A Gazetteer of Lock and Key Makers

Jim Evans

this gazetteer is copyright Jim Evans, 2002


Pad lock makers.  Existing in 1900 (Kelly’s).  Not existing in 1970.  Nothing else known.



Key makers.  Existing in 1870 (J, G. Harrod & Company's Commercial Directory).  Nothing else known.



Pad lock makers. Nothing else is known other than the reference in the newspaper article below (date unknown).

Sudden Death in Church at Wednesfield

On Sunday afternoon, about a quarter to three o’clock, a man named Edwin Austin, of Charles Street, Wednesfield, aged 37, died suddenly in St. Thomas’s Parish Church. The deceased was a member of the Adult Bible Class held in connection with the above church, and as they were about to commence their usual weekly meeting he was noticed to fall with his head backwards.

The Rev. John Birch and other members of the class soon hastened to him, rendered all needful assistance, and at once sent for Mr. Thomas Miller, druggist, and Dr. Hands, who when they arrived found life to be extinct.

The news of the sad occurrence soon spread among the inhabitants and a considerable number of persons flocked to he church. It was ascertained that the deceased had been for many years in a delicate state of health, but had followed his employment as a padlock maker in the employ of Mr. Enoch Hadley, lock manufacturer, Wednesfield, and was much respected among his fellow workmen. He leaves a wife and two children, and much sympathy is expressed for them.

Reference was made to the sad occurrence at the evening service by the Vicar. Mr. Austin was a most regular attendant at the church, and took a most earnest and active part in the mission which has been recently held.

Edwin Austin, padlock maker. Courtesy of David Parsons.


Pad lock makers.  Existing in 1896 and 1904 (Kelly’s). Nothing else known.



Cabinet lock makers.  Not existing in 1914, but existing in 1921 and 1946 (AH records).

In the late 1950s, the firm was taken over by two toolmakers, Arthur Lansdale and Arthur Morgan, who stopped making locks and concentrated on their tool making skills.  They also built one or two small power presses.  The firm survived until Arthur Lansdale died in 1966.  Arthur Morgan then worked for Arthur Hough, from October 1966 until May 1968, when he retired.



This advert is from Pecks' 1896 trade directory.  

The firm claims to have been founded in 1830, and had a trade mark consisting of the letters G H & Co in a diamond.  The advert states that the company makes brass and iron locks for builders, cabinet makers and portmanteau makers.  

The adverts also states that the company won a silver medal at Sydney, that they have an illustrated book specially arranged for foreign markets, and also that merchants and shippers indents are carefully made up.

All of this suggests that they may have concentrated on the export market.

An advert from 1851.

An advert from 1861.


Read the history
of Harpers


An advert from 1962.

Founded as Henry Harrison and Sons in the year 1888 by F. H. Harrison, who was still chairman in 1935, producing principally all types of padlocks for the home and foreign markets under the "Belfry" trade mark. 

The range was extended to include safe locks, meter locks and brass cabinet locks.  They had a fully equipped foundry for producing all types of non-ferrous castings.

They became a limited company on the 30th August 1919 (Reg. No 158384) and later were incorporated into the Triplex Lloyd group (noted as Henry Harrison and Sons Ltd., a member of the Triplex Group, in 1972).  

In 1986 the directors were Messrs L. R. H. and H. Harrison.

In 1989 the company adopted the name Atlad Harrison Ltd.. and moved to new premises in Monmer Close, Willenhall, when it was taken over by Mr Martin Stevenson.

In June 1994 they closed down and the lock making side was sold to Willenhall Engineering Ltd. (q.v.), who were already making padlocks and added the BELFRY range of pad and mortice locks to their range.




Right:  an advert from the 19589 edition of 'Benn's Encyclopaedia of Hardware'.


Letterhead, dated 1951, kindly supplied by Trevor Dowson.

An advert from 1954.

A Henry Harrison & Sons padlock.


An advert from 1851.


See Beddows and Sturmey Ltd.



Makers of attache case and suit case locks.  

Not existing in 1900 (Kelly’s).  In Kelly’s directory of 1914 /21 listed at Newhall Street.  Advert (left) from 1920. Later moved to Cemetery Road.

