From our Collection: Mantrap

From our Collection: Mantrap

Catch a poacher

A mantrap was a mechanical device for catching poachers and trespassers.  In the early 19th century rural labourers couldn’t earn enough to  support their famiiies so to keep from starving they resorted to poaching.

Landowners would set steel mantraps in their gardens – a stick held the jaws open, ready for the unwary poacher to step on the plate. When he did, the catch was released and the toothed jaws on steel springs snapped onto the poacher’s  leg. The traps were  supposedly designed not  to break a leg but this was poor consolation because they did smash the bones and cripple the victim for life.  It takes a key to open the jaws and they can’t be prised apart.

In 1827 mantraps were made illegal in England –except  between sunset and sunrise against burglars.

 Bear trap

Bear trapThe Ypres Tower  also has a bear trap. This is probably because a  dancing bear was housed, muzzled,  in a heavily barred shed behind the Jolly Sailor which provided accommodation for the bear’s owner and hurdy gurdy man.  Dancing bears, often from Russia,  were a popular form of street entertainment in Victorian times and into the 20th century.


Mermaid Street with bear

As you can see, the bear was big and the trap no doubt a precaution.





First posted in From Our Collection on 24th March 2013
Last updated: 5th May 2013