Stage 2 - Staines Pier to Windsor & Eton Riverside (10.55 miles)
Reference TQ 03383 71448 Post Code TW18
4RH (nearest) StreetMap. (Interactive
Map of this walk - you can also download this route to your phone at the
(Interactive Map of this walk - you can also download this route to your phone at the link).
If you just want to print out the "Route" instructions of stage 2 of this walk,
without all the blurb on the website, you can download this as a
Word Docx by clicking on the link.
If you just want to print out the "Route" instructions of stage 2 of this walk, without all the blurb on the website, you can download this as a Word Docx by clicking on the link.
Mostly towpath and parkland, there is a lot to see on this stage, so start early. The route crosses Staines Bridge, then follows the Thames before crossing the road at Runnymede. Note: The next 1.2 miles can be muddy when wet. We visit The Jurors, and climbs up steps to the John F Kennedy Memorial. The acre of ground around the memorial is officially part of the United States of America. We descend again to visit Magna Carta Memorial and Writ in Water before climbing up to Air Forces' Memorial. Through Englefield Green. Soon the long trek through the Great Park leads to and around Windsor Castle to finish at Windsor & Eton Riverside Station.
To start, continue upstream towards Staines Bridge. Soon over a wooden footbridge.
The wooden footbridge was built in the mid-1980s and takes the Thames Path over the mouth of the River Colne as it enters the Thames. It allowed a continuous path without having to divert from the River Thames.
The statue down steps, immediately past the footbridge and next to the River Thames is a Heron carved from Portland Limestone by sculptor Simon Buchanan and named the River Guardian. It sits as a guardian overlooking and representing the river and is a benign marker for river traffic and pedestrians on the Thames Path. It also provides a peaceful place to get closer to the river and enjoy the boats cruising past.
Soon to the right is Thames Edge Court. It has a bar and restaurants overlooking the river. It was built on the site of the old ABC Cinema (aka Regal Cinema) and was completed in 2003. It contains 65 residential apartments with the food and drink outlets on the ground floor.
The Regal Cinema was on the site of the now Thames Edge Court. It opened on 20th February 1939 and seated 1,103 in the stalls and 510 in the circle. It remained virtually unaltered until the late 1960 when it changed name to the ABC Cinema. In 1971 it was converted to a two-theatre cinema and in 1972 to three theatres. After the redevelopment in 1971, the cinema hosted the world premiere of the movie "Up Pompei" starring Frankie Howard. It was taken over by the Cannon Group in 1986 and renamed Cannon. From April 1993 to 1998 it was named MGM. It was then taken over in a management buy-out and became ABC again. However, with plans for a new multiplex to be built in the town, the old ABC finally closed on 14th January 2001 and was demolished in August 2001.
In my first years of knowing Staines, c1980, I remember that on the north side of the River Thames, the towpath was not accessible from the bridge and you had to walk along Clarence Street and then down the western side of the cinema to get back to the river. If I also remember right, there was a pub next to the bridge and behind the cinema. However, I have been unable to find information about this on the Internet apart from the letters PH on old maps. Some locals tell me it may have been called the Riverside Country Carvery Restaurant.
Immediately before Staines Bridge, turn right to go directly away from the river along the path between the bridge and Thames Edge, soon climbing up some steps to Clarence Street. At the top turn sharp left and over Staines Bridge staying on the left-hand pavement.
Staines Bridge was designed by George Rennie and his younger brother John. It was opened with great ceremony in 1832 by William IV (formerly the Duke of Clarence and after whom Clarence Street at Staines was named). This was the fifth bridge to be built here in fifty years. The previous four, built 200m downstream from the current one, all failed. If you look closely, you can still see an old bridgehead. The name "Ad Pontes" ("by the bridges") suggests in Roman Times at least two bridges crossed the river at Staines. However, it may also refer to a bridge over the Thames and another over the River Colne, which enters the Thames just downstream from the current Staines Bridge (another theory comes later).
As with previous bridges, traffic using the Rennie Brothers' Bridge had to pay a toll to cross. This continued up until 1871, when to the delight of local people and road users the toll was removed. However, I did read at Staines Museum, that prior to 1878 every pedestrian was charged a toll of half of one penny to cross Staines Bridge.
With the outbreak of World War II, a wooden Bailey bridge was built just upstream from Staines Bridge. Its purpose was to carry the extra wartime traffic and to act as a spare if the main bridge was damaged by enemy bombs. It closed to traffic 1947, but remained opened to pedestrians until 1959, when widening of the main bridge had been completed.
After climbing the steps, next to Staines Bridge, the pink building in front on the corner of Clarence Street and Bridge Street dates from 1835. It was used as the Literary and Scientific Institution; H G Wells is amongst those who lectured here. It was Staines first library from 1950 - 79 and is presently occupied by the Showmens' Guild. The large building to the left of this (further along Bridge Street) was the headquarters of the Courage Brewery Company (later Scottish Courage) and was aptly built on the site of the old Ashby Brewery. Recently it has had a 14 million pounds makeover and has been converted to offices. The Ashby Brewery opened in 1783 and closed in 1930, its original crown topped tower still stands close by on Church Street and has now been converted to flats.
Immediately south of Staines Bridge is a large roundabout. This is thought to be the site of an ancient stone circle, sometimes called "The Old Stones of Staines" and (from some sources) where the town is believed to get its name. The group of nine stones is mentioned in the 12th Century charter of Chertsey Abbey.
"Down to that Eyre that stands in the Thames at Lodders Lake and so along Thames by mid-stream to Glenthuthe, from Glenthuthe by mid-steam along Thames to the Huthe before Negen Stanes"
is Saxon for "nine
(now an M25 junction at Egham) and
Apparently, each stone was on the path of a different ley line. Although, they
all did not cross at a central point here. There used to be a great website
showing all the lines passing through here and all the historical sites they
aligned with, but I can no longer find this. However, see a
which covers some of the information.
Apparently, each stone was on the path of a different ley line. Although, they all did not cross at a central point here. There used to be a great website showing all the lines passing through here and all the historical sites they aligned with, but I can no longer find this. However, see a link which covers some of the information.
On the other
side of the roundabout is a Sainsbury's
superstore. This was the site of Lagonda,
makers of motorcycles and cars. The company was started by Wilbur Gunn (1859
1919) a native of Springfield, Ohio who came to England in 1891. He was an
accomplished engineer and a keen opera singer. Through a local operatic group,
he met Constance Gray. She lived, with her husband, in a large house in
extensive grounds on the site. Constance was widowed in 1896 and the following
year she married Wilbur. He moved in with her and used their greenhouse as his
workshop for manufacturing small steam engines for riverboats. His introduction
to road vehicles was in 1898 when he made himself a petrol engine, which
attached to the front wheel of his bicycle, thus making it easier for him to get
about. After this he went on to produce more motorcycles. He named his company
after his father's
engineering company back in Springfield,
The name originates from the Shawnee Indian name of a stream (now Buck Creek)
which flows through his hometown of Springfield. For the next seven years, as he
continued to produce motorcycles, the company expanded in the grounds of their
home. In 1905, the Lagonda works at Staines produced its first three-wheeled
car, and eventually went on to produce quality four wheeled cars. From 1914 to
1918, the factory was used to help with the British war effort. After the war,
it went back to making cars. Its most famous moment was in 1935 when a 4.5 litre
Lagonda, made at Staines, won the Le Mans 24-hour
race. In the same year, the company went into receivership, but was saved by
Alan Good who reformed it as LG Motors. During World War 2, production once
again turned over to the war effort. After the war, car production recommenced
and continued until 1948 when David Brown bought the company, merged it with
Aston Martin and moved work to Feltham. The Staines factory was sold to
Petters, a diesel engine company, who retained it until 1989
when the site was sold to the supermarket company.
