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Antique Safes/Restoration of Tann's defiance safe


Graham wrote at 2015-02-23 11:19:18
I have a Tann's Defiance safe, it is green all over.

Lincstom wrote at 2016-01-21 15:57:50
If your 'Defiance' safe was made in the 19th century (which from its appearance. looks likely), it was made in London by an arm of the Tann safe-making family headed by George Tann (1813-1849).  His wife Amelia (b 1814) carried on the business after George's death, until their son John (born 1839) could take over.  His brother Robert Tann (1843-1899) took up the reins of the company in the 1860s, I believe, and his son - Robert Gravatt Tann (1882-1939) took it into the 20th century, apparently until 1917.

The other arm of Tann Safe makers was headed by another John Tann (b 1816), who was the slightly younger brother of George Tann.  John and his son, also called John (1841-1904), were revered as safe-makers in London, producing Tann safes with the trade name 'Reliance'.

So, the heads of these sub-dynasties, brothers George and John, formed separate companies, quite close to each other in London, but each had their 'pedigree' in safe manufacture rooted in the same safe-making business run by their father Edward Tann (b 1781) and his father before him, Edmund Tann (b 1747), a 'Security Chest Maker'.

Whose safes were the better made; Reliance or Defiance? - I'll leave to better experts in safe and lock fabrication than me.  In their day, they each had a 'pop' at each other in their trade literature, so I don't think there was much love lost between them.  Reminds me of the battle between Steinway and Steinweg piano makers; hostile competitors, but both rooted in the same historic piano-making family in Germany (weg means way in German).  

Suffice it to say, diplomatically, with due respect to the descendants of both arms of the Tann family, their legacies live on in the annals of British safe manufacture and perhaps just as importantly, their stylish and functional products are still in use today.  

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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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