In the 14 November 1969 were acquired by Samuel Wilkes and Sons Ltd (q.v.).  Trading was transferred to the parent company on the 1 January 1973.

The information above was in Jim Evan's original version of this Gazetteer.  We have now heard from George Cooper, in New Zealand, who has been researching his family history.  His findings so far are of interest in themselves but also as an indication of the complexity of relationships which can be found in small family firms.  George writes:

John Bucknall was born in Newcastle under Lyme in 1785.  The Bucknall family moved from Newcastle under Lyme.  John Bucknall, described as a locksmith, married Hannah Mothershaw at St Peter’s Wolverhampton in 1806.  In a Willenhall Directory of 1818 he is listed as a pad lock maker in Botany Bay.  By 1835 he was in Pigot's directory as a pad and closet lock maker in Birmingham Street.  He was still alive at the time of the 1851 Census in which he is listed as a locksmith in King Street.  He died in 1865.

John and Hannah had three sons.  The eldest, William, was born in 1808 and is in Jones' Iron District Registry, 1864, as a keymaker in Russell Street.

Another son, Thomas Bucknall, was aged 39 in the 1851 Census and is listed as a rim lock maker. He is listed in Jones’ directory as a lock manufacturer in Russell Street.  His brother, Samuel, is also listed as a park gate lock manufacturer.

Thomas’s son, Edward Bucknall, was a Willenhall Lockmaker. 

Florence Bucknall married Leigh Richmond Clinton in 1890.  The Clintons were hairdressers in Market Street, Willenghall, the business having been established by  Leigh’s father, James Clinton, in the 1860s.

Florence and Leigh Clinton’s daughter, Florence Daisy Clinton, was born in Willenhall in 1895.  She remembered that her grandfather, Edward Bucknall, had a small business as a lockmaker. 

Edward Bucknall died in 1926, aged 82.  In his will, made in 1913, he appointed his sons, George Herbert Bucknall and Thomas Bucknall, as his executors.  He left everything to his unmarried daughter Lydia and his youngest son Bertie Lee Bucknall; but if either of them predeceased him, then their shares to go to George and Thomas.

Florence spoke of her uncle’s business as “Thomas Herbert’s”.  The Willenhall Red Book mentions Thomas Herbert as lock manufacturers in Cemetery Road, in their 1929, 1933 and 1934 editions. The factory in Cemetery Road was housed in an old Primitive Methodist chapel and two houses. The company became well-known manufacturers of travel bag and brief case locks in brass and steel, and was later purchased by Wiggin & Company of Bloxwich. The buildings have long been demolished.

Although this gives a clear connection between the Bucknalls, the Clintons and Thomas Herbert's, the exact nature of that relationship is not absolutely clear.  There may also be a connection with the firm Bucknall and Nevill Ltd. (qv).

In addition to George and Thomas, Edward Bucknall had another son, Edward.  Both Thomas and Edward were listed in the 1901 census as carpet bag lock makers, working on their own account and both living in Walsall Road, Willenhall.  

Edward is shown in the Ellis Island records as entering the USA in August 1912.  He gave his next of kin as Mrs. Bucknall of Highfield House, Gypsy Lane, Willenhall and his occupation as lockmaker.  He said that he was going to a friend in Pittsburgh. No further references to him in the USA have been found and he resurfaces in Ventnor, Isle of Wight.  His former wife, Harriet, died in 1928 and he immediately married Nellie Dilke in London.  Nellie was 18 years younger than him.  They had a substantial house in Ventnor, Warborough Mount, which is still standing; and they owned the local Bijou cinema, a thatched cottage in the High Street and other property.

Edward died, aged 57, in 1930.  His obituary in the Isle of Wight Mercury says: "Resident since the war, a native of Wolverhampton, he was the chief partner in a firm of lockmakers in Wolverhampton, came here for health reasons after marrying a local lady".  Nellie lived until 1967.  Her obituary includes the following: " Widow of Edward Bucknall, at one time they owned considerable property in Ventnor".  Edward's will shows that he left over £10,000, a lot of money in 1930.


