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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

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook from these vendors Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“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


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

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.

Ceri Houlbrook’s complete catalog of over 700 Love-locks (LL) and divergent deposits (DD) catalogued on Oxford Road Bridge, Manchester, UK, from February 2014 until April 2019, is available on Berghahn Digital Archaeology in both interactive and downloadable forms here

Subject: Heritage Studies Archaeology Museum Studies Cultural Studies (General)


Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


Chapter 1. Dating Love: A History of The Love-Lock Custom
Chapter 2. Consuming Love: Folk Custom and Popular Culture
Chapter 3. Excavating Love: The Material Culture of Love-Locking
Chapter 4. Locking Love: The Ethnography of Love-Locking
Chapter 5. Symbolizing Love: The semiotics of love-locking
Chapter 6. Selling Love: The Commercialization of Love-locking
Chapter 7. Unlocking Love: Controversy and Heritage

Concluding Thoughts: A Final Case-Study

Appendix 1
Appendix 2


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