Vintage Door Knockers  

The History of Door Knockers

Lion head door knocker

The traditional lion's head door knocker graces the front door of one of the most famous addresses in the world, #10 Downing Street.

The history of door knockers is long and storied, and there was a time when they truly played a much more significant role in daily life than they do today. Today we live in a world with cell phones, high speed Internet access and all of the other powerful technologies that have advanced society over the past decades and centuries. But there was a time of course when none of that was available, and homes did not even have electricity for small creature comforts such as light bulbs and electric doorbells and buzzers.

Therefore a door knocker was not just a decorative feature that improves the appearance of a home, or a novelty used by the occasionally curious or mischievous visitor. Instead, they were the vital tool that was used every day to announce a visitor, as guests to the home could spare the pounding on their fists and knuckles and instead quickly raise a metal ring and make an easy, audible tapping.

Door knockers have been in use for thousands of years, and these simple little gadgets have managed to both evolve greatly over time and stay largely unchanged. Of course at their heart they are extremely basic: a metal plate with a metal ring suffices as a complete knocker, or even just the ring without a plate, allowing it to tap directly on the door. Still, over the centuries materials and other preferences have changed.

Cast iron was one of the most prominent materials used throughout the medieval period. A door knocker made from iron during this time was largely utilitarian, it was made to get a job done. It was cheap and easy to produce, and the homes of all people from the lower to upper classes showcased them. More extravagant knockers were used as a symbol of wealth, power and prestige.

During the Renaissance period, door knockers started to become much more ornamental and fanciful. Grander designs and unique looks were utilized, particularly on the homes of the wealthy. Brass became the go-to material of choice, as it was versatile and classy, and the bright shine of a polished brass knocker really stood out. Throughout the years, other popular materials included the cheap and utilitarian pewter, copper and over the past hundred years or so, stainless steel.

Besides the introduction of new materials, door knockers also began to incorporate more designs. Most prominently this included the usage of animals and animal heads. Different animals could be said to mean different things, and undoubtedly the most famous example of this is the lion's head knocker used on 10 Downing Street, the home of the British Prime Minister. Dating back to the 18th century, the fierce but stoic lion signified courage, strength and bravery. Lion and lion head door knockers continue to be popular today.

Of course, door knockers began to become less prominent and widespread with the introduction of electricity in homes. However, these days a great looking, classic door knocker is back in vogue. The right knocker on the right door and the right home can provide a wonderful addition that really accentuates other visual home features, and imparts some great personality as well.

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