Sawpit Perils

If you were a sawyer in the late eighteenth-century, you might not have begun your day’s work as early as other craftsmen and labourers, for the sawpit could, on occasion, be a hazardous place at the break of day.

Duellists, who customarily chose to square-up to one another at dawn, often did so within the confines of a sawpit. By the end of the eighteenth-century, dueling with swords had declined in favour of puff-bang pistols and the like: The walls of a sawpit would have arrested any stray lead, thus protecting on-lookers from potential injury. Plus, being an illegal activity, the pit would have gone some way to muffle the sounds of the shots.

Thomas Rowlandson, Slugs in a Saw-Pit, circa 1791.

William Heath, Slugs in a Saw-pit Hell to Pay, circa 1810. (Lewis Walpole Library)

The banner above the vacillating duellists in Heath’s print reads, ‘Did you mean to Offend me? indeed Sir not I. – indeed Sir I’m very glad on’t!!!

Jack Plane


About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
This entry was posted in 17th and 18th Century Culture and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Sawpit Perils

  1. Bob Barnett says:

    Interesting, I had never heard about this.


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