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A brattice is a partition used in mining. It is built between columns of a sub-surface mine to direct air for ventilation.[1] Where the mine is sunk at the base of a single shaft, the shaft is divided into two parts by a wooden or metal brattice. Air is delivered down one side of the shaft and exhausted upwards through the other.[2]

Depending on the type of mine and how the operation is run, brattices can be permanent (concrete or wood) or temporary (cloth). Temporary installations are also called curtains.

Failure of the brattice due to damage in an accident and the resultant lack of ventilation was a major factor in 204 deaths of the 1862 Hartley Colliery Disaster.[1] After this, mine regulations in the United Kingdom were changed so that at least two independent shafts were required for down-cast and up-cast ventilation.

In an 1868 article titled "Coal" in the All the Year Round periodical, the author describes the workings of a ventilation shaft in a mine and a brattice:[3]

Changes from gusty windiness to tropical heat are sudden. Lifting a coarse canvas curtain, and passing under it, takes us at once from Siberia to the torrid zone. In the first we are among vast currents of air coming fresh and cold into the pit; in the second we stand amid hot and exhausted air which is being forced outwards by the furnace. Canvas or "brattice-work" divides the two, and the vast labyrinthian passages along which coal has been or is being worked are cold or hot according to the turn the ventilation has been made to take.

— Anonymous, All the Year Round, Volume XIX, Page 328


Brattice, from the French bretèche, originally referred to part of a castle. This was a small wooden structure, sometimes temporary, that projected out beyond the main part of a castle wall, so as to give flanking fire along that wall whilst still offering some degree of protection. See hoarding.


  1. ^ a b "The Hartley Pit Disaster". The Illustrated London News (1129). January 25, 1862. p. 81. 
  2. ^ "The Hartley Catastrophe". The Mechanics' Magazine 76: 59. 31 January 1862. 
  3. ^ Charles Dickens (ed.) (1868). "Coal". All the Year Round 19: 328.