Locks and Keys. The Origin



Early man had to be aware of robbers trying to steal their possessions.

Ancient people dug a hole in the ground and covered it with a heavy stone,

They also used hollowed out tree trunks  and secret spaces in caves, but there was progress! A hinged detachable door which was hung on ropes made of rush or fibre.

This gradually gave way to wooden doors locked by a wooden bar across the centre of the door. The bar fitted into sockets sunk into the door styles. This principal is still being used at present, mainly for double doors on farm buildings.


The earliest simple locks and keys were made by the Egyptians about 4000 years ago. This innovation was copied by the Romans. A wooden lock recently found on an old barn door in Switzerland had been made following this principle.


The lock is closed when pegs are in dropped position. With inserting the wooden key, the pegs can be lifted out of the way so the door can be opened. In India extra security was obtained by so called `guardian angels ` crocodiles which were kept underfed.


When the Romans invaded other countries they brought their locks and keys with them. Some of the smaller keys for caskets etc were made in the form of a ring to be worn on a finger to prevent them getting lost.

As time went on the bulk of keys were made in Germany, Italy and France In England the first metal locks appeared in the 9th century during the reign of King Alfred the Great who is said to have been a great patron of the blacksmith`s work . The Middle Ages are known as the second important period of technical development of locks and keys. The turning key was already in use during the 14th century.


Many city crests and Coats of Arms have keys depicted on them. Some university colleges also use this emblem.


In the 15th century Charles the fourth of Habsburg created the title of `MASTER LOCKSMITH`.

This title could only be obtained after a craftsman had undergone stringent tests in ornamental art and workmanship.


Nuremberg in Bavaria became the centre of iron and steel industry.




During the English Victorian era locks and keys became more elaborate and technically superior.



These items with their fascinating history are nowadays an interesting subject for collectors. The most important lock and key making industry in England was and still is centred in Willenhall and district.












Modern hotel toom keys in contrast are just boring pieces of plastic card housing an electronic chip which is much easier for a guest to carry around though!

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