In Cazenove Ward we are lucky to live in an area that was well designed from the beginning. The Tyssen-Amhurst family, whose estate this area originally was, kept a tight control on the layout of the streets and house design. The sinuous curve of the streets that flow between the two Commons from Clapton down to Stoke Newington and the gentle upward curve of Cazenove, the grand avenue that bisects them, give the area a distinctive pattern that distinguishes it from the rigid grid plan of other areas of Stoke Newington and Hackney. The houses are bigger, the main streets a bit wider and the area was well planted with avenues of Limes and London Plane Trees. There is a general atmosphere of quiet spaciousness.


The houses also were of good quality and elegantly decorated. One glory of the area, however, was its stained and leaded glass in windows and front doors, notable for the richness of its colours and design. Unfortunately the area has suffered much in the decades since the War. Whole blocks have been demolished to make way for schools or housing estates whose design is often brutally insensitive to the character of the surrounding area.


Sadly a lot of the historic housing stock has also been downgraded, the wrought iron railings taken out during the War, the high-quality patterned brickwork painted over or pebble-dashed, the wooden, sliding sash-windows replaced by PVC or aluminium push-out windows, the bonnets and finials on the front bays dismantled, marble fireplaces and even chimney breasts ripped out. All too often the original richness of decoration and design has been blanked out to produce a bland ‘modern’ box with no distinctive features or historic character. Nevertheless, there are still many houses where the original high quality of design with its distinctive late Victorian inventiveness of ornamentation survives. This is an architectural heritage that gives the whole area its distinctive character and which it is possible to conserve and maintain.


In particular we are concerned with the continuing loss of the wonderful stained glass in windows and doors in the area. Every few months another one disappears. However, there are still clusters of houses in Osbaldeston and Fountayne, in Kyverdale and Alkham, in Lampard Grove and Lynmouth where you can walk past at night when they are lit up and be delighted by the warm, jewelled glow that these houses give off. It gives them a depth and a soul that is destroyed when they are ripped out and replaced by cheap looking (though often expensive) PVC. It is possible to renovate these original windows, to draught-proof them and to clean and reset the glass where necessary.


We appeal to any owners who are tempted to replace their stained glass windows to please, please think again!


Why PVC Is The Wrong Choice


Companies sell replacement windows on a number of claims – all of which have been proved false.


Myth 1: No Maintenance

PVC windows are regularly sold as long-lasting and maintenance-free. This is a myth.

• “PVC windows must be cleaned every six months, lubricated and adjusted annually and have weather stripping and gaskets renewed every 10 years.”

Housing Association Property Mutual, the major insurer for housing associations

• “PVC windows do degrade, they are not maintenance-free and worst of all they cannot be repaired when necessary.”

Camden Council’s Green Buildings Guide (no.6 Windows)

• “PVC windows have a life expectancy of at best 20-25 years.”

National Building Federation’s report “Standards and Quality in Development”

• “40% of PVC units fail within 5 years.”

Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, Journal, vol. 25, no. 1, 2004.

• “If PVC windows are not cleaned regularly they quickly become permanently discoloured by dirt retention. They cannot then be restored to a nearly new condition. Sunlight causes PVC to go brittle, turn yellow and it can develop hairline cracks.”

Greenpeace report “Implementing Solutions: Briefing No. 1: Installing New Windows”

• The Peabody Trust, the largest charitable housing trust in London, with many houses in Hackney, has banned the use of PVC windows. Dickon Robinson, Director of Technical Services says:

“The lifespan of PVC windows is not as long as originally anticipated and they are impossible to repair. Even slight damage requires the replacement of the whole unit.”

Building Design, 29th June, 2001.

By contrast most of the wooden-frame windows in the Cazenove area houses are over 100 years old and with careful maintenance could last another 100 years.


Myth 2: PVC Windows are Safe

PVC windows are sold as safe. This is not always true.

No Quick Exit!

Unlike sash windows, escape in a fire through PVC windows can be very difficult. Next time you’re out, look at PVC windows and work out how you and your family would get out in a fire. This is particularly difficult where only the top section opens.


• In a fire PVC gives off toxic fumes. The Fire Brigades’ Union has warned about these emissions.

• PVC contains six of the fifteen most hazardous chemicals listed for elimination by the European Commission – including dioxins, lead and cadmium.


Myth 3: PVC Looks Good

The streets we live in are designed as a whole. The effect comes from repeated patterns. Windows are a crucial part of that pattern. Once the pattern is broken, the overall effect is lost. PVC windows break the pattern

in a number of ways.

Each one different

• Windows are replaced piecemeal. Look down your street and see how many different styles of PVC replacements you can count. The designed unity of the street is lost.

Thick, shiny, flush and clumsy-looking

• PVC is weaker than wood and bends under its own weight. To compensate, window frames have to be thicker than with wood.

• The shiny-white, plastic finish clashes with the soft historic brick work.

• The original windows are set deep into the brick frames. PVC replacements are often flush with the brickwork. In this way, they lose depth. The windows glare at you. They’re like neon signs.

The original wooden sliding sash windows were well made, have lasted over 100 years, can be renovated and made draught-proof to last another hundred. There is no substitute for them. Don’t be conned by PVC salesmen!