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Antique Safes/Coalbrookdale traveling safe/strongbox



I have just been given this cast iron coalbrookdale safe or strongbox and would like to know something about its original use etc
It has "Coalbrookdale" cast in the door but I cannot find out any more information from this company info
It has paneling on all sides with a smooth base
There are three handles one at each side and one on the top.
Dimensions are 21" wide, 13" tall and 14 1/2" deep
The key hole has a locking brass cover which is released by sliding the brass button.
The key is 4 inches long with a hollow stem, the tab with the cut outs is tapered (getting wider from the stem)
There is a false wooden floor which i assume has been added later
It is heavy but two men can just about carry it but not very far!
I have tried to remove panel from the door to reveal the lock but it is secured on very well so gave up. There is no signs that it has ever been removed
I have just asked you about another cast iron  safe and i just wondered as the key for this safe is very similar in size and style to the other would they have used the same locksmith to provide locks or be made by the same foundry who bought the locks from one locksmith.
I can supply more pictures if needed
This is all very interesting and I look forward to hearing your comments

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for the pictures of the cast iron chest.  First came Armada Chests which made of stout wood wrapped around with wrought iron reinforcing bands; then came the cast iron chest and eventually the safe.  

This cast iron chest will pre-date the other one slightly but essentially the same comments apply.  These chests preceded the 'safe' which didn't begin to evolve until the mid 1800s.

The key is exactly how I described it in my previous response and the lock is once again a 'box of wards'.  My guess is the false floor was introduced in an attempt to create some resistance to heat.  Coalbrookdale in Shropshire was famous for its iron foundry and they made the made the first cast iron bridge (giving the name Ironbridge to the local village) and cast the decorative gates to Hyde Park in London.  There is a Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron and may be worth you taking a couple of pictures along to show the curator.

As I said in my previous response, these cast iron chests were particularly vulnerable if struck with sledge hammers so they were pretty useless both as fire and burglary resistant containers. By the mid 1800s the 'safe' was beginning to evolve and by the early 1900's there were literally scores of safe manufacturers feeding a hungry market.  J Tann, Chubb and Milner's would soon come to dominate.


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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