The History of Keys

As you read this blog almost certainly you have a small toothed and grooved slab of metal on your person, and you use it every day when entering and leaving your house, lets see how these have changed and developed over the years.



Did you know one of the oldest locks on record was created in Egypt? “The ancient Assyrian lock” like our modern method of lock and key which consists of a large wooden pronged key which moved a series of tumblers the design spread globally influenced the future of locks.


The years that followed didn’t see many changes to the operational mechanism of locks however many decorative changes to keys which would have been seen across medieval Europe if your lucky enough you still see keys like this used today.


Jumping forward a few years Robert Barron brought us the lever tumbler lock which offered limited security but a much smoother operation this design was later revised increasing the security.


The late 1700s see the likes Joseph Brahmahs “Bramah lock” the first commercially produced lock to offer good protection against manipulation, in fact he was so confident in his design they would hang signs in shop windows with a challenge with a reward of 200 guineas to the first person to pick it open.



Building on earlier work Jerimiah Chubb and his brother Charles developed the work of Joseph Barron after the a burglary took place in a Portsmouth dockyard using a false key resulting in her majesty’s government to announce a competition for a lock to be created that uses its own unique key. The lock that was created was the four-lever lock which had a design feature where if there was an attempt to pick the lock or use a false key it would trip something they called a regulator meaning you would have to use specific key to reset the lock making it functionable again.


The most pivotal change to locks was introduced by Linus Yale Jr when developing the mortice cylinder lock which took the mechanism off the surface of the door and concealed it with the door meaning the key wouldn’t have to be so long as it no longer must pass through the entire door.


In the 1900s we see the next big leap in how we gain access and navigate a building with the use of electronic keys such as key cards with a magnetic strip specially encrypted with a unique access code other modern means of access consist of key fobs and keypads in the industry this is sometimes referred to as access control or my personal preference “architectural ironmongery with wires”.


In recent years we have also seen a rise in the use of biometrics such as fingerprint scanners, retina scanners and facial recognition.


Albert Elliott