Blaker Family of Sussex - Reminiscences


Steel Traps and Spring Guns.

A PERSON travelling along Sussex roads forty or fifty years ago, could scarcely help seeing now and again in a prominent position on one of the buildings in a farmyard, or on a carpenter's shop, or any building of that description, a white notice-board with "Steel traps and spring guns set on these premises" painted on it in large letters. Steel traps and spring guns had fallen out of use even in my boyish days, but I well recollect having the mechanism of the spring gun explained to me, and seeing a steel trap. The spring gun was generally a short gun with flint and steel lock and shaped like a blunderbuss and usually made of brass, as far as my memory serves me. This was supported on a pivot. Round the gun about a foot from the ground was a circular framework made of two or three wooden rods (hazel or willow?) crossed and secured together at the centre. Attached to this and to the gun was a mechanical contrivance made chiefly of string, which caused it to revolve so that the muzzle came opposite to any animal or person touching the framework and fired the gun at the same time.

I had plenty of opportunities of examining a steel trap, or man-trap as it was called, for there was one, belonging to a person in the village, at my father's farm for several months, and a most formidable instrument it was. Most of us were familiar with the old steel trap for rats and other small animals, called a clamp, in general use a few years ago, especially by game-keepers. I believe it was known in Scotland as the pole-trap. It is now rarely or never used on account of the suffering it caused to animals when caught. The man-trap was identical with this except in two particulars. It was many times larger, and the blades instead of being serrated at the edges and one fitting accurately into the opposite when the trap was closed, was provided with spikes from an inch to an inch and a half in length like large square nails which were fixed to the upper surface of each blade, and of course overlapped the oppo-site blade when the trap was closed and the edges of the blades met. The trap, as far as I can recollect, was about two feet wide, and about four feet long, the centre part, the trap itself, being about two feet, with a strong spring about a foot in length at each end. It would require two men to set the trap, and judging from the strength of the springs, it would be sufficiently powerful to break a person's leg, besides the laceration of and injury to the soft parts caused by the spikes.

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