6 Windsor & Eton buildings you need to know about
PUBLISHED: 17:23 14 January 2020
Windsor & Eton is full of architectural gems, as Paul Rabbitts and Rob Ickinger show in Windsor & Eton in 50 Buildings
Former Queensmead School
The elegant Victorian mansion was designed by Scottish architect W. F. Lyon, FRIBA, for Henri C J Henry of the Old Windsor Tapestry Manufactory, one of only two tapestry works to be established in England in the 19th century. Queen Victoria took an interest in the tapestry designs and encouraged other royals to commission pieces.
But the sudden death of Prince Leopold in 1884 spelled out demise for the factory, and the Brigidine Sisters established a convent and school here in 1948. During the 2000s, the school experienced financial difficulties. In 2018, it was renamed from Brigidine to Queensmead, but it finally closed in 2019.
Windsor has been a garrison town since the Civil War. Victoria Barracks were built in 1853 and were later enlarged in 1911. These old barracks were eventually demolished in 1988 with the new barracks constructed between 1989 and 1993. They have played an important part in the life of Windsor and they remain the location from where troops set off from to change the guard at Windsor Castle. The Coldstream Guards, who have been based at the barracks since 2011, remained here until 2019.
At the very heart of everything Windsor, on a chalk ridge over 30 metres above the River Thames, looking down over the town stands Windsor Castle. Covering 13 acres, it is one of the official residences of Her Majesty Elizabeth II. It is the largest inhabited castle in the world and the longest occupied palace in Europe. Originally established by William the Conqueror between 1070 and 1080 as part of a string of defences, it is a distinctive version of the motte (earth mound) and bailey (fenced courtyard) model. It was built to protect London, occupying a natural defensive site in the Thames Valley.
It was Henry I who first had domestic quarters here in 1110 due to its easy access to London and nearby royal hunting forests. Over the following centuries there were many additions and alterations. Today the Queen uses the castle not only as an official residence but also as a home, where she usually spends the weekends. She is officially in residence over Easter (March to April) at Easter Court and in June for the Service of the Order of the Garter. Whenever the Queen is in residence you can see the royal standard being flown rather than the Union Flag.
The Crooked House
One of the most iconic buildings in Windsor is the Crooked House (also known as the Market Cross House) and dates from 1687. The original building was rented by a butcher, with the area once known as the shambles, a meat market.
The Market Cross House stood straight for almost 100 years until in 1687 the city council ordered the building to be demolished in order to make room for the neighbouring Guildhall. A bitter land dispute ensued over the property, and eventually the council gained a court order to rebuild the Market Cross House adjacent to allow the Guildhall to be built to its present size. A number of rumours abound as to why the house is so crooked. One is that it was hastily rebuilt in a careless way with unseasoned green oak. Another suggestion is that the lean only appeared after adjoining buildings were demolished in the late 1820s. The house was left without support and thus began to bend. Among other things, the building has been a jeweller's, a gift shop, an antique shop, brewers and beer shop, printers, architect's, fruit seller, coal merchant and florist. It was until recently a tea house and restaurant. It was closed down in 2015 and put up for sale for £1.5 million. By October 2016 the doors were finally reopened, this time as a business selling pearl jewellery.
Windsor's population trebled during the 20th century and Ward Royal was built in response to the demand for housing close to the town centre. A large area of terraced housing was identified for demolition around the area bound by Arthur Road to the north, Alma Road to the west and Charles Street to the east.
The new development cut Oxford Road in two, leaving Oxford Road as we know it today to the west and a short section, Oxford Road East, still joining Peascod Street. Elizabeth II opened the development on 23 June 1969. It is typical of housing developments at that time. Constructed of grey concrete, a complex of flats joined by ramps and staircases, it is not to everybody's taste and remains controversial. However, at the time it won prizes from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and still provides spacious homes for a thriving community in walking distance of Windsor town centre.
The Windsor almshouses were opened by Queen Victoria in 1863. In a time of changing attitudes to the poor, these almshouses were for worthy working-class pensioners and at the time cost £3,500. They were restored in 1989 and reopened by the Queen Mother as Ellison House, after the Victorian vicar of Windsor, Canon Ellison. In Chariott's Place, you can find Chariott's Charity, an almshouse built with steep pitched roofs and a central spirelet. Chariott's charity is a very distinctive building financed by Joseph Chariott. A member of the Congregational church, Joseph Chariott made his fortune as a local builder and property developer. On his death in 1848 at the age of 91 he left all his money to the church and charities. It is reported his fortune was found in pickle jars in cash at his home and had to be taken to the bank in a cart of which the bottom fell out.
Extracts taken from Windsor & Eton in 50 Buildings by Paul Rabbitts & Rob Ickinger, £14.99, amberley-books.com