William Longfield (Otley) Pin Tumbler

Lock ID lon1 Patent None
Maker Otley Model/Mechanism Pin tumbler
Keywords "pin tumbler", axial

[Note. The major part of this text is taken from The Lock Collector (Issue No 5, Page 4) article by the late Eric Place]

We are told that the credit for the modern pin-tumbler's reinvention belongs to Yale, Sr. but this in my opinion is in doubt. Not that patriotism is creeping in here, but following research it appears that ‘back on the farm’, in the quiet backwater of Otley in Yorkshire, William Longfield had already been hard at work.

For a number of years prior to Yale’s Quadruplex Patent of 1844 he was designing and making his own pin-tumbler lock. Unfortunately this lock was never patented in spite of a letter from the Patent Office at 66 Chancery Lane, London dated July 26th 1836 making this recommendation; seemingly their good advice was ignored by Longfield. Here's a photograph of his safe lock number 320, with its name plate (it seems that only a few hundred were made, and only five are known to still exist):

As will be seen Longfield used the words "Patent and "Patentee" despite not having obtained for this lock design.

The method of operation briefly, is that the brass barrel carrying the spring loaded rods of differing lengths is rotated by the finned key to throw the bolt - these six rods are shown in the photo below, around the outer rim of the brass barrel.

The rods which are moved by the fins of the key are free to move within the barrel and can extend beyond either end of it and locate into sockets embodied in fixed plates at each end of the barrel.

When at rest, the pins position themselves in one of these two plates preventing rotation of the barrel by the key. However, unless these rods are so moved to free them from this plate and not project them into the sockets in the second plate, the barrel cannot be rotated, thus rendering the lock inoperable.

The original 1836 letter from the Patent Office to Longfield is held in the Otley Museum and can be seen by appointment. On view there also is one of his locks dated "1841" as below, giving further credence to Longfield's lock having pre-dated Yale Sr.'s 1844 patent pin tumbler:

Here is the original fluted key for the lock:

This article is © Tony Beck, 2008

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