1) In a colliery, a device in which colliers sat as the 'gin' took them up and down the pit shaft.

The word can be found in printed sources, notably in the report into child labour in the coal mines: 1842 Ann Ambler … comes up the pit cross-lapped with us in the clatch harness: Will Dyson and Ann Ambler were drawn up cross-lapped upon the clatch-iron, Elland. These statements were accompanied by a sketch which confirms that the clatch was simply a metal bar and the records suggest that it had changed little over several centuries: 1666 three Roopes two paire of clach Irons, thre crockes, South Crosland

1729 a pair of Clatch Irons and 1 Iron chain, Stainland. The purpose of the chains which hung from each end of the bar, clearly visible in the sketch, is not immediately obvious, but only part of them can be seen. It may be that they were intended as a kind of safety-belt but were being ignored: alternatively perhaps they served in some way to balance the contraption. Simple as it was the clatch represented an improvement on earlier methods for which there is first-hand evidence. A descent into a Derbyshire lead-mine in 1631 is described as follows: ‘I was let down not in the basket but by a strong stick laid across the hook of the rope. I sat on it between my legs, one hand holding the rope the other guiding me from grating on the sides’. An account of an accident in Northowram in 1673 tells how a miner was let down in a scoop or basket, there being a peece of wood at the other end of the rope to poyse it, that is to stabilise the basket. Such practices were inherently unsafe: in 1694, for example, two colliers were killed as they descended the shaft at Stretton in Derbyshire ‘when they fell off pick shafts inserted in the haulage ropes’. The clatch-iron is likely to have a longer history than these references indicate but as yet nothing has come to light about its use before 1666 and the etymology remains uncertain.

spellings clatch-iron
dates 1631 1666 1673 1694 1729 1842

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Photo by Kreuzschnabel CC BY-SA 3.0