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Britain’s most famous front door

The front door of a house conveys character, as well as the status of the occupants. In the film Notting Hill, the blue door became so well known that the occupants, fed up with returning home to hoards of cameras on their doorstep, were forced to paint it black.

There are several other famous front doors in Britain:

  • William Shakespeare’s Henley street home now houses the Shakespeare Museum, but has retained its original front door. The door, which is reminiscent of the Shakespearean era, is very low and remains one of the most photographed features of the museum.
  • 221b Baker Street is the home of Sherlock Holmes who although being fictional, retains huge attention from people all over the world. At the time the novels were written, Baker Street only extended to number 85, but in the 1930’s the road was extended. Although the Sherlock Holmes Museum actually stands at number 237, it was granted permission to change to the worldly recognised 221b.
  • Westminster Abbey is not only famous as the entrance into one of Britain’s most celebrated venues, but it also has the oldest front door in Britain. It dates back over one thousand years and scientific tests have shown that the wood came from oak trees growing around London and that the door was produced and placed in around 1050.

It has to be said though that number 10 Downing street is without a doubt the most famous front door in the UK. With photographs of Prime Ministers with celebrities, politicians and delegates from all over the world taken outside the famous black door, it’s interesting to take a quick look at it’s history:

  • 1735 – Walpole accepted the residence from King George II as ‘First Lord of the Treasury’ and moved in.
  • 1766 – on orders from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the front door was redesigned to become a six-panelled Georgian design by architect Kenton Couse. It was produced from black oak and featured a lion head door knocker, centre door knob and a brass letter plate which read ‘First Lord of the Treasury’.
  • 1779 – Downing street was renumbered and the residence given the number 10.
  • 1908 – Herbert Asquith became Prime Minister and had the door painted dark green on orders of the famous Lady Margo Asquith, known for her outspoken trend setting style.
  • 1960 – Along with major renovations to Number 10,  the front door was returned to its original black and was given white numerals. The ‘0’ was painted sloping slightly to the left which experts say is actually a capital O and not a wonky zero.
  • 1991 – The original black oak door was replaced by a blast proof steel door, painted with a high gloss black sheen.

Refurbishing the front door takes place every two years when the door is removed and a spare is fitted whilst the repairs and painting takes place. Sir Anthony Seldon, author of 10 Downing Street tells us:

“Being metal, the door is so heavy it takes several workmen to lift it off its hinges and away for a fresh lick of paint”.

Although the door is the only access to the property it doesn’t actually open from the outside and while the lion’s head door knocker still knocks, the brass doorbell to the right doesn’t work. It’s quite ironic that this famous worldwide point of recognition, that represents power and status and everything that makes Britain great, doesn’t actually function as a front door is supposed to!

So however you choose your front door, front door paint, front door knockers, letterboxes and numbers, remember that functionality is as important as looks.

For a range of our front doors check our gallery here.

[Photo by shining darkness]