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Door knockers are iconic when it comes to front doors. They are not only practical as they announce visitors at the front door but their design and style alludes to interior styles and interests.  Even the most famous of front doors have a door knocker, for example the proud lion head door knocker which sits, as if keeping watch, on the door of 10 Downing Street.  Unfortunately, through the years, and the expansion of modern technology, door knockers have become a thing of the past and is rarely thought about in detail. Yet they are the first piece of contact you have with a home and those who live within it and with so many designs to choose from, how did the door knocker come about?

Traditional Door Knocker

Historical records show that door knockers were around in Ancient Greece. It is said that Greeks disliked when visitors would enter their premises without announcement or prior warning and even though Spartans would shout their arrival, the Athenians preferred to have something a little less intrusive.  During this time, upper class Greeks enslaved slaves whose sole purpose was to answer doors. But instead of a ‘modern’ day butler who was free to roam the house doing other chores, slaves were physically chained and were made to hold a heavy iron bar which was attached to the door by a plate.  If a slave had fallen asleep, the visiting guest would strike the door knocker raising the attention of the slave.  However, it soon became apparent that the metal bar could be used as a weapon and that was quickly changed to a ring which was mounted to the front door.  Throughout the years since the Ancient Greeks, the use of the door knocker has remained the same yet styles and production methods have changed.

Door Knockers

By the Georgian Period, door knockers adorned nearly every front door in the UK but were often simple in design, crafted from iron and painted black, which we now call ‘traditional door knockers’.  But, the demand called for blacksmiths to develop their skills to create more elaborate and decorative designs, including local patterns, traditional symbols whilst reflecting popular fashion lines of the time.  Proud homeowners and upper-class persons wanted something to match their grand homes and thus the brass lion heads design was created. From then, brass become the sole material for door furniture.  Around this time, the bell pull and the penny post came into existence, allowing for more door furniture to be created, which we now take for granted. As the door knocker became more elaborate in style and design, inspiration was taken from mythology and religion.

Are you interested in a particular design?  Have a quick read about how they came about.

Commonly referred to as the Doctor Door Knocker, this early Georgian design was used to identify the front door of, you guessed it, Doctors. Its business like yet noisy design meant that Doctors could be disturbed day and night for emergencies.

Doctor Door Knocker

Pictured from left to right: 'Watson' Bright Chrome Doctor's Door Knocker,  Polished Brass Georgian 'Cameo' Knocker, 'Watson' Brass Doctor's Door Knocker

Iconic as it features on the door of 10 Downing Street, the lion head is used as it is not only part of England’s history and heritage, it signifies pride, protection, and power. Some even suggest that the lion head acts as a guardian of the home, protecting those inside.

Lion Door Knockers

Pictured from left to right : Bright Chrome Lion Door Knocker,  'Sandringham' Polished Brass Lion Knocker, Black 'Downing Street' Lion Door Knocker 

Any hand shaped door knocker, like the below is considered to represent the Hand of Fatima, a sign of protection against evil spirits. However, there cannot be one hand without the other. Historians suggest that two types of hand knockers existed, a male and female and would sit side by side on the front door but would have two very distinctive striker sounds.  The visitor would then strike the relevant door knocker according to their gender and the woman of the home would know whether to open the door or leave for a male counterpart.

Hand Door Knocker

Pictured from left to right: Polished Brass Hand Door Knocker, Black Hand Door Knocker, Bright Chrome Hand Door Knocker

Who knew that door knockers had so much historical background behind them! So, whilst there are many styles, finishes and design to choose from, take great care in choosing one which is both practical and is in keeping with the architectural style and personality of your home. After all, it says hello before you even mutter the word.

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