Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.



  • Place of origin:

    London (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1689-1694 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Bickford family, workshop of (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Steel, pierced, chiselled and engraved

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 54, case 11

Object Type
In the 17th century most locks were made of brass or wrought iron. The keys that operated these locks were often richly decorated and skilfully made. The works were carefully cut with a fret-saw, the barrel of the key was engraved and usually cut with a series of baluster mouldings. The bow was pierced with delicate scrollwork and the crest or monogram of the owner. English locksmiths were particularly skilled at this type of work in the latter part of the 17th century.

Historical Associations
This key is pierced with the monogram of William III (reigned 1689-1702) beneath a royal crown. A key of this quality would have been made either for the Kings' private apartments or to give access to the gates of royal parks.

This key is clearly the work of a particularly skilled craftsman. The royal locksmiths to William III were the Bickford family. They are known to have supplied locks and keys to Hampton Court Palace. This magnificent key is very probably from their workshop.

Physical description

Key made of steel. Pierced, chiselled and engraved with the crowned monogram of King William III and Queen Mary.

Place of Origin

London (probably, made)


ca. 1689-1694 (made)


Bickford family, workshop of (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Steel, pierced, chiselled and engraved


Height: 14.3 cm, Width: 4.5 cm, Depth: 0.8 cm

Object history note

Probably made in the workshop of the Bickford family, London

Descriptive line

Key with the cipher of William and Mary, steel, pierced and engraved, probably London, ca. 1689-1694

Labels and date

British Galleries:
The royal monogram WR has been incorporated into the design of the key. Ciphers or monograms were often used in Baroque designs, worked into complex, scrolling ornament. [27/03/2003]
9. KEY, steel, pierced and engraved, England; c. 1689-94

With the crowned monogram of King William III and Queen Mary (1689-94).

Museum No. M.201-1912 [07/1994]




Piercing; Forging (metal forming); Chiselling; Engraving


Royalty; Metalwork; Ironwork


Metalwork Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.