Crittall windows were originally steel-framed, double-paned, and ultra clear glazed; while Crittall Windows Ltd started the production in earnest in 1884 under the management of Francis Henry Crittall in the Essex town of Braintree, the steel window business was already founded by Francis Berrington Crittall in 1849. By the 1890s the younger Francis Crittall was manufacturing the windows of important British public buildings (e.g. Tower of London) and residences, and they became quite the rage. In later years they were produced in other countries, such as the U.S.
“Camoys” is now the home of Julia Bloomfield, the acclaimed editor of “Oppositions” and Getty Research Institute books in the USA, who recently retired to her native land and singly restored the 1960s Modernist home of her family in Lewes 1 , East Sussex, England. That is a story in itself, but not for here. This story is about how this handsome and very comfortable house presents its looks and accommodates guests and nature. Starting with four fallout shelters of thick and heavy concrete construction as a base, the three bedroom house, with living room with fireplace, two baths and toilets, study, kitchen and foyer, garage, store room, and, most important, a terraced garden fits into this hilly terrain at the foot of the regional downs where the chalk base creates flintstones, which can be found occasionally as rubble of walls on Lewes’ streets.
There is magic in the garden and in the Crittall windows. Julia tends to the garden mostly every day she’s in Camoys, except the weekends when she departs for London on two or three-day stretches to go to urban events and socialize with friends. The garden is filled with greenery in the stately deciduous trees, like the holly and the thuja, and the meadow of tall grasses (which Julia finds fascinating in their perpetual motion—like looking at water or fire), and the tall flowers that bloom in the peripheries (e.g., poppies, roses). The labour of love and arduous work results in exercise and beauty. A stone bird bath and a statue of Aphrodite decorate the garden, which has built-in stone steps to transition the three levels of her ministry.
The Camoys Crittall windows—large squarish (5′ 7¼″ wide × 5′ high, 171cm × 152cm) are at their best in the pair of them in the living room and single one in Julia’s bedroom. The glazing is like nothing separating the indoors and the outdoors—all you can grasp is the hard metal framework and its invisibility occurs especially here, at the back because here, on the garden side there is clean air, not like the street-side where cars take a grubby toll on them. The light coming through this “clean” south side is a warm color in midday and into the evening in this time frame of lengthy daylight. The windows are pivotal and are easily opened and closed in the center with the helping arm of a rod. The quiet airiness of the window experience is so refreshing in the warm seasons and can frame outdoor pictures in the cold months. Viewing attention is given to the garden by having the “island” of furniture near the windows during most of the year, but in winter the furniture is moved near the fireplace.
It is the windows that also capture the view of the exterior facades but their placements on the modernist facades catch the origins of the house in the 1960s. The house’s style may be compared with the Charles and Ray Eames’s studio in the hills of Los Angeles, and other sixties buildings. Carefully constructed of brick, wood, and concrete, the slightly peaked white arches that frame the windows and are the median element between the striated wood above and the brick below add balance to the structure. This broad angle of the framing captures the slant of the roof. The real catchy views occur inside where when coming in you are met with stairs moving up to the main living spaces and below to the guest quarters and terrace leading to the garden. All the interior is sachlich (austere) set against warm colored rugs and upholstery in a Loosian fashion. Locked into the living room and garden terrace are the fireplaces where barbeque and physical warmth come forth.
As a visitor to Camoys in June I felt so welcomed by Julia and her home in which everything was fresh and pure, like the laundered clothes set out to dry on the garden terrace racks. Firm cloth, books, delicious foodstuffs and smooth linens on the just right firm mattress are loving memories I shall not forget.
Windows have a significant impact on the character and appearance of a building, through their arrangement, size and detailing. They are an important element of the design of a building, give information about its origins and development, and are of real importance to the character and appearance of historic buildings, particularly those that are listed or situated within a conservation area.
In order to protect the appearance of such buildings, proposals to carry out work which will alter the design, detailing, materials or method of operation of the windows require very careful consideration. The historic and traditional buildings of Lewes District display a wide variety of window designs and materials, ranging from early mullioned timber windows with iron casements of the 16th and 17th centuries to Georgian and Victorian timber sliding sashes and 20th century metal Crittall windows.
(Lewes District Council, 2017)