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Lock Smiths
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LockLock making in the Willenhall area, Staffordshire, may have started in Elizabethan times there are references, sources unknown, to the "ingenious craftsmen in Willenhall well skilled in the making of locks and keys" and to Elizabeth 1. granting to the township of Willenhall the privilege of making all locks required for State purposes. The main development of the cottage industry however did not start until the 1700,s with the growth of the local iron industry. The first locksmiths were probably blacksmiths.


A locksmith worked in his own small smithy which usually formed part of his dwelling house and he had no assistance beyond his family. There are many web sites giving details of the Lock Industry and a few are listed under Links.

Tuckley families were involved in lock making in the Willenhall area of Staffordshire for approximately 250 years from 1726 to 1971. Humphrey [ circa 1718 to 1793] and his brother John Tuckley [circa 1718 to 1766] were both described as Locksmiths but how and where they learnt their trade is not known. John in his will of 1766 was described as a Spring Chest Locksmith. Humphrey Tackley [Tuckley] was listed as a Box Lockmaker in the Willenhall section of the 1780 Pearson and Rollason Directory for Merchants and Tradesmen.This is the first published reference in a Directory to a Tuckley lockmaker. Humphrey had 4 sons all involved in the lock industry in the Lane Head area John 1740 - 1808, Thomas 1750 - 1822, William 1754 - 1793 and Joseph 1758 - circa 1800. Humphrey in his will of 1793 left land, dwellings at Lane Head and his tools to his surviving sons John, Thomas and Joseph and legacies to his daughters.

John [1740 to 1808] was described in 1765 as a locksmith in the Bushbury church marriage records. Professions were not usually given in the marriage records of this period so it may indicate he had status in the community William [1754 to 1793] moved from Lane Head to Kidderminster in 1765, Darlaston in 1766 and then to Wednesbury between1767 and 1769. William's sons who started the Tipton branch of the family, became coal miners and canal boat builders.

In the early 1800's there were 6 major Tuckley family groups involved in lock making in the Lane Head, Short Heath areas of Willenhall. They had large families and most of the people with name who are still living in the Black Country area are their descendents :-

Sons of John and Mary Tagg :

John [1766 to 1837]
Thomas [1773 to 1827]
William [1785 to 1850]

Sons of Thomas and Phoebe Hartill ;-

Joseph [1775 to 1854]
Humphrey [1778 to 1853]
Isaac [1789 to 1870]

All are listed in Trade Directories for 1833, 1838, 1845.

John Tuckley [1805 to 1878] locksmith seems to have run into financial problems. John took out a mortgage from a neighbour Benjamin Walker [ a Willenhall Butcher] in 1845 on his property at Lane Head for the principal of £13 with interest of £5 per cent per annum. By 1847 he had not paid any interest and was being chased for the money. In a note from John to Benjamin regarding his failure to pay he states that "I can not get any place to go to and therefore I have no desire whatever to defraud you I have been almost lost for [worry] and not able to pay you any interest If please god things are better I will pay some interest as soon as I can ".He was pursued to Walsall and Birmingham and served notice of a final warning. A duplicate notice was served on John's neighbour John Duncomb who was married to Elizabeth Tuckley and probably knew where John was living. Benjamin was still not paid by 1854 and consequently he gave John notice that "I shall proceed to sell the land and property to recover my debt". John died in Birmingham in 1878.

George Tuckley [1818 to 1884] locksmith was living in New Invention in 1851 and 1861 and was employing 2 apprentices. In 1870 he moved to Lane Head, perhaps, upon the death of his father Isaac Tuckley. The 1871 Census lists George as employing 9 men and 6 boys. Some of his boys came from the Workhouse at Ampthill, Bedford.The Indentures for 3 young boys who were taken on as apprentice locksmiths to George Tuckley have survived and are to be found in the Bedfordshire and Luton Archives.Their papers state that their mother's were dead and that they had been deserted by their father's.

Alfred Jordan aged 15 years in 1865 bound for 5 years.
David Gudgin aged 13 years in 1871 bound for 8 years.
James Dudley aged 14 years in 1872 bound for 7 years

They were provided with board and lodging and an outfit [clothes] but not wages. There was correspondence in 1871 between the Master of the Workhouse at Ampthill asking George Tuckley to pay James Dudley a weekly sum which should be increased annually when he reaches 17 years of age. George replies " that it is an imposition and he cannot agree." However a year later he does agree " to have the boy Dudley bound, [indentured] even though he is very unruly."

Thomas Tuckley [1815 to 1890] locksmith, shown in the photograph, was the son of Thomas and Lucy [Hawkins]. He made locks in Short Heath. and the Census records show that he was employing at least 1 man in 1851, 1 man and 3 boys in 1861, 6 men, 2 boys in 1871 and 3 men in 1881.

Thomas Tuckley

             Thomas Tuckley


            Master Locksmith


               1815 to 1890

In 1885 Thomas bought property from a Mr Appleby at 1,Haley Street, Lane Head and this is where he established his Lock Works. Thomas married twice and had one surviving daughter from each marriage. After his death in 1890 the eldest daughter Mary, together with her husband Nicholas Crossley, carried on the lock business and continued to trade as Thomas Tuckley, Lock, Latch and Key Manufacturers.

Lock Works
Thomas Tuckley Old Lock Works, Haley Street,
Lane Head. [1982]

Works plan



This plan, not to scale, shows the Forward Works as they were when they closed.
At the bottom is Haley Street.

16 is the family house. Adjoining is the building known as "The Warehouse" which contains 16: a brass store downstairs and warehouse and office above; 14: a carriage arch entry to the yard; 13: packing and despatch; and 12: three garages, originally stables.

In the yard, 2 is the site of a wooden building (demolished c. 1948) which was erected about 1860 and originally contained the whole works except the warehouse.

1: "the Brass Shop" where all brass locks were assembled. 3: Iron lock assembly and key fitting shop, with a forge at the top end and four power presses and various hand presses at the bottom end. 4: The tool shop, where tools were forged, originally by hand methods. 5: The engine house (a gas engine until 1935). 6: site of the steam engine house.

7: The varnish house, unused from the 1930s. 8: brew house. 9: coal and coke stores.
10: scrap iron. 11: toilets.



In 1911, William Crossley, a son of Mary, registered for the Company an interesting Trade Mark in the style of a "Boy Scout". The design ,which was registered in September 1911 [No. 335295] was created by Charles Knowles one of Mary's son in laws.It appears to have been used on all their paperwork, packaging and on their locks.

The Scout movement had been established in the early 1900's and by 1910 had overseas groups in Australia, Belgium, Gibraltar, Ireland, Malta, New Zealand, South Africa. Most commonwealth countries were excellent markets for locks and in 1909 a 3 year export agreement was signed by Henry Campbell of London and Thomas Tuckley Lock Makers. It made Henry Campbell their sole export agent in London and Australia. It must have been a successful arrangement because it was renewed in 1912 for a further 3 years.

A Dave Gudgin, perhaps the former workhouse apprentice with George Tuckley, was working at the lock works, Thomas Tuckley, in the 1930's.

John Tuckley's Family Tree Website Interested in the Tuckley Name, want to know more, or have something to add? Please get in touch with me HERE.