The Demerara Window and its Origins
January 21, 2023

Guyana was under European rule since the end of the 15th century with Spain as its first Colonizer. The Dutch settled in the colony around 1580 and it eventually fell under French and British rule as ownership of the colony changed often due to the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. Due to its colonization history, the architecture in Guyana  in the mid 18th century and beyond would have aligned with European style and in some cases a hybrid design style was created in order to accommodate the climate.   As a means to a cool solution to the hot environment of Guyana, Demerara Windows were built in the 18th-19th century period as a forerunner to air conditioning. The style eventually spread across to other Caribbean islands as a popular design to include on houses owned by various classes

 

Residential Home with Demerara Windows located on the western face of the home
Source: Maya Doyle-Fox

Residential Home with Demerara Windows located on the western face of the home
Source: Maya Doyle-Fox

 

Usually made of imported Pitch Pine wood, the type of wood deemed most suitable for the heat and humidity compared to the local supply, the Demerara Window was created to cool the internal temperature of a house. Its design was composed of perforated sides and louvres to prevent direct sunlight from entering. Shuttered sash windows line the window with the shutter hinged at the top so it could be propped open in an outward sloping fashion.  The cooling effect of the window would be enhanced when blocks of ice, a vessel of water or plants were placed by the sill at the base of the window in a cooler to cool down the warm heavy air that would pass through. It was believed that this cooler was originally only available to the wealthy, however, it soon was adopted by the lower classes.

 

Demerara Window design with cooler at the base
Source: kaieteurnewsonline – Murtland Haley 2017

 

This style of window was usually installed on the upper floors of homes to cool the bedrooms or living spaces. Nowadays, with most modern homes being outfitted with internal air-conditioning systems, there is no need for this style of window, other than for aesthetic reasons.  Beautiful windows such as these are usually found in older homes where the houses would have retained features of colonial architecture.

Interior View of Demerara Windows with wooden prop
Source: Maya Doyle-Fox

 

Take a look below at some heritage sites across Trinidad within our heritage asset inventory which possess demerara windows.

 

Demerara Windows on office building located in Woodbrook
Source: Maya Doyle-Fox

Audrey Jeffer’s House (Briarend) with Demerara Window located on Eastern Face
Source: Maya Doyle-Fox

Jenny’s on the Boulevard (Boos Family Residence) with demerara windows located on its southern face.
Source: National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago

Ajoupa Pottery House with Demerara Windows lining the back of the house
Source: National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago

 

Sources

The Demerara Window – the Colonial Air Conditioner, By Murtland Haley. Guyanese Online.2017

Categories: Blog
Tags:
Maya Doyle
Latest posts by Maya Doyle (see all)
X
X
X