A Brief History Of The Door Handle

Doors: not a rock band from the 1960's, but a way to create partitioned privacy, security, and protection from the elements. The humble door as we know it today goes back to the ancient Egyptians. And door handles became an inevitable invention.

  • Ancient Egyptian period (from approx 3000BC) has art depicting doors made out of slabs of wood and cloth hangings. We can also thank the ancient Egyptians for the invention of the door lock - the basic pin tumbler lock still in use today - which they made entirely out of wood.
victorian door handles and locks
  • King Solomon (970 - 931 BC) had temple doors made from olive wood.
  • Greek & Roman civilisations, uncovered by archeologists, used door hinges very similar to those used today. There are Roman door hinges made from bronze in the British Museum.
  • Middle Ages (500-1500 AD) saw people generally living in one big room with little need for internal doors. But for safety from raiding soldiers households secured themselves and their belongings by barring the external doorway with heavy beams of oak. During the day doors were left open to allow for ventilation for fires and cooking. Locks were not in general use during this period due to expense.

  • From the late 1500's, Royals and wealthy gentry built palaces and homes with individual rooms. Doors for privacy were made from woven tapestries initially, and then wooden doors came into general use, hung from basic hand-forged strap hinges. Prior to the invention of martice locks, bolts were used and these were fixed into stonework. The poor still used textile hangings and rudimentary wooden partitions, but as the centuries progressed, and with improvements in the mass production of items, the less affluent were able to afford a range of door furniture.

vintage door knobs
medieval door handles and collection of ceramic cabinet knobs

  • The modern era, from the Industrial Revolution onwards, saw the rise of mass manufacturing. As the price and available options for door knobs and handles came down, many more poeple could afford to update their homes. Handles and door knobs became an essential practical feature.

    What did people use before door handles?

      Before door knobs and handles were invented, people used a bolt or a lock to keep a door shut. Only the wealthy could afford a lock and key. Most people used a latch-string - making a small hole in a door and threading a leather thong or string through, which could then be looped around a wooden bar.

        First Locking Door Knob

          The first patent was given for a door knob and an internal door-latching mechanism in 1878 to an African American inventor called Osborn Dorsey. 

          In Britain, locksmiths Robert Barron, Joseph Bramah and Jeremiah Chubb were involved in designs for the modern lever tumbler locks. Chubb's lock was patented in 1818.

            Door Furniture as Decoration

              With the Industrial Revolution and the availability of different materials, door knob and door handle styles evolved from being purely functional to also being decorative. Various designs could then be found to co-ordinate with the interior designs that were in vogue at the time.

              Suffolk Latch Company Vintage Inspiration

              Here at Suffolk Latch Company, we have a wide range of victorian door handles and locks. The vintage styles can be seen in our vintage door handles and door knobs, as well as co-ordinating cabinet furniture.

              Our popular Beehive Door Knobs are inspired by original designs from the Georgian era. These door knobs are perfect for period properties or modern homes wanting to inject some vintage detail. Priced per pair at £22.

              Beehive Door Knob Ebonised

              We also have a range of medieval door handles with Fleur De Lis motifs in Black and Pewter - ideal for country homes. Available in latch, lock and bathroom versions. Prices start from £16.

              Fleur De Lis  Lever Handle Detail | Suffolk Latch Co.


              Gothic Lever Handles Black

              pewter handles in their boxes by Suffolk Latch Company