01Mar 2016

A History of Windows Through the Ages

Posted in: News  –  By Patchett Joinery

In the modern world, it’s easy to take something as seemingly simple as windows for granted. However when you think about it, they’re quite a miraculous thing. They allow light to come into a building whilst also providing insulation and security. Like so many other things we take for granted – windows have gone through a long evolution to get to the point they are at today.

The Earliest Windows

 The earliest windows, if you can call them that, were nothing more than holes in a wall. Our ancient ancestors would build mud huts that needed ventilation and sunlight and this was the most obvious way to provide it.

As time went on, simple coverings would be put over the windows such as animal hide and similar fabrics although the basic concept of the window remained the same. It became apparent over time that the ideal window should provide sunlight whilst also providing protection from the elements. This is where the Romans come in.

Glass is Introduced

It isn’t until the early part of the Roman Empire that glass was first used in windows. Whilst glass had been around for some time prior to this, it was the Romans who first started using it in windows. Whilst the Romans were innovators in this regard, the techniques they used to make glass for their windows was very primitive and only let in a small amount of sunlight.

Roman glassmakers would roll out the glass on an iron strip so it could be shaped to the right size. Because glassmaking was in its infancy at this time, the opacity of the glass couldn’t be controlled particularly well. This method of making glass is usually referred to as the broadsheet method.

 19th Century Advancements

 Over time, more sophisticated techniques for making glass were developed that allowed for a much more elegant and practical windows. A big step forward was when crown glass was introduced. This technique improved significantly on the broadsheet method as it enabled a much clearer glass that allowed more sunlight to get through. Soon we’d see sash windows and other styles making an appearance.

In the 17th century, plate-glass was introduced by French craftsmen, which enabled the crafting of window panes. At this time, it was only the extremely wealthy who can afford plate-glass windows  because of the level of expertise required. It wasn’t until production methods advanced in the 19th century, that plate glass become more affordable and easier to produce on a wide scale.

 The industrial revolution brought huge changes with it, not least of which was glass production. Coal, steam and electricity enabled glass to be produced on a wide scale and meant that windows could be built much quicker and at lower cost.

 Modern Glass Making Techniques & Sash Windows

 The technique for making glass nowadays has only been around since the 1950s. Known as the ‘float glass’ method, it was pioneered in the UK by Pilkington Glass. What makes this technique so useful is that it gets rid of any impurities from the glass, which was always a problem with other glass-making techniques.

The way the technique works is the puddle of glass is put onto a molten tin. It then floats until it cools and special coatings are then applied. After the glass has cooled and any coatings have been applied, the glass is then cut by manufacturers to their specifications – the glass will be cut to fit bay windows, sash windows and the like.

Today there are countless styles of windows that make use of modern glass-making techniques that are used in many different settings. These include –