A Short Look at the History of Locks

In the early days a mans home was his castle, but time has brought many changes, not only in offenses but defenses.

The BC years

By the courtesy of the science museum, while considering the history of locks, we’re able to show a wooden Egyptian lock of 2000bc with key inserted. It’s remarkably like the pin tumbler type in use today.

Another primitive wooden lock was called the Adriatic. They’re made of wood and it was beautifully fashioned and worked on the pin tumbler principle.

Next in antiquity was the lock with wards; pieces of metal inside to fit the notches on the key. Some of the keys were a very intricate design and the makers must have had their work very much cut out.

With lever locks came more security, for each of the levers had to be lifted in varying degrees before the bolt could slide and any number of levers could be used just to make things awkward.

The 1700s

Wards and levers were combined in the baron lock of 1778, it also contained two tumblers instead of one and wards round the keyhole to provide additional protection.

1784 saw the famous Brahmah lock, with six radial cuts in the key and a rotating barrel. Cabinet ministers use it today though there’s nothing but mechanism in the barrel.

The German strongbox of the 17th century was a very ambitious affair with an interior like a Heath Robinson nightmare, but it was the daydream of its inventor. This beautiful German lock with a figured bolt is at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The Beddington lock made for Henry the eighths bedroom, he had six wives! An elaborate 17th century apprentice lock and key to the work of an article assistant who had to show what he could do before qualifying as a locksmith.

The 1800s

The Chubb detector lock introduced a new safeguard for by a special arrangement of the six levers any wrongful attempt to open it would be recorded. After such an attempt even the owner couldn’t open it in the ordinary way, he’d have to turn the key sharply in the reverse direction and there are small detectors, as well as large. A novelty is this gold key on a signet ring.

The 1900s

But perhaps the greatest triumph of the maker of locks, bolts and bars, is seen in the strong room of the modern safe-deposit. It’s all steel, where you mustn’t steal, 20 tons of it in this door. And it’s not the slightest use saying “oh blast its explosion-proof”.

history of locks

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