Let the light in

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:

A Georgian front door

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.

georgian house cross section

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 floor planVictorian forst floor plan

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.

2015-06-05 18.02.48
A Victorian four panel front door

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.




4 thoughts on “Let the light in

  1. Woh! This is so much an eye-opener. However, front doors are usually beautiful with the glass. So it doesn’t only provide lights in the house, it also beautifies it from outside.


  2. Woah. This is enlightening. I never thought of it this way. Well, I looks like people in the past knew a lot and took things into consideration while constructing their architectural works. That says a lot though.


  3. So, a glass door is recommended? Aside burglars, I have kids at home who can involve in very rough plays. I wouldn’t want someone having a glass cut just because I want to let the light in. Or any better way to do that?


  4. Totally cool. I’ve always thought about it but haven’t really been convinced to go for it. It would be lovely to have a glass door and have light streaming into your house. Plus sitting in front of it at night with the moon outside gives a very relaxed feeling.


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