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Metrolocks is turning 30!

Yes, it’s official: we’ve made it to 30 years old! Who’d’ve thought we’d ever get this far, what with the tumultuous 30 years we’ve had: the dotcom bubble, the 2008 credit crunch, the decline of printed directories, the rise of the internet, and now the coronavirus! Metrolocks is still going strong as ever, installing locks, repairing intercoms, securing properties, cutting keys and adjusting door closers.

We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve come out on top. Below are a few anecdotes from our history that you may find entertaining.

The very first phone call

We were all set to start back in 1991. We had a little office in Micawber Street, a computer with a built-in heat printer (one of those that prints on rolls of paper, like a till) and a telephone connection, and we put an ad in the telephone directory. All we needed to do was wait for the customers to call us.

And sure enough, we got a phone call. But the person wanted stuff that doesn’t exist. She wanted us to install an electronic lock, one that works with a card, like in a hotel. We thought the lady must be mad. Locks like that surely don’t exist outside of Star Trek!

It was disappointing that our very first caller was a crackpot. Except, of course, she wasn’t a crackpot at all. What she wanted did exist, and we were simply too cocky to recognise it. Since then we learned a lesson, and we’re now dealing more with electronic locks and access control than ever.

Quite a conservative dress code

Our boss had previously worked in the financial sector in Frankfurt and was accustomed to life in a suit. Thankfully we didn’t wear suits at Metrolocks, but we still all had to wear a tie. There are pictures in a box somewhere of us sitting around in jeans with our sleeves rolled up, and top buttons undone, but we were still wearing ties.

Luckily that didn’t last too long! Though I know at least two lockies who still to this day wear a tie on the job, and one of them also wears a tweed jacket.

That time Lord Vallance helped us personally…

He wasn’t Lord Vallance back then, only Iain Vallance, but he was chief executive of BT at the time. We have having a spot of trouble with the telecoms firm, but their customer service agents simply wouldn’t help us. In a desperate attempt to fix our problems, we wrote to Mr Vallance directly, whereupon he sorted everything out personally, and even gave us two new phone numbers which we still use today!

Super Mario Bros. 3

Today we hear all about how Silicon Valley firms make their offices fun, but back in the early ’90s we were having just as much fun. Business was slow in the early years, and so we’d often hang about the place with our locksmiths, waiting for the phone to ring.

The best way to fill the time was to play Nintendo’s hit game, Super Mario Bros. 3, all day long. That was amazing, and quite enriching, too, since that was my first experience with video games. I remember how it took me weeks to conquer the first ‘world’ of the game, but after a couple of years we had all finished every level.


We were lucky to be renting from a charming landlord who was particularly tech-savvy. It was through him that we were the proud owners of one of the first ever email addresses: locksmith@axford.com. It was a bit of a gimmick at the time, since most people couldn’t send or receive emails. I imagine that was what it was like when the telephone was invented: only the ‘chosen few’ owned one.

Not all of us thought much of the email address. Computers were expensive and annoying, and we didn’t really ‘get’ them. Fax machines were good enough, so why bother with all this high-tech stuff? It’s embarrassing to think how some of us pooh-poohed computers, since they’ve been one of the big driving forces in the events of the last thirty years.

The gigantic mobile phone

The key is in the name: mobile phone. Our first mobile phone was anything but! It weighed over a kilogram and came with a shoulder strap. But, as anyone who had a mobile phone in the 1990s will confirm, the benefits of having one far outweighed the inconvenience. It enabled us to be available all the time, anywhere; proof, yet again, that adopting new technology was a great way to compete in the modern world.

First forays into key-cutting…

We bought a pair of second-hand key machines, one for Yale keys, one for Chubb. We weren’t very good at using them, but our office was right around the corner from Aldridge’s, the UK’s largest lock wholesaler, who helped us out. As we gained experience, we began to stock more and more different key blanks, leading us, eventually, to invest in better and smarter machinery.

…and our first digital key machine

In 2007 we bought our Silca UnoCode, a digital key-cutting machine that can cut Yale-style keys of all kinds automatically. It’s funny to write this in 2021, since nowadays most key-cutting we do is done with these sorts of computerised machines, but at the time we were genuinely amazed at the whole thing. You’d type in a code number marked on the face of the lock, and it’d make a key that works in the lock!

As far as we were concerned, it was pure magic. But it saved us huge amounts of time. Before, we were making keys using so-called ‘depth keys’, which made every key take about ten times as long to make as with our new toy. It sped up our operation and opened a lot of doors for us (pun intended!).

We Love Keys

We now own eight key machines, and this gave us enough capacity to start We Love Keys, our key-cutting website. There you can get all manner of keys at affordable prices and at high speeds. It started off as a website that sells just ABUS keys, but we’ve expanded a fair bit since then. We now do Asec, Cisa, Mul-T-Lock, Camlock Systems, Phoenix, Sudhaus and Tesa keys, as well as a host of keys for lifts and switches.

It’s been an eventful 30 years, but those of us who have lived through it find that, in many ways, not so much has changed. Fundamentally, working at Metrolocks feels like it always has: our work is enjoyable, our colleagues are good fun, and our customers are an interesting bunch. What we’re most proud of at Metrolocks is that our colleagues stick around. We have very loyal staff, which is rare nowadays and quite a big compliment to the management. Long may it continue!

Use Metrolocks for all you locksmith needs!

We’re a London-wide locksmith firm with 30 years’ experience, ready to step in at short notice.