June 2024

A medieval door key, complete and made of iron.

This medieval door key was found in the garden of a house in Abbey Place, a few metres from what was the west front of Eynsham Abbey. 

The first keys, developed in Babylon and Egypt 6000 years ago, were made of wood – clearly not the most secure material for keeping your property and belongings safe! Metal keys were first made by the Ancient Greeks, but it was during the Roman Empire that the designs of locks and keys became more sophisticated – and more secure.

By medieval times, keys were made using wrought iron, although some were ‘rolled’ from sheet iron. ‘Our’ key, forged of wrought iron, has a kidney-shaped ‘bow’ (at the top end), and the ‘bit’ (at the bottom) has four lever steps, cut with a chisel, to work the lock. 

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