Celebrating 46 years servicing as Locksmiths in Peterborough, home Alarms, Door Entry Systems and CCTV installations
As we are approach the 46th anniversary of Benn Lock and Safe on 27th November 2023 our managing director Richard Hunt shared some special moments where many of us would have been children.
On seeing this image Richard explained:-
“It would have been 1981 or thereabouts. We had an enquiry from builders refurbishing the old Boots the chemist in Bridge Street.
‘Can you remove two safes for us?’ Through the roof! Ok. Hired a crane, got my dad to drive my brother’s lorry, 48 hours later, – completed. We sold them to a guarding and cash handling company nearby.
Image details: left: Managing Director Richard Hunt right: Ted Hunt (father of Richard Hunt)
Vision of a Home Security Hardware Shop
In 1983 Do It Yourself shops were in their infancy, they were quietly being modernised from old hardware shops to a more user friendly – self service type of operation. The big warehouses were only being imagined at this time and only for huge cities. Richard Hunt and Hazel Hunt had a vision of a ‘Security Shop’ where all manner of specialised security devices could be bought under one roof.
From a small home based shop in Woodston we moved into the city in Lincoln Road. Our idea of selling everything to do with security soon wilted when we discovered – advised by knowledgeable company reps who used to visit regularly – that if you want boat security a boat specialist will be sought, if you want motorcycle security, a motorbike shop will be used and so on. But there were still specialisms we could use to our advantage.
Safes and burglar alarms being two key areas where the domestic market was about to explode. Key making was another area of specialism, security was in growing demand and everything that needed to be locked needed a key. It was a proven marketing fact that three people in one hundred needed a key at any one time.
So started our little local revolution – 1983.
MLA Master Locksmith Association
Richard passed the exam to join the Master Locksmiths Association in 1984. A good business decision because the credibility has proved very productive over the years.
Westgate Arcade – central Peterborough Late 1980’s we thought we’d try to get some benefit from the Queensgate foot fall – and we did – for a while. 70,000 people walked past our Westgate shop every week. It was great but new skills were needed to keep it going. As business grew so did the Queensgate rent and rates. Then there was another recession but the property maxim ‘location location’ kicked in and although business was tough we were able sustain our turnover because of the excellent position of the premises.
Management was stretched though and working six days a week was difficult. When seven day trading came along we couldn’t justify the longer hours so decided to liquidate while we could. The other sides of the business thrived under pressure of recession and increased crime. It was time to make a sideways step and push on from our larger warehouse premises at Westwood.
Locksmith, Home Alarms and Safe Supply Warehouse
A lease was taken on a warehouse/trade unit property in Saville Rd Westwood in the early 1980’s to operate our growing safe installation business. It was in a location on the outskirts of Peterborough City centre but we felt our specialist stock would draw customers to us and it did, with a mix of safes, locks and keys, and a new concept brought in by Mul-T-Lock – providing master keyed suites of locks for commercial buildings, administered locally by their appointed agents. A good product and one still in great demand.
Our trade counter became popular with maintenance companies and small builders. We also had plenty of space to operate our electronics and alarm installation services from. Things went well for us, growing to 18 to 20 staff.
The centenary came & went probably the most memorable thing at that time was the emergence and growth of the internet. The general reaction from ordinary people was “internet… that’s just the latest fad”. But it fundamentally changed most business practices and ours especially from the way we did business, with written documents to the way our customers interacted with us; once upon a time, by phone – then fax – now, by email.
Our burglar alarm business prospered and was taken oven by ADT. That left a smaller business selling & maintaining locks, safes and access systems. Our business has always been specialised and with specialisation comes expertise and reputations can be built. Providing a reliable service at a reasonable price proved to be a winning formulae.
The lease on our Westwood premises ran out. It was time to re-evaluate our situation. Our trade counter was in demand but our location was by now very “out of the way”. We decided to look at other locations and the Fengate area had become a very busy area. We spotted the St. Davids Square premises and jumped at it.
Central Locksmith Hardware & Key cutting Trade Counter in Peterborough
We found St David’s Square premises vacant, several units had been vacated by a larger company moving on. Our son Philip has worked in the security installation industry from leaving college. He had gained ten years experience working for large regional and national security installation companies. When we moved to St Davids Square it was a good opportunity to join the family business and begin to take over the reins.
St David’s Square is in a good trading location, it is exactly one mile from the city centre, easy to get to, easy to find, easy to park. It is on the same trading estate as Screwfix – a very popular destination for small builders and maintenance companies. We set up a new office and trade counter and cultivated new clients especially for the growing Mul-T-Lock master key business which was benefiting from the sustained growth of the ‘buy-to-let’ businesses which were springing up. Key duplication machinery was updated ready for increased demand on this busy site.
New regular customers were sought and found amongst the maintenance fraternity. Our customer list grew with demand from end users looking to out-source their repairs and maintenance requirements. Some of our clients turn over billions of pounds but they all have local managers who need a local service supplier ‘on tap’. Phil’s electronics installation skills were in great demand to service the need for more and more sophisticated security devices that were being designed to keep the bad folk out and the good folk safe. The team grew through the decade and we added more regular customers to our prestige list of NHS, Schools, Police, Fire and Rescue, Ministry Of Defence clients. Our smaller and less well known regulars were and are just as concerned about health and safety practices and our views and our actions concerning the environment and welfare. In the present day we found ourselves on new training courses and rising up to cover these and ‘new’ requirements as well as learning new skills to install the latest security devices.
Schools have particular security headaches to overcome as well as every day maintenance work requirements. We carry out a lot of maintenance work at our local schools. Door get a punishing every day in schools and we have constant work to do repairing and refurbishing doors, locks , frames and all the ancillaries surrounding the door.
Access control is very important within school buildings and our people are on regular training courses to keep us up to date with the latest innovations. We are currently registered Paxton installers with a Gold Partner status.
Another feather in our cap was being rated by the Best Three Rated website as the best locksmiths in Peterborough having gone through a vigorous 50 point inspection that includes unsolicited reviews on Google.
Our customers reflect their thoughts and experiences they have with our company as honest comments from local people where each review can be traced back to a job we have done.
New products are offered us all the time. Some are good some not so good. Our long term clients and ‘recommendees’ come to us for our effectiveness and reliability and we try hard to provide a value for money service after 45 years trying we feel we have achieved our ideal and intend travelling with the next generation on the same trajectory.