John F. Allen's Blog at

26th December 2016

Newport – home of the Mole Wrench

Filed under: Diary — John Allen @ 3:20 pm



Back in the days when there was clear separation between commercial interest and public service, the postmark “Ship through Newport, home of the Mole Wrench” had to go because it contained a registered trademark. That was right – no-one then wished to defend private “investment” in a public utility and natural monopoly. No-one thought to suggest that the Royal Mail should carry advertising. I very much doubt M. K. Mole & Son Ltd. had offered, or been asked, to pay.

The Mole Wrench postmark was more likely to have been a generous mistake, attributable to affection and local pride; a gentler age. Its replacement coincided with the General Post Office’s wish to promote postal codes, then new. The substitute postmarks said much about the town. I recall three of them:-

Send your letters with the postcode on,
Use a self-grip wrench from Newport, Mon.

The postcode helps to speed the mails,
The self-grip wrench from Newport hails.

The postcode helps to speed your letter,
Use a self-grip wrench – there is none better.

I own an example of the original Mole Wrench, genuinely handed down, and still in good repair. Sadly, it sits in a toolbox in a distant country. I therefore had recently to buy a replacement from a hardware store. The design is unchanged and the new one, place of manufacture unspecified, is just as useful, solid, and apparently indestructible as the old.

Travel to a recent, wonderful family gathering on the Gower Peninsula took us past Newport, my home town. A slightly magical world seemed to begin with the elevated view of the Severn Estuary from the Eastern approach, on the M4 motorway, to the “new” Severn Bridge. Once across, in South Wales, the light seems different, and there are dramatic coastlines with great tides, fascinating cliffs, real mountains to the North, and the Somerset and North Devon coasts, outlining and merging with the Southern horizon. I suppose the sense of enchantment could have been the occasion coupled with fond memories and familiar skylines.

An outline, personal, geobiography in a map. So much has happened. Yet, the further West one travels, so much remains the same. I’ll post some photos from the birthday week, in mid-December. And I promise never to use the term Locking Pliers.



  1. […] Newport – home of the Mole Wrench […]

    Pingback by Around Uskmouth – John F. Allen's Blog — 25th February 2017 @ 4:52 pm

  2. This was one of the first tools I bought having grown up in Newport and being an engineer. I was delighted with it and it is still part of my toolbox and very handy. The Mole Wrench was copied but the original seems to still be the best.

    Comment by Lewis Lack — 23rd May 2017 @ 10:38 am

  3. I agree. It was the same for me. When in primary school I remember our neighbour and my friend’s father showing me what a Mole Wrench would do. I never quite understood how it worked until I got my hands on one myself. Really useful.

    Comment by John Allen — 23rd May 2017 @ 12:54 pm

  4. I have just inherited a toolbox from my grandfather who died in the Spring. he was a Royal Navy shipwright, and in the bottom of one of his boxes is a no.10 standard Mole Wrench, still in its cardboard box. I had no idea until now that it was a Newport Company!

    Comment by Mark Rolt — 30th August 2018 @ 3:42 pm

  5. That’s great! Thanks for the comment.

    Comment by John Allen — 30th August 2018 @ 7:15 pm

  6. Can somebody enlighten me please how many different types of MOLE wrench were there ? I know there were at least two sizes.

    Comment by Dusty Miller — 16th September 2018 @ 12:16 pm

  7. Google or DuckDuckgo returns many hits, for example: “Locking Pliers Self Grip Plier Tool Set 125 150 180 250mm”.

    That’s four sizes from one manufacturer.

    Comment by John Allen — 18th September 2018 @ 1:53 pm

  8. when i was a student in swansea in the late 60s, the train stopped at newport and the slogan was proudly painted on the platform roof, all 50 yards of it. oh and the fare was 51/9 single, paddington to swansea.

    Comment by stuart goodman — 3rd December 2018 @ 12:21 am

  9. Thank you, Stuart.

    Is that £5-1s-9p?

    As a student in London I occasionally took the reverse journey, Paddington to Swansea return, over a weekend. Indeed I remember the fare was about £5.

    Comment by John Allen — 3rd December 2018 @ 3:49 am

  10. No. In those days there were twenty shillings in a pound, so 51 shillings and 9 pence would be £2 – 11s – 9d – Two pounds eleven shillings and nine pence!
    And of course, the pence were different to those of today, there were 12 to a shilling or 240 to a pound. When we went decimal in 1971 and had the penny that was 100 to the pound (as today), they were called “New Pence” to distinguish them from the lesser valued “old” pence and were stamped as such on the coinage.

    Comment by Dean — 21st April 2020 @ 2:52 pm

  11. I have a very useful adapter that screws to a bench, accepts a standard Mole wrench and in effect turns it into a small hands-free vice. It is a bona fide Mole item, stamped as such. But I don’t know what it’s called or how to buy another for my sister. Ideas please.

    Comment by DR JOHN J WILSON — 20th August 2019 @ 8:39 am

  12. The one in the photo is a Draper. I’ve had my genuine Mole wrench for more than fifty years, although I had to substitute a standard bolt for the original adjuster when the threads became damaged through over-enthusiastic use. Although the Mole wrench’s specific design from 1955 is immediately recognisable in the UK, the concept of the self-locking pliers was invented by an American company in 1926.

    Comment by Alan Brown — 23rd October 2022 @ 11:33 am

  13. Thank you, Alan. You are correct. The photo is not of a real Mole Wrench. I own two real ones, I think, but do not have access to them right now. I am lazily using “Mole Wrench” as a generic term, as people us e “Hoover” for any vacuum cleaner.

    Comment by John Allen — 31st October 2022 @ 12:01 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress