HISTORY OF THE SLIDING SASH WINDOW
The origins of the vertical sliding sash window
are still subject to speculation and debate, but it would appear that the
design probably derived from the much simpler horizontal sliding sash commonly
known as the 'Yorkshire Sash'. For many years it was believed that
the vertical design had originated in Holland, during the later part of
the Seventeenth Century. Others claimed it to be of French origin, as the
word 'sash' is derived from the French word 'chassis' , meaning frame.
However the French sash had not yet developed counter-balancing and the sliding sash frame was
held in place by a swivel block. The earliest recorded account
may be that of W.Horman who in his 1589 'Vulgaria' wrote-
"Glasen wyndowis let in the lyght.....I have
many prety wyndowes shette with levys goynge up and down".
Certainly toward the end of the Seventeenth Century,
sash windows were apparent in England examples include Chatsworth House
(c1676 - 1680), Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace. Sir Christopher
Wrens master joiner, Thomas Kinward, recorded possibly the earliest specification
of a fully developed sash window, whilst working at Whitehall Palace.
With the royal patronage and adoption by Wren, wooden sash windows soon became
a fashionable status symbol across Britain and the Colonies. Many earlier casement windows were replaced and sliding sash windows were used almost
exclusively in new buildings, from royal palaces to simple cottages the sash ruled supreme
and remained popular until the earlier part of this century.
The sash offered many advantages, including being
better suited to the wet British climate, as it can be closed down to a
narrow gap, allowing for good ventilation whilst reducing the chance of
rain entering. Being contained within the box, the sashes are less
susceptible to distortion and rot than a hinged casement adding greatly
to their life span. Aesthetically the sash is constructed from delicate
sections of wood, with large areas of glass that add a certain grace, even
when open they do not detract from the facade, as an open casement does.
Georgian architecture embraced sash windows wholeheartedly,
improving the design from a single moving sash, with the
top being fixed, to the more familiar system of two moveable sashes. Oak
was the common timber used for construction, with thick glazing bars to
hold the small, valuable crown glass panes, made by blowing. The
'bulls eye' formed at the centre by this manufacturing technique was commonly
used at the rear of buildings. As glass manufacture improved larger
panes started to appear and the ‘classic’
Georgian design consisting of six over six panes, with narrow glazing bars
became the norm.
For the Victorians, box sash windows were a central
focus to the character of their buildings, inside and out they lavished
ornamentation and decoration on their homes. Curved horns, multi-arched
heads, intricate mouldings, leaded lights and latticework started to appear
in the sashes, which were often grouped into impressive bays and offset
with ornate stone reveals. Graduating the
size of windows from the ground upwards not only improved the perspective
but also increased the amount of light
to the lower rooms.
By the turn of the century the sash was
the most widely used window, but since the first world war their popularity
has been in decline. This decline is probanly due to the labour costs involved
in their manufacture when compared to the easily mass produced wooden or
metal casement window.
Sash windows have continued to be developed and
refined over many centuries, as current techniques and materials improved
these were soon incorporated into the sash window. At Sash Window
Specialist we are pleased to continue with this process of development
by incorporating today's advances in window technology into your existing
windows. We can improve energy efficiency, security and the comfort
of your home, whilst leaving the appearance unaltered.
Their popularity over several Centuries moulds
the character of many remaining historic buildings today. Would
the streets of our towns and cities hold the same charm without the
influence of the sliding sash window? Can we afford to
lose this part valuable aspect of our heritage?