Locked out during Lockdown? Clare’s of Croydon has held the key for nearly a hundred years.
Located in Tamworth Road (near Reeves Corner), this family-owned business that has remained in three generations of the Clare family was begun nearly a hundred years ago and they have been a key store (excuse the pun!) in Croydon ever since.
The company was founded by Ernest (Ernie) Clare. Ernie started his career, with an engineer friend, by buying and selling engineering tools and machinery. After the First World War, the pair took on a shop in Church Street, Croydon, which was soon crammed with second hand tools and machines.
Ernie delighted in any craft skill and became very competent in several trades including plumbing, gas and steam fitting and engineering. However, it was his younger sister, Cissy, who showed the greatest interest in key cutting. In time, the accent of the business changed more towards general ironmongery and lock and key work.
During World War Two, Ernie built a reputation for his work on safes and was frequently asked by the police to open and repair safes in bombed-out buildings. Ernie's son Tony joined his father and, in 1957, E. A. Clare and Son was set up. During his time as a locksmith, Tony was instrumental in setting up the Master Locksmiths Association, which is still the main governing body for standards in the locksmith industry.
In 1984 Tony's son, Mark, joined the company; introducing access control and intruder alarm systems. The company later became Clare's of Croydon Ltd. The premises are now at 54 Tamworth Road, close to where the original company was formed.
When asked for the one piece of key advice that Mark would have for customers, he said:
“My one piece of key advice, would be that if you find yourself in need of a locksmith, choose one who is a member of the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA). MLA membership does demonstrate a level of competence. Customers who are organisations may also require certain accreditations from locksmiths they employ e.g. Safecontractor and Constructionline. We are approved by both of these.”
It is heartening to hear how local businesses have been helping Croydonites during these challenging times, especially ones that are as historic as Clare’s of Croydon.