|Norfolk latch, Putney, VT.
Norfolk latches mark a transition from handcrafted hardware to
machine-made hardware. These latches were nearly identical in
theri operation to Suffolk latches, but the major parts were no
longer hand-wrought. The grasp of a Norfolk latch was of cast
iron, and attached to a backplate made of machine-rolled sheet
Although they lacked individual craftsmanship and artistic designs
of the earlier latches, Norfolk latches were chaeper to make and
more readily available to the average homeowner. They also had
several minor design improvements over the earlier types:
- the keeperwas often mortised into the side of the door jamb
instead of surface-mounted on its face;
- the life barcommonly had a small knob which made it easier
- and an integral locking lever was sometimes added to affix
the lift bar for security. (Earlier latches used wedges or pins
to immobilize the bar for lcking purposes.)
Cotton, J. Randall. "Knobs & Latches".Old
House Journal, November/December 1987, pp. 37-43.
The very conspicuous Norfolk latch, is easily distinguished from
the wrought thumb-latches, in having its hand-grasp not enlarged
at each end into plates, or cusps, but riveted upon a long, narrow,
Though long known in England as hand-wrought by local blacksmiths,
it nevertheless appears in the American houses examined, as a
factory-made and not smith-wrought product probably at first imported
Gradually taking the place about 1820 of the other forms of thumb-latch
and competing with the knob-latch and the German lever latch,
it rivals, for a while, the newly invented earthen door-knob with
cast-iron box, until it is generally superseded by the latter
and by Blake's patent cast-iron thumb-latch of 1840.
The evidence shows that these factory-made Norfolk latches were
constructed sometimes with, and sometimes without, a knob on the
bar; sometimes, at first, with a straight lift and sometimes,
later, with a curved lift, sometimes, at first with a spiked catch
and sometimes, later with a catch perforating or riveted upon
But without attempting to infer too much from these variations,
we may at least conclude, from the evidence, that the factory-made
Norfolk latch, if contemporaneous with the building, will date
a house between 1800 and 1840, or, allowing for survivals, 1850.
Dating of Old Houses,
Henry C. Mercer, SC.D., Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 1923.