Antique Safes/Who made my safe?
Hi, recently purchased a house and it included an old safe in the loft. Was wondering if you could help me identify who made it?
Without further information and/or better photos (I can't make out the name plaque), my first guess would be that it was possibly from one of the Withers. There were several Safe Makers from the same family, though they had different companies in different cities. The handle looks very similar to ones made by Withers. I'm not sure if other English safe makers also used the same or similar handles????
I've included some basic history of this family to help in your research, though I would also recommend your contacting two other experts on this same site (AllExperts / Antique Safes) who specialize in English made safes - Sorry, I specialize in American Antique Safes.
Contact either Tom Gordon or Mike Palmer to see if they can ID it for you.
The basic info on the Wither's family is as follows:
WITHERS SAFES – There were five safe making “Withers” companies:
GEORGE WITHERS, (1855-1865), West Bromwich, England
WITHER’S, MARY & SON’S (1865-1872), West Bromwich, England
SAMUEL WITHERS, (1870’s to 1970), West Bromwich, England
THOMAS WITHERS, (1870’s), West Bromwich, England
JESSE WITHERS, 1870’s), West Bromwich, England
Richard Antcliff, Brisbane, England
Harry Antcliff, Birmingham, England
(courtesy of the “Gazetteer of Lock and Key makers – Jim Evans / Veronica Antcliff)
The Withers were a family of safe makers in west Bromwich where they set up a safe making firm which came to have a commercial history as complex as that of many of the Willenhall lock makers. The people and firms concerned are:
George Withers; Mary Withers; Thomas Withers; Samuel Withers; Jesse Withers; Richard Antcliff, Harry Antcliff.
The early days: George Withers. The Withers story starts with George Withers, an iron turner, who was born in West Bromwich in 1804. He married Mary Turner (b1805) in 1826. They had nine children.
1. Rebecca Withers, married Henry Antcliff and had four children. Her two sons learned the safe making trade from their uncles and set up their own safe making businesses. The older son Richard James Antcliff migrated to Brisbane, Australia in 1884 and was the only safe maker in the colony of Queensland. The younger son Harry Richard Antcliff, established the Empire Safe works in Birmingham, England.
2. Isaac Stephen, twin of Rebecca, died as a toddler.
3. Edward Arundall, migrated to America and set up a successful engineering business in Marietta, GA.
4. George, died around 7 years old.
5. Mary, died around 5 years old.
6. Thomas, born 1838-9, Bilston, Staffordshire, died 20 Feb 1887. He was the founder of Thomas Withers & Sons. Occupation listed as “Iron Safe Manufacture”.
7. Samuel, born 1841, Smethwick, Staffordshire. Died 1922. He is the founder of Samuel Withers & Company.
8. Jesse, born 23 July 1843, Nottingham road, derby. Died 1901. He also had his own safe manufacturing business, but was not as successful as his older brothers.
9. Elizabeth, born 1846. Died 1931.
The birth places of some of the children suggest that George and Mary withers moved around for a bit, moving back to West Bromwich in 1843 and set up a two story factory in Barrows street, originally making metal bedsteads. He chose this location because it was alongside a soon to be built railway line between Birmingham and Wolverhampton. Hence the claim on some of the Withers safes that the firm was established in 1843. Sometime around 1853, George filed for bankruptcy protection. What happened in this case is not known but apparently his fortunes revived because in 1855, George Withers set up his safe manufacturing business in Roebuck Street, West Bromwich. Presumably this was a Greenfield site as Roebuck Street doesn’t appear in the 1841 or 1851 censuses. The factory was called the Park works.
It is the establishment of this business which leads to the more widely used “established 1855” claimed by both Thomas and Samuel withers for their separate businesses.
George Withers first appears in a trade directory in 1861. He is listed in the West Bromwich section of the “Corporation Directory of Birmingham 1861”. For the first time there’s a category of “Iron Safe Manufactures’ in trades listings in West Bromwich. George Withers of Roebuck Street, west Bromwich is one of the four iron safe manufactures listed. (The others are J. Cartwright of Roebuck St., Wm Cottom of the Vulcan Iron Foundry and John Hall of Bull Street.). George Withers next appears in ‘Kelly’s Directory of Birmingham etc, 1864” where his entry under West Bromwich traders is: Withers & Son, Manufactures of iron fireproof safes & McEntee & Withers patent locks, roebuck St.,”. The son in Withers & Son would be Thomas and the patent referred to in the listing was applied for in 1863.
George Withers died in 1864, and his wife Mary took over the running of the business. The listing in 1865 was “WITHERS, Mary & Sons, iron safe makers, Roebuck St.,” Mary ran this business until she died in 1872.
The three safe making sons of George and Mary Withers were probably closely connected with the original firm, at least until their mother’s final years. At about that time three separate and competing companies appear. There is no information on why this happened.
Samuel Withers had set up his business in Barrow St., of West Bromwich, presumably in George’s original factory.
Thomas Withers had his business in Bull St., of West Bromwich
T. Withers & Sons, Patent #9655, issued 1892
Jesse Withers had his business in Barrow St., of West Bromwich.
Hope this helps.