It was the decorative metalwork of these door knockers that first caught my eye – basic leaf shapes, elaborate stylised trees or abstract swirls. Then I started to look at how they work. This style of heurtoir  is common on the porte cochère  entrances of seventeenth and eighteenth century buildings around Paris.  These doors lead into a courtyard, not directly into the building, so a knocker needs to make a good sound to be any use.   But which bit does the knocking and where does it knock?  The mechanism isn’t as simple as it looks at first glance.

(Click on any photo for a closer view).




If the heavy ring was designed to simply knock on the wood there’d be signs of wear and damage. No, not a chip or a dent.  Look closely at the main picture and you’ll see a hinged hammer in the middle of the knocker and a bell shaped plate on which it could knock.  Does this mean you knock on the door by pulling the handle upwards?  Any explanations gratefully received!

The smart, black knocker on a varnished door (top right) looks like a modern reproduction of an old style.  If you were looking to buy a porte cochère knocker in Paris, the hardware section in the basement of BHV Marais would be a good start.  Perhaps they have display models to try out…..