A Gazetteer of Lock and Key Makers
this gazetteer is copyright Jim Evans, 2002
FRED DUNCOMBE LTD, LANE HEAD, WILLENHALL (c1920-1996)
Makers of cabinet and pad locks. Founded by Alfred Thomas Duncombe (born 1900) and his father Alfred Duncombe. Alfred was the son of Charles Duncombe, who had a lock-making firm at Lane Head in 1871. (There was a C & S Duncombe Cabinet Lockmakers in Short Heath in 1900 [Kelly’s]). The finance for the new firm was provided by Lucy Jane Duncombe (nee Fenn), the mother of A.T., and Ethel Emma Appleby (nee Fenn) in the middle/late 1920s.
Alfred (father) had started work in his father's business, Charles Duncombe. He then moved to Chubb in Wolverhampton and then on to Josiah Parkes, where he worked as a locksmith. The son, A.T., was trained as an architect and later worked in the drawing office at Josiah Parkes. They set up full time in the 1920s at Lane Head. They had a serious problem with Josiah Parkes in that they took an order for locks away from Parkes due to inside knowledge. Parkes forced them to stop making the locks. They then concentrated on the manufacture of cupboard and till locks, in both brass and steel. Eventually the brass locks were purchased from A & E Squire (q.v.).
In about 1943/4 they took over H.J.Stephens, of 17 Bright Street, Aston, Birmingham, who were general pressworkers. During the war years, between March 1941 and September 1946, lock production ceased and work was carried out for the war effort. During this time A.T. became a JP in Willenhall and was awarded the MBE for his work in the Auxiliary Fire Service.
After the war they produced a cheap padlock, with a malleable iron shackle, that was sold to Willen Key Co. (q.v.) and stamped with their trademark WILLEN. They were also stamped BENTLEY.
By 1957 lock production had ceased and the machinery from Stephen’s was moved to Lane Head, where a new bay was built to accommodate it. And production concentrated on pressings.
In the early 1960s Ray Ward, the owner of Bloxwich Aluminium, in Straight Road, Short Heath, (the other side of Lane Head Bridge to Fred Duncombe’s works), joined forces with A.T. Duncombe to run the company. Ray Ward introduced the manufacture of builders hardware, i.e. bolts, hasps, Suffolk latches. After the death of A.T., in 1973, Ray Ward took over the business that was eventually run by his son and later moved to Unit 5, Progress Drive, Cannock where they continued to produce builders' hardware. In about 1995 the business was sold to Chamberlain and Hill of Bloxwich.
(Notes from Bill Pace, who started as an apprentice with Fred Duncombe in 1941 and left in 1957.)
JOB DUNCOMBE, REPEAT WORKS, LITTLE LANE, SHORT HEATH, WILLENHALL (1905-c1980)
Job Duncombe (no relation to Fred Duncombe (qv)), founded a lock making business in 1905 in an outhouse behind his home in High Road, Lane Head. Room was so short that the fly press they had was kept outside and they could not use it if it was raining. They later moved to premises in Little Lane. Alfred Birch joined the company after the Second World War and, on the death of Job, took over the business. (Alf was married to Job’s niece).
In the 1960s, under Alfred Birch, they manufactured a range of mortice and rim locks, and expanded the business by introducing more general pressing. They specialised in the manufacture of parts for car seats for H. R .Turners, who were also in Little Lane. They also made and marketed a range of caravan accessories.
Alf died in March 1979 and his son Michael, who concentrated more on presswork than locks, then ran the business. The supply of parts for car seats dried up when their major customer, Turners, closed down and, as they had lost ground in the lock trade, times became difficult. So they closed down in 1983.
ERA Products Ltd.
see under J. E. Reynolds & Co. Ltd.
EREBUS LTD, ALBION ROAD, WILLENHALL (c1900-1991)
Manufacturers of mortice locks.
Set up as The Erebus Manufacturing Company Ltd. by Mr Raybone in 1906. He had previously worked for Beddows and Sturmey Ltd. and employed some people who had also worked there. The firm was named after a ship. On his death his son took over and he eventually sold out to a man from Wolverhampton. He never married and on his retirement sold out, with Arthur Gotham and John Abnet, who were employed by the company, taking 51% of the shares and Evered Ltd of West Bromwich having the other 49%.
The company became renowned for the design and production of the original gear motion range of locks.
In about 1962 John Abnett retired and Evered gained a controlling interest. At this point Basil Cook was put in charge with Arthur Gotham. After Arthur Gotham's death, and the retirement of Basil Cook, Evered took more control of the company and changed the name to Evered Security Products Ltd. (which was its name in Jan 1976-April 1976 and was possibly its name pre-1973).
In 1978 as Evered Security Products Ltd they purchased the sole right to manufacture James Gibbons Locks from T.I. James Gibbons Ltd..
The Evered Company was taken over by Raschid and Osman Abdullah in 1981. They became part Newman Tonks Group and moved to premises at Lichfield Road, Wednesfield, that Fleet Locks Ltd. then occupied. Both companies were incorporated into Erebus Ltd.
In April 1988, as Erebus Ltd., they sold the right to James Gibbons Locks to Quality Lock Ltd.
In July 1988 the Newman Tonks Group purchased Legge Ltd (q.v.) and in Sept. 1991 moved Erebus into their Willenhall works. The Legge company name was changed to N T Locks and continued to sell some of the Erebus range as a brand name alongside the Legge brand.
see Enoch Tonks and Sons
WILLIAM EVANS & CO, SCHOOL STREET, WOLVERHAMPTON