Context 155 - July 2018

C O N T E X T 1 5 5 : J U L Y 2 0 1 8 37 architecture and construction. 2 It is readily seen in Crittalls’ catalogues and advertising material. He was instrumental in Crittalls’ brief foray into post-war housing when in 1919, with CB Quennell, they put up a small estate of houses in Braintree built of concrete blocks on a metric modular system, with everything else of metal, no timber being used. The houses were flat roofed, and have been considered the first modern movement houses in the country. WF Crittall was also deeply involved in the establishment of the garden village of Silver End, between Braintree and Witham, a project that arose from his father’s deep concern for the care and well-being of his employees. Silver End owes its distinctiveness to several streets of modern movement houses designed by Thomas Tait and James Miller. It was, in fact, built in a variety of styles by several architects. Quennell was also involved, but his houses here were traditional in style in contrast to the earlier ones in Braintree. The adoption of metal windows as a standard feature of much inter-war housing, as well as of municipal buildings, offices and shops, including Harrods and Broadcasting House, brought the company further prosperity, as did its international enterprises, subsidiaries and partnerships being set up throughout the world. The company’s range of products included almost anything that could be made in metal, from pavement lights to bus shelters to Bailey bridges. After 1945 there were many changes. From this time, all windows were galvanised, making them more durable. Aluminium became much cheaper; in its extruded rather than cast form it lent itself to windows and curtain walling. There were also experiments with plastic. In 1965, the Universal Section was superseded by the W20 range, which was weather stripped, making windows more draught proof. This was seen as the way forward, rather than developing double glazing. In the same year, Crittalls’ merged with Henry Hope and Sons of Smethwick, the second-largest metal window manufacturer. This was seen as a defensive measure, but proved ineffective, as it was not accompanied by adequate rationalisa- tion and restructuring. In 1968 Crittall-Hope was taken over by Slater Walker. It was sold again in 1971, and then in 1974 to Norcros, who in 1988 moved the Braintree works from several sites in the town to a new one on an industrial estate, which was opened by Mrs Thatcher. Since then there has been a management buy- out, and in 2007 the company moved to a single site inWitham. What to do with the old, unloved, metal windows? Assessing age and rarity, especially for older examples, is not easy, for lack of readily available information. Reference to catalogues will usually involve a visit to one of the collecting libraries. A Crittall archive has been deposited at Braintree Museum and can be consulted there. It contains company records, publicity material, technical drawings and catalogues.Windows that are integral to the building’s design, typically arts-and-crafts and modern-movement build- ings, are clearly of great importance. They can be successfully overhauled and redecorated, pro- cesses that involve easing, rust removal, priming and painting. 3 This might require removal to the workshop, giving the opportunity, if appropriate, for galvanising and powder coating, the latter a finish available from 1977. An obstacle to repair is the unavailability of elements made to the original section or profile, unless obtainable from salvaged material. They can be newly manufactured, as was done for some of the buildings at the first world war air- field at Stow Maries in Essex, but this is expen- sive. If windows are beyond repair, replacements can be obtained that will be visually very similar, even if the sections are different. David Andrews, a former archaeologist and conservation officer with Essex County Council, is a part-time consultant. 2 Carpenter, R (2007) Mr Pink: the architectural legacy of WF Crittall , Essex County Council; Crittall, WF (1953) A Metal Window Dictionary , Curwen Press 3 Historic England (2017) Traditional Windows