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Let There Be Light: A Brief History Of Windows

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Window designs have gone through many changes, from simple sash windows to elaborate stained glass designs. So what exactly is the window’s history? And how have materials and models changed throughout the centuries?

The origin of the word ‘window’ has been somewhat disputed throughout history. Some say it originated from the old Norse word ‘vindauga’ meaning ‘wind eye.’ Many Germanic languages however adopted the latin word ‘fenestra’ to describe a window with glass, but it is generally thought that the English interpretation we use today stems from the early Scandinavian influence on English language.

The earliest appearing windows were nothing more than simply holes in a wall. Designed purely to let in light and air, these windows were entirely open to the elements and thus very basic. Not long after that however, windows were experimentally covered up with all manners of materials including cloth, animal hide or wood. So even from its humble beginning, the window, as we know it today, was very much starting to take shape.

The concept of the window never changed, the design however, did. Over the years we have seen fixed, hopper, transom clerestory, skylight, bay and picture windows all boasting alternative uses, locations and functions around whatever building they are installed in.

All of this is not to say however that windows over time have not been involved in their own little shards of problems; from 1696-1851 the window tax was issued by William III. The tax, brought about by need for more government money after conflicts both in Ireland and throughout Europe, was applicable to all houses boasting more than six windows. Spain and France also had a window tax for similar reasons. The results of this period are still now plain to see; when you’re next walking around town have a look at some of the old buildings and see if any old window frames have been bricked up – it’s more frequent than you may think!

Nowadays, modern advances have led to such technologies as double-glazing, solar windows and window coverings. All of these are continuing to advance the concept that started as a hole in the wall and bode well for the future.With budget windows coming in the form of PVC frames and traditional bespoke wooden windows still available, windows give us insight into the past and future of home construction.

Victoria Gray is a writer and graduate of the University of Leeds. Her work is published on a number of websites and she enjoys writing on a variety of topics, from home design and improvement to fashion and food.

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