Then and Now: Windows Throughout History

Then and Now: Windows Throughout History

Windows are one of the most vital features of a building. Not only do they allow light to be let in, provide sound control and serve as natural ventilation, but they work to improve the aesthetics of a building.

In short, windows can complement the existing design of your home, improving kerb appeal and its overall market value. The evolving design of windows is down to both the advancement of architecture and the progression of framing and glass manufacture.

Let’s start at the beginning…

When holes were first put in properties to let the light in, problems soon arose. Inside may have been light, but holes let heat out and let weather (and unwanted intruders) in. In the Bronze and Iron Ages, the solution to this was to use wooden shutters or stretched animal hides that had been dipped in oil to make them translucent and waterproof.

In around the first century AD, Syrian craftsmen invented the blow pipe which made glass production easier. Then, the Romans discovered how to make clear glass for architectural purposes, although poor optics meant that this was used in only the most important buildings. This manufacturing technique remained largely the same until the eleventh century, when two further techniques were developed. Both involved blowing a ball of molten glass into a bubble. The bubble was then pierced, spun into a disc or swung to form a cylinder, which was slid and laid out flat. Window panes were then cut from the best parts of the plate.

When the Tudor dynasty came in the 16th century, windows became larger and affluent individuals used this as a means of displaying their wealth and privilege. Due to their expense, it was not uncommon to see larger windows in mansion houses, palaces and churches.

Achieving higher clarity

During the end of the seventeenth century, it was the French who developed a method to produce even larger plates that had almost perfect clarity. Molten glass was poured onto a special table, the glass was rolled flat and the surfaces ground with fire abrasive powder.

The Italian Renaissance had a huge influence on window shape, with timber frames becoming fashionable, with narrow mullion and transom and glazing that was placed flush with the exterior window face. This allowed for larger glazed areas with less visible frames.

In the late 18th century, a way of manufacturing polished plate glass was introduced into the UK which involved a process of casting a sheet of glass onto a table before grinding and polishing it by hand. This was quickly superseded by steam powered grinding and polishing whereby much larger panes of glass could be mass produced, albeit rather expensively.

It took until the 19th century before glass was mass produced, with a major leap occurring in Britain in the 1950s with the invention of the float process. Molten glass is poured across the surface bath of molten tin, the glass spreads and flattens before being drawn off in one continuous ribbon. With this, large panes of high quality glass are produced.

Sometime in the 20th century, a drive came to improve the energy efficiency of windows to reduce fuel bills. Thanks to this, double glazed windows were developed much like those that we use today.

Today’s window manufacturing techniques allow for a number of glass and framing types to be chosen to best suit purpose and climate.  At The Heritage Window Company, our experience allows us to design and manufacture aluminium windows that won’t compromise the original character of your home.