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Antique Safes/milner fire-resisting safe



I am clearing out my late husband's office. I have a Milner 212 fire-resisting safe from the mid 1800's but unfortunately can't find the key. The door is open and there is a label on the inside which says that this type of safe was shown at The Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace. It's quite rusty but I wondered if it was worth trying to sell

Hello Mary,

Thanks for your question and the pictures.  Milner's was one of the country's most successful safe makers.  They were there at the very biginning of the safe industry and lasted well into the post war years.  Eventually merging with Chatwood to become Chatwood Milner until they were taken over by Chubb in the late 60's.  They were renowned for patenting a mixture of sand, sawdust and alum crystals - an effective fire resistant compound.  When alum is heated it converts to steam, dampening the sand and sawdust, so the temperature inside the safe would not exceed 212 degrees F - hence the numbers 212 on the safe.  However, after 130 years the mixture will have leaked and compacted and no longer be viable.  

They did indeed exhibit and the Great Exhibition as did several other Victorian safe makers.  The Phoenix rising from the ashes was their tradmark right to the end.

Sadly these very ancient safes are not worth a great deal. Some do change hands on ebay and in good condition they can fetch around 140, but currently, the majority fail to sell.  However, with the interesting copy on the back of the door, it may catch someone's fancy so it would be worth popping it on ebay or advertising it locally.  I doubt that any second hand safe dealers would be interested unless you offered it to them for nothing if they would take it away.


Mike Palmer FSyI
Mike Palmer Consultancy

PS.  If you have found this information useful, please take a moment to give it a rating.  Many thanks.

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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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