Davenport Burgess - a short history

The origins of Davenport-Burgess can be traced back to early generations of the Davenport family, who lived in Wednesfield, Wolverhampton in the mid-19th Century. The main industries in Wednesfield at that time were key making and trap making. Key making was generally a “cottage” industry and was often a secondary occupation for the “keysmith”. Wednesfield Parish records of the time list a Davenport as a “Publican and Key Maker”. The keys were produced, by hand, in a small workshop behind the pub. Many archives and items from the era can be seen in the Black Country Living Museum, including Sidebotham’s trap making workshop which has been entirely re-located there.

 

The traditional occupation of key making continued throughout the Davenport family - brothers, cousins, uncles, each with his own small workshop, and each tending to specialize in making a particular type of key. But it was not until after the 2nd World War that the firm of H. Davenport & Sons began to develop into the type of organization we know today. The firm was located in a small workshop behind a terraced house in Victoria Road, Wednesfield. During the post war years, production of malleable iron keys and key blanks was expanded to include exports to Australia and South Africa. However, with the increasing demand for locks & keys, mass production was becoming a necessity, and during the 1950's the fabricated welded steel blank was developed. This is now the main method of production in the UK of mortice keys and key blanks.

 

At the same time, the market for "cylinder" or "Yale" type keys was increasing. Early in the 1970s the firm became a distributor for Dominion Lock of Montreal, who were, at that time, the world’s leading manufacturer of cylinder key blanks. In addition, Davenports became the first distributor for J & A Engineering of London - the originators of “Jakey” key cutting machines. The economical and easy to use Jakey automatic machine made key cutting easier and more affordable for the retailer, and with the much expanded range of key blanks from Dominion Lock, it spawned a rapid growth in the number of retail key cutting outlets.

 

By the mid 1970's, H. Davenport & Sons Ltd had outgrown the extended workshop in Victoria Road. The firm acquired the business of B. Burgess & Sons Ltd in Temple Bar, Willenhall. The existing premises were extended and the two companies moved in together and began trading as Davenport-Burgess, the Burgess lock and hardware range complementing the Davenport key cutting range. At the same time, the adverse logistics of importing from Canada, together with increasing competition from Italian steel cylinder blanks, it was decided to begin manufacturing cylinder key blanks. This enabled the company to continue to supply cylinder blanks from superior but much more costly brass, yet still compete successfully with the Italian steel blanks.

 

By the end of the 1980's, Davenport-Burgess had outgrown the premises at Temple Bar. The range and volume of key blanks required to service the market place continued to expand rapidly, and at the end of 1989, the company moved into a new and purpose built office and warehouse in Wednesfield Road which is currently the head office and main distribution centre.

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