A Gazetteer of Lock and Key Makers

Cyrus Price & Company Limited

This is a copy of a reprint of an article from the 'Wolverhampton & South Staffordshire   Illustrated Industries and Manufactures' that appeared in the 1907 Cyrus Price catalogue.

Cyrus Price & Company Limited Fire and Burglar Proof Bent Steel Safes

Not withstanding the improved facilities placed at the disposal of that product of fin de siecle civilisation, the 'scientific burglar', it is gratifying to note that the up-to-date safe manufacturer is perfectly able to hold his own against the most daring and skilful criminal, while still maintaining the fire-resisting qualities of these safeguards against the insidious encroachments of a more devastating foe to life and property.

This reflection will readily occur to those who have been favoured with a view of some of the special contrivances against either of these dangers, and which, bearing the time-honoured make of Messrs. Cyrus Price and Co., Limited, have withstood the critical test of many years' service in the protection of valuable property in a hundred cases where the machinations of the expert burglar, in the destructive effect of a conflagration have been defeated by the aid of the splendidly constructed safes manufactured by this firm.

The manufacture of the modern safe is comparatively a recently established industry, which has had its seat in Wolverhampton within the past century, and claims amongst its oldest representatives the firm to whom this notice is appropriately dedicated. As early as the International Exhibition held in London in 1862, Messrs. Cyrus Price and Co., first placed their manufactures in open competition with the world's leading makers, where the excellent qualities of their Holdfast and Fire-resisting safes and patent locks gained the prize medal awarded for new and special improvements.

The late Mr. Cyrus Price, founder of the firm.

Mr. Walter Russell Baker, the present Managing Director, and connected with the firm for over 35 years.
In 1869 this success was repeated at Wolverhampton, and was followed by an award of the only prize medal at Cardiff in 1888, and a gold medal for second order of merit at Melbourne, 1888-89. In 1895, on the death of Mr. Cyrus Price, the business was converted into a private limited company, under its present title, of which the managing director, Mr. Walter Russell Baker, has been connected with the concern for over a quarter of a century, and has as his colleague and co-director, Mr. W. Granville Baker.

The premises occupied by the firm, known as the Britannia Safe and Lock Works, are situated on the Wednesfield Road, within convenient access of the Great Western, Midland, and London and North Western Railways, where a considerable area of ground is covered by extensive ranges of substantial buildings of varying elevation, in which manufacturing operations are carried out.

Passing through the offices we notice a handsome show case containing some splendidly finished samples of safe locks and movements, the identical exhibit for which the firm gained the award, previously mentioned, in 1862. In the rear are spacious smiths' forges. safe-making locksmiths and paint shops, with large store for the steel and iron used in construction.

The works are admirably organised, and fully equipped with complete modern plant of the most improved labour-saving machinery and appliances for facilitating the various processes of safe and lock manufacture, in which the services of a numerous staff of skiI1ed hands is regularly employed. In the safe-making department we specially notice the powerful hydraulic machinery by which the Safe Bodies are bent cold out of a single steel plate of enormous thickness. Returning to the stock-rooms we are afforded an opportunity of inspecting specimens of Messrs. Price's manufactures, of which a large stock is in hand always available for selection. In their latest type of "San Francisco" safes, we were enabled to realise the high stage of perfection attained by the firm in their most recent improvements, in which are embodied all details of construction best calculated to render them impregnable against burglarious attacks.

We were also shown their fire-resisting 212 degree book safes, with patent solid hardened steel and drill-proof doors, strong rooms, doors, and frames, and smaller receptacles possessing equally efficient qualities. In the lock department a noteworthy speciality is the patent prize medal unpickable locks and street door latches, the invention of the late Mr. Cyrus Price. Commenting on this improvement we may quote the following extract from the Birmingham Daily Gazette in dealing with the subject:

The security of the new lock may technically be said to consist of a double lever 'reflection' bolt, standing against either side of the keyhole, which bolt, upon the introduction of a false key or pick, not only prevents the lifting of the levers (which is required before the main bolt can be drawn back) by the action of a bolt-pin which slides into one side of the levers, but with the same action it effectually bolts the bolt itself. The patentee claims for his useful invention that the principle renders it almost impossible for the lock to get out of order with ordinary wear and usage.

Mr. W. G. Baker, Assistant Manager and Engineer.

Other locks manufactured by the firm comprise the 'Champion' detector locks and night latches, cabinet, rim, and mortice locks and bank locks, most of which are made in sets with a master key to pass the whole. Before leaving this department our attention was invited to the firm's first class quadruple extra strong holdfast double fire-resisting, drill, wedge and crowbar-resisting safe, with massive doors, 1ΒΌ inches thick, intersected with hardened drill-proof steel, hung on massive hinges, to shoot large bolts all round, large dovetails in the doors, cut from the solid to prevent wedging, for the use of bankers, pawn-brokers, and others requiring to store bullion, plate and other valuables.

A glance at this ponderous stronghold would, we should imagine, deter the boldest burglar from his nefarious design even when equipped with the best tools employed by exponents of the 'cracksman's' handicraft.

Were we to reproduce one half of the numerous flattering testimonials which have reached the firm and their agents with reference to the many severe tests to which these safes have been subjected we could easily fill a bulky volume, as indeed the communications themselves do and we therefore select for publication some of the more recent letters.

