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The black front door of Dennis Severs’ House in Spitalfields contrasts boldly with the red brick of the façade and the terracotta of the shutters.
Chapter 5 in Doors of London opens with a sketch map of Camden and a full-page image of the former Carreras cigarette factory on Mornington Crescent, built in the ancient Egyptian style in the 1920s with colourful fluted columns and a main door guarded by two enormous bronze cats.
In the London borough of Camden, the street artist Rogo de Castro has painted a black-and-white portrait of Amy Winehouse across a door and much of a house on Inverness Street, lifting her face with a background of yellow and pink and touches of blue and green.
Doors painted in rainbow colours illustrate Notting Hill in the book Doors of London.
White, blue, black and red doors with elegant fanlights on Hammersmith’s Upper and Lower Mall illustrate features on Thameside Georgian and Tales of the Riverbank.
On these pages from the Doors of London you see two historic pubs, The Ten Bells in Spitalfields and The Grapes in Limehouse, illustrated with photographs of their doorways and close-ups of their signage.
Behind dusty pink, weatherbeaten double doors, surmounted by a huge lantern and flanked by decorative pilasters, lies Wilton’s Music Hall, Whitechapel.
Close-ups of 32 knockers on red, blue, green, pink and black doors create a colourful montage of classic designs ranging from simple rings to lion’s heads.
    “Essential reading for London architects.”
    Robert Loader, Architect
    “I’ve now had time to indulge myself in this book! It is a fantastic achievement, surpassing what I had previously imagined.”
    Chris McLaren, SaltWay Global Ltd

    Doors of London

    Styles, Stories, Art & Architecture

    By Cath Harries & Melanie Backe-Hansen


    Walk down any street in London and pause for a moment. To your left and right is an array of doors in different styles and colours. Craftsmen across the centuries have sought to impress you with elegant designs. Owners have added their own finishing touches, a hand-painted pattern here, a Shakespeare door knocker there.

    Available on: 28th October, 2024 at 09:00
    Free delivery on orders over £20
    Dispatched next day with Royal Mail 2nd Class
    • RRP: £25.00
    • ISBN: 978-1-873329-52-8
    • Format: 240 x 170 mm landscape
    • Extent: 256 pages
    • Pictures: 500 in colour
    • Binding: Hardcover no jacket
    • Edition: 1st
    • Publication: October 2024

    Styles, Stories, Art & Architecture

    The front door is the focal point of a building. It draws the eye of the visitor and conveys the status and aspirations of the occupants, enhanced with a brass name plate, perhaps, a heraldic shield or a Latin inscription. Past generations have often left nostalgic traces of their presence: a ring for tying up horses, a boot scraper to clean off mud and dung, a gas lantern.

    The authors have researched the stories behind the doors, revealing where Dr Johnson wrote his Dictionary, where Oscar Wilde was arrested, where Mrs Simpson visited the Prince of Wales or where the Special Operations Executive plotted during the Second World War.

    A journey of discovery

    From the grandeur of Belgravia to the bohemian buzz of Camden, from the Norman Tower of London to the contemporary street art of Tower Hamlets, Doors of London introduces you to every part of inner London. It whisks you through the styles: Norman, Medieval, Tudor and Stuart, Queen Anne, Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, Art Nouveau and Art Deco. It picks out tall, thin, single, double, polished, scruffy, famous or unknown doors, each holding its own story.

    Arranged geographically, with an attractive locator map for every area, Doors of London is packed with colourful photographs of the entrances to homes, offices, warehouses, churches, mosques, theatres and libraries. It explains how and why these doors took shape, picking out and dwelling on some of the most interesting. Each chapter concludes with a choice of pubs selected for their history and character.


    Thematic essays focus on street art, doors in film and television and authors’ homes, while special features home in on fanlights, letterboxes, knobs and knockers, foot scrapers and other door furniture.

    Feature Doors tell the stories of the writers, actors, architects, collectors, socialites, bon viveurs and other famous or idiosyncratic owners who lived behind them.

