Have you ever wondered why some doors have glass in them and some do not?
The Victorians were the first to make glazed doors the norm. Prior to the Victorians, front doors were generally made of solid timber and without glazing. For example the classic Georgian front door pictured below:
Doors without glass were considered more secure. The glass that was available in those days, such as float glass or leaded light was fragile and offered zero resistance to a cudgel-wielding nobbler! So what changed?
Prior to the mid-1850s most (terraced) housing had a relatively short foot-print. That is to say that the distance from the front to the rear of the property was quite short, as we can see from the side-section of a Georgian house below.
A window, positioned on the first half-landing, at the rear of the house, could flood the ground floor hallway with light. In the mid-1850s the Victorians innovated with terraced house design and began to add rear additions to their houses. These lengthed the footprint of a building but the new, rear rooms prevented light from reaching the hallway. As we can see in the floor plans below:
Victorian hallways would have been plunged into darkness and so front doors with glass were introduced. The additional living space was prioritised over reduced security and hallways enjoyed the light they needed.
This architectural back story is the reason why Georgian front doors very rarely have glass, whilst Victorian front doors and later, Edwardian front doors, almost always have glass. If you ever need to identify a period front door‘s architectural era, this is the first test to apply.