Here at Premierdoorhandles.co.uk we’re sure it won’t surprise you in the slightest to discover we’ve got a bit of a thing about doors – and especially traditional period doors. We loved the craftsmanship that went in to the old Victorian, Edwardian and Queen Anne doors. We’re also fond of all the stained glass and elaborate art work that went into Art Deco, Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts influenced doors at the turn of the 20th century. We suspect the very fact you’re reading this blog in the first place means that you too share our interest.
In this article we’ll touch on the history of the front door from its beginnings as far back as ancient Egypt - the pyramids had a piece of wood leaning over their main entrance way in order to bar intruders - to the sliding doors of the Romans and then we’ll go on to explore the subject a bit more in depth up until the current day where most doors, you’ll find, are a combination of wood and glass.
Regardless of the different design styles and materials used over the centuries you’ll find that it’s the mouldings and timber panelling on the doors, together with the furniture (door handles, letterbox, mouldings etc) that hint at the character of a house. Certainly, the front door and the various items of furniture attached to it is the first thing visitors will encounter on arrival at your home.
First door hinges introduced in 12th century
The first doors which resemble those we have today arrived in the 12th century. This was when they opened via hinges at the sides (rather than the design of a hanging stile with pivots at the top and bottom). This was also when iron bars were added in order to give the doors more strength to keep out intruders and other unwanted guests.
In France, during the Louis XIV and XV periods doors were as decoratively and elaborately carved as the furniture inside. This was during the Baroque and Rococo periods where finials were commonplace and the Gothic look was ‘in’ for a time.
Meanwhile, back in the UK doors were certainly less elaborate – being merely plain or panelled. The latter tended to win out if the householder had money. By the end of the 18th century six panels were popular but by the mid 19th century the fashion was for four.
During the 19th century door fastenings changed. Draw bars and lifting latches were replaced by factory-made steel thumb latches. Mortice locks, door handles and door knockers were common (the latter usually a heavy brass ring known as a Doctor’s Knocker – as shown in the following picture of a Queen Anne Door):
The first Chubb locks appeared on Georgian style door in the 19th century and by the end of that period fancy door mouldings were the order of the day. They usually consisted of circles, arches and stained glass:
Doors around this time were mostly built using pine and oak while door furniture (mostly the knocker) was often formed from a brass replica of a lion’s head. Storm doors were regularly used in Victorian times – and not simply for keeping out draughts. Householders would leave the doors open to let passers-by know they were happy to receive visitors. Keeping them closed was a polite way of telling them the opposite. The door furniture around this time tended to be heavy and rigid:
By the beginning of the 1920s Victorian design was on its way out, being replaced by the Edwardian door and the rather more glamorous and daring Art Deco, Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts movements:
The following Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau styled doors in the 1920s and 30s show how much more light-hearted and fun the interior design styles had become after shirking off the darkness and prudishness of the far more repressed Victorian era. Arts and Crafts was recognised for its love of flowers and wildlife whereas Art Nouveau was all about striking and rather unexpected curves. All embraced colour, light and a flamboyancy that would have been improper during the stricter Victorian times:
Meanwhile, Art Deco brought a whole new vision of glamour and glitz to design – both in the home and fashions of the time. The following door has been inspired by the Scottish artist Rennie Mackintosh (a great proponent of Art Deco style):
Come the 1950s the fashion for a front door was for all about simplicity with plain doors – the less elaborate the better – the order of the day. Certainly stained glass was well on its way out. Housewives found it too difficult to keep clean and it proved extremely fragile when there were games of street football on the go - or domestic disharmony.
Today’s contemporary doors have turned that philosophy on its head though, with designers once again choosing to embrace glass. Certainly glass panelling at either side of a solid wooden door is a very popular style while many doors have inset glass in them to add light into an otherwise dark hallway. In terms of door furniture, the minimalist look is definitely in:
If reading through our brief history of doors through the ages has put you in the mood for changing your door or the furniture on it, then do take a look through our vast selection of door handles, door knockers, knobs, letter plates, numbers, door bells and chains. Our team are happy to advise you on fixing the door furniture, as well as provide general maintenance advice. Contact us today via our website contact form or by calling 01506 467730.