    More articles…

    Honouring Past Craftsmen | Truth and Beauty in Architecture | The Victorian House Book | Making a Grand Entrance | Bespoke Front Doors |


    INTRODUCTION: Obsessed with Doors

    Doors through the Ages

    CHAPTER 1: The City of London
    Financial Statements
    Trade and Industry
    Old City Churches
    City Pubs
    Justice and the Law

    Knobs and Handles

    CHAPTER 2: Westminster
    Wining and Dining
    Covent Garden

    Door Knockers

    CHAPTER 3: Kensington & Chelsea
    The Museum Quarter
    Mansion Flats
    Old Chelsea
    Notting Hill

    Doors in Film and Television

    CHAPTER 4: Hammersmith & Fulham
    Thameside Georgian
    Upstairs, Downstairs
    Heading out West

    Snuffers and Scrapers

    CHAPTER 5: Camden
    Camden Town

    Authors’ Doors

    CHAPTER 6: Islington & Hackney
    Around Islington Green
    Shoreditch and Hoxton
    The Heart of Hackney

    House Numbers

    CHAPTER 7: Tower Hamlets
    Mile End and Stepney
    Wapping and Limehouse

    Street Art

    CHAPTER 8: Greenwich & Lewisham
    Deptford and New Cross
    Maritime Greenwich
    Blackheath Village


    CHAPTER 9: Southwark


    CHAPTER 10: Lambeth & Wandsworth
    Roupell Street Conservation Area
    Brixton and Stockwell
    Wandsworth and Putney

    Stained Glass


    In this colour photograph Cath Harries is dressed for another walk through the streets of London in search of interesting doors.

    Cath Harries is a freelance photographer based in London. It was during one of her commissions in the city that she started noticing front doors and taking pictures of them. What started as a pastime quickly became an obsession and she found herself actively looking for the quirky, colourful and sometimes peculiar doors you will find in this book.

    Her clients over the years have included Visit London, Dorling Kindersley, CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), New Holland Books, Young’s pubs, Regus and John Lewis and she can often be found photographing events at the Houses of Parliament. Cath has been the set photographer on productions filmed by Sky Arts and Plenitude Productions and has photographed a number of books including A Foodies Guide to London, London’s Best Pubs, London’s Afternoon Teas, London’s Classic Restaurants and the Haynes Whisky Enthusiast’s Manual.

    In this colour photograph the house historian Melanie Backe-Hansen studies property deeds sealed with red wax in the City of Westminster Archives. Since becoming an independent house historian in 2012, Melanie Backe-Hansen has completed hundreds of house histories on private commissions across the country and acted as research consultant for television and radio series, notably A House Through Time presented by David Olusoga on BBC Two. She was historical research consultant and on-screen expert on Phil Spencer’s History of Britain in 100 Homes for More4 and house historian on BBC Radio 4’s A Home of Our Own. Melanie often contributes to national newspapers and appears regularly on television, radio and online media, including BBC London News, More4, BBC Radio and a long list of podcasts. She is a regular speaker at events and festivals, universities and history groups, including The London Library, Gloucester History Festival and The National Archives. Melanie is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Member of the Royal Historical Society and Associate staff member at the University of Dundee.

    Her previous books include A House Through Time with David Olusoga, House Histories: The Secrets behind Your Front Door and Historic Streets and Squares: The Secrets on Your Doorstep.


    Introduction by Cath Harries

    My obsession with photographing doors began back in 2010 when I was walking around London taking photos for a pub guide that I was working on. Whether it was street art sprayed on doors in Shoreditch, Art Deco doors on apartment blocks in Marylebone, Georgian doors in Mayfair or doors dressed for Halloween in Notting Hill – they caught my eye, and when I ended up downloading my photos at the end of the day, I had as many photos of doors as I did of pubs.

    This inspired me to grab my camera and go out on walks around London specifically looking for interesting and attractive doors to photograph. Before I knew it, I had hundreds of photos of doors in my collection. A number were famous – historical, featured in films, or the doors of people such as Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie. Others were colourfully painted or intricately carved, and many had door knockers with an array of designs from sphinxes to Shakespeare. I became a bit obsessed by planning days to go out searching for new doors to photograph, covering miles upon miles of the streets of London.

    Tudor and Stuart

    The Renaissance interest in Roman architecture led to the introduction of panelling, and the old plank doors were relegated to rustic or outdoor settings where draughts were less of an issue. Considered more elegant, panel doors were also a technical improvement. Vertical timbers, or stiles, were morticed to horizontal rails, while thinner panels, bevelled on the exterior, floated in grooves cut into the stiles and rails, allowing the wood to expand and contract without admitting draughts – a model that would be used for centuries.


    What we see today is strongly influenced by disasters In the 17th century: the plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666, which broke out on 2nd September and burned for five days, destroying over 13,000 houses, 87 churches, 44 livery halls, the Guildhall, the Royal Exchange and St Paul’s Cathedral. Despite attempts to impose a grand new plan on the ruins, the need to get back to work and the pattern of land boundaries meant that much of the City was rebuilt on the old layout, including St Paul’s Cathedral, 49 parish churches and a new Royal Exchange.

