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External shutters also protected windows from vandalism, and were common on the ground floor windows of vulnerable buildings like public houses, at a time when glass was expensive.It is rare to find shutters dating from before the late 17th century and most date from the 18th and 19th centuries.Medieval stone window from a farmhouse in Meare, Somerset with typical evidence of long-lost shutters: iron pintles for the hinges survive in the jambs, and the expanded portion in the centre of the mullion would have held a small iron bar to fasten the shutters Timber-framed buildings had either hinged or sliding shutters, and many had both.Hinged shutters could be hung to open sideways or upwards; the position of surviving pintles and hasps (for fastening), or the holes for them, will show which type was in use.Grooves for vertical shutters can be seen on the first floor of the Guildhall, Thaxted (Essex) and the top floor of the three-storey Chantry House, Henley-on-Thames, probably built in the late 15th century, which had a continuous run of windows facing the river.Some evidence suggests that from the later 16th to the later 17th century the increased use of glazing may have caused shutters to be abandoned (Martin and Martin, p75).They are perhaps the least-studied feature of historic houses and our knowledge of their dating and development will remain limited until more research has been done.

In the medieval period, when most windows were unglazed, shutters kept out wind, rain, insects and birds.Oriel windows added to Priory Cottages, Steventon, Oxon in 1570-71 were glazed but retain no evidence of shutters, although another building of 1571 near Chesham, Bucks had sliding shutters throughout, with unglazed windows at the back and oriels, presumably glazed, at the front.However, little research has been done on this, and the extent to which shutters were used in the 17th century is not clear.Medieval stone buildings had hinged shutters whether or not the window was glazed.An early example is the Queen's Chamber at Guildford Castle, which in 1245 had glazed windows with opening casements and internal shutters.

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Few have survived intact, but the pintles on which they hung often remain.