A Gazetteer of Lock and Key Makers

THOMAS TUCKLEY and the Tuckley Family of Locksmiths


The firm of Thomas Tuckley, of Lane Head, Willenhall was founded by Thomas Tuckley who was one of a large number of members of the Tuckley family who were locksmiths in the Willenhall area or approximately 250 years from 1726 to 1971.  

The earliest Tuckley lockmakers (18th century)

The earliest Tuckleys known to have been lockmsiths were Humphrey [c.1718 to 1793] and his brother John Tuckley [c.1718 to 1766].  How and where they learnt their trade is not known. Humphrey Tackley [Tuckley] was listed as a Box Lockmaker in the Willenhall section of the 1780 Pearson and Rollason Directory for Merchants and Tradesmen. This is the first published reference in a directory to a Tuckley as a lockmaker.  John, in his will of 1766, was described as a Spring Chest Locksmith.  

Humphrey had four sons, all involved in the lock industry in the Lane Head area:  John (1740 – 1808), Thomas (1750 – 1822), William (1754 – 1793) and Joseph (1758 – c.1800.  Humphrey, in his will of 1793, left land and dwellings at Lane Head, and his tools, to his surviving sons John, Thomas and Joseph; and legacies to his daughters.

John [1740 to 1808] was described in 1765 as a locksmith in the Bushbury church marriage records.  Professions were not usually given in the marriage records of this period so it may indicate he had some status in the community.  William [1754 to 1793] moved from Lane Head to Kidderminster in 1765, to Darlaston in 1766 and then to Wednesbury between 1767 and 1769. In this period he seems to have given up being a locksmith but he went back to the trade and did as a locksmith. William's sons, who started the Tipton branch of the Tuckley family, became coal miners and canal boat builders.

In the early 1800s there were six major Tuckley family groups involved in lock making in the Lane Head, Short Heath areas of Willenhall.  They had large families and most of the people with the name, who are still living in the Black Country area, are their descendants :-

Sons of John and Mary (nee Tagg):

John [1766 to 1837]
Thomas [1773 to 1827]
William [1785 to 1850]

Sons of Thomas and Phoebe (nee Hartill):

Joseph [1775 to 1854]
Humphrey [1778 to 1853]
Isaac [1789 to 1870]

All are listed as locksmiths in trade directories for 1833, 1838 and 1845.

 John Tuckley (1805 to 1878)

John Tuckley (1805 to 1878), the son of John and Mary, locksmith, seems to have run into financial problems.  John took out a mortgage from a neighbour, Benjamin Walker (a Willenhall butcher) in 1845, on his property at Lane Head for the principal of £13 with interest of £5 per cent per annum.  By 1847 he had not paid any interest and was being chased for the money.  In a note from John to Benjamin regarding his failure to pay he says: "I can not get any place to go to and therefore I have no desire whatever to defraud you I have been almost lost for [worry] and not able to pay you any interest If please god things are better I will pay some interest as soon as I can".  He was pursued to Walsall and Birmingham and served notice of a final warning.  A duplicate notice was served on John's neighbour, John Duncomb, who was married to Elizabeth Tuckley and probably knew where John was living.  Benjamin was still not paid by 1854 and consequently he gave John notice that "I shall proceed to sell the land and property to recover my debt".  John died in Birmingham in 1878.

George Tuckley (1818 to 1884)

George Tuckley (1818 to 1884), the son of Isaac and Mary, locksmith, was living in New Invention in 1851 and 1861 and was employing two apprentices.  In 1870 he moved to Lane Head, perhaps upon the death of his father, Isaac Tuckley.  The 1871 Census lists George as employing 9 men and 6 boys. Some of his boys came from the Workhouse at Ampthill, Bedford.  The indentures for three young boys who were taken on as apprentice locksmiths to George Tuckley have survived and are to be found in the Bedfordshire and Luton Archives. Their papers state that their mothers were dead and that they had been deserted by their fathers.

Alfred Jordan aged 15 years in 1865 bound for 5 years.
David Gudgin aged 13 years in 1871 bound for 8 years.
James Dudley aged 14 years in 1872 bound for 7 years

They were provided with board and lodging and an outfit [clothes] but not wages.  There was correspondence in 1871 between the Master of the Workhouse at Ampthill  and George Tuckley, asking George to pay James Dudley a weekly sum which should be increased annually when he reaches 17 years of age.  George replied "that it is an imposition and he cannot agree."  However a year later he does agree "to have the boy Dudley bound, [indentured] even though he is very unruly."  A Dave Gudgin, perhaps the former workhouse apprentice, was working at the Thomas Tuckley lock works in the 1930s.

Thomas Tuckley (1815 to 1890)

Thomas Tuckley

Thomas Tuckley (1815 to 1890) locksmith, was the son of Thomas and Lucy (nee Hawkins).  He can be seen as the founder of the firm of Thomas Tuckley, which continued at Lane Head until 1971. 

