The chest was made from iron bands in Germany in the 16th or 17th century. Such chests were called Nuremburg Chests until the Victorians applied the term ‘Armada Chests’ as they imagined them to be the sort used to protect Spanish gold. Each chest has an intricate and complicated locking mechanism, some with hidden keyholes, false panels or a particular sequence of actions to open them. The Appleby chest has three keys, all with different patterns so they can each only open one of three locks.
The chest is first mentioned in the school statutes, which state that the three keys should be entrusted to the Latin Master, Chair of Trustees and Appleby’s Rector. All three had to be present to open the chest making it the most secure storage system of its time. It was used as a cash box and to store important documents.
The Foundation now has two keys, one original and one replacement made in c.1800. Replicas of these are used for display as the originals are very fragile. The chest itself is in good condition and was opened in 2003 by an antique lock expert who deciphered the sequence and hidden lever needed to release the lid. The chest contained a key and a canvas painting of a hall and landscape.
Sir John Moore Heritage Centre, Appleby Magna
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George Olifent of G &V Olifent
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Caroline What is special about this object is that it is still in the building for which it was bought in July 1707.
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Page Last Updated: 13 May 2013