An advert from 1851.


An advert from 1851.


Makers of "Lever" and "Patent Protector" locks for all purposes.

Alfred C. Hobbs was an American who came to England in 1851 as a salesman with Day and Newell when they came to exhibit at the Crystal Palace Exhibition. He had also become an acknowledged master at picking locks and took on the challenge of picking a Bramah padlock.  It took him 51 hours in 16 working days, after which he could open the lock in an hour. The Arbitrators awarded him the prize of 200 guineas.

With this money, and the invaluable publicity he had received, he went into business as a lockmaker at 76 Cheapside, London. The company started in 1851 and was formally registered as Hobbs and Co. in 1852.  But by 1855 it had become Hobbs, Ashley and Company. Soon the name changed to Hobbs, Ashley and Fortescue, with an address at 97 Cheapside. They used advanced machine methods and were highly successful.

In 1860 Hobbs returned to America and went on to patent many machines. Before he left, British pride was somewhat restored when one of the Chubb workmen picked a Hobbs Lock.

Hobbs had never intended to stay in England and, when Ashley died in1860, he had no difficulty in disposing of a thriving business to John Mathias Hart.

It is not known if Hobbs was any relation to Thomas Hart or if either were related to William Albert Hart, who was a director from 1908 to 1910.

Hobbs had stipulated that his name should always head the Company so it became Hobbs, Hart and Co. in 1860.  Hart died in 1887 and the firm became a limited company.  Hobbs retained an interest in the company: he returned in 1872 to celebrate the 21st anniversary, held at the Crystal Palace which had, by then, been moved to Sydenham.

Alfred Hobbs died in 1891.

The company is listed in Whitaker's 1914 Red Book of Commerce as manufacturers of locks, safes and doors, specialising in locks and lock furniture, combination bolts, strong rooms and bullion vaults, fire resisting bullion and jewel safes, and wrought iron and steel doors.

An advert from 1875.

According to Peter Cowie (Locks and Keys, July 1995) the company became a member of the Chubb group in 1954.  But Peter Gunn writes to us that "according to my information Chubb took over in 1956.  When I transferred to Chubb's Lock Sales Department in 1968, there were still 2 or 3 ex-Hobbs employees working at Chubb Head Office, handling enquiries for Hobbs locks.  Chubb kept the Leyton factory going until about 1961, after which manufacture of Hobbs products was transferred to the Chubb Lock Works in Wolverhampton".

The following is a description of Hobbs & Company's products that were on display at the International Exhibition of 1862 in South Kensington:

Hobbs & Company, 76 Cheapside, E.C. Locks, patent & machine made and door lock fastenings.

The exhibitors are inventors, patentees and manufacturers of bank, protector, and other locks, and the lock-making steam machinery. Hobbs's locks have been awarded the following testimonials in their various competitions:- The Prize Medal of the Great Exhibition of London, 1851; the First Class Medal of the Imperial Exposition of Paris, 1855; the Gold Medal of the Imperial National Mechanics' Institute of Vienna. In addition to these, are two gold and three silver medals from Various associations for the promotion of mechanical science in the United States of America. The locks exhibited on the stand to the right hand of the visitor, consist of the changeable key bank lock and the protector locks.

Hobbs & Company's Patent Parautoptic or Bank Lock.

This lock, of which an illustration is included, is deemed unapproachable as a security of the repositories of treasure, and impregnable against every practicable method of picking, fraud, or violence. The "bits" or steps on the "web" of the key, that act on the levers inside the lock, are separate, instead of being, as in other keys, cut on the solid metal. These movable bits are fastened by a small screw on the end of the shank of the key, when it has the appearance of any other lever-lock key. There are besides, spare bits to change, when desirable.

The lock has three sets of levers, and is so constructed that, whatever arrangement the bits on the key may have when acting on the lock, the latter immediately adapts itself to the same arrangement, and will lock and unlock with perfect facility; but it cannot be unlocked by any formation of the "bits" except that which locked it. Let it be supposed that the lock works with a "12- bitted" key, in proper numerical order, as 1, 2, 8, etc. up to 12. The bolt is shot by them, and will open by them; but if a bit is changed in its place, the lock will remain locked, because, by the alteration, the key has become also changed in its action, to which change the levers will not answer. To re-lock in another form:- Suppose that, instead of the bits being arranged as 1, 2, 3, &c. the order is reversed, and they are screwed on as 12, 11, 10, etc down to 1.