After crossing Staines Bridge turn left into The Hythe. After 140 yards go straight on past Chertsey Lane to the RHS.
The Hythe is a street of well-preserved old buildings, with many dating back to the 17th Century and before. They include the Swan Hotel, parts of which date from the 15th Century with its cosy bar and beer terrace overlooking the river. Just across the street are the 16th Century Ann Boleyn Hotel and the Jolly Farmer Pub.
As you descend into The Hythe an information board, on a wall on the right, next to and old George V postbox, gives more details about the history of this small area. "Hythe" means a "landing place on a river, inland port". An archaeological excavation in the grounds of the Ann Boleyn Hotel revealed a settlement here during Roman Times. It is known a port had been established by the 7th Century. For centuries bridges crossed the river here until 1832, when the current bridge was opened a short distance upstream. After then, The Hythe became less important as through traffic was diverted away and due to this the old buildings here have been preserved.
To the left, after passing Chertsey Lane, is a house named Ye Olde Bridge Cottage. This was built c1791 as a toll-house for a new stone bridge across the river. It was built on the site of an older inn named The Swan. However, the stone bridge soon developed cracks and was replaced by a metal bridge. This also failed and by 1808 the Government admitted defeat and reverted to using the old wooden bridge, which luckily had not yet been demolished. The abutment of one of the two failed bridge remains as part of the river wall. When the present Staines Bridge was opened in 1832 it was obvious the toll-house would no longer be used for its original use and was sold. Today it still stands as a private residence. Also, soon after 1791 a new Swan Inn was built 50 yards upstream from the site of the older inn. This now still exists as The Swan Hotel.
To our right along this part of The Hythe are some beautiful old houses. The first few form a red-brick terrace dating from 1755. Numbers 23 & 24 are quite unique with three fire marks on the front wall. This meant they were insured if their house went on fire, and the local fire service would come to your rescue and try to save your house. Just past this, the row of three cottages (22 - 20) were built in 1640 and retain many of their original features, including original fronts, sash windows and beamed ceilings. The centre of the three is named "Boatman's Cottage" and this possibly provides an insight into their origins. The last house on this side of the street (No. 17) also has a fire mark on the front wall of the house. Like many of the buildings in this small area, all are grade II listed as being historical buildings.
At the end turn left on a path to the river, then left along the path next to the river (now to your RHS). Soon past the back of The Swan Hotel, then eventually over an old footbridge and under Staines Bridge and westwards.
Shortly after passing under Staines Bridge the towpath crosses over a footbridge, to the left is a small marina with possibly a bit more potential than it's used for at present. Soon after this, a path to the left leads to River Park Avenue and the car park of Homebase and Halfords. In Spring and Summer, a burger van is usually resident here next to the towpath. Next to the towpath is an old coal & wine tax post. Across the river is Church Island. The island has a few houses and is connected to the north bank of the river by a footbridge. Many years ago, barrels of beer from the Ashby Brewery were transported here by chain ferry, then taken across the island and loaded onto boats. The old chain ferry, although looking a bit sad for itself, is still moored to the north side of the island.
Some sources (Wikipedia is one) suggest "Ad Pontes" referred to a crossing of the river via Church Island, where one bridge ran from the north bank of the Thames to the island and a second spanned the main stream of the river from the island to the south bank. On studying maps, this is a real possibility as the old A30 into Staines High Street, just before the current pedestrian zone, veers in the correct direction. However, shortly before reaching the Thames, the route would still have had to cross the Colne and thus suggest three bridges. Whichever theory is correct, it is clear an important Roman Road ran from Holborn along Oxford Street, joining what is now the route of the A402 through Shepherds Bush, the A315 along Hounslow High Street, and then the A30 to and through Staines and onto the Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum (aka Silchester). Staines was a day's march from London and would have been the stopping point before another day's march to Silchester. Calleva Atrebatum (Roman for Silchester) and London were both major Roman Towns and this also indicates Staines was hugely important at the time. Today it is still easy to follow this Roman route from London to Staines on modern maps (e.g. this map from Saxon History) and it shows how towns still exist along this old road - their most important streets still line the route. I have studied this old road for many years, mostly on the Internet and sometimes on the ground. I have my suggestion for a route, but the actual route from Staines to Sunningdale is still highly debated.
Due to the Roman history of Staines, it's not surprising that in the Domesday Book of 1086, Staines is recorded as a very large settlement with 140 households and six mills.
After Church Island, on the opposite bank, is Lammas Park (on some maps named Ashby Recreation Grounds) and it was here on the riverbank where the London Stone sat from the 18th century until it was replaced by a replica in 1986. In 2012, the replica was moved back down river to where it now sits, between the Town Hall and the Town Pier, and near to its original site. To the left of the towpath is an industrial park, mostly owned by British Gas and it was from here where the nations gas bills were issued for many years.
Within a short distance, across the river, although not obvious as an island, is Holm Island. It's a wooded place with a house called "The Nest", apparently a courting place in the 1930's for King Edward VIII (later the Duke of Windsor) and Mrs Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee. Edward was the second member of the House of Windsor to become Monarch. His father (King George V) with German roots (Saxe-Coburg) got rid of the German family name in 1917, during of World War I, and chose a very English name for the Royal Family (Windsor sounded good and still continues to be their family name).
Edward VIII abdicated the throne of England on 11th December 1936, less than 11 months after he became monarch. He could have fought to keep it, but the Prime Minister at the time, Stanley Baldwin, put too many obstacles in the way and would not allow him to marry a divorcee. It was one of the great romances of the 20th Century, but it almost brought the English Royal Family to its knees. He was made Duke of Windsor, and married Wallis at Chateau de Cande, near Tours in France on 3rd June 1937. Edward spent most of the rest of his life in France, and until the day he died was not forgiven by his family. Edward died on 28th May 1972. He is the only monarch to have ever voluntarily relinquished the throne of England. He is buried at Frogmore in the Home Park at Windsor, which we pass later in this stage. Wallis - the Duchess of Windsor - died on 24th April 1986, and is buried next to her husband.
The towpath passes under the bridges carrying the M25 and the A30. The road bridges are only separated by three metres and together tower overhead for 80 metres. From here, continue straight on along the towpath for a mile to and around the Runnymede Pleasure Grounds.
