Company founder Stephen Underwood was born in Tilehurst, Reading on the 23rd October 1958 to parents Roy and Silvia Underwood. Following his secondary education at Highdown School he began an apprenticeship at E. Smith & Co (Locksmiths), in 1973 aged 15. The company (who would later be known as simply Smiths Security Services) were established in 1850 and at the time were the oldest locksmiths in Reading. From their shop located at 84 London Street in Reading is where his career as a Master Locksmith would begin.
Stephen worked quickly through his apprenticeship training and in turn worked his way up the company ladder to be named as one of the company directors in 1996. At this point the firm had shops in Swindon, Reading, Oxford and High Wycombe as well as a large number or prestigious contracts including Thames Water, Windsor Castle and USAF Greenham Common (near Newbury).
Above: Logo of Smiths Security Services from their heyday.
Above: One of a large number of training certificates, and an early MLA membership certificate from 1984.
Throughout Stephens career he has also been asked to share his knowledge of security. Working in partnership with the Thames Valley Police, Neighbourhood Watch, various parish councils, community groups, Schools and charity’s, Stephen has taken part in community talks, advice groups and campaign launches.
One such campaign launch took place in 1992. While at Smiths Security Services, Stephen was asked to join the Thames Valley Police, Reading Borough Council and Reading Busses to design a campaign bus to promote a safer Reading. The bus looked like a giant jam sandwich, sporting a friendly policeman and distinctive Smiths “S” logo (pictured below). It was launched at a promotion event held in the Battle Hospital car park on the Oxford Road (now a super store). The event concluded with a “team charity bus pull competition” between the parties involved, the result remains disputed with all teams claiming first place!
In late 1999 and after a highly successful career with Smiths, Stephen left the firm to join one of Britain’s most prestigious security companies. In the years following his departure, Smiths fortunes declined rapidly, after a number of takeovers the valued staff left and the company folded.
After four successful years with his new employers in Maidenhead, that witnessed his area make record sales of any location outside of London, Stephen made the decision to set up his own company.
In 2003, Abbeygate Locksmiths (originally known as DPS in the first year) was officially founded. The company has boomed since the early days and now alongside the private sector boasts contracts with a number of large national companies, some of whom were originally customers of Stephen while he was at Smiths over 18 years ago.
Above: A letter of thanks from a local Neighbourhood Watch scheme dated 17th May 1986.
Throughout Stephens career, he has built up a massive collection of interesting and antique locks that are now proudly displayed at our office in Reading and Newbury. To view just part of this collection please click here.
Now in 2018 Abbeygate Locksmiths are looking to the future. With our reputation growing another van has been put on the road. Based in Maidenhead the vehicle will enable us to improve our already strong reputation in East Berkshire and surrounding areas. To compliment this investment we are also investing in new machinery and tools. We are also investing in even more training and adding to our involvement in both local and national organisations.
Last year Stephen was given a prestigious award for his long service to the Master Locksmith Association (pictured) below. With our plans for the future well underway we will be able to continue our active relationship with the only recognised locksmiths organisation long into the future.
For more information on the services we have taken on from Smiths please click here.