I actually didn’t start out… or even finish with the goal in mind to have a working Downton Abbey doorbell… it just sort of happened unexpectedly. But I must say, now that we do have one, I love it, and it’s a fun conversation piece too! Here’s what happened…
When we first bought our 100 year old house and started renovating it last year, it had a doorbell at the front door. Just a plain old electric doorbell, with really old wiring that went from the front door, weaving through the walls to the basement electric panel for power. That old wiring was so old it had bare wires in some spots, and the doorbell kept shorting out. (doesn’t sound too safe, does it?) I actually kept waiting for the day when someone would go to ring the doorbell and get an electric shock when their finger made contact with the ringer on the porch. Fortunately, that never happened, but with several failed attempts to rewire it, because the front entry is on a crawl space and the way the foundation is, we just were not able to feed new wires up to the doorbell without taking off all the trim in the front entry, the trim that I had already caulked, primed, painted and finished. I just was unwilling to mess up that finished paint job.
So next we tried a battery operated one. That one failed miserably, and honestly, the push button for it was really ugly on the front porch.
I then started to look online for a manual doorbell. I really didn’t know what style I wanted, I was open to suggestion. I’ve seen the old Victorian doorbells that go through the door. On the outside you pull or turn a lever, and it rings the bell attached inside the door. The problem with that style is that you need to open the storm door to get to the ringer, so I wasn’t sure that was going to work.
Then I found this one on Ebay (search for your own, type in ‘butlers doorbell’)
Actually, I found a few different sellers on Ebay that sold the same style, but my decision was made by it being in stock at the best price. At first I was a little leery to buy from someone located in Great Britian instead of directly from US, but my purchasing experience turned out to be just great. The doorbell arrived very quickly and we were able to install it right away. (I had a handyman here working on some other stuff, so he took some time and installed it for me.)
Maybe I was subliminally inspired to this style because I’ve become a huge fan of Downton Abbey, but it wasn’t until after ours was installed until I realized it totally matched the one on the opening scene of Downton Abbey!
Here is a picture from that opening scene showing the bell, (which is actually a butler’s bell in the show):
At our simple, not-staffed-by-a-butler, 100 year old house, we use the bell for a front door bell.
Inside the front entry, you can see it above the door in the corner.
On the exterior of the house, at the front door, is the ‘pull’ handle.
Here’s how it works:
The bell of the doorbell is on a spring that has a cord attached to it.
When someone pulls down on the ringer outside, announcing their arrival,
the cord is attached to a pulley outside where the cord goes through a small hole directly into the front entry,
and then goes around an interior pulley up to the spring, ringing the bell.
It’s simple and works perfect for this space.
The only problem is that most of my visitors apparently aren’t used to ringing a bell like this, or are too shy to actually pull down on the lever. Maybe I’ll post a sign next to it stating, “No, really, pull it!”
To find a similar doorbell like this one, type in “butlers doorbell”:
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