Monday, August 26, 2013

Knockers and knobs

A walk around the narrow streets of High Town in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, allowed a little indulgence in door furniture admiration. 

These elegant Georgian designs feature a classical-style face wreathed with leaves. Are those grapes tucked behind the ears and vine leaves in the wreath? Maybe this is Dionysus the Greek god of wine, merry-making and ritual madness? If so, why the sad face?

Perhaps the morning after the night before?

Quite a few webpages suggest this is Medusa. But, I don't see any snakes or serpents. Roullier-White state that it's Hestia, the Greek goddess of home, hearth & architecture. I don't think so, so I'll stick with Dionysus. I have no idea what the rather prim, square shouldered knave on the left is up to.

Continuing the classical theme, some cheeky cherubs adorned a few doors. The one on the right is actually a satyr, in a Kenrick and Sons design. Kenrick is a long established (since 1791) foundry in West Bromwich. This is design No. 425. Satyrs were the companions of Pan and the above mentioned Dionysus. I can't find out anything about the cherub design on the left.

Below are traditional designs, on the left a Victorian scroll, another Kenrick design and on the right a Doctor's door knocker, so called because it was used on a doctor's door. This didn't sound a very satisfactory explanation to me, but Roullier-White go further "Prior to the advent of the public postal system, in the 17th Century, and in rural areas houses were not numbered. Name plaques were common but so was illiteracy, Doctor’s houses were identified by a particular type of knocker. The lower lever like hook was designed so that a child could reach the knocker"

I like this Victorian loop design (and very well polished too); another Archibald Kenrick design.

This striking cat door knocker is probably a symbol of good luck. The only picture I could find online of a similar design was from Malaysia

This decidedly severe knocker looks like a Chinese guardian or Fu lion; a symbol of protection. 

And lions certainly have a lion's share of the door knockers in Bridgnorth. 

The classic lion door knocker is based on the door knocker of No. 10 Downing Street. Pretty imposing. The original lion knocker was fitted to No.10 in the 1770s or 1780s but made in the West Midlands. How appropriate! I've been unable to ascertain which foundry made the original but suspect it was Kenricks.

And this little lion looks even more forlorn than the morose big cats above.

A few doors had a nautical theme. It's a long way from the sea here, but Bridgnorth used to be a bustling river port, with wharves and barges, till the end of the 19th century. (Here's a link to a 19th century painting in Northgate Museum, Bridgnorth.) The fish design is a stylised big-lipped scaly fish with trident tail. It looks Chinese to me, perhaps a carp, a symbol of good luck and abundance.

And some less than polished but full of character.

A couple of rather neat door handles, a rope twist and a star backplate.

Finally, a hand door knocker, the only one I found on my walk. The Hand of Fatima is common in the Medina of Marrakech. Musician Elaine Fine has blogged about hand door knockers here and suggests the hand was there to ward off evil spirits, but perhaps it was also a symbol of protection and blessing on the household.

Arkeolog, a photographer from Turkey has some wonderful photos of hand door knockers from his homeland and from Syria (you'll need to scan down his photo page).

I'd never before realised there were so many designs, from the ornate to the very ordinary, and behind many a story or deeper meaning. Might go and buy one tomorrow!

Did buy a door knocker today! This lovely owl from the Door Knocker Company just outside Church Stretton.


  1. Door knockers are not that popular in our area. But whenever I saw one, it would always be a lion-shaped door knocker. I don’t know if they used it because of its design or because it seems to convey power. By the way, those door knockers are all stunning.

  2. Hi Jelly Andrews. When I get home I am going to check my own area for door knockers. I suspect I'll find more with a nautical theme there. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Hi Mel,
    It was nice to meet you this week when you bought your door knocker from us. I've finally got around to looking at the blog. I've only glanced at it but now I've found it I'll have a proper look later on. I'll sort out a link from our site as well.

  4. Hi Rachel. The owl door knocker looks super! Thanks for checking out the blog. Any corrections or comments most welcome.

  5. Gorgeous! I can't wait to have my own doorknocker one day. It will probably be a lion's head, but I am open to suggestions.Here along with this also we birdbath,bird feeders and so on.

    House signs