By the self-changing principle of the lock, it assumes the new form of the key, and will work with it as readily and securely as it did before. The same results can be obtained by any and every permutation of the number of "bits" of which the key is composed, until millions, and thousands of millions of changes are worked, every change virtually converting the lock into a fresh lock by this simple transposition of the key. Hence its name of "Parautoptic," or changeable.

The illustration represents a view of the lock, the key, and the spare "bits." To give an idea of the number of times this lock can be transposed, it may be mentioned, that a key of only six bits can be altered 120 times; and if two sets of bits are used, the transpositions extend to many thousands. The price of locks for bullion safes, and the doors of strong rooms, etc. of which the above is an illustration, is £20; and for cash and despatch boxes, and similar purposes, £10. The keys can be made sufficiently small, if desired, either for the waistcoat pocket or the travelling case. It is claimed for both locks and keys that they illustrate the highest degree of scientific and mechanical skill in the locksmith's art. 

Hobbs & Company's Patent Protector Solid Key and Index Locks.

The patent protector locks are exhibited as possessing absolute security against picking by any method at present known. The key is what is called "solid," that is, that the "bits" or "steps" are cut on the solid metal of the "web," and, therefore, not changeable. They are specially adapted for places where the most ample security against lock-picking is required.


The "protectors" of this lock consist of a peculiar arrangement of certain parts behind the bolt and levers, unreachable by any lock-picking instrument whatever. When any tampering is attempted on the lock, by pressure on the bolt through the key-hole, to discover the opening position of each lever, the bolt protector comes into action, preventing the pressure affecting the layers in any way,

thus holding them clear, and thereby frustrating the calculations of the thief. This principle was first introduced in locks at the memorable Exhibition of 1851, and forms the foundation of a new security. The key and bolt fraud-protector is a movable nozzle, now first introduced. These two protectors combined are offered to the public, as the two essentials of security-protection against picking, and protection against fraud. Specimens are shown illustrating the action of the protectors. There is also a model showing the arrangement of the bolts and locks as fixed on a strong room door. The protector locks are sold, retail, at prices varying from 10s. to 40s.

Hobbs & Company’s Patent Lock Indicator.

This is a method of locking the doors of iron safes, strong rooms, customs stores, bonded vaults, prison cells, corridors etc. by means of the handle, without a key, and showing to what extent the bolt has been shot. It may consist of the upper half of a dial upon which are the words, "Open," "Shut," "Locked." When the door stands merely closed to, the index finger rests on "Open." This finger is fixed to the handle that works the lock, and therefore, whichever way the handle moves, the finger must move with it. Turn the handle, and fasten the door by the first movement of the bolt, the finger will point to "Shut." A second motion of the handle, and the bolt shoots out beyond its reach, the finger at the same moment, resting on "Locked." The lock can only be opened by the key because at the second turn, the handle loses its control of the bolt. The action of the bolt returning into the lock, or unlocking, takes the index finger back to "Open," resetting it again.

The advantages of this index in dockyards, shipbuilders' stores, dock warehouses, prisons, etc. where certain officers are limited to departments of the premises, by day or night, must he of the highest importance. The superior officer would be able, by its use, to see in an instant what condition the bolts of the locks were in, without "trying" his keys, as he passed along a corridor, or by a range of rooms. Again, if the door of a safe or strong room was closed tight, there would be no danger of leaving it unlocked by neglect, as a glance at the index would show whether it had been locked or not.

Specimens are also exhibited, showing the application of the "lock index" principle to street door latches, anti convict and other prison cells.

In the centre of the company's stand is a first-class strong room door. It is made of the best iron-plate, back and front, the interior being lined with slabs of hardened steel. In this door the bolts are of the usual arrangement; they are thrown by the knob, an examination of which will show the great security attained by Hobbs and Co.'s patented method for security. It will be seen to consist of triple security against violence of all kinds, while the lock is peculiarly constructed and is powder-proof, holding less than twenty grains of gunpowder, which is totally insufficient to blow it off.


