If asked to name the most famous doors, there’s a handful of usual suspects that would top most people’s lists. Here’s four of the world’s most famous doors… whether real or fiction.
Perhaps I’m biased by my own geography but Downing Street is truly a door of international fame. Tourists, journalists, protestors and politicians swarm around the area making it possibly the most photographed door in history.
The property was first offered to Sir Robert Walpole in 1732 but it wasn’t until 1766 that the door was redesigned into the six-panelled Georgian style, made from Black Oak, that we all recognise. A distinctive feature of a central lion head door knocker was made of cast iron, which soldiers heading to the trenches during the First World War used to touch for good luck.
During these years, the door was actually green rather than black to suit the tastes of then prime minister, Herbert Asquith. I’d be curious to know what palette Boris would choose, given the choice.
Downing Street also features a rather endearing wonky 0. There is some speculation as to what possible reason there is for the skew-whiff numbering but as far as I can see, no-one has been willing to suggest that it was a botch-job by the installer.
The black oak door was replaced with a blast-proof steel door following an IRA attack and today the door cannot be opened from the outside and it’s letterbox is purely decorative. I had wondered why Boris has never returned any of my postcards.
The Hallway of Doors in Alice & Wonderland
In C.S.Lewis’s famous novel, Alice & Wonderland, young Alice finds herself in an extremely frustrating hallway where there are doors at every turn – all of which are locked. As a reader, you’re sympathetic to her fate – what could be more disheartening than being surrounded by options but none of them being available to you?
Eventually, Alice finds a curiously small key and then happens upon a curtain which she draws back to reveal a teeny, tiny door. As luck would have it, the miniature key does indeed unlock the pocket-sized door. She peers through the door and sees the most luscious looking garden. It’s a feeling that many of us recognise from the past few weeks of lockdown in our homes. Alice turns to drink to solve her problems – again something possibly familiar. However, unlike a drunk person stumbling over a threshold, Alice successfully manages to pass through the famous door.
Notting Hill’s House with the Blue Door
One particular door from popular culture has really captured the hearts of the masses – the house with the blue door from Notting Hill.
The door is first introduced in the 1999 romcom’s opening scene when Will Thacker (our protagonist – played by Hugh Grant) narrates how easy to spot his house is due to the standout coloured door. Later, when Will accidentally spills orange juice on a film star in his bookshop, he assures her that his house – the one with the blue door – is just nearby so he can help clean up the mess. Of course, a love story inevitably ensues. I’d like to think the blue door is central to this and otherwise this film would have ended up more of a Shakespearean tragedy.
Today the street where many scenes were shot still reap the benefits of the famed door – with local cafes and bars finding they frequently get business from those wanting to stop for a drink having just travelled to marvel at the sight of the blue door (and of course, get a photo for instagram).
The Wardrobe leading to Narnia
C.S.Lewis is truly a leader in the door game – having produced two of the world’s most famous doors. The second of which is the wardrobe from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In this novel, a young girl (Lucy) stumbles through a wardrobe door and finds herself in a magical land – Narnia. Lucy later comes back and brings her siblings through the same door and the story goes on through countless mystical twists and turns.
Eventually, the children grow old (and wise) but return back through the wardrobe to find themselves young once more. It’s a beautifully tantalising idea that we might come across a door that would allow you to explore exciting other worlds and yet return back to normality. Although I’ve never found a door that’s able to deliver this, it’s definitely possible to play this game using your own door and children. Asking a child to look at a door, walk through it and then describe what magical world they’ve entered is a wonderful way to pass many a lockdown hour!
As you can see – some of the world’s most famous doors have each achieved their status for different reasons. The door’s symbolism and mystique is universal and people will continue to be intrigued by what lies behind.
Until next time,