What’s The Story Behind our Crittall Windows

What’s The Story Behind our Crittall Windows

A view into First Option’s Critall Windows

Critall Windows. A longstanding part of our attraction to clients is the history that oozes from the walls and the shines through the crittall windows. If you look closely you can see old zips embedded into our timber floors, long ago trodden into the body of the factory and an amazing physical memory of our manufacturing heritage.

Another part of this industrial legacy that we proudly advertise is the beloved and original Crittall windows. Installed when the factory originally opened around 1870 they are an ever wonderful reminder of not only days gone by, but also British manufacturing at it’s finest.

Manufacturing that’s still going strong. John Pyatt, Managing Director at Crittall, informs us that it’s because they carry an architectural message: “they became the architectural image of the period really. In the 1930s the hype wasn’t around, they were just buildings. But those buildings have since stood the test of time so 80 or 90 years later they’re considered iconic.”

Going back to just the 1950s the only two materials readily available were timber and steel, so architects used it to its best advantage, utilising small thin frames to maximise the amount of day light,  John continues that “it became a modernist movement product. Now we’re seeing architects rediscover a product that they haven’t had the opportunity to use or appreciate before.” As such we’re seeing them in swanky new build hotels, industrial conversions as well as the like of the House of Parliament and John Lewis.

So what goes into making a Crittall window? well to start, each is bespoke; there is no uniform formula. The window itself can be produced in just a few days but the process isn’t nearly as simple as that, as John explains “we get an order, produce drawings, see how it fits to the surroundings, then get that drawing approved by contractor and client. Only then can we start manufacture.”

From there a dedicated team of around 100 employees set to work, which usually takes 8-10 weeks once approval is granted. All products are proudly manufactured in the UK and sent as far afield as Australia and Tasmania, with high profile clients including Yale University. This was one of the deciding factors behind the company receiving the Queens Award for International Trade, in 2010.

A big part of Crittall’s history and indeed legacy can be found in Essex, where to this day the plant is based in Witham, and where third generation Crittall employees can be found. “The workforce are extremely loyal,” John explains, himself a 25 year veteran at the company. “We’ve got a number of employees that have been here for a very long time, of our 160 strong workforce 13 had long service awards ranging 20-50 years, and a lot of those had fathers and grandfathers working here.”

Crittall’s passion for their location and local people, is quite staggering with at one point over half the population of neighbouring Braintree being employed or related to workers at the Crittall plant, which is something John is incredibly proud of “At one point we had 4000 employees, spanning five continents. A village was built to house a workforce brought down from Wales, Scotland and North East England.”

In fact Francis Henry Crittall built 400 houses, a school and shops in what became know as the Crittall model village; Silver End. All of this because he wanted to provide for his employees. Silver End still remains, although no longer specifically for employees of the plant, most of the windows are still Crittall and it’s still a working village, and thats a legacy of the vision that the Crittall family had in those days.

“Naturally things change and steel was overtaken by plastic windows, but as a for what we do we’re certainly still one of the biggest manufacturers in the world.” John concludes; “I think the fact is that the company is still thriving because we’re owned by the directors, who still hold some of the same philosophies as Francis- and not some PLC, or multi-national conglomerate.”

Well we’re over the moon to have such rich history and a fantastic business philosophy engrained within the very building we’re lucky enough to work in each and every day !

For more information on Crittall and their beautiful products visit their website.