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The History of Locks Museum

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Industrial Revolution

Branded Keys
Keys as Symbols

Chiseled msatership keys
A pair of mastership keys described by George Price, in 1856 as early English.


Chiseled msatership keys
A Victorian engraving of finely chiseled and filed mastership keys.


Keys - 18th / 19th Century
Mastership keyMastership key Mastership key detail
Finely chiselled and filed steel. 142mm.Chiselled and filed steel. 153mm.
Made by Johann Martingerstl, 1748
Mastership Keys

Steel craftsman key Crafsman key bit detail Steel craftsman key bow
A beautifully proportioned key, with fine workmanship at both the bit end and the bow.
Steel. 80mm
Craftsman Keys

Iron box of wards key, 109mm Iron box of wards key, 140mm Iron box of wards key, 120mm
Steel. 109mm Steel. 140mm Steel. 120mm
Box of Wards Keys
A typical selection of safe / strongbox keys, dating from late Georgian to early Victorian times, whereby security was a fixed box of wards.

Odells latch lifter key, 45mm French latch lifter key, 50mm Odells French latch lifter key, 50mm Latch lifter key, 61mm Odells latch key, 65mm
French Latch Lifters

Odell's latch keys were more commonly known as French latch lifters. The spade like end or bit of the key was pierced with many intricate shapes, symbols and initials with acted on similarly shaped fixed wards within the lock in a vertical sliding action. Invented about 1792 and were still made at the end of the Victorian period. Sizes range from 45mm to 65mm.

Bullring key, forged iron Bullring key, forged iron Furniture lock Bullring key.
Forged Iron. 155mm Forged Iron. 164mm Iron. 70mm
Bullring Keys

This class of key was a utility item common throughout the 18th/19th century, although specimens with a lose ring bow exist back to roman times. The lose ring bow acted as a fold down handle. Once turned in the lock the ring bow could be used to pull the door open and then left in the lock where the ring would lie flat against the door and wouldn't be a danger to people, or to animals when used in rural applications such as stables etc., in much the same way as some modern office furniture keys are hinged to prevent injury and snagging.

Bridgeward key, 114mm. Bridge ward key, 400mm Bridgeward key, 298mm.
A selection of bridgeward keys typically used on rim deadlocks and rim nightlatches in Georgian and Victorian times. Sizes range from 114mm to 400mm.

Bridge Ward Keys



The story of the development of locks told through keys.

18th -19th Century

The Georgian to Victorian period was pivotal in so many areas of English social and industrial life, especially so, as far as locks and keys were concerned.

The ideas and development of the principals of what actually made a lock secure began to appear from the early 1750s and culminating in the great lock picking challenges of the 1850s. Patent and branded keys tell a different story.

At the same time fixed wards and tumblers were the norm. The humble ward had been presented in every way imaginable, and in every quality. In an effort to further enhance these fixed obstructions all sorts of secondary devices were added to locks to back up a security principal that could never offer any great security.
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This page was last updated December 2011
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