Just before going under the M25 the Thames Towpath passes over two footbridges within 150 yards of each other. The footbridges (photo 1, photo 2) take us over small streams entering the Thames from our LHS.
The M25 Road Bridge was opened in 1985 and the A30 Road Bridge in 1961. The latter was designed over 22 years earlier by Sir Edwin Lutyens, but due to the outbreak of World War II it was delayed. During the construction, archaeologists uncovered a Bronze Age (2200 BC to 750 BC) settlement site, which overlaid a much older Neolithic (4000 BC to 2200 BC) site. Some of the findings from the site can be seen at the Spelthorne Museum.
Immediately after the road bridges the Colne Brook stream joins the Thames across the river to the right.
In front is Bell Weir Lock and on the left overlooking the towpath is the Runnymede Hotel. The hotel was used as the venue for a party where Team GB (the 2008 British Olympic Squad) celebrated their success after returning from the Beijing Games in 2008.
In January 2014 many places next to the River Thames flooded. The large flat floodplain at Runnymede went under water. The Runnymede Hotel was badly affected and the road was closed. There are many videos available from the time. This one on YouTube also cover Staines.
Soon some pleasant riverside properties appear on the opposite bank, and shortly after the first few, part of the river branches off to form an island. This is at Hythe End, Wraysbury, is simply called "The Island", and is again lined with pleasant houses overlooking the main stream of the river.
The towpath soon passes the Wraysbury Skiff & Punting Club (at 2 miles) before following the river around the open meadow of the Runnymede Pleasure Grounds. The area is a pleasant and peaceful setting and offers many facilities, including a cafe, toilets, parking, a paddling pool, a playground, information boards, and boat trips up the river to Windsor. On a warm sunny day, it is an ideal place for a family picnic, to play by the river, or to start a walk from.
At the time of writing this (2020), there are exciting new plans here to make this area more friendly for users and develop more access paths. Let's see what happens.
To the left, shortly before exiting from the Pleasure Grounds, is a statue of Queen Elizabeth II. It was unveiled on 14 June 2015 by the then Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta. You can read about the event at BBCNews.
At the end of the pleasure ground, follow the towpath as it turns right through a kissing gate (the gate maybe gone - see photo) and adjacent to the road - the river is to your RHS.
Across the road, to the LHS, is a wide-open meadow with Coopers Hill in the distance. After another 400 yards, look right, across the river and through a gap in the trees on the opposite bank of the river to see the remains of the Benedictine Nunnery of Ankerwycke. It was founded c. 1160 AD by Sir Gilbert de Montfichet in honour of St. Mary Magdalene in the reign of King Henry II. This is now an area of parkland acquired by the National Trust in 1998 and as well as the remains of the nunnery you can also see, the ancient Ankerwycke Yew. The view of both from here were sketched twice by Turner and are held by The Tate.
The Ankerwycke Yew is a magnificent tree believed to be over 2,000 years old. There are many myths about the tree and some believe it to have holy and even magical powers. It is thought to have been a meeting place for Druids and today is usually covered with ribbons and other gifts left by pagans. It even gives its name to a local pagan group called The Circle of Ankerwycke. Tradition says the tree is where Henry VIII courted Anne Boleyn in the 1530s whilst he was still married to Catherine of Aragon.
It is also believed many hundreds of years ago the Thames changed course in this area and originally flowed north of both the tree and the nunnery. Both sit on Ankerwycke Island formed by a small stream of the Thames
The name Runnymede translates as a broad riverside meadow. It was where King John sealed Magna Carta on 15th June 1215. John came to power after the death of his brother Richard the Lionheart in 1199. Richard's roots were Norman and he was popular in both France and England. He had nominated Arthur of Brittany as his successor, but John seized the throne of England for himself. John was unpopular in France and was forced to fight for his lands there. He captured Arthur during one battle, and soon Arthur was mysteriously killed, he was just 16 years old. It is believed John himself was the murderer.
These wars drained John's purse and were financed by higher taxes on the English, especially the nobles. He did as he pleased and, in the process, he came at odds with the Pope and his own Barons. The nobles in England were fed up with his actions, and led by Robert FitzWalter, they decided he needed a bit of a slap on the wrist.
Within a couple of years, the Barons assembled their forces and took over London. They put the King into a corner and decided to make him surrender some of his powers. About 60 barons were involved. A document believed to have been drawn up by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, was thrashed out by the opposing sides. This document named "Magna Carta" was signed by the King and the Barons and witnessed by the clergy, including eight bishops. It was basically the first-time common people were given rights and meant the King could be questioned over his actions. In the stand-off to the signing, the King and his supporters were based at Windsor and the Barons at Staines. Twenty five nominated Barons met halfway, at Runnymede where the King had no choice but to seal "Magna Carta". As a stipulation in the agreement, a few days later the Barons re-proclaimed their loyalty to the King. However, the document did reduce the king's powers and it was the first which made a King of England accountable for his actions. It is believed King John camped with his followers next to the old Ankerwyke Yew on the night before the signing of Magna Carta.
Through the years, the charter formed the basis of an individual's right to justice and liberty. Many modern day constitutions, including that of the USA and its Bill of Rights are based on the charter. A Magna Carta Memorial presented by the American Bar Association in 1957, stands at the foot of Coopers Hill and can be seen to the left in the distance. There are four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta; two are at the British Library while Salisbury and Lincoln Cathedrals each hold one.
No one can be 100% sure of the exact spot where Magna Carta was sealed. Some think it may have been on Magna Carta Island, some think it was on the broad meadow below Coopers Hill, but according to some other old references, mainly on www.wraysbury.net/history/magnacarta.htm (link broken), it seems most likely the signing took place next too, or under the Ankerwycke Yew. The Wraysbury website is worth a visit and contains some well-researched information about the Magna Carta, the yew tree and the local area. It appears some of their information came from an old book which I read a few years ago, but am now unable to find at present. Nowadays, even The National Trust believe the old yew tree has a claim to the site where Magna Carta was sealed.
Below is a poem written by Joseph Strutt (1749 - 1802) and covers some of the events which happened at Runnymede.
scenes have pass'd,
since first this ancient Yew
In all the strength of youthful beauty grew!
Here patriot Barons might have musing stood,
And plann'd the Charter for their Country's good;
And here, perhaps, from Runnymede retired,
The haughty John, with secret vengeance fired,
Might curse the day which saw his weakness yield
Extorted rights in yonder tented field.
Here too the tyrant Henry felt love's flame,
And, sighing, breathed his Anne Bolyn's name;
Beneath the shelter of this Yew-tree's shade,
The royal lover wood'd the ill-star'd maid;
And yet that neck, round which he fondly hung,
To hear the thrilling accents of her tongue;
That lovely breast, on which his head reclined,
Form'd to have humanized his savage mind;
Were Doom'd to bleed beneath the tyrants steel,
Whose selfish heart might doat, but could not feel.
