A brief history of the door knocker

The door knocker, although a slightly neglected accessory, has been part of the overall design of front doors for centuries. A case in point – try and imagine a door from ancient times. Likely the first thing that comes to mind is a rusty old door knocker.

The accessory definitely gives off a different and complete look to the door and turns it from something purely practical into an accessory; it sends a message – it is the face of a home. And the variety of door knockers is simply astonishing – they range from the most ordinary metal rings to real works of art.

History of the door knocker

Door knockers have somewhat of a “dark” past. One can trace back their history to not too far from our geographic latitudes. It is believed that they originated in ancient Greece, where slaves were chained to the front door of homes. Their chains were attached to the door by a large ring placed on a metal plate. In case the slave fell asleep in front of the door, guests coming to visit would use the big ring (hammer) to wake up the slave and attract their attention or that of the owner of the house.

The Romans continued to use the door knocker, and its use spread throughout the empire. The knocker became the way guests announced their arrival.

Door knockers in Britain

Around the 16th century, the accessory was already a must-have for all front doors in Britain. In the centuries to come, Britain would become the largest empire in human history, spreading its culture and habits (including the use of the door knocker) to its subjects throughout the rest of the world. At that time, the knocker was quite simplistic. However, with the advancement of the skills of blacksmiths, wealthier people were able to afford more detailed door knockers.

At the beginning of the Georgian era (1714 – c. 1830-37) the knockers on front doors were still simplistic. They were made of cast iron and painted black. In the 19th century, knockers became even more popular and more and more complex shapes began to emerge. They often took the form of lion’s heads made of brass or bronze. Towards the end of the Georgian era, brass became the main material of which door accessories, including door knockers, were made. In the Victorian era, knockers remained a sign of social status, although some were replaced by the Bell pull system – the predecessor of modern bells.

The evolution of the door knocker

The more detailed the door knockers would get, the greater the possibilities for their design. They were often inspired by mythology and religion. In China, for example, knockers were frequently made in the shape of a dragon – a symbol of strength and good luck. The lion’s head became very popular in the 19th century, especially in Great Britain, and remains popular to this day.

Another very beautiful design of the hammer is the shape of the hand. It is believed to have originated in the Muslim world and symbolizes the Hand of Fatima, considered a symbol of protection.

Over time, as we mentioned, the design of the door knockers became unimaginably diverse. The knockers themselves became more of an accessory that pleases the eye, not so much something practical. In the gallery below you can enjoy the great variety of knockers and get inspired.

What are your favorite front door knockers?

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