Saturday, 19 November 2016

John Wilkes's Detector Lock**


Birmingham made 'detector' lock from c. 1680. V&A.

This brass lock was made in Birmingham in about 1680 by John Wilkes, so a little before the prime of the town’s toymaking trade, but it is still a fascinating object. The lock is able to record how may times it has been opened through the turning of the numbered dial. It would therefore ward off any potential thieves, and on the front are written the lines:

If I had ye gift of tongue 
I would declare and do no wrong 
Who ye are ye come by stealth 
To impare my Master's wealth.

The man’s leg moves forwards and backwards to reveal and conceal the keyhole when a button is pressed, and his hat is tilted to release the bolt. It is an ingenious piece of craftsmanship, and not the only surviving John Wilkes lock, so more will be revealed soon. See them here.

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