How windows company Crittall became an iconic brand

Crittall Windows was founded in 1949 in Braintree, Essex. The steel-framed windows have steadily grown over the years to be an iconic feature in both heritage properties and new-build designs. Here, we speak to Russell Ager, managing director of Crittall, who explains how this much-imitated brand has remained top of the league for 174 years…

How did Crittall Windows start?

From a small ironmongery shop, founded in 1849 by Francis Berrington Crittall, in the Essex town of Braintree, the business evolved to become the most well-known window company in the world. During both world wars it produced munitions and components for military vehicles, alongside windows for barracks and airfield buildings. 

Perhaps the company’s greatest achievement lies in its creation of Silver End garden village in the 1920s for Crittall’s workforce, but it also pioneered the standard metal window, used extensively in new homes during the post-war period. Later, it produced windows for iconic buildings such as the BBC’s Broadcasting House in London, and Coventry Cathedral. 

Crittall’s products are synonymous with the Brutalist and Art Deco movements and were widely specified by renowned architects, including Sir Basil Spence and Erno Goldfinger. More recently, the brand has become the leader in producing bespoke, expertly crafted steel windows and doors, which are perfectly suited to both modern and period properties.    

Large Crittalll windows in a kitchen extension
Crittall windows in a project with Bespoke Glazing Design.

How has the manufacturing of Crittall windows changed over 160 years?

We still handcraft our windows and doors using traditional techniques but utilise the latest CNC  – computer numerical control – technology to cut and machine the steel profiles precisely. We also retain several machines that date back to the 1920s, because modern machinery can’t replicate the process. The skills employed by our master craftspeople have been passed down over several generations, often through families. 

Our artisanas are meticulous and take great pride in producing beautiful products for discerning clients. We use new technology, but that does not replace the importance of individual knowledge built up over many years. 

Freestanding bath near a Crittall window
Crittall Windows used in this bathroom project give the space lots of natural light and a panoramic view.

How do you feel about Crittall being used as a generic term?

Honestly, I take it as a compliment. Our brand is iconic and we craft beautiful, quality products. I can understand why we have imitators. But our heritage is unique and cannot be matched. Customers want authentic Crittall products, so we go to great lengths to protect the brand. 

What makes Crittall distinctive from its imitators?

In a couple of words, heritage and craftsmanship. Our windows and doors are bespoke and handcrafted. Attention to detail and century-old crafting skills mean no other company comes close. Imitators use low-cost materials, such as aluminium, along with inexpensive ironmongery. But we operate an “authenticity scheme” to give our customers the confidence that they are purchasing a genuine article.  

Open plan kitchen and dining room
In this project in South-West London by Bespoke Glazing Design, floor-to-ceiling windows create a link between the roomy kitchen and garden space.

Can Crittall windows be used in all types of homes? 

The strength of the steel we use means that our products are more robust, durable and secure than windows and doors made from other materials.    

The design of our steel windows and doors is timeless, a style icon equally suited to modern or period properties. Whether you are creating an internal snug or installing an external screen, our products provide security, warmth and, if the acoustic glass is specified, tranquillity.   

Crittall factory
The Crittall factory in Witham, Essex.

What are the key benefits of your steel windows?

The slim profile of our steel windows and doors maximises the natural daylight entering a property. This reduces reliance on artificial light, lowering energy costs and creates a light and pleasant home environment.

The company has created many unique projects, but which is your favourite?  

We have been privileged to provide windows and doors to many architecturally significant buildings. But my favourite has to be Trellick Tower, a Grade II-listed tower block, designed by Erno Goldfinger in the late 1960s. It commands attention across West London. I’m a massive fan of Brutalist architecture and the important contribution Crittall made to the movement.

Interested in how other brands started out? Check out our interviews with Weaver Green, Annie Sloan or Bert & May

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