Locked in memory

Charles Cowling

John Porter


Guest post by John Porter

I was wandering around the Albert Dock in Liverpool and came across these padlocks locked to the immensely thick chain that guarded the quayside. In fact there were thousands of them! Many had etched inscriptions saying things like “Will love you for ever Simon”, “Never forgotten”, “Made my mark”, “Cheaper than a headstone!”, “Never again!”.

I spent quite a bit of time reading and touching them. It felt as though this is what I was being invited to do. To me this is a wonderful way to make a point, to say anything you fancy – could be about dead or living people. No obvious rules about permitted size of locks or number you can attach. Brilliant. Don’t know who started it. Don’t know if it was an organised thing or someone put one on and it grew from there. Many had padlocks linked to one padlock expressing some connection – or maybe none! 

What a fantastic way to lock something into memory! Many padlocks are rusting – few looked maintained in any way. Dates, names, relationships, places and events – a snapshot of so much adorning so little space. It enhanced the look though I’m sure some will say they make it look unsightly. Perhaps they should pause and have a look!

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James Leedam
7 years ago

I noticed tribute padlocks at Tigne Point in Sliema, Malta (pic here: http://tinyurl.com/lwtneh2). I did wonder how this might be transferred to the environment of a natural burial ground where group memorials help to preserve the landscape. However. we haven’t yet found a way that really fits in with the rural surroundings. This seems to fit better in a more urban environment – but if the trend becomes a craze, then the proliferation of padlocks everywhere could become as unwelcome as graffiti tags.

7 years ago

I noticed this when I went to Liverpool last year.
When I go back, I am going to make a point of taking my own lock with me….now one question….to we throw the keys in the Mersey once the lock is on!!?

Michael Jarvis
Michael Jarvis
7 years ago
Reply to  Lucy

Yes, Lucy, you throw the keys into the Mersey in exactly the same manner that those in Paris throw their keys into the Seine. But…the risk is that, as in Paris, some will see the memorialisation as vandalism. Then, perhaps, a Liverpudlian jobsworth may come along and cut the lock off.

7 years ago
Reply to  Michael Jarvis

Some of them look like they have been there for years….I will take the risk!!

Michael Jarvis
Michael Jarvis
7 years ago

A friend of mine told me that the padlock memorial phenomenon started at the Ponte Milvio in Rome. Whether or not that’s true I don’t know but when it reached Paris (notably at the Pont des Arts) it got out of hand and someone, presumably a city council official, removed huge quantities of them.