O had the Yew its direst venom shed,
Upon the cruel Henry's guilty head,
Ere Englands sons with shuddering grief had seen
A slaughtere's victim in their beauteous queen!"
On the 15th June 1992, 777 years after the signing of Magna Carta another group of people met at the old yew tree to make an oath. This was called the Green Magna Carta. It was drawn up by botanist David Bellamy and its intention was to work towards an eco-friendly future.
In June 2002, a plaque, next to the Ankerwyke Yew, was unveiled by "The Tree Council" - it reads:
"THE TREE COUNCIL
IN CELEBRATION OF
THE GOLDEN JUBILEE OF
QUEEN ELIZABETH II
THE ANKERWYCKE YEW
one of fifty
GREAT BRITISH TREES
in recognition of its place
in the national heritage
Supported by National Grid"
If you walk along the path around Ankerwyke Island looking for the tree, unless you know your "yews", this plaque at the side of the path is the best way to find the tree. It's only when you follow the small path next to the plaque and under the tree you see what is special and get an appreciation of the tree's age. The tree trunk has a massive girth of 32 feet and one can only look with amazement at its shape and think of the history it has witnessed. At 2.65 miles into the stage if you look directly across the River Thames, the old yew tree is in a straight-line set back almost 200 yards past the opposite bank - I'm not sure if you can see it, but you should be able to see the ruins of Ankerwycke Priory.
In 2008, Mike Hutchings at the young age of 88 painted a wonderful watercolour of the tree. He has been involved in the long-distance relay around London since its inception in 1994, initially made me take an interest in the history of the places we passed, and still continued to run with Stragglers Running Club well into his 90s. You can download a copy of his painting HERE.
Two videos on YouTube about the tree are worth a visit:
1. Notable Trees of the National Trust - The Ankerwyke Yew, by National Trust Charity.
The Ankerwycke Yew
- an ancient living legend,
by Sarah Rees .
To the left at the top of Coopers Hill and above the Magna Carta Memorial is the striking Air Forces Memorial. We will visit it later in this walk.
Follow the towpath between the road and the river for 0.9 miles to just after one of two red brick lodges - one is on either side of the road.
Across the River Thames from 2.65 miles to 3.1 miles is Magna Carta Island with a large private house near its western tip. It is difficult to distinguish the island, as the stream behind it is very narrow. The island also holds claims to be the place where Magna Carta was sealed. The house was built in 1834 by George Simon Harcourt, Lord of the Manor of Wraysbury. It has a specially designed Charter Room with a stone topped table as its centre-piece and the coats of arms of the 25 Barons. There are claims this is the stone on which Magna Carta was sealed. A few years ago, the island, including house and stone, was sold for 4 million pounds. You can read about this at BBC and watch a promotional video for the sale at YouTube.
Immediately after the island, the gardens of a few desirable residents back onto the opposite bank of the river, some of which are hidden by Pats Croft Eyot.
The towpath passes through some trees, between the red brick lodge and the river, and soon comes out to a small car park at the Runnymede Boathouse. Turn left towards the road and cross straight over (with care) and into the National Trust car park on the opposite side. Turn left through the car park to the second red brick lodge - you may choose to stop here for refreshments.
Boathouse is owned by
who run boat trips from here downstream to Staines and on to Hampton Court and
upstream to Windsor.
Over the years the historical significance of Runnymede became less known. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was more famous as a venue for the Egham Horse Races and as a consequence became protected as an open space under the Egham Enclosure Act of 1814. The races stopped in 1884 and by the early 20th Century the site was under threat again. In 1921 the Liberal-Conservative coalition, under David Lloyd George, proposed to auction Runnymede to raise extra funds for the Treasury. However, due to public outcry this did not go ahead. In 1929 Lady Fairhaven bought 188 acres of this area for the memory of her recent late husband Urban H. Broughton MP (1857 - 1929) and Runnymede was no longer under threat. He was just about to be made a Lord before he died. She was created Lady Fairhaven and their oldest son Lord Fairhaven. She commissioned the great architect Sir Edwin Lutyens to build two lodges and plinths at the Old Windsor side and two kiosks and plinths at the Egham side as a memorial to her husband. Two years later, in 1931, she gifted the whole site to the National Trust and saved this place for the nation. The Lutyens' lodges, one on each side of the road, were officially opened in 1932 by the Prince of Wales (who later became Edward VIII). The first lodge we passed, did contain the Runnymede Art Gallery and, as far as I can gather is now a National Trust office. The second has a tearoom, small information centre and shop.
As for the two kiosks, at the Egham entrance to Runnymede, we didn't see them on our walk as we were on the Thames Path when we passed them. To see a photo of one of them follow the link.
From the lodge find your way to the entrance of the car park. By the entrance is wooden shelter with information leaflets and a map. From the map you'll get a good idea of where you are going next.
A finger-post signed "Memorials" points across the meadow. There are two well-defined paths, follow the left of the two paths.
After 200 yards the path leads to an art sculpture entitled "The Jurors". This was commissioned by Surrey County Council and the National Trust. It is 12 bronze chairs on the meadow at Runnymede representing the 12 people who sit on a jury in the UK. Each chair is engraved on the front and back with people's fight for justice, human rights and freedom since ancient China, through the signing of Magna Carta in 1215 and up to how modern technology and the Internet affects bullying and freedom of speech in the present day. They depict times and places where ordinary people had no rights; slavery, those thrown over-board to drown and claimed as lost cargo by their wealthy "owners"; women, ethnic and gay people fighting for equal rights; momentous moments in history; France becoming a republic, big business polluting the world; people such as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Aboriginal Australians fighting for the rights of their people. This is a beautiful sculpture and you can read more at National Trust.
The Jurors was created by Hew Locke, according to his website:
"The Jurors is a permanent artwork designed for this ancient landscape to mark 800 years since the sealing of Magna Carta in this place. It is formed of 12 bronze chairs, each decorated with panels of images and symbols relating to past and ongoing struggles for freedom, rule of law and equal rights. The Jurors is not a memorial, but rather an artwork which requires people to complete it.
The chairs awaiting a gathering, discussion or debate of some kind: an
open invitation for the audience to sit down on them, to reflect and discuss
together the implications of the histories and issues depicted, and to debate
the meaning of justice..."
To watch a video on how the sculpture was made see YouTube. You can also watch short documentary video containing thoughts from the artist also at YouTube.
From "The Jurors" take the diagonal path south towards the trees. After 100 yards you reach the trees and a wooden kissing-gate. Go through the kissing-gate to climb steeply up stone steps. On reaching the JFK Memorial walk past it and along the terrace to The Seats of Contemplation.
After passing through the kissing gate, you are officially stepping onto American soil. In front are the 50 steep steps, which climb too and lead past the John F Kennedy Memorial. The steps are named "The Steps of Individuality" and are made of 60,000 individual axe-hewn Portuguese granite setts which rise steeply through the woodland. Each step represents a state of the USA.
