Every now and again one comes across something which is so well thought through and executed it fills one with astonished pleasure. Recently I came across a window which delighted me in this way. I guess the carpenter who made it could have done so any time between Waterloo and Suez, say the early 1800s to the 1950s, but if you ask me it was probably late Victorian.
It appeared to be a perfectly normal sash window, if a little small. You lugged it vertically upwards to open it, and the reason it didn’t fall down again was because it was counterbalanced by hidden weights on the ends of pulleys. So far, so traditional.
Then I noticed a little spring-loaded brass handle on the right hand upright.
“Odd” I thought. And pulled the handle to open the panel. As one would.
I opened it and thought about it. It looked as if I should be able to move the window sash towards me, but to do that there’d need to be hinges on the other side and a way of disentangling the rope and the pulley, and of course there couldn’t be hinges, because hinges connecting it to the left hand upright would prevent any vertical movement.
So I looked at the left hand upright. There were hinged catches on the upright, and protruding screws on the sash…
…and if you caught the screws in the catches, lo and behold, you had hinges.
Ok. So we have a sash window which is designed to go up and down but this particular sash window can also be opened on its hinges like a casement window,which is fairly cool. However the rope and pulley on the right hand side at the top prevent this.
So I tried anyway, first lifting the hidden weight on its rope so that it wasn’t pulling on the sash, and the sash opened towards me like a casement. And then I discovered that the rope could easily be removed from the sash because the upright of the sash was channeled out to accomodate the rope, and the rope had an aglet on the end with a keyhole shaped hole and another prodruding screw to catch it.
When I removed the rope from the catch, the window opened towards me freely like a casement and I could, if I so desired, have cleaned it on both sides.
Now I know that modern double glazed units achieve the same sort of effect by using levers to engage and disengage two sets of internal hinges, but this is a wooden window almost certainly made over a hundred years ago. It is also absolutely the first time I’ve come across something like this in a window of that age, and as you can tell, I pay attention to windows.
It delighted me when I found it, and it delights me still.