An important collection of medieval and early modern keys is found in the collections of the Grosvenor Museum in Chester. This collection of medieval keys have all been found in and around Chester from various different contexts. Some have come from church and trading sites, some from more urban contexts such as peoples homes. There is a huge range in the size, shape and decorative quality of these keys. If we look closely at them, we can see the different interacies of the locking mechanisms. Some of the larger keys may have been used to unlock doors and chests, while some of the smaller ones may have been used for caskets and boxes. They may have been worn or kept on the body, used to protect different spaces as well as more personal items and valuables. One very small key shown here was found at the Meols trading site, just outside of Chester. What was it used to unlock? What did it protect or conceal? Who dropped, lost or disposed of this key? These objects show the way in which movements of peoples and things could be restricted or facilitated in different ways in the past.


c.Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries


Chester, Meols