On Elizabethan Windows


Elizabethan windows can for practical purposes be defined as windows, often in the form of a bay, divided into tall vertical strips by mullions, and normally crossed by a single horizontal mullion high up, so that the upper panels are either square or slightly vertical rectangles, and the lower panels are strongly vertical rectangles normally of proportions near to or greater than 2:1. A grand example is a bay window at Montacute House, with one of the garden pavilions visible in the distance (Fig. 1).

This is unusual in having two horizontal mullions; normally the middle tier is absent, but then this is a very grand house.

Another good example is at Haddon Hall.


Elizabethan windows were popular in early twentieth century among Arts-and-Crafts architects, especially Lutyens, who does the most original variations of the theme. Usually Lutyens employs leaded panes, but unlike the Tudor window, which is a staple of a certain kind of English suburban house (with diamond panes), leaded panes are not central to the Elizabethan window, which is what makes it less tacky. It is an historically-charged form, without necessarily being fake. The Montacute House example (Fig. 1), and in other examples, has leadlight/stained glass coats or arms in the upper panels, which is practical, since the upper panels are above eye height.

The mullions in Elizabethan examples, as here, usually have mouldings. Victorian versions are readily distinguished from Jacobethan or Arts and Crafts versions by their fussier detailing. They do not respond to the feature that attracted the twentieth century, which is the way they appear to be cut from a plane wall surface. Voysey takes the idea of flush mullions and ran with it, this legitimating himself to modernism as the more associational Lutyens did not. Voysey is interesting because he does not in fact used Elizabertan windows, although he appears to. His windows are always flush and are only one panel high. The exception that proves the rule is found at Greyfriars (Fig. 2)  and Broad Leys (Fig. 3),

Greyfriars_RIBA Drawings Collection, in David Gebhard fig. 54 (1)

where there a giant windows of three bands, not one. The top and bottom bands correspond to adjacent windows; the middle band is essentially the wall zone between storeys that has been glazed. In other words, his three tiers are not a three-tiered Elizabethan window, but two single Voysey window bands that have been joined.

This entry was posted in All Posts, Architecture, Arts and Crafts Movement, Elizabethan Architecture, Fabriques, Montacute, Uncategorized, Villa Castagna. Bookmark the permalink.

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