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The History of Locks

Ancient Lock Devices

Locks and keys have been around for aeons. In the ruins of Nineveh, the capital of ancient Assyria, the earliest known lock and key were discovered. This kind of lock was developed by the Egyptians – they created a wooden pin lock. This was made of a bolt, key, and door fixture. With insertion of the key, the pins withdrew from the drilled holes within the bolt, allowing the lock to be turned. With no key in the lock, the pins would sit in the bolt, which prevented movement.

Another lock that has been known since antiquity, which is recognisable today, is the warded lock. English craftsmen are said to have invented these all-metal locks between 870 and 900AD. Theodore of Samos is said to have invented the key in the 6th century BC. In Roman times, affluent people frequently kept their valuables in safe boxes within their homes. They would wear the keys as rings on their fingers, to keep the key handy, and to show their wealth.

Modern Lock Devices

When the industrial revolution came in the late 18th century, with it came precision engineering and the standardisation of components. Out of this came locks and keys with more complexity and refinement.

In 1778, Robert Barron perfected the lever tumbler lock. This lock utilises a set of levers which prevents the bolt from moving within the lock. His lock featured a double acting lever, which meant that the lock could not be opened if the lever was moved too far or not enough. This style of lock is still in use.

In 1818, Jeremiah Chubb vastly improved the lever tumbler lock. The Portsmouth Dockyard was burgled, prompting the British Government to proclaim a competition to make a lock that could only be opened with the one and only correct key. Chubb produced the Chubb detector lock, which included an essential security feature that would impede unauthorised attempts at access, and would also show that it had been interfered with. £100 was awarded to Chubb when after three months, a trained lock picker was still unable to pick the lock.

Stay tuned to this blog for more history of locks, brought to you by Out and About Locksmiths.