Knock Knock, a Short History of Door Knockers

Origins of door knockers

A door knocker is an item of door furniture that allows people outside a house to alert those inside to their presence. It has a part fixed to the door, and a part (usually metal) which is attached to the door by a hinge that is lifted and used to strike a plate fitted to the door, making a noise. The strike plate, if present, would be supplied and fitted with the knocker. Door knockers are often ornate, but may be no more than a simple fitting with a metal bob, or ring. Many older period houses and mansions often have intricate knockers in the shape of human heads or mythical beasts. The earlier designs were based on statues that would stand in front of ancient Greek houses. These statues were created with distorted, grotesque features and were thought to be used to ward of malignant spirits and witches. This is also true of gargoyles, which have similar caricatured faces, in order to prevent spirits and ghosts from entering the house. There were also ‘good luck’ knockers, which were thought to have magical or healing properties and were used to encourage good luck into the home. These door knockers utilized a motif of good luck charms such as horse-shoes, stars, suns and flowers. The popular ‘hand shaped’ knocker is often seen in Muslim countries, and was believed to symbolize the Hand of Fatima which protected the house from evil. It was also thought to indicate that the occupants of that house were followers of the Muslim faith.

In olden times, there were two different hand-knockers, one male and one female, as it was considered inappropriate for the woman of the house to open the door to a man. Visitors would use the knocker according to their gender. Each knocker would make a different sound, so the woman of the house would know whether or not she should open the door. These gender-based knockers have become less popular in modern times.

Door knockers have been used to symbolize everything from hospitality to good luck to warding off bad spirits. With recent ironmongery technology, more iconic door knockers can be made by twisting the metal into intricate designs. Some door knockers also come with a viewer lens for home safety or security. With all these new design options available, it would seem that people would flock to metalworkers to design a variety of different door knockers for their homes, but most modern houses prefer the classical ring knocker or crescent moon knocker found in hardware stores or online.

Door knockers are more popular in England than in any other country and can be found everywhere, even in the most remote locations. However, the history of door knockers begins several thousand years ago in Ancient Greece. Although intricate door knockers are popular these days, the origins of that knocker may be something far more regal than it simply ‘looking nice’ on the door. Greeks were a bit picky about unannounced visits to their dwellings. It was considered a breach of etiquette to enter a dwelling without warning. Where Spartans would simply shout their arrival, the more sophisticated Athenians preferred to use a door knocker. Doors had replaced flexible hangings to provide better safety and privacy. Upper class Greeks had slaves whose sole purpose was to answer the door. It’s a bit like having a butler, but one that was chained to the door to prevent them wandering off. If they didn’t die of boredom, they’d fall asleep, and so to wake them up, visitors rapped on the door with a short bar of iron attached to a chain. It soon occurred to all that the iron bar could be utilized as a weapon. In order to prevent unwanted attacks, they soon learned to attach the bar to the door by a hinge. Thus evolved the modern door knocker.

Choosing new door hardware

For a selection of knockers to fit any decor, many informative sources are available. Choose a style you like, including Round, lever style, or a personalized design. Many different finishes are available. They include brass, chrome, stainless steel and other miscellaneous finishes. It is important that a good quality item is selected for exterior use. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for. Interior doors are not as important when choosing quality, but interior and exterior doors and hardware will last longer if selected with quality in mind.When selecting new hardware, be sure to coordinate by color, materials and style. This includes the lock, hinges, door knocker and coach lights if present.

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