The sliding sash

Where did the sliding sash window come from? The origins of this invention are not clear. Due to this mystery, many theories were created, some with more probability than others. Some argue that the simpler ‘Yorkshire sash’ window has been the inspiration for the creator of the sliding sash. It has also been argued that it came from either Holland or France. The latter seems to be the most probable place of origin, as the word sash can be connected to the French word for frame. The French variant, however, used a swivel block to hold and support the sash frame.

This type of window was first recorded by W. Horman in 1589. He mentioned a similar design in his Vulgaria: “Glasen window is let in the light…I have many pretty wyndowes shette with levys goynge up and down.”

The sliding sash became increasingly popular and by the second half of the 17th century it has not only been commonly used in English homes, but also in numerous prominent buildings, as for example Kensington Palace and Hampton Palace. The final version of this window was first recorded by Thomas Kinward, during the time of his work at Whitehall Palace. Kinward worked as the master joiner of Sir Christopher Wren. The sliding sash gained royal approval and Sir Wren’s endorsement as well. Consequently, this design came to characterise all British territories. The sliding sash window had been the dominant window variation until the start of this century.

The sash had proved to be the ideal window design for the unpredictable British weather. It protects against the rain, while ensuring good ventilation. As the basis of this window type is a box, the lifespan of a sash is much longer than of other designs. Furthermore, it improves the aesthetic value of a building, due to an added graceful look.

This aesthetically improved look was often used in Georgian architecture. While the top panel used to be fixed, in this era both glass panels were enabled to move. Larger panes were increasingly popular and soon the ‘six over six’ sash windows emerged. This design is regarded to be characteristically Georgian.

In the Victorian era the sash grew in popularity and started to be decorated in various ways. Some utilized moldings, leaded lights or even latticework. By grouping the windows together, bay window design was often created.

Until the First World War, the sliding sash remained the most characteristic window design of Britain. In wartime, however, it proved not to be a practical choice, as it had to be supported through a complicated procedure against bomb blasts. The costs of these windows were also higher than ideal in post-war times.

Nevertheless, the sliding sash window has been improved in the past few decades with modern techniques and new materials. This design has a traditional value which suites the beauty of the towns in Britain. The classic graceful look of the sash windows is combined with advanced technology to improve not just comfort and aesthetics, but security as well.

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