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Man trap used in the gardens of Billown House

Date made: late 18th century-early 19th century

Description: This cast iron man trap was used in the gardens of Billown House.

The trap would have been concealed in long grass. The pressure of a foot standing on the plate releases the spring, causing the toothed jaws to close upon the victim's leg, inflicting severe injuries. At the very least these would be lacerations of the flesh, but tendon and ligament damage and even fracture of the bone could result.

The use of man traps and spring guns grew up as the popularity of shooting game for sport increased. This was set against a background of increasing hardship for the working classes in the early 19th century, which in turn led to a rise in poaching from landed estates. The traps were completely arbitrary and often landowners or their servants were killed or injured by them. They were greatly feared, and often a sign warning of them was a sufficient deterrent in itself. In the 1820s they were decried as inhumane and barbaric. Man traps were made illegal in England in 1827, but they were not outlawed in the Isle of Man until 1872.

Measurements: overall: 26 x 38 x 180 cm

Materials: metal: iron, paint: oil

Object name: man trap

Collection: Social History Collection

ID Number: 1954-0086

Subject tags : #MM100COLLECTIONS


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