In later documents, the firm claimed to have been founded in 1870.  But Thomas seems to have been carrying on a family firm which dates back to round about 1765. 

Thomas made locks in Short Heath and the Census records show that he was employing at least 1 man in 1851, 1 man and 3 boys in 1861, 6 men, 2 boys in 1871 and 3 men in 1881. 

In 1885 he bought property, from a Mr. Appleby, at 1 Haley Street, Lane Head and this is where he established his lock works, where it continued until 1871, and where the family lived.


Thomas married twice and had one surviving daughter from each marriage.  After his death in 1890 the eldest daughter Mary, together with her husband Nicholas Crossley, carried on the lock business and continued to trade as Thomas Tuckley, Lock, Latch and Key Manufacturers.
In 1911, William Crossley, a son of Mary and Nicholas, registered for the Company an interesting trade mark in the form of a Boy Scout.  

The design, which was registered in September 1911 [No. 335295], was created by Charles Knowles, one of Mary's sons in law. It appears to have been used on all their paperwork, packaging and on their locks.

Front page of a Tuckley catalogue, about 1912.

The scout logo from the same catalogue.

The Scout movement had been established in the early 1900s and by 1910 had overseas groups in Australia, Belgium, Gibraltar, Ireland, Malta, New Zealand, South Africa.  Most commonwealth countries were excellent markets for locks and in 1909 a three year export agreement was signed by Henry Campbell of London and Thomas Tuckley Lock Makers.  It made Henry Campbell their sole export agent in London and Australia.  
This arrangement must have been a successful arrangement because it was renewed in 1912 for a further three years.
The Company employed a significant number of people, perhaps up to 80, in the period between the wars.  During the 1939-45 War they employed 20 people.  After the war sales, through agents, resumed to such places as Auckland, New Zealand (J Harrison and Son); India (A.Murcotts & Co. Birmingham); Valetta, Malta (Carmelio Delia); Johannesburg, South Africa (Oakden Sons, London)

Business card from the same period.

Guarantee, from the catalogue.

In the 1961 Chamber’s Midlands Trades Register there were 54 lock manufacturers listed in Willenhall, 10 in Birmingham, 4 in Walsall, 1 in Wednesfield and none in Wolverhampton.  

Only one firm with the name Tuckley was listed in the Willenhall section and that was Thomas Tuckley of Haley Street, Lane Head, Short Heath; they were described as Brass and Iron Cabinet Lock and Key Makers.

Overseas orders declined in the 1960s because of cheaper foreign competition and the last order for the Company was produced on 26th February 1971 for Rabone, Petersen & Co. Ltd. of London for shipment to J.Harrison & Sons Co., St Vincent in the Carribean.

Ron Bowdler took over part of the premises in the for his turned parts business.

A Tuckley lock from the catalogue.

However that is not the end of the Tuckley connection with the Willenhall Lock Trade. Roy Tuckley ran Tuckley Tools who were manufacturers of press tools, jigs and fixtures for the lock industry.  This firm was restructured, in 2006, as T.W.H. Hardware UK Ltd., who continue the same business, supplying the lock trade.

The Thomas Tuckley Works

This plan, not to scale, shows the Forward Works as they were when they closed. 

At the bottom is Haley Street. 

16 is the family house.  Adjoining is the building known as "The Warehouse" which contains 16: a brass store downstairs and warehouse and office above;  14:  a carriage arch entry to the yard;  13: packing and despatch; and 12: three garages, originally stables.

In the yard, 2 is the site of a wooden building (demolished c. 1948) which was erected about 1860 and originally contained the whole works except the warehouse.

1:  "the Brass Shop" where all brass locks were assembled.  3:  Iron lock assembly and key fitting shop, with a forge at the top end and four power presses and various hand presses at the bottom end.  4:  The tool shop, where tools were forged, originally by hand methods.  5: The engine house (a gas engine until 1935).  6:  site of the steam engine house.  7:  The varnish house, unused from the 1930s.  8:  brew house.  9:  coal and coke stores. 10:  scrap iron.  11:  toilets.

The photos below show most of these features but note that they were taken some years after the lock works closed and the site had, in the intervening years, been put to other uses.

Haley Street, showing the family house at No.1 on the far right, then the offices, entry, packing and despatch and, nearest the camera, the stables/garages.
The house, seen from the rear.  A small garden area was fenced off from the rest of the yard.  The house is said to have been three storeys high originally. 

The warehouse end of the front buildings, showing the carriage arch. 

The warehouse building is said to have been only one storey high originally. 

The building on the left of the picture is the engine house.

The iron lock assembly shop see from the warehouse end of the site. 

The same shop, seen from the other side and also looking towards the back of the site.
The interior of the assembly shop.  The equipment shown is not what was there in Tuckley's time.
Looking towards the house from the rear of the yard, showing the assembly shop to the right; and the old varnish house, brew house and stores to the left. 

Return to the
list of makers