Crittall Windows spans three centuries, and their story began when Frances Berrington Crittall arrived in Braintree and bought Bank Street ironmongery in 1849 to start the business from the ironmongers shop. Following many major developments and investment, the Crittall Windows of today has emerged; a global business whose name is synonymous with the best in steel windows.
The first steel windows were manufactured by Francis Henry Crittall, who took over the business from his brother in 1884. The Crittall Manufacturing Company Limited was incorporated some years later followed by the building of the Manor Street Works.
Crittall played a pivotal role throughout the war years. During the First World War, the Crittall factory was used for munitions production and during WW2 most of its Witham factory was devoted to war production, with women workers. Fabrication included Bailey bridges – portable pre-fabricated truss bridges which made a huge contribution to the eventual outcome of the Second World War, wing spars for planes, windows for military buildings such as aircraft hangers, soldiers billets and the famous Sea Forts, for which Crittall fabricated the steel-framed windows.
Post war, Crittall returned to steel window manufacture employing around 400 people, mainly men, working from its premises. The company concentrated on the production of standard metal windows on a very modern production line which contributed to a large Government housing programme. Post war reconstruction saw the fabrication of many hundreds of thousands of windows which continues today with the production of bespoke windows, doors and screens for commercial and domestic use.
Major developments in Crittall Windows history include
- creation of the fenestra joint in 1909. Because of its strength, the joint allowed slimmer glazing bars and therefore more light to shine through windows
- introduction of the Universal Ranges of steel profiles in 1912 which allowed improvements in the manufacturing process
- the new Witham Works in 1919 and the first standard ‘cottage windows’ produced for Government housing schemes. Up until this point, steel windows were not commonly used in residential properties; the change was brought about by Valentine Crittall (later Lord Braintree). From this time onwards, almost every housing scheme throughout Britain used the cottage window, right up until the 1980s
- in 1939, the first galvanizing plant was opened in Witham. Today, Crittall Windows use hot-dipped galvanizing (as opposed to electroplate galvanizing) to give a thicker, all-weather coating
- the development of the pressure chamber weather performance testing – these standards are still used in the UK today
21st Century Crittall
Since the early 1900s, Crittall Windows have developed operations in many countries with their first venture being the operation of the Detroit Steel Product Co – the first steel window factory in the US – in 1907. Subsequently, Crittall windows have operated in Belgium, South Africa, India, Australia, Nigeria, New Zealand, China and Germany.
Since 1965 and a merger with Henry Hope and Sons Ltd, Crittall Windows has seen several company takeovers. 1974 saw the retirement of John Francis Crittall and, therefore, the end of the Crittall family participation in the business. Despite the many changes, Crittall continues to be the name – and very strong brand – associated with quality steel windows. In recent years, a 2004 management buyout, new offices and a factory at Witham in 2007, have been major success stories alongside the presentation of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2010 in recognition of Crittall’s export achievements in the American market. Crittall Windows remain a major manufacturer of steel windows for the USA, having rebuilt its distribution network.
Crittall continue to focus on innovation, constantly developing new products and efficient working practice, blending traditional craftsmanship with cutting edge technology. With strategic investment programmes to integrate all aspects of the production process, product evolution and steel solutions are delivered to meet the growing needs of commercial customers and homeowners around the globe.