A History of Locksmithing in London

The history of locksmithing itself is very interesting. We can see the first form of locks dating back to the Egyptian period (somewhere around 2000 B.C.) They of course didn’t have the modern lock, but a very crude rudimentary form of a locking device.

We can fast forward to London in the medieval time period of 1385. We see the sale of locks, and later in 1394 it was forbidden to copy keys from an impression (due to thefts that had occurred). We can see the formation in the early fourteen hundreds of the Master Locksmiths and finally the locksmiths guild.

We see the use and sale of locks from this time period up to the mid 18th century. Robert Barron known as the “Father of the English Lever System” placed a patent for a more modern and distinctive mechanism. This was all happening during the Industrial Revolution. Several more patents and improvements would happen during this period up to 1816. Joseph Bramah patented a circular slider pattern, which improved security of the locks tremendously.

Use in Churches

You will see several different types of locks on the doors of churches. Some will have wooden locks dating back several centuries. The plate lock (made from a metal place) was also used in churches. As locksmithing evolved over the years, so did the types of locks that were used in churches.


In the 1930’s to 1950’s there was a change in the view of locksmiths. People considered it more of a craft then a profession. Many times this was a sideline operation because there were few locksmith-only shops. You would often see locksmithing in addition to bicycle repair, etc. The early 1940’s time was spent focusing on the war, so there weren’t advances in technology.


The biggest advancements here were the use of cylindrical designs. This changed the locksmith industry dramatically. The cylindrical design became the lock of choice and revolutionized the industry.


As urban populations started to rise, we saw the need for more security, and thus new locks. We see electronics start to evolve and start to influence the locksmith world (computer records, inventory, key codes, etc.)

1990’s – 2000’s
With the proliferation of electronics we see locks and locking mechanisms start to evolve. For example you see many hotels have locks that you can program a code, and it automatically locks your valuables. Locks now can have electronic mechanisms that control them.

The history of locksmithing in London has changed over time. Locksmiths, who were once considered like blacksmiths, became less scarce and less respected. We have seen advances in the design of locks. They used to be simple forms, and are now more complex machinery, and the computer revolution has changed the locksmithing craft completely.