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S Withers Safe
S Withers Safe  
Hi Mike
I recently came across a old Withers safe in a pub in Sydney Australia,reading your responses I have come to the conclusion that its not worth much at all.I have decided to do it up and use it as a decorative piece instead.So my question is,is how does one tell how old these safes are, this one has double doors with 2 brass plates on the front.Lion and not standing on a crown it says S Withers West Bromwich near Birmingham.The safe is constructed with  thin metal plate around it put together with screws.So before I pull it apart I was hoping to maybe date it.Thanking you in advance.
Kind Regards

Hello Reymond,

Thank you for your question.  

Firstly, you are quite right, these old Sam Withers safes are quite common in the UK and have little value, especially the larger, double door models.  However, they will be far less common in Australia but I have no knowledge of prices there.

This type of construction is referred to as 'square cornered'.  As you observed, mild steel plates are riveted or screwed onto an angle iron frame creating sharp, 90 degree corners.  The space between the outer and inner bodies is filled with sand, sawdust and possibly some alum crystals.  This was intended as a rather primitive fire resistant barrier as these early safes were designed more to protect ledgers from loss by fire rather than to secure cash and valuables.

Square cornered safes were largely considered vulnerable and obsolete by 1890 as the joints in the plates were so easy to force open.  This lead to manufacturers wrapping heavy steel bands around the front and rear edges to resist forcing.  These later safes are referred to as 'square corner banded'.

So your safe is late Victorian and at least 123 years old and looks to be in good condition and will scrub up really well.  I notice one of the hand and bar handles is damaged.  If you want to replace it, look on eBay, they are frequently offered for sale.

The Withers were an interesting family with four members involved with safe making; each with their own factory.  Samuel and Thomas Withers were the best known. If you Google, you should be able to find more information.


Mike Palmer FSyI
Mike Palmer Consultancy

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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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