Detector Lock thumbnail 1
Detector Lock thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 56, The Djanogly Gallery

Detector Lock

ca. 1680 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Brass and engraved steel, with restorations; cast steel key
Brief Description
Detector lock, brass, made by John Wilkes, Birmingham, ca. 1670-1700
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.
Dimensions
  • Height: 11.3cm
  • Lock in width: 15.5cm
  • Without doorknobs depth: 3.5cm
  • Lock out width: 17cm
  • With doorknobs depth: 6.5cm
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'.
Gallery Label
  • 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)
Credit line
Given by Col. Croft Lyons
Object history
Made in Birmingham by John Wilkes (died 1733) and signed by him
Summary
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.
Bibliographic Reference
Rupert Gentle and Rachael Feild, Domestic Metalwork 1640-1820, Antique Collectors Club, 1998, p. 384 Bracegirdle 1972, p.80
Collection
Accession Number
M.109-1926

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record createdMarch 27, 2003
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