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Antique Safes/Chubb detector lock safe C19th


Chubb and Son
Chubb and Son  
Good evening, im hoping you can help me. After HOURS of searching the internet i have came across you, and hope you can point me in the right direction!

i have, what i believe to be a 19th century Chubb and Son Combination safe with detector lock.
please find the enclosed image, the writing says " Chubb and Sons Lock and Safe Company of 128 Queen Victoria Street, London "  

Any help will be greatly appreciative!


Hi Matt,

Thank you for your question.

The Chubb brothers (Charles & Jeremiah) first London office was established at 57 St Paul's Churchyard in 1820.  In 1877 they moved to larger premises at 128 Queen Victoria Street and remained there until the premises were destroyed by fire following an air raid in 1941.  So this address appears on many safes made during that 64 year period.  

I can't see as much as I would like of the safe in the picture, but I suspect it is what we call a 'square cornered' safe.  They were constructed from mild steel plates riveted or screwed to an angle-iron frame.  This method of construction was popular from the mid 1800's to around 1910 when it was considered obsolete, mainly due to the vulnerability of the rear of the safe, where the backplate could easily be ripped open.  Consequently many of these old safes were recessed into a wall, as in this case, to prevent the safe being spun around to reveal the weak back.  My best guess is that this one was manufactured around 1890.  

It was the patented invention of the Detector Lock that made Chubb famous.  The government sponsored a competition to design an unpickable lock and this was the Chubb brothers' submission.  If you attempt to pick it, a spring is operated which blocks the lock to prevent it opening.  When the owner inserts their key, it will not turn - indicating that someone has tried to overcome it.  The owner simply turns the key to re-lock it - this clears it and allows it to function once more.  it won the competition and the Chubb brothers closed their ships chandlery business in Portsmouth to become lock and safe makers.  The detector lock can still be found fitted to Chubb Deed Boxes being manufactured well into the late 1900s.

I hope you find this useful.


Mike Palmer FSyI
Mike Palmer Consultancy

Antique Safes

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Mike Palmer


I earn my living identifying safes and suggesting cash limits for risk advisors and insurance surveyors in the UK. I'm am pleased to comment on safes manufactured in the UK or Mainland Europe but I am unable to accept questions regarding safes made in the USA or elsewhere.


I have been in the UK safe industry for 40 years and have one of the largest archive databases of old safe literature and serial numbers in the country. I started with Chubb in 1960 and became Assistant Manager of their Bank Security Division before moving on to become the Insurance Liaison Manager with the John Tann Group. I became Sales & Marketing Director for Guardian Safes Limited before semi-retiring. I am a Fellow of the Security Institute and ex-Chairman of Eurosafe UK, a trade body representing the interests of UK safe makers and distributors. I now work as a part time consultant.

I am an advisor to the Safe Committee of the Association of Insurance Surveyors, a Fellow of the Security Institute and founding Chairman of Eurosafe UK.

I have had literally scores of articles published in various security trade publications. So far this year I have had 24 features published in various journals including Keyways, Professional Security, Pawnbroker and Safe India. I have published one book, Peckham Boy, the life and times of the world's greatest safe cracker.

No relevant educational credentials.

Awards and Honors
In 1997 I was awarded the annual shield by the Association of Insurance Surveyors for "..outstanding services to crime prevention"

Past/Present Clients
I have represented or been an agent for the John Tann Group (Stratford, Ratner, Dreadnought and Tann safes); Churchill Safes, Chubb Safe Co Ltd, SLS Safes, SMP Safes, Dudley Safes and several others

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