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Bill Stanton

William Henry Stanton: A Brief Biographical Sketch. 1922-2012


Bill Stanton, as he was known to friends and colleagues, became interested in locks in his early adulthood. It’s not so far been learnt as to his inspiration; all that can be said is that once his interest had been ignited it was a passion that stayed with him for the rest of his life, and the lock world benefited from his passion.


William Henry Stanton was born on the 6th August 1922 in Coventry. His school reports showed both an exceptional technical ability coupled with objective reasoning faculties. Indeed some of his early leisure interests demonstrate his mastery of the combined skills; he enjoyed both the delicate physical dexterity of aeroplane modelling and the mental dexterity of chess. These then are some of the skills later to be put to good use in his career as an exceptional professional locksmith.


An apprenticeship was completed with GEC, as a Telephone Mechanic, in 1943. It’s not so far been learnt how or precisely when he became interested in locks but was already searching for and studying them in 1945.


It wasn’t long before his passion turned into a paying hobby, the local locksmiths benefiting from his skills and before long had earned an enviable reputation, particularly in opening and manipulation. An early picture of his collection shows a keyless combination lock setup for the technique.


As his skills and challenges grew he started to think about turning his abilities into a career and an application to Chubb was successful and very soon found new areas’ to apply his logical/analytical mind. With the KGB/NATO codes ‘affair’ very much still in mind various lead shielding trials were undertaken, as well as improvements’ such as elliptical rollers both for the Manifoil, a lock in which he became extremely familiar and put forward many design tweaking ideas. When Chubb closed the Hobbs works Bill couldn’t wait to restore the Aubin trophy which he proudly undertook at home, taking hundreds of pictures in various stages of assembly.


Several trips to Europe were enjoyed to visit lock manufactures. It was on one of these trips that a special relationship was formed with Kromer.


It’s not yet known the exact reason for leaving Chubb in 1963 and setting up his own company, Safelock Ltd. Certainly he continued with many of the Chubb R&D but at the same time there were frequent trips to the Kromer factory for R&D work as well, where he was very well respected and also interacted with the Kromer family on a social level as well.


After a few years he was, in his own words, ‘head hunted’ by Tann where he enjoyed ‘testing to destruction’ but also continued his relationship with Kromer introducing special versions of their lock for Tann safes. He revolutionised the production of certain ministry locks to meet both exacting standards and tight schedules. Another requirement of Tann from the Royal Mint and other Ministry contracts was the provision of locks with a ‘construction‘feature. The construction keys used by the installation team were permanently inoperative once the lock had been operated by the proper key which was supplied separately and under seal. Bills’ patent very effectively achieved this at an extremely negligible cost.


Retirement didn’t mean slowing down. Talks on locks were given. Exercises in mechanical possibilities were experimented with the aid of Meccano, and puzzles of every kind were tackled with relish – he formed lasting friendships with James Dalgetty of the Puzzle Museum. He also did much of the preparatory work to publishing many rare and obscure papers on locking principles and features.


Bill sadly left us on the 14th February 2012. But he has left with us his copious meticulous notes and photographs now safely preserved for future locksmiths, historians and archaeologists to both learn from and be inspired by. Don’t forget, Bill came into the trade just after the end of WW2, long before the digital age. Much of his material, drawings and photographs etc. and other snippets from this fascinating archive have survived and may be dipped into from time to time.

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