The Origins Of The Sash Window Are Lost In Our Past

October 28, 2011 on 11:05 am | In Uncategorized | Comments Off

The origins of the sash window are not easy to fathom. There are a variety of theories but no absolute proof for any of them. In the late 1600′s, an English inventor, Robert Hooke used them in Ham House and a painting by Vermeer called ‘The Milkmaid’ shows a sash frame behind the girl. It is believed that they might have come from France, via Holland to Britain around this time but the British certainly made them their own.

The name ‘Yorkshire light’ refers to windows with glazed panels that opened vertically or horizontally. Opening was manual originally but a system was developed whereby the weight of the glass panes was balanced by a lead sash weight. This was connected to the window by a sash cord running inside the frame over a pulley placed at the top.

Sir Christopher Wrens was a well known architect used by the British royal family in the late 1600′s to design various palaces, such as the Whitehall Palace where he used these windows. The Royals used these windows at Kensington Palace and Hampton Court as well. The combination of Wrens’ fame and Royal approval meant that the windows became wildly popular and were soon appearing on all new buildings. Aesthetically, they do not ruin a building’s look when they are opened unlike many other window sorts.

In Georgian times, the sash was the rage and a double hung sash window was created allowing both the top and bottom sashes to be moved. In a wet European climate, the window can be opened at the top to let warm air escape while colder air is drawn in through the gap at the bottom, without allowing rain to enter.

During Victorian times, the windows like everything else were an additional site for the excessive decorations that were favoured by the elite of the day. Leaded lights, latticework, intricate carvings and mouldings were added to their buildings. Windows were grouped in a bay framed with pillars carved in stone. The windows at the bottom of the building were intentionally made longer than those of the upper stories to enhance the effect of perspective.

The First World War brought a different ethos and method to the production of goods and expensive labour intensive handicrafts were the losers. It was simply too expensive to continue to create intricate craft when producing for the masses.

It must be agreed that without the sash window, defects and all, the most interesting urban areas of older European cities would be bleak and characterless.

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