A Superb c.1900 Black Painted Steel Safe; Lionel Hudson Esq. by Hobbs & Co of London

Origin: English
Period: Late 19thC /Early 20thC
Provenance: BD Hudson Esq
Date: c.1890-1910
Height: 20 inches
Width: 14 inches
Depth: 14 inches
Weight: 13.2 KGS

Designed to be portable, yet strong, the black painted steel safe made by Hobbs & Co of London and formerly of the estate of Lionel Hudson, having a double locked front hinged door sign written ‘Lionel Hudson Private’ in gilt, opening to reveal lettered pigeon holes A through Z and two lower drawers with drop handles, the sides with the original carrying swing handles survives from turn of the century London.

In good overall order, the safe benefits from its slightly distressed look, the black paint worn in places, for example around the escutcheons, where one would expect, and the gilt lettering still bright but beautifully mellowed with age. Mechanically she is sound with the doors and drawers all functioning correctly and the whole structurally sound. The original key works both locks to the front door though there is no key present for the two internal lower drawers.

Used to house private papers and effects the hand-written notes on the door detail some of the places Mr Hudson held accounts with such as the London Trading Bank in Finsbury, London the General post office and a mutual building society. There is a further stamp to the interior door ‘Lionel Hudson 87 Moorgate London’. It is known that descendants of Lionel Hudson were last in residence in the village of Child Okeford, Blanford, in Dorset.

This particular safe model is similar to, but not as advanced in years as, the Hobbs Hart "Progress D" size number 10, safe No.27449 (c)1908, fitted with Hobbs & Co's Patent Clutch Bolts (porpoise action) and boasting a "Mechanism secured and controlled by Hobbs and Co's patent 'Protector' unpickable safe locks, one of which is gunpowder proof".

Alfred Charles Hobbs (October 7, 1812 – November 6, 1891) was an American locksmith. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1812 and married Charlotte F.  and had a child: Alfred J. Hobbs. Both of his parents were born in England. Hobbs went to London as a representative of the New York company of Day & Newell, which was exhibiting at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Hobbs had brought with him his boss Robert Newell’s Parautoptic lock, designed to compete with, and surpass, the locks available at the time in Britain. He was the first one to pick Bramah’s lock and the Chubb detector lock at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and forced the lock manufacturers to improve their designs. Hobbs became one of the founders of the lock making firm of Hobbs Hart & Co. Ltd. The company started in 1851 and was formally registered as Hobbs and Co. in 1852. But by 1855 it had become Hobbs, Ashley and Company. The name then changed to Hobbs, Ashley and Fortescue, with an address at 97 Cheapside in London. Then for the next ninety years the address was 76 Cheapside in London.

It is always a pleasure to find pieces with equal amounts of usability and practicality and high decorative merit; this is one such item that has both in spades.