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Antique Safes/Asbestos in S Withers Safe



Dear Mike,
My local village hall has a very old S Withers Safe.  A recent asbestos survey has presumed asbestos is present as there was "no access to safe linings".  It is a bit rusty at the base so a possible risk of asbestos escape if any is present.  We want to avoid an asbestos "issue" if we can as we are short of money to deal with it.  I have attached two images but could send more.
Can you advise?
Regards Steve

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the question.

Your safe was made circa 1870 when body of these ancient safes was filled with a loose mix of sand and sawdust.  Sometimes alum crystals were added as they gave off moisture when heated and provided some basic level of fire resistance.  Several decades later, some manufacturers used Diatamite, a white ground fossil mixture which is sometimes mistaken for asbestos.  However, to my certain knowledge, none of the old Victorian safe makers used asbestos in any form.

I hope this helps,


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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