The Fascinating History of Sash Window Development

The oldest sash windows that are still surviving today date back to the late seventeenth century, but the origins of sash windows have been lost over time, which means it’s hard to pinpoint when they were first used for certain. Both English and Dutch origins have been claimed, but there’s no conclusive evidence that makes it possible to name a single inventor. Nevertheless, whoever it was that came up with the idea in the first place has left a lasting legacy in the form of these striking and elegant windows.

What is a sash window?

The type of sash window people tend to visualise is the classic Georgian design of six over six, where each section of the window is three panes of glass wide by two panes deep. However, there are no restrictions as to how many panes there should be or how they are arranged. The only requirement of a sash window is that it should open vertically rather than horizontally as casement windows do. This offers several advantages, including being able to have the window open without directing so much wind and rain into the room, and of course, they have a timeless, elegant appearance that appealed to wealthier citizens. There are several methods by which you can move the opening window section, and one of the oldest is the use of holes with wooden pegs at regular intervals that the weight of the window could rest on. This then developed into the use of pulleys and weights, known as the counterbalanced sash.

Early examples of sash windows

The use of sash windows was predominant in the Georgian and Victorian eras, and designs changed over this period to reflect technological developments. For example, the older Georgian windows had small panes of glass with large glazing bars, due to the limited quality of glass production and the glass having insufficient strength at that time. The Victorians were able to manufacture far higher quality glass, which meant they could use larger panes and slim down the size of the glazing bars. As Victorian Britain gave way to the Edwardian period, statement windows that filled the floor-to-ceiling spaces became popular, leading to the development of what were termed “horns.” These support structures were designed to counteract the stress on the window from being so large, and they are still used in the design of sash windows now. Stained glass versions also started to become popular during this time, and there are some striking examples in buildings dating from this period.

Modern sash windows

Sadly, many original windows have been destroyed or removed as buildings have been demolished or renovated. However, the importance of retaining the visual authenticity of a period building is becoming more well-recognised in helping to preserve the heritage of the nation. If you have old sash windows that need replacing, or you have modern style windows and want to return your period building to a more fitting appearance, it’s now possible to have reproduction Victorian sash windows installed in your home that match the appearance of the originals but offer some distinct advantages. For example, they will be double glazed units to improve security and keep your home warmer and quieter. They can be made of UPVC or treated wood, depending on the look you wish to achieve. The wooden foil finishes on UPVC options and the period paint colours add to the authentic appearance of the UPVC, even down to having Victorian style latches and fixtures.

Sash windows add a touch of class to a home, and modern technology means you no longer have to sacrifice function for form.


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