How delightful it is to throw open the windows on a hot summer’s day to let cool, fresh air drift through the house. And when the season changes it’s comforting to keep out the cold and draw the curtains against the dark.
Windows not only admit light and air and keep out draughts and weather, but also help to define the character of a house. Tall multi-paned sash windows provide symmetry and order across the front elevation of a Georgian property, while a timber-framed cottage that has been extended and altered over the centuries might have no two windows the same size or shape.
Early buildings had small windows due to the high cost of glass and concerns that the integrity of the building structure could be compromised by large wall openings. Not to mention for defensive reasons and keeping out unwanted guests. Windows gradually became larger in size and number until the advent of the Window Tax in 1697 which required the occupier of every dwelling to pay two shillings a year, and ten shillings a year for houses with more than ten windows. This led to some householders blocking up windows in order to reduce their liability but despite this the tax was not repealed until 1851.
As well as fulfilling their normal duties, windows occasionally act as an unusual place to record a person or event. On 28 December 1832 a Devonshire soldier who had enlisted in the Royal Irish Constabulary spent the night at a Herefordshire inn and whiled away his evening etching his name and the date on his bedroom window. Why J M Fortescue thought to use the window glass in place of the guest book is not known but his memory has survived while the inn is now a private home.Posted in Architecture, Blog Tagged architectural historian, building history, house, house history, vernacular architecture, windows