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Old October 12th, 2012, 03:37 AM   #1

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(Glass) windows in buildings


This has always been a topic of interest to me.
I know that windows in the ancient era consisted of holes in the wall often covered with animalhides and such.

Though when did the glass window came into view?
Medieval churches had stained glass windows, but that was ultimately used in churches.

How were regular homes and such provided with windows? Just plain holes in the wall with shutters to protect the inhabitants at night?
I had always thought 12th to 17th century buildings had shutters because there was no glass in the windows.
I do know glass became common in houses the U.K. in about the mid 17th century (and I expect same goes for all of (western) Europe)

This may seem stupid to some of you but it interests me. I bet it must have been pretty claustrophobic to live in a house devoid of windows at night.
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Old October 13th, 2012, 01:30 AM   #2

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Nobody has a clue?
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Old October 15th, 2012, 01:52 PM   #3
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It seems that the earliest glass windows developed during Roman times, but they were of thicker cast glass, and didn't seem very clear. The clear, thin glass window that we think of was a development of the middle ages, where techniques were created to make sheets of glass, to create the clear glass window we are familiar with. The better optical properties (i.e., it was clearer) of the glass produced by the glass blowing techniques is probably what lead to windows becoming more popular.

"Crown glass" became the primary method of making glass windows until the 19th century. It seems around the 16th or 17th century that glass windows started becoming popular for for a wide variety of buildings, not just churches, or the homes of the very rich lords. Crown glass was apparently developed by the French in the 14th century, but England didn't adopt the technique until late the 17th century.

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The Romans were the first known to use glass for windows. In Alexandria ca. 100 CE, cast glass windows, albeit with poor optical properties, began to appear. Mullioned glass windows were the windows of choice among European well-to-do, whereas paper windows were economical and widely used in ancient China, Korea and Japan. In England, glass became common in the windows of ordinary homes only in the early 17th century whereas windows made up of panes of flattened animal horn were used as early as the 14th century Window - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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It wasn't until the eleventh century that the mouthblown cylinder technique of making sheet glass for windows was first developed in Germany and later adopted by the Venetians. Cylinder glass and Crown glass are two types of authentic, mouthblown antique window glass typically found in historical structures in the United States. Both types employ a blowpipe to shape the molten glass.

Cylinder glass begins as a ball of molten glass on the end of a blowpipe that is rhythmically blown and swung in a deep pit until an elongated pod-shape forms and a desired length and diameter are reached. Once cooled, the ends of the "pod" are cut from the glass to form a cylinder, which is then scored down its length, reheated and flattened.

Crown glass was originally developed in the 7th - 8th century and later revived for the purposes of window glass making as an alternative to the mouthblown cylinder glass. The process for blowing Crown glass, also called bullion because of its disc-like shape, is slightly different. It begins with a ball of semi-molten glass on the end of a blowpipe that is opened outwards on the opposite side of the pipe, like a ëcrown.' It is then transferred from the blowpipe to a pontil, or "punty" rod, and flattened into a bullion or disc-shape by reheating and spinning. This type of sheet glass has size limitations. Oftentimes, panes had to be joined together with lead strips to create windows. Antique Window Glass - Historical Traditions in the Manufacture of Antique Window Glass

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There is evidence that the Romans manufactured and used glass in Britain dating back to the first century AD and while most of this was used primarily for the production of ornate vessels, mosaic tiles and window glass were also produced. The first known use of window glass coincided with the introduction of Christianity and the construction of churches and monasteries. Much of the window glass that was found, which amounted to hundreds of fragments, was coloured.
Windows in the UK began to appear as we know them today in the mid to late 17th century and it was around then, 1696 in fact that William III introduce the window tax. This was a crude instrument to raise revenue based on the number of windows in a property relative to the prosperity of the taxpayer, the bigger the house, the more windows it was likely to have, and the more tax the occupants would pay. The tax was eventually repealed in 1851 to be replaced by a system of rates.
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Glass manufacture for windows became more sophisticated and in the UK a variety known as ‘Crown’ glass was refined from its original blown form which produced the well known bull’s eye feature and was first introduced into Britain in 1678. http://www.ncpm247.com/history-of-glass.php
So, the Romans were the first to produced glass windows, but glass windows really didn't start to take off until the middle ages.

Last edited by Bart Dale; October 15th, 2012 at 02:06 PM.
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Old October 15th, 2012, 03:40 PM   #4

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jove's Child View Post
This has always been a topic of interest to me.
I know that windows in the ancient era consisted of holes in the wall often covered with animalhides and such.

Though when did the glass window came into view?
Medieval churches had stained glass windows, but that was ultimately used in churches.

