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Safe internals
Safe internals  
I have just been given this and another cast iron safe from a friend and would like to know a bit more about its age and hopefully maker
It seems old as most of the working parts seem to have been hand made such as hinges and the three part locking bolt.
I cannot find any identification marks
I have hopefully included photos below showing the safe and back of locking mechanism etc. The four bolts which hold the panel in place all seem to vary slightly in size suggesting hand made as well.
Do you think the round brass handle could be original?
All sides including top and bottom have the paneling apart from the back which is smooth
Approx size is 28 1/2" tall, 17 1/2" wide and 16 1/2" deep
I look forward to any further information on this safe
I have further pictures if needed

Hello Kevin,

Thank you for your question and the pictures of the cast iron safe. Following the Industrial Revolution there was a great demand for somewhere to keep valuable ledgers so they could not be destroyed by fire.  The old cast iron chests conducted heat very efficiently, quickly destroying any paper records they contained.  Then a small firm of wrought iron workers experimented with fitting and inner lining to create what they called 'air chambers'.  This seemed to help but it was when they began to experiment with various loose fillings such as sand and sawdust, that they found a eager market.  Your safe seems to have been made on the cusp of this development and I would think it dates to pre 1850.

The lock is a 'box of wards' in other words there were no levers, just static wards over which the key was designed to pass.  The key, if you have it, will be a big chunky thing with an intricate pattern cut into the tongue.

It was much later that safes became known for securing valuables rather than ledgers and a host of safe makers sprouted up in the Midlands using steel rather than iron, which was liable to shatter if struck with a sledge hammer.

I think the handle is probably the original but I can't identify the maker although it could well be E.Tann, the pioneer of safe making in the UK.

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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