The History of Glass Windows

Posted 17/04/2015

In the modern world we inhabit, glass windows are an expectation in any property we consider purchasing, having become a normality in the construction of buildings. Due to this, not much thought is put into the history of glass windows or how they came to be such a standard feature, for it seems bizarre to consider a world without them, yet there is a long and surprising history that lead us to the regularity that is the glass window.

The First Glass Window

Glass windows originate far earlier than most may believe, with the first glass windows being manufactured in Roman times. By attempting to flatten cylinders of glass, or joining together pebbles of glass, the clarity of the window was of low quality when compared to the standardised windows used in modern times. They were clear enough to let sunlight into a building, yet not transparent enough to allow someone to clearly look through. However, shortly after the installation of these primitive glass windows, they soon fell out of favour due to their expense, being reserved for the wealthiest people in society, with the majority favouring wooden shutters as an alternative.

Medieval Window Making

The 14th Century saw glassblowers approaching new ways of making flat panes of glass, utilising a technique known as crown glass, which resulted in small discs of flat glass that could be put together with lead to create large windows. These round panels were often cut into different shaped panels to create different patterns, including the diamond shaped panels found in many British Tudor homes. As time went on, glass windows, although still a luxury that not all could afford, were becoming more and more popular, starting to resemble the windows we are familiar with today.

The Window Tax

Owning a property with glass windows in the 21st century is something that we don’t think twice about, however between 1696 and 1851, there was a tax imposed on each glass window of a house, which resulted in many windows being knocked out and bricked up in order to save money. The more windows a property had, the more money the owner was taxed, which many could not afford. Many new houses were being built based around having fewer windows until the tax was later revoked, with a housing tax being put in place instead. Even in today’s world, the effects of the window task can still be seen, with many houses from this period containing window frames blocked up with bricks.

The Modern Window

Since the window tax was lifted, the way we use and see glass windows has changed dramatically. With modern skyscrapers being made from predominantly steel and glass, window production has come a long way since the lattice glasswork and wooden frames of the previous centuries. Double glazing has made windows far more secure, with PVC framing in houses making it easier and more affordable to install modern windows.

From the initial creation of flat panes of glass to a very literal case of daylight robbery, glass windows have gradually become a standard feature in buildings, yet it seems an unnatural thought to consider a life without such a simple privilege, let alone be unable to afford to keep the windows in your home. 
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