Skip to Content

When Was Glass First Used in Windows?

When Was Glass First Used in Windows?

Glass windows are an important part of many homes and buildings. They allow light to pass through while still providing a barrier against environmental elements, such as dust and bugs. In addition, they also provide insulation to help keep buildings warm.

They also allowed people to see the outside more easily, providing a sense of connection to the outside world. Historical evidence suggests that Ancient Romans were the first to use glass windows in the 1st century AD.

The invention of glass windows was a significant development in human history. Before that, people used materials such as animal hides, parchment, and oiled paper to cover openings in their homes, which allowed light in but offered little protection from the elements.

Let’s discuss the history of window glass to find out when this material was first used in windows.

When Was Glass First Used in Windows? Infographic.

A Brief History of Window Glass 

According to historical evidence [1], Phoenician merchants of the Syrian region were the first to develop glass around 5000 BC. The archeological evidence [2] also suggests that glass manufacturing began in 3500 BC in the Egyptian and Eastern Mesopotamian regions.

However, the history of windows with glass dates back to the 1st century AD, when Ancient Romans started using window glass panes [3]. It’s important to note they didn’t use glass window panes only for decorative purposes.

They used long balloons of blown glass as an important element of building structure. The glass they used was of uneven thickness, and it also wasn’t completely see-through, unlike modern windows. But it used to be transparent enough to allow some light to pass through.

At that time, other regions of the world, such as Japan and China, used to have paper windows for decoration and blocking environmental elements.

Stained Glass

According to the History of Glass [4], Europeans started building churches across Europe during the 4th century with stained glass windows. 

These windows used glass pieces in different colors to create different biblical images, which made glass a popular form of art of this era.

Stained glass windows in Troyes Cathedral.
Stained glass windows in Troyes Cathedral
Vassil, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the 11th century, Germans invented cylinder glass, also known as broad glass, and it became popular in Europe in the early 13th century.

Later in 1291, Venice became the glass-making center of Europe, and this was the place where the almost transparent glass was manufactured in the 15th century by Angelo Barovier. But at that time, most people still didn’t have glass windows.

Crown Glass

In 1674, the crown glass was introduced in England, and it remained quite popular in Europe till the 1830s. While this type of glass has ripples and imperfections, it was much clearer and finer than the broad glass people most commonly used at that time.

Window of the maison des Têtes, France.
Window of the maison des Têtes, France
Tangopaso, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

After its invention, more and more people started using it for their home windows across Europe. However, the breakthrough didn’t benefit the English people because of the window tax that William III introduced in 1696 [5].

Because of the tax, people needed to pay two to eight shillings per year based on the number of windows they had in their houses. So, those who couldn’t afford to pay the tax bricked over their windows. 

Interestingly, the tax remained effective for 156 years and was finally lifted in 1851.

Polished Plate Glass

In the late 18th century, polished plate glass was introduced in Britain [6]. The process of making this glass required a lot of effort and time. First, glassmakers used to cast a glass sheet onto a table and then grind and polish it manually using their hands.

Example of modern polished plate glass.
Example of modern polished plate glass
David Shankbone, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

That’s why it was very expensive and didn’t become as popular as broad or crown glass. Additionally, this glass-making method was also suspended in the early 19th century.

Cylinder Sheet Glass

While the production of cylinder sheet glass started in the 1700s in Germany and France [7], it was introduced in Britain in 1834, where the production method was changed to improve the quality and reduce its price.

Laminated Glass

A French Chemist, Édouard Bénédictus, invented laminated glass in 1903 [8]. Not only was it more durable than previous variations of glass, but it also improved the sound insulation of glass windows. People could use larger panes of lamented glass for bigger windows.

Float Glass

Example of modern Float glass.
Example of modern Float glass
The original uploader was Secretlondon at English Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 1.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Float glass, which is still the industry standard of manufacturing glass today, was invented in 1959 by Alastair Pilkington [9]

To make this type of glass, molten glass is poured onto a molten tin bed so that the glass creates a level surface. This process creates large panes of transparent and distortion-free glass. Windows in domestic housing still use this glass because of its high quality.

Modern Window Glass

Now there is a wide range of modern glass types, such as tempered glass, obscured glass, laminated glass, low-E glass [10], gas-filled, and tinted glass. 

These are used to make a wide range of windows, such as cross windows, eyebrow windows, fixed windows, fold-up windows, triple-glazed windows, and double-hung sash windows.

Glass facade on an office building.
Glass facade on an office building
Attribution: Ansgar Koreng / CC BY 3.0 (DE)

Modern window glass is made using advanced manufacturing techniques and materials, which make it stronger, more durable, and more energy-efficient than the glass windows of the past.

These different types of glass have different properties and are used for different purposes, such as providing enhanced security, reducing heat loss, and blocking harmful UV rays.

Modern window glass is available in various colors, textures, and finishes, allowing for greater flexibility in design and aesthetics.

Final Words

The history of window glass dates back to the ancient world, where the earliest known examples of glass windows were found in the ruins of ancient Rome

Over time, glassmaking techniques improved, and glass windows became more common in both homes and public buildings.

They are an essential part of our built environment and play a vital role in the design and function of buildings.