To those seeking fuller information on the subject of these admirable safes we commend with pleasure a perusal of the copiously illustrated price list of Messrs. Cyrus Price and Company's specialities, in which also may be studied with profit a number of press notices and testimonials relating to both fire and burglar-resisting safes bearing this firm's well-known name.


Terrible fire Near Huddersfield

From Messrs. Sheard Bros., Alma Mills, Throngsbridge, Near Huddersfield.

To Messrs. CYRUS PRICE & Co., LTD.


On the 13th, we had a most disastrous Fire, our premises being entirely gutted. The only thing which was taken out of the fire of any value was a safe made by you, and which had preserved the books so that we can use them again. This Safe was on the third storey, and when taken out of the ruins, the door opened as easily as if nothing had happened. If the Safe is of any use to you by way of advertisement, we should be pleased to send it to you.

Yours Sincerely, (signed) Sheard Bros. 

Fire at Nithersdale Mill, Dumfries

From Nithersdale Mill, Dumfries. 29th April.

To Messrs. CYRUS PRICE & Co. LTD.


We have pleasure in testifying to the thorough efficiency of one of your fire-proof safes which stood the test of a severe fire here on the 12th inst., on which occasion our extensive wool stores and valuable contents were almost completely demolished. The safe was temporarily stored in the mill with a lot of other furniture, and contained a considerable amount of jewellery, both gold and silver, all of which was saved and no damage done whatever to the metal.

Yours Truly, (signed) Walter Scott & Sons, W. A. F. B. Copeland, Manager.           

Burglars Defeated

Knowle Works, Burslem. October 15th.

To Messrs. CYRUS PRICE & Co. LTD.


Burglars broke into my office last week, and did their best to get into the safe (one of your make) but failed. The handle in front and the other facings were knocked off, and the top and the other parts damaged with a large sledge hammer steeled and sharpened at one end.

Yours Truly, (signed) JOSEPH ROBINSON.

Fire at a Theatre

Messrs. CYRUS PRICE & Co. LTD.


A very disastrous fire consumed my theatre on the 8th of June last. I had three of your Safes, which contained my books, papers, etc. they were exposed to the raging flames, and when dug out of the ruins two days after, the keys turned the locks easily, and the contents were perfectly uninjured. One of the Safes contained a bottle of magnesium filings, used for stage lighting, this was also uninjured.

(signed) J. F. WARDEN, Proprietor and Manager, Theatre Royal, Belfast.

Great Burglary at Bradford Music Hall

The People's Palace and Music Hal!, Bradford. December 7th.

To Messrs. CYRUS PRICE & Co. LTD.


On the night of the 24th of November, four burglars got into our music hall (the People's Palace). They removed one of your safes, which was in our private office, to the back of the theatre, but although they considerably battered it about with crowbars, etc. they were unable to effect an entrance, and the contents were intact when found.

Yours faithfully, (signed) ROBERTON & HOLMES.

Great Fire in Wolverhampton

To Messrs. CYRUS PRICE & Co, LTD.

DEAR Sirs,

I have great pleasure in stating that the safe which I have here (one of your make) withstood the great heat of the fire, and opened quite easily. The contents were not damaged in the least.

Yours Truly, (signed) J. BEATTIE, Victoria Street, Wolverhampton, January 28th.

Extract from the" Express and Star," Wolverhampton

January 30th.

Mr. Beattie, of Wolverhampton, was the fortunate possessor of a Safe which could withstand the fiercest ravages of the late fire, and which opened quite easily afterwards. It was of local make, being from the works of Messrs. Cyrus Price & Co., Wednesfield Road.

Extract from the Midland Evening News

Wolverhampton, January 30th.

The fire at Mr. Beattie's.-Despite the great heat occasioned by the fire at Mr. Beattie's drapery establishment last Monday, a safe containing many important documents withstood the flames without sustaining injury. It opened quite easily afterwards, and its contents were not damaged in any way. The safe was manufactured by the well-known firm of Cyrus Price & Co., Wednesfield Road, Wolverhampton, who have good reason to feel satisfied with the result. 

Mill Burnt Down at Cleckheaton

From William Haigh, Maker of Ropes, Twines, Double and Single Loop Cotton Bands, Single Tapes and Driving Ropes, Providence Mill, Cleckheaton. April 3rd.

To Messrs. CYRUS PRICE & Co., LTD.


I think it is only my duty to write to you re one of your safes that has been put to a very severe test by fire at my works. You will see by the goods we manufacture that the heat must have been terrible, and when I tell you the only things saved were the books that were in one of your safes, and everyone who saw it before it was opened said it impossible to find anything but cinders after what it had gone through. You can imagine how delighted I was when the safe was opened next day with the key, without any difficulty, and the books found quite intact, considering the mills were burnt out and everything else lost. I am sending the Safe to you, and have enclosed inside one of my couplings; this, with others, was hanging in the office by the side of Safe, and before the fire was 18 inches long. You will see how this has cracked and melted away, and it is made of special hard metal to withstand friction and heat

If this testimonial is any use to you, you are at liberty to make any use you wish of it, as the safe is a credit to your firm, and if I can at any time be of service to you by a recommendation to anyone requiring a safe, I shall be pleased to do so, if you will refer them to me.

Yours very truly, (signed) W. HAIGH.

P.S.-I forgot to mention that the Safe was within a few feet of our oil, tar, and tallow store, which was destroyed, and I hope the safe will be delivered quick, and do you some good in your business, which you deserve, as they cannot be spoken too highly of, and you will not be afraid of meeting a customer (who has bought one of your safes) after he has had a fire.


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