Established in 1912 as lock and latch manufacturers.  In 1933 Randle Hobley had a lock making business in Church Street Willenhall.  Closed down c1970 when the last Mr Hobley died.



Established in 1860 as cabinet lock makers.  Later progressed into combination and brief case locks.  In 1921 and 1936 James Hodges and Sons were cabinet lock makers at 27 Pool Street Wolverhampton.  In 1953 and 1972 they were at Frederick Street, Wolverhampton, and were run by Mr Lisle, a grandson of Edward Lisle, who built Star motorcycles and cars in Wolverhampton. On 15 November 1971 they were acquired by Samuel Wilkes and Sons Ltd (q.v.).

Image34x.jpg (6684 bytes) In October 1974, as a result of continued expansion, Hodges moved their factory to larger premises occupying 24000 sq. ft. at the rear of the parent company, S.Wilkes and Sons Ltd., at Park Road Bloxwich.

Trading was transferred to the parent company on 1 January 1978.  They went into liquidation in 1979 and the manufacturing rights were acquired by Liston Locks Ltd (qv).



Manufacturers of padlocks, park gate and lighter locks; and double bolted and bar locks.

The business was established by Richard Hodson (1780-1829) in 1792, in Clarks Lane, Willenhall. It was then taken over by his son Richard (1811-1866) who, in the 1841 census, is listed as a lockmaker at John Street.  There were 4 apprentices living with the family.  By 1851 they were at Hall Street.  Richard and his wife Ann (1807-1865) had 7 children, including Edgar (1830-1891) who is listed as a locksmith, and they had 4 apprentices living with them.  But by 1861 they only had 2 apprentices.  On the death of his father, Edgar inherited the business, which he ran until he died in 1891.

An advert from 1851.

Edgar’s son John (born 1861) became the owner in 1893, paying £47.1s.6d. for "the shop tools, effects and the business" from his late mother’s estate.  The business at this time was run from 79 Lower Lichfield Street.  John continued to trade under the name Richard Hodson and Sons, and ran the business from several addresses around Willenhall, finally, in 1903, moving into workshops at the rear of 54 New Road.  Here he employed up to a dozen men and women.  He rented the workshop from Mr Job Phillips, who at that time lived in the house.  When Job Phillips decided to sell the house and workshop in 1905, John, and wife Sarah, seeing the chance to have home and business on the same premises, decided to buy the property.  They had six children in all.

John died in 1911 and his son Edgar, aged only 19, took over the running of the business, helped by his mother Sarah and his sisters Edith (born 1891) and Flora (born 1899).  The sisters later set up in the front room of the house, running a small drapers and general stores as E. A. & F. S. Hodson.

Sarah died in 1951 age 91, leaving the house to Edgar, Edith and Flora, none of whom ever married.  The two sisters devoted themselves to looking after their brother, the shop and the house.  In 1966 Edith died aged 75. Edgar continued his lock making business into the sixties, until his death in 1970 aged 78.  Flora, the last member of the family, lived there alone until she died in 1983 aged 84.

It was in 1983 that 54 New Road was purchased by the Lock Museum Trust to be turned into a lock museum.  The Lock Museum, Willenhall was officially opened to the public in April 1987.

(Details taken from "The Hodson Family, A History of one Willenhall Lock Manufacturer from 1972-1970" Compiled by Brenda Jepcott. Published by The Lock Museum, Willenhall 1999)

Visit the Lock Smith's House and its buildings


Manufacturer of cabinet, rim, and mortice locks, latches, padlocks, builders' ironmongery, and press work. 

Not existing in 1921 or 1970.  Nothing else known.

An advert from 1954.


Arthur Hough was born in 1860 and, when he left school, went to work for a key maker.  When Arthur reached the age of 21 his employer was unable to pay him a craftsman’s wage and Arthur had to look for work.  So in 1881 he set up on his own as a key maker in an out-house behind his parents' home in New Invention, so founding the keymaking business that bore his name.  He would buy key castings from a local foundry and finish them, mainly by filing, to supply to local lock makers and factors to supply to the ironmonger for replacement keys.  Initially his brothers John and Henry joined him until they both went on to found their own businesses.

