The History of Doors
More than any other part of the house, our doors are imbued with a certain personal quality. They are not just purely functional devices that allow us to get in and out of our offices or homes, they have an aesthetic and cultural value that is often ignored in today’s modern age.
They can be plain or highly ornate, there to protect us or to remind people of our status, religion, or even the country we live in. They can be made of solid wood, double glazed panels or even revolving glass and in some ancient cases huge cuts of solid stone.
Some of the first doors we have concrete knowledge of were made for King Solomon’s Temple and there are numerous examples that have survived down the ages from ancient Egypt and Rome. These were normally made of wood and hung, much as they are today on pivots which were then placed into sockets on the door lintel or frame.
Stone was another popular material back in ancient times. Doors found in Nippur and dating back almost to 2,000 BC were made from a volcanic rock called dolerite. Almost as soon as we started to make doors we were also beginning to decorate them. If you want to see an example you can visit the British Museum in London and take a look at the gates of Balawat which were some of the first to be ornately designed with bronze panels.
The Greeks and Romans, as you might expect, had all sorts of doors – double, single, triple, sliding and even folding – made from wood and stone. If you think that automatic doors are a modern invention then you may be surprised to find that Heron of Alexandria actually created them in the 1st Century AD. The first door operated by a foot sensor was designed for a library in the 7th Century by Emperor Yang of Sui.
As time moved on, doors became ever more ornate and they were often seen as a sign of great wealth or importance. In Medieval times copper was often used on the doors of churches in Bethlehem and Constantinople. Bronze was a favourite in Germany in the 11th and 12th centuries and about this time (though no one is quite certain) the pivot was replaced by the hinge that we all know and recognise today. Door designs varied from the ones that were quite simple such as in the Italian Renaissance to the more extravagant, wood carved designs that were found a little later at the Palace of Versailles.
A Brief History of Locks
In England, you’ll find the oldest door at Westminster Abbey that dates back to around 1050. Most doors like this were locked by placing a bar across the inside to prevent access into the home or palace or even tying it with a length of rope. Pin timber locks that needed a key were developed as far back as the Egyptian times but it wasn’t until the 18th Century that we began to develop sturdier, metal locks. Most of our modern day locks are based on these initial designs although we are now moving to more advanced ones such as magnetic and electronic innovations.
Nowadays, the range of doors available for both inside and outside of the home or office vary greatly but you can still find some doors around the world that were built to impress. You won’t be surprised to know that the current record for the largest doors is at the Kennedy Space Centre in America. The Vehicle Assembly building there, originally designed to put together the Saturn and Apollo rockets, has doors that measure some 456 feet in height.
You can find everyday panel doors, sliding doors, garage doors, revolving doors and even the more recently developed evolution door if you check online. For most home owners the major changes in recent years has been in the energy efficiency of our doors along with the increased security that has come with multiple locking mechanisms.
Find out more about types of door here.