Blenhem Palace, Oxfordshire: The Entrance to the Stable Court. Begun in 1705; Sir John Vanbrugh, Architect
Two most significant developments in the construction of windows occurred during the seventeenth century. Firstly, there was the adoption of a timber, rather than a stone, frame (although the latter remained in use) and, more importantly, there was a fashion, in wall panelling and oak panelling after the Restoration, for a vertical sliding sash-window, in which, by use of weights working on pulleys and cords as counter-balances, the window stayed open at any selected position. It is useful to bear in mind that whilst windows admitted light, the patron, pacing the long walks through his Baroque house, could also gaze out through them at a contrived formal landscape, running away in straight lines and radiating rides as far as the eye could see. It was no accident that the views matched the position of the windows, and that many of these were built out as bays from which to appreciate the scene more fully. And if, during cold dark days, there was no wish to look out at grey misty reaches of sheep-dotted pastures, then swinging shutters hid all from sight.
The grandest type of stone window was the three-light form, with the larger central opening arched; it was known as the 'Venetian window'. Palladio used it on the grand scale on the facades of the basilica at Vicenza and it was, in its form, derived from antique Rome and was later illustrated in Serlio's fourth book of his Architettura (1537). It was a form that bridged the void between precise columns and it could easily be glazed. When Inigo Jones introduced it to England towards 1620, however, he based his drawings on those in Scamozzi's Idea della Architettura universale (1615).
Writing later, in 1756, Isaac Ware says that Venetian windows are of a kind 'calculated for shew, and very pompous in their nature; and, when executed with judgment, of exteme elegance' (A Complete Body of Architecture). A superb example is in the centre of the south front of Wilton House, Wiltshire, designed by Isaac de Caus in the late 1630s. Although enthusiasm for the Venetian window in the work of Jones and his contemporaries was shortlived it was, however, an appropriate motif for resuscitation in the earlyeighteenth-century Palladian and Jonesian revival."
At the opening of the seventeenth century, glass for use in any kind of window was usually only available in small pieces, which were set into patterns and held by lead 'cames'. The patterns themselves were set out in 1615 in Walter Gedde's A Book of Sundry Draughts principally serving for Glasiers, but although they may have looked attractive the windows were never easy to open and were easily damaged by strong winds. This may have led, in part, to consideration of timber-framed windows, which slid upwards, one part over the other. Such windows were known in England from the late sixteenth century, if allusions to them by Shakespeare can be accepted. Dr. H. J. Louw, in a detailed survey of the origin of the sashwindow," has written: 'Could Shakespeare have used the phrase "Ere I let fall the windowes of mine eyes" if he had not been familiar with vertically sliding windows?'
Looked at with other literary references it is clear that the 'drawing windows' listed in inventories were shutters made to slide, consistent with drawing the curtains," and that the sliding vertical window was not a true sash-window. Sliding windows only came to be drawn and used prominently in houses after the Restoration.
Within a year or two of 1660, when the court had settled back to a normal, if more progressive, routine, 'shashes', 'shassis' or 'shashis' windows were in use and are mentioned in the royal accounts for 1662. The French word for any frame, particularly those for windows, is chassis from which the English 'sash' derives. These windows had a combination of glass and oiled paper for better weatherproofing. Sir Roger Pratt in his notes 'of the most noble Houses of France ...' wrote: 'Their glass is for the most part placed on the inside of their walling, and another glasing or paper etc. on the outside again which they call "Chasses".'
Little is known of the details and appearance of 'shassis' windows of the 1660s, but much more of the new counter-balanced windows, introduced by the early 1670s. John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale (1616-82), who was both intelligent (he was a master of Latin, Greek and Hebrew and had an exceptional memory) and knowledgeable about Continental practices, was soon involved with building. This included the remodelling of Ham House, Surrey, two other London residences, and three Scottish castles - the duke was Charles II's powerful Secretary for Scotland. Some twentysix sash-windows were installed at Ham House during 1673'° by the wall panelling and oak panelling joiner Henry Harlow, under the direction of the gentleman-architect, William Samwell (1628-76). The windows were operated by brass pulleys set within boxes at the side of the oak frames. A central mullion gave greater strength and rigidity although the panes were small - sixty being a typical number in the garden-front windows - and 'white inside glass' was installed to keep out draughts. This early form of 'double-glazing' was also noted by Celia Fiennes at Ashtead Park, Surrey, in about 1700: 'all the windows are sarshes and large squares of glass, I observ'd they are double sashes to make the house warmer for its stands pretty bleake...'
In the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale's Privy Garden lodging in Whitehall, part of the royal palace, Thomas Kinward, the Master Joiner of the Office of Works (whom Dr Louw credits with the introduction of the sash-window to England, from where its use spread to France and Holland), installed double sash-windows in the duchess's dressing-room. The accounts for this were signed by the Surveyor, Sir Christopher Wren, who also introduced sash-opening to the windows of the royal palaces at Whitehall, Hampton Court and Kensington, building, or re-building, in the years 1685 to 1696. Those at Chatsworth and some other houses had gilded glazing bars.
Glynde, Sussex: The 18th-Century Stable Arch