Posted: 11 January 2024
The Edwardian period only lasted for nine years – the blink of an eye compared with the 63-year Victorian era that preceded it—yet those opening years of the 20th century witnessed rapidly changing fashions, especially in architecture. Edwardian sash windows were a crucial part of that change and can be distinguished from Victorian style, just as they, in turn, differed from the Georgian sash windows that came before them.
By the dawn of the Edwardian era in 1901, sash windows had been a standard feature of the architectural landscape for over 200 years. They first appeared on British shores in the late 1600s, but it was during the Georgian period that they became truly popular.
Sash windows comprise two panes, called sashes. These are usually one above the other, although you occasionally see horizontal sash windows too, where the sashes are side by side. With a conventional vertical sash window, one or both sashes can be slid up and down to open and close it. In Edwardian times and earlier, this movement was accomplished by pulling a cord connected via a pulley to a counterweight. This whole mechanism was hidden in a box section within the window frame, which is why these are sometimes called box sashes.
People typically associate sash windows with large townhouses, but that only tells part of the story. Some of the country's oldest sash windows are found in small cottages, and they are also popular in country houses and even commercial properties.
Edwardian sash windows were a product of their era, during which the Gothic revival style was very much in mode. Their blend of functionality in terms of providing plenty of sunlight, along with the aesthetics of detailed designs, is something that has never gone out of fashion. The style remains popular in new properties today, especially in larger homes built in a classic style.
To achieve this combination of functionality and style, Edwardian-style sash windows are typically of uneven size, with a larger lower sash fixed in place and a single pane to admit plenty of natural sunlight. The upper sash is smaller and more decorative, usually comprised of six small panes reminiscent of the Georgian style. The timber frames were typically more slimline, with run-through sash horns to provide extra strength and stability.
This provided plenty of scope for artistic detailing that was in keeping with the architecture of the time and gave proud homeowners a chance to flaunt their wealth subtly.
Casement windows have a mixture of fixed panes and hinged ones that open outwards. These are either hinged to the side or at the top. The benefit if side-opening casements is they let in plenty of fresh air and can even be used as an emergency exit if they are large enough. Casements with an upper hinge are smaller but have the advantage that they can be left open for ventilation regardless of the weather and will provide a shield to prevent rain from blowing in.
The popularity of casement windows really took off from the 1920s onwards, but they were available earlier and did not look out of place on some Edwardian properties, depending on the style. With a large fixed pane and a smaller upper casement, they can have an aesthetic effect similar to sash windows of the contemporary period.
Bay windows provide the dual benefit of panoramic views up to 180 degrees for anyone looking out of the window, plus extra space in the room provided by the bay or alcove. They also let in lots of natural light. Bay windows have featured in homes since medieval times, but they certainly enjoyed a revival in the Edwardian era. Bay windows were in keeping with the detail and style of Edwardian architecture, having fallen out of fashion during the Victorian period of straight lines and simplicity.
Most Edwardian (or Edwardian-style) homes feature the sash windows that were popular at the time. However, some have casement windows fitted, with either small upper casements that open vertically or large side-hinged casements on either side of the bay. There is no right or wrong style, and it is a case of considering what works best with the overall architecture of the house.
Back in the 18th century, when sash windows first became really popular, the only way to make glass was to blow it by hand. This meant panes had to be small, and even these often had swirls and distortions that have become quaint characteristics of the era. As a result, Georgian sash windows are characterized by their small panes. Each sash is typically comprised of six small panes of glass, which is why they are sometimes referred to as “six over six.”
By Victorian times, manufacturing processes had progressed, and glaziers could mass-produce larger panes of glass to a consistent standard. Architects took advantage of this and started to install “one over one” sash windows, or sometimes “two over two” for larger ones. This gave Victorian houses a clean, uncluttered look. But by the dawn of the Edwardian period, some people felt it was a little stark and boring.
That brings us to the Edwardian sash windows we have been discussing. These harness the best of both types in many ways, blending Georgian style with Victorian functionality.
Edwardian windows provide flexible style options that can suit modern homes as much as period properties. Incorporating smaller upper panes means you can choose different designs, shapes and even colours.
Also, while Edwardian sash windows were most common, you are not restricted to these and can also opt for a range of different casement styles to suit the overall architecture.
Modern property, with Edwardian-style windows:
It is possible to install double glazing into Edwardian sash windows. However, replacing them with new timber sash windows usually makes more sense. These will look the same but have better performance.
Original sash windows that are 100+ years old can present a security risk, especially if the catch is insecure. Lomax + Wood creates sash windows that comply with the latest Pas 24 Security testing standard to resist forced entry.
The Edwardians used a variety of designs, but sash windows were ubiquitous, as they matched the Gothic revival-style architecture that was prominent in this period.
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