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Antique Safes/Ratcliff and Horner safe



Inside door
Inside door  
Hello, I've recently acquired this safe and I'm hoping to find out a bit more
about it. It has a key with it and is lockable. I was unable to find any serial numbers
on the key or safe and the information on the Internet is hard to find. Is it of age or any great
monetary value?

Your safe is 1890-1895 and of low quality with no collectable value or insurance rating. Sorry

The company was originally known as Ratcliff & Horner Limited and was formed in 1890 by Mr Daniel R Ratcliff, his son, Mr W M Ratcliff and Mr J M Horner who was the works manager at Milners. However due to financial difficulties the company re-capitalised in 1895 as Ratner Safe Company Limited.

Daniel Rowlinson Ratcliff, born 2nd October 1837, came from a family background of machinists and founders and was described as a safe manufacturer. He was for some time agent for Milner and joined the company about 1861. His early activities could be described as colourful. Contemporary wrangling between Milner and George Price is well documented in Prices 1854 Treatise and also in the recently published work “George Price –Champion of the Security Trade”. He married the only child of William Milner, Jane, in 1862. Daniel eventually became a partner with William Milner and jointly patented many improvements. When William Milner died in 18 74 the executors formed a public limited company as provided for in the will. Daniel received £35,000 worth of shares and other bonuses. The reason for his disenchantment at Milners’ is unknown but the procedures and regulations relating to a public limited company probably didn’t suit one that was used to making decisions without the formality now demanded. One of Daniel and Jane’s children, William M Ratcliff, joined his farther in his new venture and eventually became chairman of the company. J M Horner was the Milner works manager at the time who also brought several experienced workers into the fledgling new company.

One of the early innovations that Ratner brought to the industry was the twelve corner bent safe. The outer shell was made from a single piece of steel, which gave great inherent strength. This was a far superior method than fabricating the individual sides and riveting them together, and probably went a long way in establishing the reputation of the new company.. As far as locks was concerned the designs adopted were developed from experience gained at Milner. Because of this experience the design remained static, there is little difference between early and late produced locks, only differing in minor details – a sure sign of an effective and sound design. In fact Ratner locks looked very similar to and included many features found in Milner locks. For example the solid block, or IDB (iron door block) as it was referred to in the works, from the now well expired Milner ‘Solid’ Patent and the integral lever whose pedigree can be traced back to Aubin and his early Nettlefold days. There were five standard locks in the range which only developed in minor details such as the number of levers or the projection on the bolt tail which engaged a live AED (anti explosive device), the Patented ‘Explosive Safety Bolt’ or the ‘Raternermatic’ as it was later called. Its understood that a lock should have either false notches or an anti-pressure device, but not both. Ratner incorporated a device which locked up the bolt until the levers had been lifted, but still effectively incorporated false notches. Locks were hand finished right up to the end. The rough castings and stampings were laboriously filed, drilled and shaped. One of the first jobs a locksmith apprentice would do is to produce his own set of jigs and hand tools for bringing and finishing the various lock parts into a highly efficient mechanism.

Ratner and Griffiths amalgamated around 1942, but still retained their separate identities, and was eventually taken over by the Stratford-Tann group in 1971.  

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Tom Gordon


UK lock, physical security and safes with worldclass collections of safe plaques and Chatwood items. I do NOT have expert knowledge of American safes.


25 years as a master locksmith, giving training around the UK and Eire to ALOI and MLA members.



In the eighties and nineties I took every course that I could in the UK and the USA at ALOA

Awards and Honors
Locksmith of The Year 2010 Locks & Security Monthly (UK)

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