The Guildhall – Windsor’s other attraction

Many thousands of visitors travel from London to Windsor on trains and buses every day of the week. All of them pay a small fortune to walk around Windsor Castle.

Now I truly love the castle and believe the entrance is well worth the price. But that being said, it is close to £15.00 to get through the doors.

However if you really cannot face spending that, you can still go to Windsor and visit a great historic venue without breaking the bank. The Guildhall on the High Street is open from 10 till 4 and costs just £2 to visit (£1.00 for kids).

Windsor Guildhall

The current building replaced an earlier wooden version and has been the home of civic life in the town for 350 years.  Designed by Thomas Fitch (or Fiddes) it features a large meeting room above a collonaded cornmarket. At each end is a bust, facing the castle is Queen Anne while at the other end Fredrick of Denmark looks out towards the parish church.

Ground floor of the Guildhall

The building was extended in the Victorian era and the ground floor now houses windsor’s local history museum. This is definitely worth a visit. An audio guide is included in the entrance price, but the best information comes from talking to the excellent and informed staff and volunteers who work there. A guided tour of the upstairs part of the guildhall is included in the entrance fee, provided that the rooms are available. Civic events and weddings (particularly at the weekends in summer) sometimes mean that tours upstairs are suspended for the day.

Upstairs at the Guildhall

If you are lucky enough to go upstairs you will be in for a very pleasant surprise. The large room upstairs features a great number of royal portraits hung around the four walls. The George IV in particular is a very large painting while the picture of King Charles I although much smaller, was painted from life by the court painter Henry Stone (Old Stone). Look out for two separate paintings of Queen Elizabeth II, painted more than 40 years apart.

There is a recent painting of Prince Phillip the Duke of Edinburgh in red military uniform that is rather splendid. In terms of age it matches the more modern portrait of his queen, but at present is displayed opposite the Queen’s coronation portrait.

The small door to the right of the raised dias leads into the council robing room. This is where Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall were wed in April 2005. Look in the corners for a wooden structure that looks a bit like a priests pulpit. This is the dock that was used during a treason trial in Queen Victoria’s time and is still in use for coroners courts to this day. The stained glass windows date from various periods. Two victorian windows made in Old Windsor, a 1950s window given as a gift from the town of Windsor Ontario and modern windows depicting four royal palaces that are just a few years old.

On the walls are paintings of past mayors and members of parliament for Windsor. Many of them are famous names from this country’s past. The picture of Prince Rupert is an interesting case in point. He was the dashing nephew of Charles I who fired cannons at Windsor Castle during the civil war, but later became the Governor of the castle and Constable of the town.

The mayors parlour is through yet another door and this is plastered with more paintings of past dignitaries. Almost of of them wear the mayor’s chain of office. Above the door is George Davis who was given the original chain by King George IV in his coronation year of 1820.