    Despite the Great Fire and the Blitz, centuries of power and influence in banking, trade, crafts and the law have left their mark on the fabric of the City and continue to work their magic on the eye of the beholder through doorways embellished with coats of arms, Latin and Old French mottos, pediments and canopies and symbolism in bronze and stone, faience and marble.

    Where the Dictionary was Born
    Dr Johnson’s House, 17 Gough Square

    No. 17 Gough Square is the former home of Dr Samuel Johnson. Situated in a small courtyard off Fleet Street, around the corner from Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, it dates back to the reconstruction of London after the Great Fire. The house was built by a City merchant, Richard Gough, and is the only 17th-century house to survive in the square.

    In 1748, it became the home of Dr Samuel Johnson, who was then writing his Dictionary of the English Language. Dr Johnson lived at the house until 1759, during which time he completed the Dictionary, while also writing a series of essays that appeared in The Rambler from 1750 to 1752.

    Purchased by Cecil Harmsworth in 1910 and painstakingly restored, the house has been open to the public as a museum since 1914. It retains many historic features. The doorway is believed to date from around 1775, and is set in a white surround with reeded capitals and cornice, including the typical Georgian feature of a bull’s-eye on each corner. The fanlight is rectangular, with diamond shapes either side of a central circle painted with the number 17. The door has a central knocker in the form of a hand holding a wreath and retains historic anti-burglary devices, a chain with a corkscrew latch and a spiked iron bar over the fanlight.

    Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
    Wine Office Court, Fleet Street

    This historic pub is hidden down a narrow alley off Fleet Street, in Wine Office Court (so named because licences for selling wine used to be issued here). The pub was rebuilt in 1667, immediately after the Great Fire, and a sign at the entrance lists all the kings and queens who have reigned since then.

    Much altered over the centuries, the building partly resembles a chophouse of the 18th century and a Dickensian pub of the 19th, with wood-panelling and sawdust on the floor. As it happens, Charles Dickens did frequent Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, as did many famous actors, artists, writers and politicians, including Samuel Johnson, who lived nearby in Gough Court, as well as Joshua Reynolds, James Boswell, Thomas Carlyle, Alfred Lord Tennyson and William Makepeace Thackeray. Later visitors included Mark Twain, P. G. Wodehouse, Arthur Conan Doyle and Theodore Roosevelt.

    The entrance to this historic world is rather understated. The door sits back within a small porch, painted brown with an elliptical-patterned door light above. The front step has been so worn down by visitors over the centuries that a grate has had to be fitted over the top. The key feature is a 19th-century lantern overhanging the door, emblazoned with the pub’s name and the date of its reconstruction.

    Door Knobs and Handles
    Once you have a door, you need to get a grip on something to open or close it. Knobs and handles are therefore among the oldest items of door furniture, dating back at least to ancient Egypt, though in medieval times people also employed latches, bolts or the huge keys then in use, for this purpose. The poor would use a latch-string, a leather strap threaded through a hole in the door.

    Unlike interior door levers, which are attached to a spindle to operate a latch, the most common type of external door handle, the ‘mushroom’ knob, has no moving parts and consists of a spherical or ovoid top and a stem widening to a fixing plate. Other types include drop-ring or straight or D-shaped pull handles. On double doors, handles often come in symmetrical pairs positioned either side of the central join. Knobs can be made of iron, china or glass, but by the Victorian period, the majority were cast in brass on account of its attractive appearance and resistance to corrosion, and sported a variety of floral, geometric and even animal designs.

    Door Knockers
    The humble knocker first appeared on household doors in Britain in the 16th century, although earlier examples can be found on churches. By the 18th century improvements in metalworking, first in iron and later in brassa and bronze, allowed householders to display their wealth and status through elaborate designs; by the 19th, mass production had made these accessible to a wider society.

    Classic designs include a simple ring, a curved scroll, sometimes called a ‘doctor’s knocker’, and a victory wreath, known as a ‘Wellington knocker’ to commemorate the Duke’s victories. The hand-shaped knocker, or ‘Hand of Fatima’, is a symbol of protection in the Muslim faith. The popular lion’s head design projects power and strength; it adorns the door of No. 10 Downing Street and famously turns into the head of Marley in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.

    Wilde about Chelsea
    For ten years, Oscar Wilde passed through the doors of this apartment block at 34 Tite Street in the days when Chelsea was known for its bohemian and artistic residents. It was here, in his library and ‘exotic smoking room’, that he wrote An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest.

    It was also while living here that he was arrested for gross indecency in 1895, having lost a libel case against the Marquess of Queensbury, who was outraged by Wilde’s affair with his son, Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas. Imprisoned for two years in Reading Gaol, Wilde never returned to Tite Street, dying in Paris in 1900 at the age of 46.