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The History Of Cambridge Sash Windows

Sash windows have been an integral feature of English, and especially Cambridge architecture, for around 400 years, right the way back to the 17th century. It’s a really rich and deep history that is longer than anyone’s reading this article! Hundreds of years have passed since the very first sash window. Sash windows Cambridge can be seen everywhere. All you have to do is walk round Cambridge city or any of the Cambridge university colleges. By the way we’re talking about Cambridge UK here today, not the city across the North Atlantic! This article might not be for you if you don’t care about intricacies of sash windows like a window balance spring replacement or a window sash channel balance replacement! That’s okay though, the topic of windows isn’t for everyone but if you’re at least intrigued, keep reading to find out more about sash windows and their heritage…

The exact whereabouts and origin of sash windows is yet to be confirmed. Some people content it was in Holland, some contend it was France bur alas, we still don’t know. We do know that the Dutch used to call sash windows English windows, even though it’s probably more likely that they were created there than in England.

In the very beginning, sashes didn’t use weights and pulleys to function. This was created at a later date. These help the window to function smoothly. So smoothly in fact that the pulleys were used all the way through to the 20th century as a standard. In fact, it was the very early 17th century that saw the first, classic, sash windows come to fruition and be displayed. It was actually Surrey in which they first found themselves in England.

Loads of grand buildings included sash windows in the 17th century, including Kensington Palace. They really were the hallmark for windows then. It’s also the reason that a lot of listed buildings can’t change their sash windows, because the history is so deep and rich within the windows and those time periods that changing the sash window would be destroying a piece of history.

These parts of history and classic architecture are what make places like Cambridge university colleges and Cambridge city as a whole totally different to other parts of the world and even the rest of the UK. There’s so much history there it’s unbelievable. Striking all these beautiful wooden windows would be borderline historical blasphemy - especially if the replacement was just going to be cheap, tacky plastic windows…. They can be produced on mass and don’t hold half the elegance of a classic sash window. They also look insanely cheap as they should - because they are insanely cheap. This is a slight change of topic and we’re now on to a plastic window rant, but it’s important.

The history of Cambridge should be protected. Now, we will say that some plastic windows look great. You can even get UPVC imitations of sash windows that don’t look TOO bad and make for a semi-decent replacement. Understandably, plenty of people need to save and can’t just not be away with their sash windows if they are low on cash, so we can’t blame people.

But people who do away with them because they have no appreciation should rethink their decision, especially if they have particularly old or historic sash windows - some of them will be able to be replicated or seen again. It’s like endangering a species of animal but in the architectural design sense!

Anyway, back to the topic of this article, good old sash windows. So, because so many high end people and buildings were installing sash windows, sash windows became extremely popular and all sorts of people were getting them for their home. For certain, every single superior design or home had to have sash windows. They were the benchmark of quality and status. Everyone strived to have sash windows after the elite had them… In fact, they were so poplar that they became widespread and everyone wanted them. Over the next hundred years plus, everyone started getting sash windows and they became the favourite type of window for everyone right through until the 20th century.

Then when plastic was being manufactured on a mass scale and spread throughout the country, sash windows were largely done away with. People love cheap! Again, we’d prefer it if they didn’t for our own sake and for the sake of brilliant sash windows, but not everyone’s priority is to have brilliant windows, so yes we get it.

Thankfully, sash windows themselves have also developed. They aren’t exactly how they used to be because now they can boast modern functions like aluminium window sash parts which weren’t used so much back in the day. Almost all of the sash windows had locks for windows meaning they’re totally safe. Window locks and latches are completely up to date with any that are made now. You can also double glaze a sash window with no problems these days too when it was very much just single glazed only when they first burst onto the scene. So, the plastics came along, but the sash windows also improved to try and match the modern standards of plastic windows… they just are not as cheap which is why people are doing away with them.

To make the sash windows more modernised, some of the classic looks of the window have been done away with. They still look great and classic, but some parts of a window certainly do have to look slightly different to how they did in order to fit modern heating and energy conservation demands. Find us on Yell


Sash Craft Restoration Ltd

44 The Brambles, Bar Hill, Cambridge, United Kingdom, CB23 8TA

Email: enquiries@sashcraftrestoration.co.uk

Mobile: 07807 031799