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A short history of Sash Windows

No one knows the exact origins of the sliding sash window. Some credit the Dutch with its invention while others suggest that natural philosopher, architect and polymath Robert Hooke invented it in the 17th century. Yet others believe they are French with the word “sash” derived from the French word for frame, “chassis”.

Ham House, in Richmond, London, has one of the oldest examples of early sash windows which, at the time were constructed from three glass panes across by two up (called ‘three over three’), on each of sash and a window consisted of an upper, and lower sash (12 panes in total).

Sash windows were very popular in England during the Georgian period (1714 to 1837) and during the Victorian period (1837 to 1901). More recently, they were also an important feature of Edwardian suburban houses.

The earliest sash windows slid horizontally but were replaced by vertical sliding sashes which used pegs and holes to adjust their height. It was only in the late 17th century that sash windows were made with the system of weights and pulleys that we recognise today.

Improvements in the way glass was made meant that by the middle of the Victorian period sash windows were being constructed using fewer panes with ‘four-over-four’ and ‘two-over-two’ windows becoming more and more common. Current designs can include as little as two large panes of glass, one for the top sash and one on the bottom.

By the turn of the 20th century sash windows had become the most common method of window construction in the UK.

However, their popularity was not to last.

By the start of World War One hinged casement windows, (windows that opened out horizontally) began to become available and the popularity of sash windows declined.

This decline continued throughout the interwar years and after the second world war. It is only in recent years that we have seen an increase in the demand for sash windows.

Fashion played a part in the decline of the popularity of sash windows as they were seen as old fashioned. Another reason for their decline was the appearance of less expensive types of windows on the market.

Today, sash windows are seeing increased popularity again. There are a variety of reasons for this. Sash window are recognised as an iconic feature of Georgian and Victorian homes. Homes with period features like sash windows are sought after by home buyers Home-owners also recognise the immense amount of craftsmanship required to construct sash windows. Finally, home-owners making improvements to properties that are situated in conservation areas are mindful of the need for the sympathetic replacement of windows and doors in period homes.


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