Knock Knock: intricate designs on St Albans front doors

PUBLISHED: 16:04 29 October 2015 | UPDATED: 16:04 29 October 2015

Symbollic door knockers in St Albans

Symbollic door knockers in St Albans

Archant

Around every corner in our city there is something to see; often something with a history, a story or a meaning to it. There are the obvious attractions – the clock tower, the cathedral – which stand tall above the city in all their brazen grandeur; but it’s the lesser-known intricacies that often have just as much of a tale to tell.

Elephant imagery comes from China and IndiaElephant imagery comes from China and India

Many of these can be found amid the rich array of properties that adorn the area. St Albans itself has a story that dates back to the Romans, and with it comes a variety of multi-era homes and buildings marinating in history.

Just taking a stroll down one street offers up a bounty of architecture, design and inspiration. Streets such as Holywell Hill, Inkerman Road and Fishpool Street present you with rows of terraced houses, mostly similar in style. But it’s the accents and decorative flourishes on the exteriors of the properties that separate each one, giving them individual flair.

Taking a closer look at the doorways of some of the properties in St Albans can be extremely fascinating. While there is an array of colour, wood and style, St Albans is a town for door knockers. No two appear to be the same – and the variety is vast.

It makes sense to utilise this feature of a home as a statement piece. The different designs of door knockers that garnish the entryways of the area come in all shapes and sizes, some representing history, some spirituality, some belief, some symbolic.

A cheshire cat, similar to the one in Alice In WonderlandA cheshire cat, similar to the one in Alice In Wonderland

Years ago, St Albans local Craig Shepheard noticed how fascinating these home accents were when walking around the city with his then baby son to help him sleep in his stroller.

“I felt like a bit of a tourist in my own home town,” he told us. “I would look at the doors, which would make me notice the architectural design of the rest of the building. It made a walk into town interesting. I’d take different routes each time, and make an effort to try out the older roads to see what knockers could be found there.”

Craig’s insight into door knockers makes sense as to why they are an important part of the home: “It’s the first thing you touch. It’s your first impression when you walk to the door. It’s a tactile decoration. It gives you a feel about what the rest of the house might be like, what’s inside.”

What precisely do certain knockers mean? Does your knocker represent the kind of person you are...?

The Urn

There are classical Georgian door knockers to be found around St Albans, some with urns on them. One in particular is regency but has had a sacred cow added to it, which is likely to be influenced from the Victorian Empire. Many door knockers represent peace, wealth, strength, long life and luck.

Dolphins and fish

There were some Scottish foundries from where this style could have originated. The knocker pictured features a tail with the Poseidon fork design which depicts power and a mastery of the seas. The fish was sacred to the Greco-Roman mythology, where it held symbolic meaning of change and transformation.

The Fox

Mostly to be found on countryside doors, the influence here comes from hunting. Foxes represent shrewdness, and door knockers of this design are mainly favoured by the hunting scene.

The Male Lion

These are perhaps the most well-known designs of door knockers. They represent power and strength and became most popular in the Victorian era. However, Georgian versions can be found on some of the doors around St Albans, which tended to be a little less elaborate in design. The Victorians took it upon themselves to jazz them up and make them more of a decoration than a necessity.

Goats

The goat knocker pictured is a Kenrick knocker. Kenrick was a foundry that produced cast iron goods near Stourbridge. A goat can either be very lucky or very unlucky depending on what part of the world you come from. In many cultures it is linked with the devil or voodoo. As a door knocker it is considered lucky in the UK though, thought of as an endearing, life affirming animal totem.

Manx Cat

Again, cats provide a mixed meaning. The knocker pictured is thought to have come from the Isle of Man and is significant in this country as it means good luck at your door.

Hermes

Hermes the winged messenger was the Olympian God of transitions and boundaries often appears in door knocker imagery, and indeed features on a property in St Albans. The symbolism of boundaries is possibly the most logical of them all.

Egyptian styles

These are influenced by the Empire period around the 1820s. They are mostly traced back to Egyptian or French designers and are most likely to have been introduced around the Regency period. This St Albans knocker is quite a find, as this imagery is more commonly seen in furniture such as mahogany furniture with ormolu decoration, or fireplaces.

The Green Man

The green man is a symbol of fertility, good crops, good harvest, the conquering of spring and summer over the winter and life over death. This would appear to be quite a rural knocker.

Elephants

The elephant influence is from the Victorian Empire and depicts peace, long life and wealth. The elephants knockers in St Albans have wreaths featured above the elephants’ heads. At its prime root, the wreath embodies the noble circle-concepts of protection, unity and balance. There are so many concepts around elephants across Chinese, Hindu and Christian faith. Overall, an elephant provides strength.

Often knockers are novelty – bespoke designs based on the beliefs of those that have them made. In some ways, these ones are even more intriguing. Your front door is the threshold to your home. It’s the point at which you introduce a visitor to your personal habitat. It’s where you welcome someone in. If the entrances of St Albans are anything to go by, our city is rich with character – on both sides of the doors.

Special thanks to The Door Knocker Company for their insight into the designs featured in this piece and to Craig Shepheard for supplying some of the images used and being a helpful source of information.

Craig Shepheard is a St Albans resident, the Managing Director of FM Expert Ltd, a keen photographer and creator of the website shepheard.co.uk/knockers

The Door Knocker Company supplies a fantastic range of authentically made brass and iron architectural fixtures and fittings for period property renovations, home improvements, hotels, shops, restaurants, film and theatre sets and can be contacted on 01694 751757 or via email at info@thedoorknockercompany.co.uk. See more from them at thedoorknockercompany.co.uk

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