A Brief History of Sash Windows

Solid construction, classic design and functional in every sense; sash windows are a testament to British craftsmanship. But not everyone is familiar with their story. When were sash windows first installed? What did they look like? And how did they change over time? Read on for a brief history of Britain’s favourite windows.


Over the centuries…

The first installation of sash windows was over 400 years ago. Yes, way back in the century of Guy Fawkes, the Great Fire of London and the English Civil War, sash windows were on their way in. They were invented by British architect Robert Hooke, who is thought to have developed them from the previous horizontal sash design.

But they weren’t quite as great as we know them now. In their original form, sash windows were held open by props. Wooden pegs, wedges or blocks were the only way to hold up the bottom sash until, of course, the novel idea of rope came about.


Glass problems

Also notable in original sash windows was the glass they used. Because of how valuable glass was at the time, leaded lights were originally installed. These windows had smaller glass sections, held in place by small lead bars. It meant they could get as much light through as possible with minimal costs.

But as glass came down in cost, the windows were transformed. Georgian squares were introduced, which were bigger panes, but still required quite a few in each window. Then finally, the Victorians used sheet glass. Because of the increased weight of this design, the Victorian windows had to be held up by chains, as ropes weren’t quite strong enough.


Taking off

Sash windows were installed in a number of homes because of their simple but effective design. They were long lasting and ideal for light and ventilation. But it wasn’t until the Great Fire of London that they really took off. In response to the fire, London introduced new regulations that required windows to be set back from the external stone, to avoid future fires spreading so easily. Because sash windows were more suitable than casement windows for adhering to this regulation, they became far more common for installations.

While they were originally a standard window, they soon became a sign of great wealth. Larger glass panes were a sign of how rich families were, and installed mostly as a statement of such. Moving through the different periods, sash windows remained a popular choice because of their strength, character and durability – exemplified by the fact we still have them today. Some of those still installed have been there for hundreds of years. A 200-year old plastic window, on the other hand, would be quite a sight.


The past – and the future


At Fortis & Hooke, we can repair almost any kind of damage or decay on sash windows. Removing the windows from your home, we minimise the disturbance caused to your daily life and make the restoration process as quick as possible. Get in touch today for more information and to get your free, no-obligation quote.