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Antique Safes/Who made my safe?


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Hi, I recently purchased a house and it included an old safe in the loft. Was wondering if you could help me identify who made it?

There appears to be no manufacturer name or number anywhere on the outside or inside. The top banner says "Fire Resisting Safe" and around the crest it says "Fire Proof and Thief Proof Safe".

Thanks for any help.

Hello Gavin,

Thank you for your question and the pictures of your safe.

I'm afraid the manufacturer is probably going to remain a mystery.  In the late Victorian era, some years after the Industrial Revolution, there was a desperate demand for fire resistant safes to protect vital ledgers.  As a result of this demand scores of small safe makers burgeoned, mostly but not exclusively, in the Midlands.  These early fire resistant safes were very crudely made as metal presses had not yet been invented, so safes were made from a four mild steel plates riveted to an angle iron frame to form the two sides and top and bottom.  A fifth plate was fitted at the back and a door hung at the front.  Because there was no bending, they had sharp 90 degree shoulders and nick-named 'square cornered safes'.  Most of these safe makers disappeared at the outbreak of WW1.

The body cavities were usually filled with sand and sawdust, sometimes with some added alum.  Other times it was just clinker from the foundry floor or even garden soil.  These safes were most common from 1840 to 1880 and over the years any loose filling will have leaked and compacted leaving large voids through which heat can quickly be conducted.

The plate joints are also easily forced open so these safes are totally obsolete, have no function, are not worth a great deal and shouldn't be used to secure cash, jewellery or vital documents.

This safe is probably best left where it is as dealers don't want to know safes of this extreme age unless in exceptional condition and even scrap metal dealers are usually reluctant to take them as the filling makes a such mess of their yards.  It would cost more than it is worth to have it removed and taken away, so my advice is to continue to keep it in the loft.

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Best regards,

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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