The centre-piece of the John F Kennedy Memorial is a large engraved slab of Portland stone designed by Geoffrey Jellicoe. It was unveiled by HM Queen Elizabeth II on 14th May 1965 in the presence of President Kennedy's widow, their children, and his brothers. By visiting the links to YouTube1, YouTube2 you can watch a short video of the ceremony. For a longer video of an insight of the architect design thoughts click HERE. In her speech the Queen proclaimed:
"This acre of English soil is now bequeathed in perpetuity to the America People in memory of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who in death my people still mourn and whom in life they loved and admired."
The memorial is not just the stone slab, it is also the steps, the different trees planted here, the terrace walk and the two seats of contemplation at the end of the terrace. There is a lot going on here, but it's probably best for you to read all of this at the Kennedy Memorial Trust.
Retrace your route back down the steps and at the bottom go through the wooden kissing-gate again. Turn right along a line of trees to your RHS. After 160 yards turn right through a wooden gate to visit the Magna Carta Memorial.
Just through the gate are two information boards and directly ahead is the Magna Carta Memorial (at 4 miles). This monument was designed by Sir Edward Maufe and erected in 1957 by the American Bar Association. It is nestled in trees, up a gentle slope and overlooking the meadow and the River Thames.
After visiting the memorial, retrace your steps to exit the wooden gate. Turn right signed Air Forces' Memorial (and possibly Writ in Water). To help with direction finding there are 3 marked walks and for the next 0.8 miles we follow the purple route to the Air Forces' Memorial - see LINK for a good map which can be enlarged.
After just 20 yards go through a kissing-gate and veer right between trees. After 300 yards you reach a round building named "Writ in Water".
According to the National Trust website:
"Writ in Water, a major architectural artwork by Mark Wallinger, in collaboration with Studio Octopi, provides a new immersive space for contemplation and reflection at Runnymede, Surrey. Writ in Water is open seven days a week ... and is free to enter..."
"The large-scale circular building emerges from the hillside at the base of Cooper's Hill. The meadow it sits within is flanked by the River Thames on one side and an ox-bow lake on the other, itself a trace of the river's earlier course.
Responding to this feature of the landscape, Writ in Water takes its name from the inscription on John Keats' gravestone, which reads, 'Here lies one whose name was writ in water'.
Built in cubits, the most ancient unit of measure, and using rammed stone from the site itself, Writ in Water sits at the heart of this ancient land.
An exterior doorway leads to a simple circular labyrinth, in which the visitor can choose to turn left or right to reach an inner doorway that opens out into a central chamber. Here the sky looms through a wide oculus above a pool of water, as reflective as a still font.
The sides of the pool are inscribed on the inner side, the water
reflecting (much like the seal on Magna Carta itself), the reversed and inverted
lettering of Clause 39 as the visitor moves round the pool to reveal its
To watch a National Trust video entitled Creating
by Mark Wallinger, at Runnymede, follow the link to
After visiting "Writ in Water" continue to follow the path along the line of tree to your RHS and soon into trees. Then after just a short distance turn right and uphill following purple markers towards Air Forces' Memorial.
This path is steep, wooded and there are some steps. I last visited in early 2015 and it was wet and slippery in parts. There was also a community of Eco Warriors living here. They were very friendly, but were moved on soon afterwards.
After climbing steeply for almost 200 yards, we cross another path and soon after veer left, continues to climb, but not as steep, and in another 220 yards leads out onto Cooper's Hill Lane.
Turn right along the lane for 200 yards, to after university halls of residence, then turn right to stay along Cooper's Hill Lane.
After 50 yards turn right to visit the Air Forces' Memorial. After visiting, retrace your steps to the entrance and turn left along Cooper's Hill Lane.
The Air Forces' Memorial was designed by Sir Edward Maufe R.A. and unveiled by HM Queen Elizabeth II on 17th October 1953 (see video). It was the first World War II building to be listed for architectural merit. It is administered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. From the top of the tower, visitors can see Windsor Castle, Runnymede and breathtaking views over seven counties. It is a tribute to "the men and women of the Airforces of the British Commonwealth who lost their lives in the Second World War and who have no known grave". There are 20,275 names carved in the stone walls and floors.
As the lane turns left, veer right immediately before a cream building dated 1889 and at entrance to drive veer right past gate-post and onto enclosed footpath.
After 280 yards the path turns right and then soon turns left. It eventually comes out to a road (Tite Hill). Cross straight over and onto an enclosed footpath. The footpath leads to a road (Middle Hill). Turn right and just after a few yards cross over into Barley Mow Road.
Follow Barley Mow Road for 400 yards until it comes out onto St Jude's Road (A328). Cross straight over and turn right, then left (still Barley Mow Road). Cross over onto Englefield Green and follow the LHS of "The Green" past the Barley Mow Pub and then past the cricket ground.
Eventually "The Green" leads to a T-junction with Bishopsgate Road. Cross over and turn left along the pavement.
By now you may have noticed there are many large and very private houses hiding behind gates and between the trees. Englefield Green covers a large area. According to Chertsey Museum, it takes its name from "Inga's Feld". Inga meaning "people" and "Feld" was a large grassed area used as pastural land by the community. The term probably dates back to a least Saxon Times. The name Green was added in the 17th Century. The village has three distinct areas: the north and west is made up of part of Windsor Great Park and large private manors; the built-up southern area, and in the middle is The Green. Under the Egham Enclosure Act of 1814 much of the land was sold to private buyers who built large houses here because of the proximity of the Royal Family at Windsor. The Act also protected The Green which is Crown property and leased to the Residents for the use of the community. The growth of the built-up area to the south was greatly influenced by the opening of Royal Holloway College in 1886.
The road soon curves around to the left, and after 300 yards crosses over the entrance to Castle Hill Road (at 6 miles).
At the far end of Castle Hill Road is Priest Hill. This is the site of the last place a fatal duel was fought in England. It took place in 1852 between two French exiles. There are many accounts of the duel on the Internet. The one below is from the Englefield Green section on Wikipedia.
"The last fatal duel in England took place on Priest Hill in 1852. It was between two French refugees, Lt. Frederic Constant Cournet and Emmanuel Barthelemy. Cournet was supposed to have been the better prepared for a sword duel. Barthelemy, an extremely questionable individual (responsible for at least two murders by 1852), manipulated Cournet into challenging him (supposedly over comments Cournet made about Barthelemy's girlfriend), and chose pistols for the weapon. He killed Cournet, and was subsequently arrested for murder. However, Barthelemy managed to convince the jury it was not a homicide as in the normal sense of the word, and was acquitted. Barthelemy was widely suspected of being a spy for the new French regime of Emperor Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III). In fact, his bullying of other refugees had led to the confrontation with Cournet. However, three years later, he was engaged in a crime in London, possibly involving a blackmail attempt that did not work out. Two men were killed, and Barthelemy was arrested. Despite giving an image of bravado in court, this time he was convicted, and subsequently hanged. Most criminal historians and writers feel he was a totally repugnant character, but to be fair he had one odd defender: Victor Hugo, who wrote a small panegyric to his memory in one of the later sections of Les Miserables. Cournet is buried in Egham parish church graveyard."
