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Click to Expand Gallery Unlocking the Love-Lock: The History and Heritage of a Contemporary Custom

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Unlocking the Love-Lock

The History and Heritage of a Contemporary Custom

Ceri Houlbrook

260 pages, 50 illus., bibliog., index, Enhanced Love-locks Catalog

ISBN  978-1-78920-922-8 $145.00/£107.00 / Hb / Published (January 2021)

ISBN  978-1-78920-985-3 $29.95/£23.95 / Pb / Published (January 2021)

eISBN 978-1-78920-923-5 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit  Buy the eBook! $29.95info on epub formatRequest a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“This is a fascinating study of the custom of attaching padlocks, usually inscribed with names, to bridges and other structures and artefacts in public locations…The interdisciplinary approach, together with exemplary fieldwork and detailed analysis of material collected, along with diligent identification, use, and evaluation of data from the internet and mass media, combine to make this book a major contribution to knowledge in this burgeoning international field of enquiry.” • Tradition Today

“This is an important first detailed examination of the love-lock practice and provides an important benchmark for any further study, collection, and observation of the development of the custom.” • Folklore

“This is a well-researched and thoughtful assessment of a fascinating topic.” • Sarah Randles, University of Melbourne

“…this is an eminently enjoyable and thorough investigation of a popular phenomenon through the lens of heritage and folk tradition.” • Sara De Nardi, Western Sydney University


Explores the worldwide popularity of the love-lock as a ritual token of love and commitment by considering its history, symbolism, and heritage.

“[T]his is an eminently enjoyable and thorough investigation of a popular phenomenon through the lens of heritage and folk tradition.”—Sara De Nardi, Western Sydney University

A padlock is a mundane object, designed to fulfil a specific – and secular – purpose. A contemporary custom has given padlocks new significance. This custom is ‘love-locking’, where padlocks are engraved with names and attached to bridges in declaration of romantic commitment. This custom became popular in the 2000s, and its dissemination was rapid, geographically unbound, and highly divisive, with love-locks emerging in locations as diverse as Paris and Taiwan; New York and Seoul; Melbourne and Moscow.

From the introduction:
I was distractedly perusing the photo frame aisle, my eyes skimming the generically sentimental stock pictures of happy families smiling at the camera, pretty landscapes, cute pets and couples walking hand-in-hand, when I came across one that jumped out at me…. I recognised the image instantly as a photograph of love-locks: the padlocks that had been appearing
en masse on bridges and other public structures on a global scale since the early 2000s. And, having been researching the custom known as lovelocking for about five years at that point, it was with a peculiar sense of pride that I realised love-locks had accomplished the status of a stock image.

Ceri Houlbrook attained her doctorate in Archaeology from the University of Manchester, and is a lecturer in Folklore and History at the University of Hertfordshire. Her primary research interests are contemporary folklore and the material culture of popular customs and beliefs. She has published previously on the British phenomenon of coin-trees and the history and folklore of concealed objects.

Berghahn Digital Archaeology hosts Ceri Houlbrook’s complete catalog of over 700 Love-locks (LL) and divergent deposits (DD) from Oxford Road Bridge, Manchester. The comprehensive list spans 5 years, from February 2014 to April 2019, and is available in both interactive and downloadable forms.

Subject: Heritage StudiesArchaeologyMuseum StudiesCultural Studies (General)


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