Many older period houses and mansions often have intricate door knockers in the shape of human heads or mythical beasts, but what is the history behind these strange grotesque knockers? Certain designs can be quite rare, and originally different shaped door knockers served different purposes depending on where in the world you would see them. Take a step back in time to see how these designs originated, and what their original purpose was.
The earlier designs of door knockers were based off of statues that would stand in front of ancient Greek houses. These statues were created with distorted, grotesque features, including exaggerated genitalia, 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. The exception to this rule was that a church did not have any disfigured statues outside, as the holy water stoup by the entrance of the main door of the church was enough to deter malignant spirits.
There were also ‘good luck’ door knockers, which were thought to have magical or healing properties and were used to encourage good luck into the home. These were door knockers in the shape of, or with a motif of good luck charms such as horse-shoes, stars, suns and flowers.
The popular ‘hand shaped’ door knocker is often seen in Muslim countries, and was thought to symbolize the Hand of Fatima which protected the house from evil and was also a way to show that the occupants of that house were followers of the Muslim faith. It was also assumed that there were 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. Therefore 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.
Stanley Abercrombie said in 1990 “Our first encounter of any interior is the result of our entrance into it, a movement from outside to inside” meaning that first impressions have a lasting effect when entering ones home. Door knockers have been used to symbolize everything from hospitality to good luck to warding off bad spirits, so although intricate door knockers are popular nowadays, the origins of that knocker may be something far more regal than it simply ‘looking nice’ on the door.
However with recent ironmongery technology, more iconic door knockers can be made by twisting the metal into intricate designs. With all these new design options available, you would think that people would flock to ironmongers to design a variety of different door knockers for their homes, however most modern houses prefer the classical ring knocker or crescent moon knocker, perhaps because it doesn’t seem as garish or ‘in your face’ as the more traditional, elaborate knockers of times gone by. Plus in the end, it serves one purpose only; to request entrance into the house.
Carrie Markers is a WAHM to 2 young boys. In her endeavours to keep busy and self-sufficient she likes to attempt DIY and will often spend weekends with a screwdriver or hammer nearby. She also writes about her exploits for Quality Ironmongery, suppliers of DIY products at trade prices.