Continue straight on along Bishopsgate Road, staying on the pavement on the RHS.
After 0.43 miles cross over Crimp Hill, then follow Bishopsgate as it veers right and past Wick Lane (to your LHS).
To the left, just after Crimp Hill, and hidden from view, is a luxury Savill Court Hotel (now Fairmont Windsor Park). The house here was originally a Jacobean Manor named "The Dell" and was acquired by Baron Sir John Henry Schroder (of Schroder's Bank) in the late 19th Century. He extended the house greatly for the use of his family. Baron Schroder died in 1910 and is buried in Englefield Green cemetery. The house and his title passed onto his son Bruno Schroder who died in 1940 and is also buried at Englefield Green. During World War II, it was used as a military hospital. It remained in the hands of the Schroder family until the early 1980s. The manor was then refurbished, extended, and opened as the Anugraha Hotel in 1984. Its name later changed to Savill Court Hotel, the name coming from the neighbouring Savill Garden. The hotel now sits in 22 acres of beautiful grounds. The rebranded Fairmont Windsor Park is due to open in late 2020;
Immediately past to the entrance of the Savill Court Hotel is Wick Lane. The lane runs south along the western edge of the hotel grounds and past the Savill Gardens to Egham Wick. In 1956, in Parkside House, on the west of the lane is where Marilyn Monroe spent her honeymoon and an extra four months with her new husband Arthur Miller whilst filming The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier. The newly wedded couple were often seen cycling along Bishopsgate and through Windsor Great Park. At the time not many locals knew it was Marilyn, some told stories of seeing someone who looked just like Marilyn Monroe cycling past them.
Shortly after Wick Lane, on the left along Bishopsgate and just before Windsor Great Park, is the The Fox & Hounds Restaurant & Pub. This is a pleasant English country pub dating from c1780. It has a beer garden to both the rear and the front, and a good place to stop for some local real ale from the Windsor & Eton Brewery.
At the end of the lane is Bishop's Gate, the entrance to Windsor Great Park. Go straight on through the gate, on the right is the gatekeeper's box (small wooden office) and on the left is their cottage. Stay straight on along the road towards a gate and two pink gatehouses.
After 230 yards, at a crossroads, turn right. This leads to a metal kissing gate. Go through the kissing gate and into the Deer Park.
The original park is thought to date back over a thousand years to Saxon Times. In the 13th Century, the Norman rulers enclosed the park. They introduced deer and wild boar and used it as a royal hunting ground. Successive monarchs used the park in this way and even today, although the wild boar have long disappeared, the deer still need to be culled to keep numbers manageable and end up on the royal dinner table or in the estate farm shop. In total, the great park covers about 5,000 acres and is the only "Royal Park" still managed by The Crown Estate. Most of it is open to the public and within its boundary are many places of interest. A village built in the 1930s still houses many of the estate's workers. There are the Guards Polo Grounds at Smiths Lawn; Virginia Water Lake to the south, man-made in 1753, has a 4 mile walk around its shores with many things to see along the way; the enclosed Deer Park which our route has just entered; the Savill Garden; the Valley Gardens; many royal lodges, and trees dating back to over 1,000 years;
Follow the traffic free road through the park for half a mile, until just over a stone bridge. Then veer left onto the grass and follow a worn path uphill, past trees to your LHS and to The Copper Horse.
The Copper Horse sits on the top of Snow Hill. It's only when you get close that you appreciate how huge it is. The bronze statue depicts George III (reigned 1760 - 1820) on horseback with his hand pointing towards his favourite residence, Windsor Castle. It was commissioned by his son George IV. The sculptor, Richard Westmacott, took a few years to complete the work and when erected in 1831, it had to be done in sections due to the size. The king is portrayed as a Roman emperor, wearing a tunic and with no stirrups. Westmacott is also said to have been influenced by an earlier equestrian statue of Peter the Great, the Bronze Horseman, which stands in Senate Square, Saint Petersburg, Russia, After writing this I discovered George IV died a year before it was erected, I just hope he had already paid for The Copper Horse.
On a clear day, the view from Snow Hill is claimed to be one of the best in the country and yet, even on a beautiful day, this place is hardly ever busy. It's probably because you can only get here by horseback or under your own power. As well as the magnificent view of Windsor Castle, you can see along the Thames Valley, the Staines' reservoirs, the planes taking off and landing at Heathrow Airport, the arch at Wembley Stadium and the tall buildings of Central London, to name just a few.
From The Copper Horse, walk down the hill and then along the tree lined Long Walk, and continue straight for almost 2.4 miles to near the castle at the other end. You can walk on the grass if you wish.
The Long Walk was started by Charles II who had a double avenue of Elm trees planted between 1680 1685. Queen Anne added the central carriageway in 1710. However, most died and were replaced by young Elms from the castle to where the gates are now, next to Park Street. Beyond that the soil was found to be unsuitable for Elms so were replaced by a line of Horse Chestnuts and one of London Planes.
After 1.15 miles, a large gate blocks the Long Walk. To the side a pedestrian gate gives access to continue. The gate is there to keep the deer at bay and marks the southern boundary of the Deer Park.
0.45 miles later, the Long Walk crosses the busy A308 and to the left are some old estate workers cottages. Cross over with care and continue towards the castle.
Once over the
A308 the park changes name to
The Home Park.
This is the monarch's
own park and most is to the right and hidden behind a metal fence. The area was
closed off as a private park with the passing of
Windsor Castle and Town Approaches Act"
by Parliament in 1848. The private part of the park contains many places of
(visible from the Long Walk and the resting place of Queen Victoria and Prince
the Royal Household Golf Club (only open to members of the royal family and
their staff); the
Royal Household Cricket Club;
Farm and the
Windsor Farm Shop.
On Saturday 19 May 2018 Windsor was home to the Royal Wedding of Megan Markle and Prince Harry (Wikipedia has a very detailed section on the wedding). They were married in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. They then were escorted in an open horse-drawn carriage through the streets of Windsor and along The Long Walk from the A308 and back to the castle. An estimated 110,000 people lined the route. You can watch the procession at YouTube. Luckily, it should be a bit quieter when you walk along this section of The Long Walk towards the castle.
0.82 miles after the A308, on approaching the castle, Cambridge Gate blocks the Long Walk. However, there is still a magnificent view of the state apartments (now at 10 miles). At this point, turn left to leave the park via Park Street Gate and into Park Street.
Before you leave The Long Walk turn around and look back to the statue of King George III in the distance. It looks so imposing and difficult to believe it's 2.4 miles since you passed it on top of Snow Hill.
Just into Park Street on the right is the Two Brewers public house. This 17th Century pub has low ceilings, many artifacts on its walls and two bars "This Bar" and "That Bar". The history section of the Two Brewers website is well researched and worth a read.
