Handles, knobs and locks


Door knobs no longer have to be boring!

A very, very brief history of ironmongery. We can thank the Ancient Egyptians for the invention of the basic door lock, a pin tumbler, a form of which is still in use today, entirely made out of wood. Archaeologist have found door hinges and handles similar to those in use today in early Greek and Roman sites made from bronze. They substituted iron or bronze for wood, developing projections that required a corresponding ‘key’ to open the ward lock. Prior to metal, door handles and latches were made in wood, only large houses, castles, churches and important civic buildings would use fancy decorative wrought iron, brass or silver fittings. Warded locks remained the usual for around 2500 years, becoming increasingly complicated to try and stymie the lock picker! In 1778 Robert Barron patented the double-acting tumbler lock developed further in 1818 by Jeremiah Chubb , who incorporated a spring into the mechanism. Joeseph Bramahs safety lock was patented in 1784, he offered a reward for anyone who could pick the lock – no one did for 50 years. The first recorded patent for a metal door knob and lock was 1878, when the US Patent office received a submission by African American inventor, Osbourn Dorsey. Prior to this doors were just locked and the key used to pull the door open or people used a drop latch. The Industrial Revolution (from 1760ish) led to a huge rise to the mass production of cast iron good, hinges, latches, handles and knobs and with this rise in production and use came the idea of style and finish.

The Palladian rules of proportionality in design during the reign of Louis XIV (1645-1715) where decorative gilded doorknobs were designed to mirror the opulent lifestyle the king had created for himself saw a change in the design of door fittings, no longer just practical but ornate and decorative as well. During the reigns of Queen Anne (1702 1714) and King Georges, saw a rise in detailed designs and finishes for all ironmongery from locks, window handles, door knobs, cabinet locks and handles etc. The prosperous Victorian era saw the increased use of mortice locks and latches, where they used China or Porcelain knobs and fittings. Under the Arts and Craft revival movement at the turn of the 20th century there was a rediscovery of simple wooden door knobs and fitting and by the mid 20th century the use of early plastics such as Bakelite and the use of chrome were picked up by the architects and designers of the Art Deco style. There are a huge number of ordinary fixtures and fittings that one can purchase for the home of today, you can find fittings from any era or use some of the wonderful designs from new and innovative designers such as Ged Kennett, Xavier Lebee, Pushka, Haut Décor and Silver Kite all have distinctive and interesting ranges of door handles and cabinet knobs with a huge range of textures finishes, colours and designs often allowing for bespoke designs or finishes. Door knobs no longer have to be boring!