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Fish shaped brass door knocker

A Brief History of the Door Knocker

We sell a range of door knockers at Willow & Stone of traditional Period design and stylish classics such as our polished nickel hoop door knocker. Here we take a brief look at the history of the door knocker and share some of our favourite antique originals.

polished nickel hoop door knocker

The Early Door Knocker

Door knockers have a bit of a dark past, with the earliest thought to originate from Ancient Greece where slaves were chained to a heavy ring attached to the door by a plate in order to greet any guests. In the event the slave had fallen asleep, the guest would tap the knocker to raise the attention of the slave or the home owner.

The Romans continued with the use of the knocker and it spread across the empire. And so the heavy knocker remained as a means for visitors to announce their presence until around the 15th century.

The use of Door Knockers in England

As early as the 16th century door knockers adorned peoples homes and although most knockers were fairly plain as blacksmiths developed their skills wealthy people began to have more detailed designs, often relating to local patterns and traditions.

Ornate antique door knocker

One of the first UK foundries was Kenricks in West Bromwich. Founded in the 1760s the family firm exported everyday cast iron goods such as kitchen ware world wide. They also produced a range of ornate items for the home and garden reflecting the fashions of the time including door furniture.

At the beginning of the Georgian period door knockers were generally still simple, cast iron and painted black, but during the 1800s as they became widely used so to it became fashionable to have more elaborate door knockers, such as Lion Heads and Sphynx’s often cast in brass or bronze.

The later part of the Georgian era saw brass become the main material for door furniture including door knockers. It also was the time when bell pulls came into use (1830’s) and the penny post began (1840s), starting the need for letter boxes.

Brass Doctors Door Knocker

Above shows one of our Brass Doctors Door Knocker‘s which is based on an early Georgian design and was named the ‘Doctors door knocker’ as it was used to identify the front door of a doctor’s house.

Throughout the Victorian Period the door knocker remained (despite some being removed and replaced by the bell pull), often as a show of wealth in elaborate designs and highly polished brass. Pictured below is Willow & Stone’s Brass Rope Twist Door Knocker which is cast from an early Victorian original.

Brass rope twist door knocker

Lion Head Door Knockers

As the door knocker became more elaborate over time many designs were inspired by mythology and religion. For example in China they took on the form of a dragon, a symbol of power, strength, and good luck.

Lion Head Door Knocker

The lion head door knocker with it’s mouth gripping the ring became particularity popular in the early 19th Century and has remained a favourite today. The lion has been used as symbol of Great Britain (across many ancient cultures) and is thought to signify strength, pride, protection and power. A lion head door knocker acts a guardian to the home.

Our Aged Brass Lion head door knocker (as pictured above) remains a best sellerĀ at Willow & Stone. A similar design can be seen on the door of number 10 Downing Street!

Hand Shaped Door Knockers

Another beautiful door knocker spotted the world over is the hand shaped door knocker. Considered to have originated in Muslim countries and symbolise the Hand of Fatima (recognised and used as a sign of protection) it would indicate that a person of Muslim faith lived in the house.

Brass hand shaped door knocker

It is also suggested that two types of hand door knocker exist, a male and a female, both of which would be present on the front door each with it’s own distinct sound. The visitor would then knock the appropriate knocker according to their gender and the woman of the house would know whether or not she should open the door.

Fish Shaped Door Knockers

Being located in Falmouth we can’t resist the charm of fish door knockers. Thought to originate from Scottish foundries, knockers with a maritime theme were often seen on the homes of shipping merchants.

There are a wide variety of styles of Dolphin and Mythical fish knockers each with their own meaning, for example a carp is a symbol of good luck and abundance and a fish with a poseidon fork design depicts power and a mastery of the seas.

So in choosing your door knocker, bare in mind their interesting meanings and historical references and most of all, have fun with it!


Browse our range of door knockers and front door furniture here, or feel free to get in touch to discuss your project and we’ll be more than happy to help. You can call us on 01326 311 388 or email

Posted in Articles and Features, Customer Projects, How to Guides, More from Willow & Stone, Our Products & Ranges, Uncategorised, W&S Window Displays

Posted by willowandstone 9th March 2017

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