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Detector lock

  • Place of origin:

    Birmingham (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1680 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Wilkes, John (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Brass and engraved steel, with restorations; cast steel key

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Col. Croft Lyons

  • Museum number:

    M.109-1926

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, room 56d, case 14

Object Type
This 'detector' lock shows how many times a door had been unlocked by means of a numbered dial set to the right of the clock. The figure of a man holds a pointer against the dial. Each time the key is turned in the lock, the engraved dials rotates and the pointer indicates a number. The key-hole is concealed by the man's front leg, which operates on a pivot. When a button is pressed, the leg swings forward to reveal the keyhole. The door-bolt is released by tilting the man's hat.

Use
Such a lock would have been fitted to the door of a private closet, where important business took place.

Inscription
The front of the lock is engraved with the verse:

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.

Physical description

Detector lock made of brass and engraved steel with a cast steel key. Signed IOHANNES WILKES FECIT DE BIRMINGHAM and inscribed: 'IF I HAD YE GIFT OF TONGUE | I WOULD DECLARE AND DO NO WRONG | WHO YE ARE YT COME BY STEALTH | TO IMPARE MY MASTER'S WELTH'. A secret catch swings the man's leg forward to reveal the keyhole and his toe points to an odd number on the inner ring.

Place of Origin

Birmingham (made)

Date

ca. 1680 (made)

Artist/maker

Wilkes, John (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Brass and engraved steel, with restorations; cast steel key

Marks and inscriptions

Signed IOHANNES WILKES FECIT DE BIRMINGHAM and inscribed: 'IF I HAD YE GIFT OF TONGUE | I WOULD DECLARE AND DO NO WRONG | WHO YE ARE YT COME BY STEALTH | TO IMPARE MY MASTER'S WELTH'.

Dimensions

Height: 11.3 cm, Width: 15.5 cm lock in, Depth: 3.5 cm without doorknobs, Width: 17 cm lock out, Depth: 6.5 cm with doorknobs

Object history note

Made in Birmingham by John Wilkes (died 1733) and signed by him

Descriptive line

Detector lock, brass, made by John Wilkes, Birmingham, ca. 1670-1700

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Rupert Gentle and Rachael Feild, Domestic Metalwork 1640-1820, Antique Collectors Club, 1998, p. 384
Bracegirdle 1972, p.80

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Between 1600 and 1700 locks became increasingly sophisticated. This lock is called a 'detector' because it displays how many times it has been opened. It also has a keyhole hidden beneath the soldier's leg, revealed by pressing a button. Similar locks remain in place at Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire and Sherborne Castle, Dorset. [27/03/2003]
DETECTOR LOCK, brass, England; c. 1670-1700,
made by John Wilkes of Birmingham (d. 1733)

Signed IOHANNES WILKES FECIT DE BIRMINGHAM and inscribed: 'IF I HAD YE GIFT OF TONGUE | I WOULD DECLARE AND DO NO WRONG | WHO YE ARE YT COME BY STEALTH | TO IMPARE MY MASTER'S WELTH'. A secret catch swings the man's leg forward to reveal the keyhole and his toe points to an odd number on the inner ring. Every time the key is turned the dials rotate. The lock bolt is released by tilting the man's hat.

Gift of Col. Croft Lyons
Museum No. M. 109-1926 [07/1994]

Materials

Brass; Steel; Material

Techniques

Forging (metal forming); Casting; Engraving

Categories

Architectural fittings; Metalwork; Tools & Equipment

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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