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Antique Safes/T.withers&son safe


Hi mike I sent you the pics threw I was wandering if you can tell me some info on the safe I found it in my house I have just got its open we don't have a key that is a shame as I would have loved to have used it for my self thanks Ben

Hello Ben,

Thank you for sending me the picture of your Thomas Withers safe.  

The entire Withers family were engaged in safe making over many years and there were four distinct companies bearing the Withers name; George withers, Jesse Withers, Thomas Withers and Samuel Withers.  However George and Jesse soon vanished and Thomas and Samuel Withers are the best known, both claiming to have been established in 1855.

Your Thomas Withers Safe is referred to as 'square cornered'.  Because hydraulic steel presses had not yet been invented, these safes were made from separate mild steel sheets riveted onto an angle-iron frame creating sharp 90 degree corners, hence the name.  By 1880 this type of safe was no longer manufactured so your safe is at least 136 years old.  The body cavity is filled with sand and sawdust to provide some basic fire resistance.

Because these riveted safes are so easily forced open, they should no longer be used to secure cash or valuables.  Also the sand and sawdust will have compacted and leaked over the years leaving large voids in the insulation through which heat could transmit, so they should not be used to secure important documents either.

Today their use is largely decorative.  Yours is a nice example and slightly different as I have never seen a keyhole escutcheon with this moon and stars motif.  

Ancient Thomas Withers safes frequently appear on Ebay but don't fetch a great deal.  I would think you would be lucky to get more than 140 for it.  However, it is an interesting piece of late Victorian history and if I were you I would get a local Master Locksmith to call and cut a new key or replace the lock.  It will cost a few bob but it would be a nice thing to keep.

You can find a locksmith with safe engineering services by going onto the MLA website,

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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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