Unlocking a 17th-Century Strongbox
Unlocking a 17th-Century Strongbox
Peek into the past with Senior Curator Angus Patterson and Conservator Philip Kevin, as they carefully unlock a historic 17th-century strongbox.

Originally used to keep money or documents safe, this strongbox has three secure padlocks with unique keys. Each key would have been held by a different member of the community (possibly the schoolmaster, the vicar, and the verger), meaning that the box could only be opened – and the precious contents accessed – in the presence of witnesses.

Watch as Angus transports us to the 17th century, introducing us to parish church security  and what might have been kept inside the box, whilst Philip gently wiggles the keys to pop the locks and examines the 500-year-old woodworm damage – luckily without any beetle poo. 

  • 00.00 Keys rattle and 17th-century lock clicks shut
  • 00.18 Meet curator Angus and conservator Philip 
  • 01.20 Wormholes from woodworm – flight holes and tunnelling
  • 02.02 Examining the strongbox in detail
  • 03.28 Opening padlock number one – corkscrew key (reveals coin slot)
  • 05.33 Opening padlock number two – warded key
  • 06.04 Opening padlock number three – pipe key
  • 07.24 Reveal of inside of strongbox
  • 09.11 Woodworm damage – conservation work to plug a hole 
  • 09.52 More about woodworm – signs of infestation, pyramidal piles of frass, how to tell that woodworm are no longer active

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