Padlocks are something most of us take for granted, an everyday security device that can be used in a
variety of applications from securing a bike at a train station when commuting to work to securing an
expensive item of equipment on a construction site. Like most things, padlocks have evolved over time,
becoming more and more reliable, which means they’re much more capable of securing a broad range
of items, like those above mentioned and many more.
Padlocks have been used since ancient times and there are many different theories about where they
were first used, like the following theories that you may or may not have heard of.
Padlocks were first used by merchants in the UK. As ‘pad’ is associated with pannier, it’s
believed that padlocks were first used to secure merchants’ saddlebags.
‘Padlock’ is a name coined by the Vikings after visiting a settlement in York. These Northern
tribespeople used padlocks to secure the gates on their paddocks. The word ‘paddock’ is very
similar to ‘padlock’, so there’s a lot of merit to this theory.
Some of the oldest known padlocks are Roman and date back as far as 500BC, though there are padlocks
discovered in Viking settlements that are believed to be much older, dating back as far as 1000BC,
according to some theorists. These padlocks were very different from the ones used by an auto
locksmith in Perth, for example.
In design, there are both similarities and differences with these ancient padlocks and those from the
modern era, for instance, both were manipulated by a key to open and close, but while modern
padlocks use a shackle, the Roman variety used a chain.
The Chinese were widely using padlocks by 25 AD which differed from the Roman varieties in design and
the materials used, with many surviving examples made from bronze rather than iron-plated metals as
Roman padlocks were.
The first padlocks which (somewhat) resembled the quality padlocks used by Action Lock and other
leading locksmiths were used in England. As smokehouses grew in popularity as smoking became a
widely-used method of preserving meat, there was a need to secure the smokehouses from animals as
well as hungry locals, so padlocks were used extensively as a means of securing smokehouses from
These padlocks were made of wrought iron and the keys used to manipulate the locks were similar to
those used today, however, these locks had numerous security flaws and were not particularly difficult
to force open.
These padlocks were a real revolution in the evolution of the padlock, featuring a solid cast iron body
and a combination of rotating mechanisms which served as the lock. Christopher Polhem is the inventor
responsible for this amazing invention which totally revolutionized security for everyone, from farmers
to merchants to royalty.
The evolution of padlocks is fascinating in so many ways, plus the advancements that have been made
have many benefits for all of us, whether we’re securing our pushbikes at school or work or securing
something much more valuable, like a home or place of business.