I am in the process of changing the modern-style windows, which I inherited in my early Victorian home, for wooden sash style windows. It’s a style of window which I strongly associate with the Victorian and Edwardian homes in our area – but what exactly are they and do we have the Victorians to thank for them? Here’s my very short guide to sash windows.
What are they? I lived in France where the casement window is king. This is the style of window which opens outward or , more sensible from the point of view of cleaning, inward.
The sash is quite a different animal, with the two sections sliding up and down.
Basically, it consists of a glazed panel which is balanced by a counterweight, in the form of a steel, cast-iron or leaden sash weight. This is connected to the window via a sash cord, which is usually braided and runs over the top of a pulley along the top rail. The glazed ‘panel can be divided into several smaller sections by glazing bars, (see below for a more detailed breakdown of the structure).
How long have they been around?
Tt seems that people in England have been keen on the sash for some time. Indeed, a Mr W. Horman, in his Vulgaria , printed in 1519, talks about something which must surely be a sash window when he writes:
‘Glasen wyndowis let in the lyght . . . I have many prety wyndowes shette with levys goynge up and down.’
The Royal architect, Inigo Jones 1573-1652, used them a lot – the above image is his Orangery in the Queen’s House – love these tall, elegant sash windows.
They became all the rage after they were fitted in Chatsworth House, and many earlier windows were given a modern face-lift and replaced with sashes. As for new buildings, they practically all had sash windows too, from cottages to palaces, throughout Britain and the colonies, until early this century. This phenomenal 250-year success story is due to the many excellent qualities of the sash window.
What makes them so good?
It’s pretty simple really:
- They don’t buckle and distort so much as side hung windows because they support their own weight instead of hanging from hinges.
- This means that they last longer (sashes have been known to be perfectly serviceable for 150 years and more).
- They also are better at keeping out rain as they are designed with a closer fit, especially with the sill.
- Hot air rises so ventilation is better and easier with a sash – you can open them just a bit at the top so you get fresh air but fewer draughts.
- Windows can be left open a little but still secure against burglary.
- And style! A casement means you have two panels which come together in the middle – this favours dic=visions of two from an architectural point of view but a sash can have three glazing bars within it which suited the classical designs of the Queen Anne and Georgian Periods.
Apart from all the above, I think they are beautiful too – long live the sash window!
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