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Antique Safes/John Tann Safe


Hello Mike
I am trying to find out whether a very old John Tann safe we have in the company is fire-resistant.  It states No 11 Newgate St, London on the safe badge and the word Reliance and there is a number on the inside edge of the door 169909.  It has a circular handle opening the door, there are 2 small drawers on the floor of the body and one shelf high up in the body.  It has an extremely thick door.
I need to know if I can safely store papers in there as we would like to keep the safe.
Many thanks.
Jane Wilson

Hello Jane,

Thank you for your question.  John Tann's London office at 11 Newgate Street was adjacent to the notorious Newgate Prison and it is said that staff were able to see public executions taking place from their office windows.  True or not, they moved further up the road to 117 Newgate Steet around 1912 so your safe is at least 103 years old.  Late Victorian safes were largely filled with a loose mixture of sand, sawdust and alum - a primative fire resistant compound.  However, over the past 100 years or so it will have compacted and leaked leaving large voids in the upper body through which heat would be conducted.

Sadly, therefore. this old John Tann safe would not be san ideal place to secure important documents from possible loss by fire.

If this answer has been usefull,could you take a moment to rate it?  

Many thanks,

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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