The History Of Steel Windows


The steel window ('windows steel ') has been with us for many years and in numerous forms. It first started being made in a very basic way by medieval blacksmiths using wrought iron. As the process developed, so did the complexity of the designs and fittings. Windows made by a certain blacksmith were recognised locally by the unusual hinge design or ornate quadrant type stays, along with more and more elaborate handle styles. 

Initially there was just a single frame that hinged into a stone or timber frame opening, resulting in the first opening casements. An outer frame was then introduced to enable the opening section of the casement to close against a more uniform surface. Glass manufacturing back then was in its infancy and was known as ‘Muff or Cylinder glass’. This was made by blowing molten glass into a cylindrical shape that was then cut along its length and opened to form a small sheet of glass. Craftsmen were unable to produce large panes of glass at that time, and so came up with the idea of joining the panes together using a lead 'H' section, called a ‘came’. These became known as Leaded Lights and were the main form of window glazing in these early periods. 

By the mid-18th century, the accuracy of metal casting had improved greatly and enabled frames to be manufactured in a controlled factory environment, away from the blacksmith. The casting process enabled the window manufacturer to offer a stylish product with slim lines, and a detailing that had only previously been offered with timber profiles. The production of cast windows continued to improve, and as they became cheaper to manufacture, were popular for some fifty to sixty years; being used in schools, workhouses, asylums and everyday homes. 

In around 1860, a new production process was being perfected, which used hot rolled steel to produce a range of products; from stanchions to girders, etc. Steel mills appeared all over the Midlands and the North of England, allowing Britain to become a world leader in the mass production of steel. It was during this period that the modern steel window sections that we know today were first produced – with the range of sections available becoming quite extensive, as the popularity of these relatively inexpensive windows increased. Indeed, millions of steel windows were produced for both home and abroad, and used in all types of buildings; from schools, factories, to new housing estates. 

Galvanising was introduced to the process in around the mid 1950’s, which is still used today to stop any corrosion on the surface metal. All steel windows were, during that time, hand painted, and unfortunately with the build up of many layers of paint, the operation of the windows was often affected, which meant that people’s memories of steel windows were not always favourable. People often refer to this generation of steel windows as Crittall windows, much the same as people would call a vacuum cleaner a ‘Hoover’. 

However as with the ‘Hoover’, the modern steel has also moved forward, and with the introduction of a polyester paint coating, a fantastic factory applied finish is now achieved on the steel windows. This has eliminated the problem of the build up of paint interfering with the operation of the window, and has resulted in a very low maintenance product. The steel window can now also be double-glazed and complies with modern building regulations. All this is achieved without losing the elegant site lines that have always been associated with steel windows, along with the inherent durability and strength of the product. 

The sustainability of the product is also not an issue, as the modern sections are manufactured using 100% recycled steel, which in these times of raw material shortages, is very comforting. 


The Steel Window Association supports The Cotswold Casement Company.


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