SELECTION OF ITEMS IN THE COLLECTION.

The first two pairs of handcuffs are made in England by the Chubb company which is famous for its manufacture of safes. The first pair is of their “Escort” model, which I have seen described as “the Rolls Royce of handcuffs”. They are very well made, strong and with probably the most secure lock ever fitted to any handcuff. It is adjustable to four different sizes, the largest for quite a large wrist and, if the special inserts are used, they will also accommodate quite small wrists securely. Contrary to what many collectors say, these are still very much in use and are still being sold by Chubb.

Next Chubb’s “Detainer” model, a modern swinging bow or “Peerless” type model. This is also very well made and not as easy to pick as most ordinary handcuffs. Double locking is by means of an external slide button which can only be undone with the key. These are also available with the ratchet jaw widened to make a smaller size (rather like the American Handcuff Co's model JN-105 for juveniles). Also available is a "Closeting Chain" - a pair of these handcuffs with about nine feet of chain as linkage.

The next company to be featured is Hiatt & Co. Ltd. of Birmingham, England. This is the world’s oldest manufacturer of restraints, which claims to have been in the market since about 1780, though recent research seems to indicate that this date probably indicates when Thomas Griffin started making handcuffs. T.G Hiatt, who is thought to be Griffin's grandson, was not born until 1782. He was taken into the firm and eventually made a partner - Griffin & Hiatt handcuffs are known. Eventually Hiatt set up on his own in 1816. Products of this company are much the most commonly found by collectors in most parts of the world that were in the old British Empire. Early models are usually heavy and often have plug screw or screw down locks rather than the spring loaded plunger locks of more modern times. The first type illustrated is a model 105 pair of about 1955. The box is a valuable clue as to date, this type was used post WW2 until at least the late 1960s. Another clue is that these are made of steel, which was discontinued in favour of non-ferrous alloy in the 1970s. Darbies, as these handcuffs are popularly called, are still made by Hiatt’s.

The second pair is of model 115, “Scotland Yard” pattern, which is adjustable to several sizes of wrist. This model has been around since about 1885, however this pair dates from the 1980s and is made from non-ferrous metal. Another detail that assists in dating is the key, this pattern also came in at the same time as the new alloy.

Bar shackles were used in Victorian times, particularly in the colonies and India. The firm made them , both as handcuffs and leg-irons, in those times and also for a while in the 1970s at the instigation of Chris Gower, a locksmith and the owner of Britain’s largest collection of restraints, well known internationally as an authority on handcuff matters. The pair featured is from the latter period.

Hiatt’s first made swinging bow handcuffs just before WW2 when they started making Peerless handcuffs which were a copy of the U.S.A. firm’s design, under a British patent dated 1931. They offered this model until well into the post- war period. Their own first Peerless model was the “Reliant” of 1953 and then in 1960 they produced the “1960” model illustrated next. This remained in production until 1997 with various modifications, mostly to the serrated jaw. The model illustrated is of the last type.

In the early 1980s Hiatt’s brought out the swinging bow type that they still offer in a variety of configurations. Here are three types, all hinged. A standard and an elongated model are made of nickel plated steel and a standard model is made of aluminium alloy.

In September 1999, Hiatt’s brought out their high security model HSS9, illustrated next. This requires a second key to operate the seven pin tumbler double lock.

The firm made leg-irons (the U.S.A. partner Hiatt-Thompson still does) until the mid 1980s when the British Government decided to outlaw them. It is now illegal to manufacture and sell them here or to export them, but it is not illegal to import them! Featured is the last type made here, also of non-ferrous metal (the single handcuff shackle gives an idea of the size).

Grips, or “come-alongs” as they are known in the U.S.A., are often mistakenly called handcuffs, but they are fundamentally different. Grips do not lock, but function as a strong extension of the captors hand. They are always held by the captor, as a prisoner can easily undo them if left alone.

Pfeil Stedall & Sons were a company that seems to have specialised in the sale of a type of restraint known as the cap wrist lock. (They did not make the items marked with their name. It is almost certain that they were made by Hiatt's). This gadget, which came in three or four sizes, was fitted to a prisoner’s wrist and then, either had a chain threaded through so that several prisoners could be accommodated on a gang chain, or an end lock used to join two cap wrist locks together for a pair of handcuffs. The small shackle that is called an end lock, because it is used to lock the end of a gang chain, sometimes turns up in museums labelled as a child’s handcuff! When a gang chain is used, it is a special chain with a pear shaped attachment at one end which will not pass through the cap wrist lock hole. This type of restraint is very old, possibly medieval and early patterns often have a cross shaped hole for the chain to pass through. 

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