Karen Davies

Karen Davies

Department of History
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

PhD title: A Key in the Lock: Opening the History of Lock Making in Willenhall 1792-1970
Supervisor: Dr Malcolm Dick and Dr Kate Smith
PhD History


  • BA (Hons) History
  • MSc (Econ) Archive Administration


I was educated and have lived in Wolverhampton all my life.  My first class honours degree in history was gained from the University of Wolverhampton.  I gained my Masters degree in Archive Administration via distance learning at Aberystwyth University.

I am an archivist by profession having worked at Dudley & Wolverhampton Archives and lately at the Black Country Living Museum, Dudley, as the Museum’s Archivist & Librarian.  I have worked in the heritage sector for the past fifteen years or so through my involvement in projects at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, the Lighthouse Centre (formerly the premises of Chubb Locks, Wolverhampton) and Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton.

In my spare time I like researching my family history, walking, reading (when I’m not studying) and knitting.  I am a member of The National Trust and English Heritage.  I am also a cat lover and regularly subscribe to the Cats’ Protection charity.


Willenhall in the Black Country once produced 98% of the world’s locks.  This interesting statistic prompts the question ‘why Willenhall’?  The basis of my research topic aims to answer that question.  A brief literature search resulting in the discovery of a general dearth of research material, has clearly shown that the lock making industry of Willenhall is a neglected subject.  However, the research that is available has shown that much of Willenhall’s lock making, from Elizabethan times to the mid-nineteenth century, was carried out by small family-run businesses and not by large manufacturing companies.  

This study at doctoral level addresses an urgent need to fill this research gap on this particular industry, and I will begin to do that by cataloguing the archive records of the lock making Hodson family of New Street, Willenhall.  I will then utilize these records and other related sources so that considerable knowledge will be gained of the significant contribution that Willenhall made to the lock and other metal trades of the Black Country and West Midlands area, and ultimately to this area’s significant contribution to Britain being labelled as the ‘workshop of the world’.   

Other activities

  • I am a member of the Archives & Records Association (ARA), and was working towards Registered Member status, whilst working at the Black Country Living Museum.
  • Volunteering to catalogue the Locksmith’s House archive collection at the Black Country Living Museum, Dudley.


I have two articles published in ARC Magazine (the official magazine of the ARA) entitled:

  • Davies, K. (2016) ‘From Coffee Grinders to Castors: Re-Cataloguing the Kenrick Collection at the Black Country Living Museum’, ARC Magazine (320), pp. 24-26.
  • Davies, K. (2018) ‘A Family Affair: The Locksmith’s House Archive at the Black Country Living Museum’, ARC Magazine (348), pp 26-28.