Lock and Key

Tales and treasures from the rich legacy of the Hudson’s Bay Company. 


Written by Courtney Pachet

Posted July 13, 2020

This lock and key were used to secure the powder magazine at York Factory, in what is now northern Manitoba, around 1840. Because the powder magazine was a building designed to safely store gunpowder, the lock was made of a copper alloy, non-sparking bronze, that helped to prevent any explosive mishaps. Parts of the lock were possibly cast before being assembled, and other components were hand-forged.

Built in 1684 and situated at the mouth of the Hayes River on Hudson Bay, York Factory was the Hudson’s Bay Company’s main depot. At its peak, York Factory boasted a trading shop, lumber house, smithy, cooper’s shop, fur stores, provision store, guest house, houses for clerks and officers, and the main depot building that is still standing today. 

Many HBC employees and their families passed through York Factory on their way to interior posts and forts, while numerous others called York Factory home for a time. Furs and other goods were imported and exported until the depot, which in 1936 had been designated a National Historic Site, was closed by the HBC in 1957. 

Courtney Pachet is assistant curator of the HBC Collection at the Manitoba Museum.

This article originally appeared in the August-September issue of Canada’s History.

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