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Saxon windows were of two shapes, triangular headed and round headed. Early windows were cut straight through the wall, and never recessed. Later windows were given a splay, which allowed more light to filter in. Some were splayed both inside and outside, with the glass in the middle. Later they favoured circular openings.

Round-headed (Earls Barton)

Triangular-headed (Deerhurst)



The semi-circular arch continued. Windows were still small and often set high up in a wall. They were not always equally spaced. Larger circular windows were developed, the forerunner of the Rose Window. The East window of some churches is still a single light today. An example occurs at Elkstone, a delightful church.


The pointed arch was used for the first time and tall narrow windows, known as lancets, first appeared. At times they were grouped in pairs but usually in threes (for the Trinity), sometimes in fives (at Berkeley) and even in sevens, especially at the east end of a church where the centre lancet rose higher than the others. Decorative hood moulds, or drip stones, projected above windows to protect them from rainwater running down the walls. They ended in a label stop which was often carved as an animal or human head or foliated. A pair of lancets, when enclosed by an individual hood mould, had a dip which collected rain. Thus when two or more lancets were grouped they were enclosed by a single hood mould which allowed the rain water to escape. This left a gap between the top of the windows and the hood mould, which became pierced with circular or quatrefoil shaped windows and resulted in the emergence of plate tracery. A framework of stone mullions was used to build up tracery. For the first time churches could have large windows. This put a strain on the walls but the buttresses were given greater projection to combat this.


This overlapped with Geometric tracery when circles had cusps added to them. Geometric window tracery is of greater variety than any other style. Other forms existed like the trefoil. Reticulated (net-like) tracery developed, using concave and convex curves (ogee). Soon after this Flowing tracery emerged with an infinite variety of designs allowing the eye to follow the curve of the bars of each window. The ball flower ornament became popular. Each window in the south aisle at Gloucester cathedral has about 1400 ball flowers.

Baunton: Plate Tracery (Decorated)


The Perpendicular style originated with the monks at St Peterís Abbey, Gloucester, soon after the ravages of the Black Death.  Some sources suggest it began in London a few years earlier.  This new style emphasised straight lines on both verticals and horizontals.  Vertical mullions were stronger and horizontal bars (transoms) were inserted, preventing them from bulging.  Thus both height and width of a window increased as well as the number of lights it contained.  As a result windows now gave the maximum amount of light.

Setting out the stonework was much simpler, a real godsend for the hard pressed masons following the ravages of the pestilence which reduced both work force and expertise.  Even smaller churches could have better natural lighting.  Windows gave the glass painter tremendous scope to insert his figures, heraldry etc. into the rectangular panels now formed.

With both the richer colours and the wealth from merchants now available this period saw a tremendous surge in the rebuilding of many churches, which were filled with light and space.  However, square headed windows and doorways were becoming popular as well, especially in the less rich regions.  Sometimes circular windows became a feature, especially in East Anglia.


The Reformation, in both northern Europe as well as England and Scotland, saw tremendous changes and emphasis in Christian practices.  Little building was undertaken until the following century when designs reflected the revised views adopted by the Church of England and other emerging Protestants.  Now large simple windows, many with clear glass and semi-circular with projecting keystones, became popular.  Victorian builders frequently copied the Gothic style in both new and rebuilt churches, often inserting a triple lancet into the east wall.  There was a brief return to a neo-Romanesque style, as shown in the rebuilding of the church of St Thomas, now in ruins.

The Perpendicular east window at Withington

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The Parochial Church Council of the Ecclesiastical Parish of St Mary and St Nicolas Prestbury Cheltenham - Registered Charity No 1130933

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Last modified: 06 June 2015