Park Street, Windsor, is mainly residential and full of 17th & 18th century buildings. Some were once coaching inns and some coaching arches remain. The prices of houses in the street can be extortionate and many have been converted to offices. Up until the closure of the Home Park in 1848, this was the main road out of Windsor towards London.
At the end of Park Street and just before the High Street, turn right into St Albans Street.
To the left near the junction of the two streets is a blue mailbox dating from 1911 and possibly the only one in the UK. It was erected for the world's first postal airmail service. This took place between Windsor and Hendon and was to celebrate King George V's coronation. Next to it are two red mailboxes, an old red phone box and an ancient well.
Just a few yards in front of all this Royal Mail memorability is a bronze statue of a soldier - the Irish Guardsmen Memorial.
To the right on entering St Albans Street is the Royal Mews with its exhibition of state coaches. Just past this is Burford House, built for Nell Gwyn in the 1670s. On her death (4th November 1687) the house passed onto her son Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St Albans an illegitimate son of King Charles II and from whom the street gets its name. It now houses a collection of gifts presented to the royal family. Charles II had many mistresses and produced many illegitimate children as a consequence. Two notable people descended from these include, Diana, Princess of Wales (bloodstock from four of his children), and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
On the left half way along St Albans Street is the Parish Church of St John the Baptist. This was built in 1822 and replaced an older part Saxon and part Norman church. Just past it is the entrance to Church Lane.
Near the end of St Albans Street a blue plaque on the castle wall states, "From 1785 to 1788 Mrs Mary Delaney (1700 - 1788), artist and friend of royalty lived here in a house provided by King George III - a frequent visitor was the novelist and diarist Fanny Burney (1752 - 1840) - while engaged as Keeper of the Robes to Queen Charlotte".
At the junction turn left to enter Castle Hill.
To the right is the King Henry VIII Gateway, the main entrance to the castle from the town. The short walk down Castle Hill leads to the High Street. At the junction is Queen Victoria's statue, placed here in 1887 to commemorate her 50th year on the throne. On the left between the statue and the castle is the entrance to Church Street, a delightful cobbled stone street, lined with many old interesting buildings. They include Nell Gwyn's House - her second one? Dating from 1640, this was said to once been home to Charles II's famous mistress. It's alleged her ghost can sometimes be heard walking through the house. There are many ghost stories associated with the town - you can read some by following the link. Just past this is the Old King-s Head, and it is believed to be where William Shakespeare stayed in 1597 whilst he wrote "The Merry Wives of Windsor". This is remembered by a plaque on the front of the building. Many of the characters in the play are thought to have been based on local people of the time. The pub is now a restaurant and next to the plaque is a copy of the "Death Warrant of King Charles I" (1684). It contains the signatures of 59 leading Parliamentarians of the time, most of who were sought out and punished, by the dead king's son Charles II, after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1690. Opposite the Old King's Head is a small garden "The Heritage Garden". On the pavement behind an information is a plaque showing eight monarchs who lived here.
There are many old quaint streets in this small area of the town containing gift & antique shops, tearooms, restaurants, old pubs and much more. Castle Hill has the Horse & Groom (1719); Church Lane has the Queen Charlotte; and Market Street the Carpenters Arms (1518) and the Three Tuns (1518) (now The Prince Harry). Just off Market Street is Queen Charlotte Street, recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the shortest street in the UK at 51 feet 10 inches as stated by a blue plaque on one of the buildings. Nearby is Market Cross House, also known as The Crooked House of Windsor. It was originally built as a butcher's shop in 1687. It gets its strange shape from the unseasoned timber used in its reconstruction in 1718.
Windsor Castle is the largest in the country, with 13 acres inside its curtain wall, and stands on a cliff above the Thames, looking down on both the river and the town. William the Conqueror built the first castle here in about 1070, a wooden Motte & Bailey Castle. It was one of a number built as a defensive ring around London. However, it is believed the Saxons also used Windsor previously as a fortification.
In August 2006 to celebrate the Queen's 80th birthday, she gave permission to Tony Robinson and his Channel 4 Time Team to explore some of the royal properties in "The Big Royal Dig". Windsor Castle was included and here they found evidence of a round table building thought to have been erected by King Edward III in 1344, and used by knights to feast as they watched entertainment conducted in the middle. It may have possibly been England's first known theatre where nobility were said to have dressed up and acted out scenes from King Arthur times. You can watch the Time Team programme about Windsor on YouTube.
Windsor takes its name from the Anglo-Saxon word "Wyndesore" meaning "winding shore" and most possibly referring to the twisting course of the river in this area. In the early years Windsor was only used as a fortification. There was a Saxon royal palace at Old Windsor, near Runnymede, from the 9th Century, which the Normans continued to use after the invasion up until the 12th Century. The castle at Windsor was first used as a royal residence by King Henry I in about 1110. The oldest parts of the castle that can be seen today date from around 1160, during the reign of King Henry II. Successive monarchs have made many additions and replaced many parts of the castle through the years. However, the centre of the castle is still the motte (artificial hill) where William's wooden castle stood and where the Round Tower now stands. The current tower was originally built by Edward III in the middle of the 14th Century and replaced the previous one built by Henry II almost 200 years earlier. The tower was raised to its present height in the 19th Century. Edward III was often referred to as "Edward of Windsor" as he was born in the castle on 13th November 1312.
There are many things to see in the castle including the magnificent 15th Century St George's Chapel. It was originally founded by Edward III in 1348 and rebuilt by Edward IV in 1475. The chapel is home to the "Order of the Garter" and is the last resting place of many monarchs and other members of the Royal Family. They include Edward IV (died 1483), Henry VI (reburied in 1484), Henry VIII (1547), Charles I (1649), George III (1820), George IV (1830), William IV (1837), Edward VII (1910), George V (1936), and George VI (1952).
During disagreements between Charles I and Parliament, Windsor Castle was taken over and occupied by Parliamentary troops commanded by Colonel John Venn on 28th October 1642. They pillaged the contents and especially the royal bastion of St George's Chapel. A couple of years later the castle was where the Parliamentary New Model Army came into being.
Windsor Castle remained in the possession of Parliament during the English Civil War and Windsor was its headquarters and training ground. Charles I was eventually captured and spent a short time under house arrest at Windsor before his execution on 30th January 1649. Many other Royalists were also imprisoned here during the war. After Charles' death, the monarchy was abolished and a new republic the "Commonwealth of England" was established. The castle remained in the hands of Parliament until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. During this time, many of the castle's treasures were stolen by the underpaid soldiers, or sold off to finance the Parliamentarian's wars against the Royalists. On 20th April 1653, Oliver Cromwell, in command of the New Model Army, dismissed Parliament by force. He set up his own Parliament and had himself declared Lord Protector of England, Ireland and Scotland on 16th December that year. He remained in this dictatorship and king like role until his death on 3rd December 1658. It's incredible that he helped remove the monarchy and eventually established himself as a self-appointed monarch. Cromwell declared his son Richard his heir, but he only lasted a year in the job. In 1660 Charles' son, who had been hiding in exile most of this time, returned to England and was crowned Charles II thus restoring the monarchy in England.
