A Gazetteer of Lock and Key Makers

Jim Evans

this gazetteer is copyright Jim Evans, 2002



See Securefast.



Keys of Steel Ltd was founded in 1952 by Thomas Marshall Sambrook.  A key filer himself, he was aware of the time-consuming hand work involved in producing keys from malleable iron castings.  So he looked into the possibility of fabricating key blanks using spot welding machines. His first order came from Lowe and Fletcher, for a pin key to suit their N8 Post Office lock. After a few teething troubles fusing the parts together, he began to produce mortice and rim blanks, in premises in Froysall Street, Willenhall, which Tom Sambrook rented from Lowe and Fletcher. (The building was the old Methodist New Connexion Chapel. The chapel had been built in 1854 by the Wesleyan Reform movement.  They held services for two years but then the movement folded and the building was taken over by the New Connexion. The building was sold to Lowe and Fletcher Ltd in November 1950 when the church closed.)    After a few years on this site Keys of Steel moved to their site in Stringers Lane.

In 1959 an associate company, Willenhall Locks Ltd, was formed to produce the hand made security locks that were being discontinued by Lowe and Fletcher Ltd, who had decided to concentrate on making car locks.  Willenhall Locks soon added a range of mortice locks to their production.  The company grew with the acquisition of Thomas Poole and Sons of Coltham Road (Ezekiel Lane), Short Heath, who had been supplying cast iron keys and blanks to padlock and cabinet lock makers since 1860.

In 1991 Willenhall Locks acquired the Lionheart Range range of antique ironwork and window fittings and renamed it Nostalgia.  This operated as a separate Hardware Division.

By 1992 the group employed 115 people, with Derek Sambrook, Thomas's son, as Managing Director and two sons-in-law, Richard Hyde (Sales Director) and David Osborne (Works Director) running the company.

In an advertising feature in the Express and Star of the 28th June 1999, to celebrate 40 years of Willenhall Locks, it was stated that the Stringers Lane site was 104,000 sq. ft., with the two sides of the business employing about 50 people each.



A company set up in 2000 by Mr Kibble and John Worrall and Sons Ltd. in the premises of John Worrall, to manufacture a range of High Security KIBB locks designed by Mr Kibble.  John Worrall and Sons Ltd made the locks.  The special feature of the locks is having an interlocking strike and faceplate, effectively ‘padlocking’ door and frame together.



Advert, from the Ironmonger Buyer's Guide, 1947, by courtesy of Trevor Dowson.

Cyril Kieft had worked in the steel industry but, when it was nationalised in 1947, he set up a company doing forgings and pressings.  He also started to manufacture a cylinder pin tumbler lock, known as the "K" type.  It differed from the normal design in that the pins were in an almost straight line, end on to the face of the cylinder.  Another feature of the lock was that the plug could be locked in two positions, which was used to deadlock the latch. 

It was manufactured in the early 1950s and initially it sold well, but some problems were experienced and the troublesome lock disappeared from the market.  Cyril found a new outlet in motor racing and went on to build 500cc Formula 3 cars that were driven by a young Stirling Moss.

(Locks and Keys November 2000)


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