Arthur quickly established himself in the trade and built a new home for his family at No 1 Lichfield Road, New Invention, with a small workshop behind it.  His sons, Len and Tom, joined the business.  Tom died from gas poisoning, following service in the 1914-18 war, in 1926; by this time Arthur was employing his nephew, Reg Appleby.  Arthur and Len carried on making keys in a small way during the 1939-45 war.  Len died in 1943 but, when the demand for keys started again after the war, Arthur found that at the age of 65 he could not carry on the business himself.  He sold it to Reg Appleby, who was joined by his brother in law, Horace Evans.  As the business grew with the post war boom in housing, and the demand for locks and keys increased, they quickly needed more space and built a new factory in Brownshore Lane, Essington where production commenced on the 15th March 1948.

In the 1950s the company started to produce keys by resistance welding the parts of the key together, thereby doing away with the laborious filing that had been a tradition of the key maker. This produced a far more accurate key, which suited the need of the growing lock industry with its production line assembly.  Over the years the factory grew in size and in 1970 the company extended their business by installing machinery to produce wire and strip formed components, and became the major supplier of accessories to the suspended ceiling trade.  

In 2003 Jim Evans, the original compiler of this gazetteer, and Chairman of the company, passed away.  His son, Richard Evans, took over.  The company is still a family owned business, with the production of keys and suspended ceiling and partition products still forming the major lines of buisness.  In 2004 the company announced that it was moving to a new 30,000 sq.ft. factory at Hilton Cross, Cannock Road, Featherstone. 

For further information see "100 years of Keymaking", and "100 Years plus of Key making".



Henry Hough left school at 13 and worked above ground at a colliery as a stores assistant.  His father, also Henry, had been a miner.  Later Henry worked with his brother, Arthur, as a key maker but, in his late twenties, he was an insurance representative, operating in the Worcestershire. 

Some time later he went back to work with Arthur as a key maker but left in 1897 to set up on his own as a key maker in Bloxwich Road, Willenhall.  

He was on the opposite side of the road to another brother, John, who was a lock maker.  John Hough (1863-1946) had set up making brass and iron cabinet locks, gas meter locks, padlocks, rim dead and mortice locks in Bloxwich Road early in the 1890s.

Around 1900 John built himself a workshop in Henry's back garden.  John and Henry combined their businesses and traded as John Hough & Co. for many years.   Henry eldest son, Henry again, was the driving force there in the 1930s and was accepted as the sole proprietor in 1944.  They continued trading as John Hough & Co. until about 1949.  They had a running contract with the Admiralty for 3"  iron padlocks and must have produced a few hundred thousand during the war.  

A fine combination padlock made by John Hough.

The combination to open it was his surname.

Courtesy of James Hough.

From 1950 onwards the firm concentrated on the manufacture of brass cabinet locks for wooden furniture. 

By 1952 the firm was trading as Henry Hough, Lionel Works, 110 Bloxwich Road, Willenhall, manufacturers of cupboard, draw, box and miscellaneous cabinet locks. Henry's son, David, a former art teacher, joined the business in 1957.  

Henry died, aged 56, in 1959.  In 1961 David and his mother, Leah, formed the company Henry Hough (Locks) Ltd. 

In 1964 the firm moved to Love Lane, in Wem, Shropshire, where productions just about trebled.  In 1986 the business (the means of production, the stock, expertise, etc.) was bought by Walsall Locks (qv).  

An advert from 1961,as seen in 'The Ironmongers' Diary.
Thanks to Trevor Dowson.

  (Information mainly from David Hough, 2002; and also from Mr Jenkins of Wem 26/1/01)



Founded in 1780.  Manufacturers of handcuffs, leg irons etc.  In 1947 patented a screw key padlock. 

In about 1997 branched out into selling imported locks and hardware.



This advert dates from 1920. 

In May 1950 the business was sold to George Skidmore of Wolverhampton (qv).  Nothing else known.

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