PUBLISHED: 20:50 11 November 2009 | UPDATED: 11:41 28 February 2013
When a Windsor resident decided to write a light-hearted book about her home town, detailing scores of fascinating facts, she had no idea how much goodwill the project would generate
When businesswoman Caroline Wagstaffs phone rang in her Windsor office a few weeks ago she admits she wasnt really prepared for what followed. Hello. Its Anna Friel, said the cheery voice at the end of the line. The Rochdale-born actress, who first found fame in TV soap Brookside, but more recently has appeared in the hit Hollywood series Pushing Daisies, is a long-time Windsor resident.
Her call came out of the blue. At first I thought it was someone having a joke, says Caroline. But no, this really was the star of the latest West End version of Breakfast at Tiffanys and she was in a talkative mood.
Caroline explains: Id contacted her via her agent, explaining I was writing a book about Windsor, but hadnt expected to hear from her in person. I was really surprised and she was just keen to share her love of the town. She told me that shed first come to Windsor to visit her godmother. She herself has lived here for ten years now and she particularly enjoys walking out of her back door and on to the beautiful Long Walk. She and her partner, the actor David Thewlis, are both patrons of the Windsor Fire Station Arts Centre and she told me they just love being part of the community.
Miss Friel was just one of the many people who live and work in historic Windsor who were eager to share their enthusiasm and expertise with Caroline in her new pocket-sized book thats just been published. The handy guide aims to capture what Caroline calls, the spirit of all things Windsor and gives quick, snappy and interesting sound bites of information in a fun, funky and informative way. She believes the book fills a gap in the market and the phone call from Anna Friel was just the icing on the cake in what has been an amazing seven months, researching and compiling the guide.
Explains Caroline: Id been meaning to write a book for years and finally decided to bite the bullet this spring. Of course there are the conventional guide books and then there are local histories but I wanted something in between; something you could dip in and out of; that was just full of fun facts and photos.
Caroline is no stranger to the world of business. In 2003 she was a finalist in the British Female Inventor of the Year competition and received a Global Women Inventors and Innovation Network top ten award in the same year for her BackBliss range of back products (back scratchers and lotion applicators). She has also appeared on the BBC2 show Dragons Den, ITVs London Tonight and Loose Lips with Melinda Messenger and Richard Arnold.
Last year Caroline also set up a business called Word of Art with her mother, producing personalised name prints from original water colours, but its her book that has taken up most of her time since March.
Each year one million visitors come to Windsor. Thirty five per cent of these are from overseas and 55 per cent of them are non-English speaking.
Ive lived in Windsor all my life and I feel that people come and see the Castle but dont realise that there is so much more to the town. Id like the book to become Windsors de facto souvenir, says Caroline.
Throughout the project she has worked closely with the Crown Estate, St Georges Chapel, Eton College, Ascot Racecourse, The Royal Landscape and the Irish guards.
Julia White, head of the Royal Boroughs tourism department, has been one of her biggest champions, introducing Caroline to many Windsor people in the know. Bracknell artist Dennis Blandford supplied much of the artwork and Doug Harding has taken the majority of the superb images.
In order to research her book Caroline and a friend played tourist in the town. We went on four guided walks and a bus tour. It was great fun and we discovered so much. Subjects covered include the towns origins, its streets, the Royal Family, the Theatre Royal, myths and legends and places to visit nearby, such as Dorney Lake and The Savill Garden.
Shes also turned up some incredible stories. I actually met the man whose grandfather invented Eton Mess and apparently the original recipe didnt contain meringue but banana, she says. In fact, so many fascinating facts have come to Carolines attention since the book went to press that shes now planning another updated edition.
One of the best things has been meeting so many people in Windsor who are as enthusiastic about the town as I am, says Caroline. The photographers, the artists, the members of the Windsor Historical Society and other historians - everyone has been so generous with their time. Its been so refreshing and Ive had to pinch myself at times and ask how come everyone has been so kind?
20 things you (probably) never knew about Windsor
1.A Union flag (Union Jack) fliesat Windsor Castle all the timeas technically the Castle isclassed as a Fortress.
2.On St Georges Day (23 April 2008) The Queen madePrince William the 1,000thKnight of the Garter.
3.A soldiers bearskin is madefrom the fur of the Canadian Brown Bear which has beendyed black.
4.The name Peascod Streetderives from the words peapods as the road led to thepea fields in medieval times.
5.Prince Albert, the husband ofQueen Victoria, added thecandle snuffer roof CurfewTower after being inspired by the tower roofs in the Southern French townof Carcassonne.
6.Slums had to be cleared forWindsors first car-park in River Street. The red brick building at the entrance housed public baths and the toilets. You can still spend a penny there today!
7.The cobbles in Windsor were originally made of wood some of which were only removed in the 1940s.
8.H G Wells, the famous authorof The Time Machine and TheWar of the Worlds worked at 6,High Street as a drapersapprentice in 1880. He wassacked after two months.
9.The story that the sculptor of the Copper Horse hanged himself after realising that he had completed the statue without putting the riders feet in stirrups is only rumour. Sir Richard Westmacott lived to a ripe old age.
10.Windsor had its own leperhospital; St Peters waslocated in Bone Lane (nowBolton Road) opposite what is now Combermere Barracks.
11.Two former Royal pottingsheds were converted tohouse the Windsor Farm Shop.
12.Tolls were paid to go overWindsor Bridge as well asunder the bridge until 1898.
13.The plague reached Eton inSeptember 1606. The peopleof Windsor deny it everreached them.
14.Dorney Lake will be used in thesummer of 2012 as the venuefor rowing, canoe and flat water kayaking during theLondon Olympics. Twentythousand temporary seats will be installed for the event.
15. Twelve miles of sustainablelarch and oak timber from theCrown Estate forests wereused to build the newSavill Building.
16.In 1916, during the First WorldWar, the Canadian Forestry Corps were sent to support the war effort and made their headquarters at Smiths Lawn. For a short time after the war, Smiths Lawn was known as The Canadian Camp.
17.The totem pole at Virginia Water has been repaintedseveral times since 1958. However it is usual to leave totem poles to the elementsand not repaint them - so thisone at Windsor is quite unique.
18.By 1528 there were 20alehouses in Windsor thatsrather a lot for a town with a population of barely 1,000.
19.Windsor experienced anearthquake on a June night in 1931. Luckily there was noloss of property or life.
20. Windsor was called NewWindsor until 1974 whenWindsor merged into oneborough with Maidenhead.
Answers to our quick quiz
1. Which king had his head sewn back on before being buried at St Georges Chapel? Charles 1
2. Why there are so many dead oak trees in the Park? Some are more than 500 years old
3. The Rolling Stones have played in Windsor over 30 times, where? The Star & Garter pub
4. Who became the 1,000th Knight of the Garter in 2008? Prince William
5. How many miles of larch and oak timber were used to create the roof of the Savill Building? 12
Where to buy?
Windsor Fun Facts, History & Legend book is now on sale at Windsor Tourist Information Centre and in Waterstones, price 6.99 or you can order directly from her website at www.words-of-art.com/windsor. Caroline is also hoping that souvenir shops, hotels and B&Bs will also
sell her book.
Win a copy of Carolines fascinating book
We have three copies of Windsor Fun Facts to give awayClick hereto enter.