How were regular homes and such provided with windows? Just plain holes in the wall with shutters to protect the inhabitants at night?
I had always thought 12th to 17th century buildings had shutters because there was no glass in the windows.
I do know glass became common in houses the U.K. in about the mid 17th century (and I expect same goes for all of (western) Europe)

This may seem stupid to some of you but it interests me. I bet it must have been pretty claustrophobic to live in a house devoid of windows at night.
Decent quality glass wasnt generally available, as you mentioned stretched and dried animal gut could be used to let in light and the glass wasnt much better, however if you stained it you could get a nice decorative effect.

Stained glass wasnt just for churches, a good few castles had them as well for high value rooms, first of all it let in the light, second it made a nice talking point if it had a good picture on it but mostly it showed you had power and ready money to pay for that sort of craftsmanship.

It wasnt used by the general population for the simple reason that it wasnt commonly available and they couldnt have afforded it if they wanted to.

As for how you cope without windows? The same way you do WITH windows but without moonlight or public street lighting, you either carry a candle or you learn where the obstacles are and avoid them in the dark.
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Old October 15th, 2012, 07:34 PM   #5
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It seems that the earliest glass windows developed during Roman timesClick the image to open in full size.
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Old October 16th, 2012, 10:02 AM   #6

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Im thinking that in a cold winter putting in a window would create insulation problems in many eras....... I would put warmth first!!
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Old October 17th, 2012, 05:04 AM   #7

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Thanks for the replies.

So why were shutters used then? I mean these door-type shutters:

Dorpstraat te Urmond. Op den achtergrond het Schippershuis

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...chwerkhaus.jpg

I can imagine homes of the less-wealthy people didn't have glass so they used these to cover their "windows". It's my theory, it can also be the case that every home had glass-windows in the late medieval and Early modern/renaissance period.

So what was used in the UK before the 17th century, and in France before the 14th?
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Old October 17th, 2012, 03:54 PM   #8
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In the case of the poor, the window was just an opening in the wall, which was covered by the shutter when the window was closed. If you stop and think about it, that is how you see cottages depicted in medieval movies - Remember how Snow White was talking through an open window to the disguised evil Queen who was selling her the poison apple?

Quote:
Shutters are a vital if often overlooked feature of many historic houses. In the medieval period, when most windows were unglazed, shutters kept out wind, rain, insects and birds. In later periods, when houses had cosier rooms with fireplaces and glazed windows, shutters provided extra draught-proofing and privacy. The common use of fastening bars with security devices implies that shutters were also regarded as protection against intruders. External shutters also protected windows from vandalism, and were common on the ground floor windows of vulnerable buildings like public houses, at a time when glass was expensive. Historic window shutters
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Old October 18th, 2012, 01:32 AM   #9

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Originally Posted by Jove's Child View Post
So what was used in the UK before the 17th century, and in France before the 14th?
Waxed or oiled cloth. Sometimes nothing at all.

But actually, according to "Daily Life in the Middle Ages" by Paul B Newman, some of the wealthy in England did have glass windows from sometime in the 15th century, not 17th. It says:

Quote:
As for their appearance, by the 15th century, houses were still usually made of wood but brick and stone were not uncommon, especially where clay or stone suitable for building was in ready supply. The 15th century house was frequently two stories high with several rooms on each floor. Instead of a firepit, it had one or more hearths with chimneys located in various rooms. Walls were still formed by timber frames but with infilling brick as well as wattle and daub or wooden lath. As for windows, from slits they had grown larger and more square and, while less prosperous people continued to make do with cloth, many could afford glass windowpanes.

Paul B. Newman. Daily Life in the Middle Ages (p. 71). Kindle Edition.
Also, in time early colonial times, oiled paper was often used, as described in "Home Life in Colonial Days":

Quote:
The windows of the first houses had oiled paper to admit light. A colonist wrote back to England to a friend who was soon to follow, "Bring oiled paper for your windows." The minister, Higginson, sent promptly in 1629 for glass for windows. This glass was set in the windows with nails; the sashes were often narrow and oblong, of diamond-shaped panes set in lead, and opening up and down the middle on hinges. Long after the large towns and cities had glass windows, frontier settlements still had heavy wooden shutters. They were a safer protection against Indian assault, as well as cheaper. It is asserted that in the province of Kennebec, which is now the state of Maine, there was not, even as late as 1745, a house that had a square of glass in it. Oiled paper was used until this century in pioneer houses for windows wherever it was difficult to transport glass.

Earle, Alice Morse (2011-03-17). Home Life in Colonial Days (Kindle Locations 195-201). . Kindle Edition.
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Old October 18th, 2012, 02:16 PM   #10

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Everything is now clear to me Thank you all.

Also fascinating to see some American settlements weren't exactly up front with technology back then!
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