Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Home Beautiful: A Dangerous Door Lock, 1761

Door Lock, 1761
William Walls
Presented to King George III, 1765
The Royal Collection
This attractive piece of hardware holds a deadly secret. Handsomely crafted of steel, brass and wood in 1761 by inventor William Walls, this lock features a charming Asian-inspired scene on its plate, and, more curiously, two pistols.

Yes, pistols. The lock was so designed that should it be tampered with or should someone try to open it without the correct key, bells (now missing) would sound and two tiny pistols would fire small bullets through the holes on either side of the keyhole. The barrels of the flintlock guns were accessible from the reverse so that they could be refilled and set in between shootings.

Though ingenious, the lock was not fool proof. In fact, the danger of such a device was the simple fact that if an unsuspecting innocent person should turn the proper key in the wrong way, or should accidentally fumble with the lock as one often does when in a hurry, he would immediately be shot for no good reason.

William Walls presented the lock to King George III in 1765. George III appreciated the lock as a scientific study, but it’s unclear whether or not the device was installed in any door. If it was, chances are, it was not set to fire.

No comments: