A Gazetteer of Lock and Key Makers

Jim Evans

this gazetteer is copyright Jim Evans, 2002




The company sometimes claimed to have been founded in 1670, by Thomas Gibbons, and sometimes to have been founded in 1750.  The possibility is that Thomas Gibbons set up as a locksmith in 1670, that he was succeeded by later generations of his family, and that the name of the company changed with that of its owner at the time.  

Left:  James Gibbons, born 1790.

Right:  James Gibbons, born 1820.

In 1750 a James Gibbons took over and that name stuck, not least because he was succeeded by another James.  The company (now split into two companies) currently claim the date of 1670 and say that "Sir Christopher Wren put his trust in James Gibbons' ironmongery".  The company claimed to have been owned by eight generations of the same family and it seems not to have been incorporated as a limited company until some time in the first half of the twentieth century.  

The medal awarded to the company at the 1851 exhibition and what is presumably one of the locks they exhibited there.

It is safe enough to assume that Thomas Gibbons set up his lock making business somewhere in Wolverhampton.  At some time they moved out to Church Street, probably in the second quarter of the nineteenth century.  They were certainly at St. John's Works, Church Street, by the time of the Great Exhibition of 1851, where they exhibited and won a prize medal.  At the time they advertised themselves as making locks, hinges and handles; when they branched out from lock making to door furniture is not known.  

This advert appeared in the catalogue for the Wolverhampton Arts and Industrial Exhibition of 1884.

The kind of ornamental lock shown was the type usual shown at exhibitions and was not necessarily typical of their ordinary products.



Left:  F. J. J. Gibbons, born 1862.

Right: P. E. Gibbons, born 1902.

In 1897 the Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire Illustrated described them as being lock makers, brass founders and makers of builders' ironmongery and, in addition to locks, makes reference to doorplates, knobs, handles, geared fanlight openers, panic doors, door springs and "other metal furnishings for builders, etc."..  

That publication also refers to them as having made extensive improvements to their works in Church Lane but it is not clear whether these are improvements within the buildings or new buildings. By this time they also had offices and showrooms in London, Manchester, Liverpool and Dublin.

This elaborate letterhead is undated but seems to be very late 19th century. 

The list of places across the bottom of it (Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Melbourne, Auckland, Cairo, Alexandria, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, Shanghai) is most likely to be places where they had agents (rather than branches).

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