The town's named Kingston, Hull's the furious river;
And from Halifax's dangers, I say, Lord, deliver.
At Halifax, the law so sharp doth deal,
That whoso more than 13 pence doth steal;
They have a gyn that wondrous, quick and well,
Sends thieves all headless unto Heaven or Hell.
From Hell each man says Lord, deliver me.
Because from Hell can no redemption be.
Men may escape from Hull and Halifax,
But sure in Hell, there is not heaier tax.
Let each one for themselves in this agree,
And pray – from Hell, Good Lord, deliver me
In Graptolite's historical notes on the Church at Sowerby he quotes a former vicar of Sowerby who says:
There were gibbets at Sheffield, Hull, and Halifax. Sheffield is the county of Hallam. There was a city in the parish called Hallam, or Haellam, hence the saying from Haell, the abbreviation for Hallam, or Hell

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© Malcolm Bull 2013 / calderdale@aol.com
Revised 16:10 on 30th August 2013 / mmh235 / 5