Industrial Archaeology Recordings

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The Lock Museum, Willenhall

Lock & Key Making

The Lock Museum, Willenhall
Lock & Key Making

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Forging hot steel bar


Willenhall in the West Midlands of England has been the centre of the British lock industry for over 400 years. In the sixteenth century, Willenhall was granted the privilege of making all locks for government use.

Today, famous names such as Yale, Squire and Union are still busy in the area and some small specialist firms have also survived.

Locksmith filing a padlock

In 1983, The Lock Museum Trust purchased 54, New Road Willenhall from the Hodson family the last family of lock makers to live here. The house is a typical Victorian house with backyard workshop. Following some restoration work the buildings were opened as the Lock Museum in 1987.

As well as static displays in the gaslit house, the visitor can experience something of the living and working conditions of a 19th century lockmaker and his family. Lock making skills are demonstrated by volunteers using original tools and equipment such as fly-presses, blacksmith's hearths and belt-driven machinery.

Line shafting & belts for driving some of the machinery

The original works manufactured bar padlocks for South America and barge padlocks for canal boats. The family firm employed one or two locksmiths, but the family were expected to help when trade was busy!

Finished locks were varnished in a japanning oven.

In 2003 the museum became part of the Black Country Living Museum, and has been re-opened as the "Locksmith's House" which celebrates the efforts of the small family run lock making businesses which once thrived in this area. Visit the Locksmith's House for more information and details of opening times.

Filing a padlock plate

Padlock mechanism


There are many other I.A.Recordings compilations on the theme of lock making.

Also see the production "Hand Made Padlocks".

All the images on this page are taken from Compilation No.33 "West End Locks, Willenhall Lock Museum & Other Works".

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Copyright © 2018 I.A.Recordings, Last modified: 12 November, 2019