A Gazetteer of Lock and Key Makers

Jim Evans

this gazetteer is copyright Jim Evans, 2002


Read the history of the Yale Towne Co.



Henry Yates, who was Edwin John Yates' father, was making brass cabinet locks in St. John's Square, Wolverhampton, by 1828 when he was listed in Pigot & Company's Royal and Commercial Directory. He had at least two other children, William H. Yates, who was working for his father in 1854 and died in March 1868 and Fanny Matilda who married in 1859. In William White's History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire, published in 1851, Henry is listed as living on Penn Road, Wolverhampton.

Henry exhibited a number of locks at the Great Exhibition in 1851 and was a Prize Medal winner. A description of his entry was published in the Staffordshire Advertiser on Saturday 29th March, 1851:

Staffordshire Advertiser

On Wednesday, a case of locks, fabricated by Mr. H. Yates, brass cabinet lock manufacturer, St. John’s Square, Wolverhampton, an also intended for the Great Exhibition, formed a feature of the day’s display. Without claiming much novelty in principle, they were remarkable for peculiarity of construction and neatness of workmanship. The backs of nearly all the locks – which were about thirty in number, and embraced specimens of Barron’s, Bramah’s, and Chubb’s patents, as well as some with improvements made by Mr. Yates – were made of open work, rendering the movements visible, in the same style as modern timepieces and watches. Much commendation was bestowed on the various keys attached to the locks, the bows of which were ornamented, and made somewhat in the fashion of the polished steel goods for which Wolverhampton was once famous.

I must thank Jo Barreiro for a copy of the article.

Below is a copy of an article published in an unknown newspaper in 1851 by some of the Prize Medal winners at the Great Exhibition, including Henry Yates.

The Lock Manufacturers of Wolverhampton versus Chubb.

We, the undersigned, Lock Manufacturers of Wolverhampton, who have been awarded Prize Medals at the Great Exhibition, in conjunction with Messrs. Chubb, have seen with considerable surprise the pretentions put forth by them in their advertisements in this Journal on the 22nd and 29th ult, that their Locks are the best and most secure before the public, and founding their claims to superiority on the ground of having Special Approbation annexed to their award. We hereby protest against such pretentions, and question their right to superiority either for principal or workmanship. We declare our belief that as Lock Makers we are equal in every respect to Messrs. Chubb, and we are authorised on the authority of Dr. Lyon Playfair to state that the award of Special Approbation was intended to indicate that the Collection shown by the exhibitor generally merited approval, in addition to the objects especially included in the medal award. It was also distinctly stated by his Royal Highness Prince Albert in his speech at the close of the Exhibition that the Jurors did not attempt to decide on degrees of merit, but they awarded all who had attained a certain degree of excellence. Now we cannot, and we think the public will have the same difficulty to discover the grounds for such boasting (so different to the conduct of Messrs. Bramah, who also received Special Approbation with their Prize Medal), and we think that Messrs. Chubb should have been the last persons to put themselves forward after the great humiliation they must have experienced in having their locks picked by Mr. Hobbs.

We hereby challenge Messrs. Chubb to test their claims to superiority before a competent tribunal, as the only mode of arriving at the truth, the Judges to be chosen partly by ourselves and partly by Messrs. Chubb, and the Locks to be those shown by each of us at the Opening of the Exhibition on the 1st May last.

Henry Yates,   Joseph Taylor,
William and John Lea,   James Gibbons, Jun.
George Harley,   Charles Aubin.
Benjamin Walters,    

Courtesy of Jo Barreiro.

Some time between 1851 and 1856, Henry Yates moved his business to Merridale Lock Works, 88 Merridale Street, Wolverhampton. In 1862 he exhibited at the International Exhibition, also known as the Great London Exposition, which was held in South Kensington between 1st May and 1st November. In July 1866 he retired and transferred the business to his son, Edwin John Yates, as can be seen from the article below which appeared in the Birmingham Daily Post on 9th July, 1866.

Merridale Lock Works, Wolverhampton, 2nd July, 1866.

Sir, I beg to inform you that I have transferred to my son, Edwin John Yates, as from this date, the Business so long carried on by me at the above address; and in thanking you for past favours, I desire to express the hope that you will extend to my Successor the same kind of support that you awarded to me.

I am, Sir, yours respectfully.

Henry Yates

Courtesy of Jo Barreiro.

An advert from the catalogue of the 1884 Wolverhampton Arts and Industry Exhibition.

Edwin J. Yates & Company are listed as makers of cabinet locks and dead locks etc. in Peck's Circular Trade Directory of 1896 and are listed as lock makers in the 1908 edition of the Wolverhampton Red Book, but not in the 1913 edition or later.

I must thank Jo Barreiro for much of the information in this section.


The firm was originally called Young and Smith, as can be seen from this advert from Melville & Company's 1851 Wolverhampton Directory.

From the Nottingham Journal, Thursday 8th December, 1881. Courtesy of Jo Barreiro.

This advert is from the catalogue of the 1884 Wolverhampton Arts and Industry Exhibition.

Both this and the previous advert, indicate that the business was founded in the early 1830s.

Nothing else is known about the company.

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