Exterior shutters have become such a part of Australian life that it is hard to imagine they most likely originated in Ancient Greece. A further dip into history sees them emerge in England 500 years ago, not on the outside of buildings but on the inside. Because most buildings had thick stone walls, window openings were too deep for the occupants to reach outside, so they put their shutters on the inside.
If you find this as interesting as we did, please keep reading. As a local manufacturer of timber shutters since 1980 we know a lot about our products, but delving into their origins was an eye-opener. We can assure you, however, that when you order shutters from us at Newport Custom Shutters, you will get modern technology and not something that is 500 years old.
Original Shutters Were Exclusively Interior
Back then, glass was expensive. To cut costs, glass was used only in the top half of windows, while interior shutters made of plain wooden boards, covered the bottom half. When the room needed refreshing, the occupants opened the shutters from the inside to let in light and air.
In the 1700s glass became cheaper and more available, so the double hung Federation style window became popular. This allowed the development of longer shutters that covered the whole expanse of the window. Further into the 1800s, houses were built with thinner walls making it easy for occupants to reach outside, and so people attached their shutters to the outer walls. The exterior shutter was born.
Industrial Milling Machines Improved Shutter Quality
As society became more industrialised, Victorian woodworking mills produced more sophisticated shutters with features such as louvres. Now shutters were not just for protecting the windows but had blades that could be adjusted to ventilate, filter light and deflect rain.
The Origin of Plantation Shutters
In the southern states of America, owners of cotton plantations built mansions with verandas and large windows to reduce heat and humidity. Plantation shutters evolved from the smaller European models to cover these windows, and that name is still used to describe this type of shutter.
In Australia, the first free settlers could not afford glass windows, so once more the shutter became the window covering of necessity. With increasing wealth came glass and the large exterior shutters were again the perfect accessory to protect the windows of the typical Australian homestead.
What Developments Does the Future Hold?
Fast forward to the 1960s and 70s; shutters continued to adapt to suit the style of the homes being built at that time. It was not until the 1980s, however, that a truly Australian style was developed. Our design team at Newport Custom Shutters has continued to improve on this style and added accessories and finishes that suit the current décor. It has been a long and eventful evolution, and no doubt, the future holds more surprises.