Heritage100

Roman bronze lock plate

Roman bronze lock plate

...valuables were probably kept in this area protected by secure locked doors..

This Roman lock plate is made from a sheet of bronze, and just like lock plates from the recent past it protected the lock housing and mechanism, and guided the key into the mechanism. There is an oblong slot just above the keyhole, the function of which is unknown.

It was found during the 1881 excavations of the north aisled hall of Brading Roman Villa, Isle of Wight. This building was erected in about 200 AD. In nearby rooms several other keys and fragments of lock mechanisms were found, suggesting that valuables were probably kept in this area protected by secure locked doors and containers.

Quick Facts

  • Date made 3rd century AD
  • Place made unknown
  • Excavated at Brading Roman villa
  • Date excavated 1881
  • Dimensions 22cm square
  • Made of bronze
  • Accession number BRV.1994.34

Facts

  • This is a particularly large lock plate perhaps from a door or large chest, and has nail holes around the edge suggesting the plate was nailed onto wood covering the lock mechanism (the central area of the bronze plate is beaten out into a dome shape).
  • The shape of the keyhole suggests that the lock mechanism might have been a rotary lock, a type invented by the Romans and in common use right up to recent times. The Romans developed other types of lock, fragments of which have also been found at Brading Roman Villa.

Did you know?

Some of the earliest locks were invented in ancient Egypt. Very early types were made in wood and have not survived, and even when iron came into use in the ancient world, lock mechanisms are rarely preserved.

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