English etiquette re: entering houses

Mrs R and I have been watching a lot of*** Midsomer Murders*** lately, and we’ve noticed that usually DCI Barnaby and his sergeant walk right into houses, calling out something like, “Mrs. Somerville, are you there?”. The houses never seem to be locked, and Barnaby almost never knocks, just turns the knob and walks in.

In the US, I daresay almost all houses are locked, and a visitor knocks and waits outside to be admitted.
Is this (walking right in) the usual practice for cops in the UK? Usual for casual visitors?

Midsomer Murders takes place in an imaginary England which never existed, where the post is delivered promptly twice a day, summer skies are blue, there is cricket on the village green with tea and scones for spectators, churches are packed with happy people (contented people, who know their place), there is no crime (well…), and, most importantly of all, THERE ARE NO DAMN FOREIGNERS.

Been running for twenty years. Hence Brexit.


Hell no. You knock or ring the doorbell first, then if you get no answer and the door is unlocked, open it and call out. Or go round to the garden. Note that in a country village, the householder may well have a shotgun and an intruder may get an unwelcome response! This works both ways though: it’s not unknown for someone to get no response, go in, and rescue the householder who has had a fall or has collapsed or something.

You see the same thing on American TV actually - most New Yorkers don’t actually leave their apartment door unlocked so that Kramer can barge in and be wacky, to use Seinfeld as an example. Scenes that consist of ‘knock… wait… knock again… wait… Mr.s Somerville turns up, unlocks door lets people in’ are generally waster air time, they’re not making jokes or driving the plot. It’s the same way that TV people typically sleep with enough light on to film by, it’s not real but it makes for better viewing than a dark room.

Midsomer, an allegedly sleepy country town has a murder rate of 3.2 per 100,000 population.
This is comparable to New York’s. :eek:

And yes, here in England people keep their doors locked and the police knock.

Well, except for the murderers, of course. :wink:

Midsomer is actually a county. All of the towns have the word “Midsomer” as part of their names.

I live in the woods. My doors are always locked. I always have a loaded gun handy. I would just die if anyone knocked on my door. I have never had a visitor that was unannounced well ahead. No one comes here, to far out.

In Britain the right to repel unwelcome intruders from an ancient property where the doors may not lock properly is called the “home doctrine”, based on the saying “A man’s castle may be his home”.

I didn’t realize you lived in the UK.:wink:

You’re not watching carefully enough. Barnaby always knocks, whereupon the door swings open, being not only unlocked but not even properly shut. Barnaby exchanges a wordless concerned look with his sidekick to indicate to the viewer that this is suspicious, worrying even. Then they both enter, calling out for the householder, who turns out to be either (a) dead or (b) out the back. No explanation is ever given as to why the front door was unfastened.

Despite the fact that this happens virtually every time that Barnaby knocks on a door, he always seems to consider it out-of-the-ordinary, and therefore worrying.

I say “Barnaby always knocks”, but in fact sometimes he rings the doorbell. When this happens the door is always shut in the usual way. Either (a) it will be opened by the householder in response to the ring, or (b) it will not. In the latter case Barnaby and his sidekick do not assume “oh, they must be out”; they exchange another worried look, go round the back of the house, peer through the windows and observe the householder lying prone on the floor, whereupon they force an entry. The householder always lies in a place that is visible through a ground-floor window, but only a back window. Knowing this, they do not bother to look through the windows at the front of the house.

I suspected as much. The primary occupation of Midsomerians seems to be putting on fetes. :wink: Which always serve as a catalyst for some kind of horrible crime.


Not all, though many of them. They got away from that convention as the show went on (though the very first one was set in Badger’s Drift).

They should set the show in country Victoria. I’m not sure if my inlaws have ever locked a door in their life, unless they were going away for multiple days.

We leave the doors unlocked, but set up visible laser beam motion detectors, which we assume criminals would be unable to maneuver through.

(or, non-snark: naw, pretty much the same as the rest of the developed world. Maybe some small towns are/were safe enough to leave your door unlocked, but I doubt it’s the norm anywhere (such that a person would rock up not even *expecting *to have to knock))

Wait, what? No. Shooting unwelcome visitors is certainly not ok in the UK, unless you fear for your life.

Turns out that was a matter of policy, rather than accident. Not just foreigners, black and brown faces were considered unsuitable for Sunday night viewing as well. The producer of the series was hauled over the coals for saying so explicitly.


I guess that’s what is implied by the “unwelcome” part of the statement. I took it to be a bit of a euphemism rather than the equivalent of a Jehova’s Witness or double-glazing salesman.

Certainly there is leeway given for using necessary and reasonable force right up to and including shooting someone dead.

Between Midsomer Murders and Agatha Christie, I am convinced that village fetes are certain death-traps.

Although, as UDS observes, many Midsomer residents are also murdered in their kitchens.

One thing I do know - at the first arrival of the detective, get the hell out of there fast - Poirot, Marple, etc seem to attract murders - if there isn’t yet a murdered victim, it could be you.