Charles II did much to restore and refurnished the Castle. The Long Walk was laid out and the Royal Apartments and St George's Hall were rebuilt. The new rooms were decorated with ceiling paintings by Antonio Verrio and carvings by Grinling Gibbons. Charles acquired many other paintings and tapestries and retrieved many of those which had been previously lost to furnish the rooms. These artworks went on to form the core of what is now The Royal Collection.
After the death of Charles II in 1685, the castle remained mainly uninhabited until 1804 when George III, looking for a larger residence for his ever-growing family, decided to move to Windsor. Once again, the castle became the royal residence. By 1811 George was suffering from a severe mental illness, and for his own safety was confined to the castle. He remained there until his death in 1820. In those last nine years, he seldom left his apartments at Windsor. This period was depicted in the 1994 Oscar winning movie "The Madness of King George". It starred Nigel Hawthorne as King George III and Helen Mirren as Queen Charlotte.
It was George's son and predecessor George IV who had the greatest influence on the restructuring of the castle. He employed architect Jeffry Wyatville (1766 - 1840) to carry out restoration work. Wyatville was the first architect to look at the castle as a whole and not a scattering of buildings from different periods. He remodeled many of the buildings, extending some in size and height so as to give an overall symmetry to the castle. The height of the Round Tower was increased so as the central point it towered over everything. The work took many years to do and wasn't finished until long after George IV death in 1830. However, Wyatville did complete the work before his own death in 1840. What we see today is still a castle with buildings going back over 900 years, but all now blending in with each other into one huge symmetrical structure created by Wyatville's alterations.
England's next monarch, Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert, The Prince Consort, made Windsor their principal royal residence. Victoria made very few changes to the building but did make some to the gardens, including the enclosure of the now private Home Park. They are both buried in the Royal Mausoleum near Frogmore House in the Home Park.
On 11th December 1936, after less than a year on the throne, Edward VIII broadcast his abdication speech to the nation from the castle. The crown passed onto his younger brother George VI.
During World War II (1939 - 45), the royal children Princess Elizabeth & Margaret stayed at Windsor, while their parents King George VI and Queen Elizabeth supported the war effort in London. When Elizabeth became Queen in 1952, she decided to make Windsor her principal weekend retreat, which has continued until the present day.
On 20th November 1992, a fire destroyed many of the state rooms and other areas of the "upper ward". The restoration programme took until 1997 to complete and cost 37 million pounds. It was funded by opening the state rooms at Buckingham Palace to the public.
Most of the castle and parts of the Home Park are now open to the public, following the repairs. However, if you are intending to visit it's best to check their website first as during certain ceremonies and dates the castle is closed.
Windsor is still a garrison town and home to the Household Calvary Regiment at Combermere Barracks on St. Leonards Road, a mile southwest of the Castle. It is also home to 1st Battalion, Irish Guards. They are based at Victoria Barracks in Sheet Street, just south of the castle.
To read a more simplified version of the history of Windsor Castle you can visit the Royal Berkshire History website "for Kids" section. Also, "not for kids", there are many stories of ghosts being seen in the Castle and in the Great Park. Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Charles I and George III have all been reportedly seen here after their deaths. Herne the Hunter, a royal keeper, in the time of Richard II, is said to haunt the Great Park with his devil dogs. The Long Walk has a story of a young Grenadier Guard who shot himself after seeing statues moving of their own accord. You can read more about these stories at the Ghost-Story website.
Whilst passing through this area of town, please be wary of the large crowds of people it attracts to watch the changing of the guard and delve about in the narrow, cobbled streets.
On leaving Castle Hill to the left and back along the High Street is Christopher Wren's Guildhall, built in 1687. In his original design, he intended only an outer set of pillars. However, the council was not convinced this would hold the load and made him build inner pillars. He complied with their instructions, but proved his point. If you look closely, you will see that there is a gap above the inner pillars, hence bearing no load. The Guildhall was the setting for the marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles in 2005. After the civil ceremony, they then went on to have a Service of Blessing of their wedding at St George's Chapel in the castle.
It was also at the Guildhall, on 21st December of the same year, when civil partnerships became legal in the UK, where Sir Elton John (singer, songwriter and resident of Old Windsor) wed long-time boyfriend David Furnish. They were only one of 700 gay couples who hitched up with each other that day. Many celebrities from around the world attended the occasion at Windsor. You can watch a short video of the day here.
On the opposite side of the High Street to the Guildhall, and not far from Queen Victoria's statue, is a small gift shop called Glorious Britain. This was previously "Rodgers and Denyer" draper's shop and where HG Wells got his first job as a draper's apprentice at the age of 14 in 1880. A plaque on the entrance to the shop commemorates this.
To the right of Glorious Britain is the entrance to Peascod Street. This is one of Windsor's oldest streets. However, most of the old inns and many of the old buildings have been replaced with new ones. The Star and Garter Hotel was original venue for the Ricky-Tick rhythm & blues club. It was opened by John Mansfield in the Summer of 1962. The then little-known Rolling Stones played on 14 December 1962. The list of musicians who played here, and later became famous, is very impressive. The hotel has gone and is now the site of Superdrug. There is a lot about this on the Internet. You can read more at the Ricky-Tick website.
Turn right out of Castle Hill and onto the High Street, staying on the pavement on the right-hand side.
On reaching the High Street, the imposing Harte & Garter Hotel is directly in front and across the street. The hotel was formed in the late 19th Century from two adjacent 14th Century inns; The Garter, named after the Order of the Garter and the White Harte, named in honour of the emblem worn by Richard II. The hotel is a popular haunt of the press during royal weddings and anything else royal happening here as the front windows have some of the best views to the main entrance to Windsor Castle.
Just past Harte & Garter is the entrance to Windsor Royal Station surrounded by its shopping centre. There are many other old and interesting buildings to the left. Most have been converted to restaurants, pubs and hotels to cope with the volume of tourists. To the right is the Curfew Tower, one of the oldest parts of the castle, with its narrow windows looming over the street. The Tower dates back to the 13th Century. It houses the castle dungeons and had a gibbet at the top where bodies of criminals were hung as a warning to the people. High Street now becomes Thames Street.
Windsor Royal Station (now named Windsor & Eton Central railway station) was opened in 1849 when the Great Western Railway extended the line from Slough at the bequest of Queen Victoria. The line from Slough goes on to Paddington Station at Central London (see Windsor & Eton Central details at National Rail). It is one of two stations in the town, both being termini for different lines, both next to the castle and only a few hundred yards apart. The other is Windsor & Eton Riverside where we finish this stage.
In the gutter on going down the hill, there are metal inserts at intervals. These were used as anchors for horse-drawn carriages to stop them from rolling back down the hill. On the left near the bottom of the hill is the Theatre Royal. It originally dates from 1815 and was rebuilt in 1910 after a fire gutted the older theatre on 18th February 1908.
Continue around the castle and down the hill, eventually coming to a junction at the bottom.
On the right, at the junction of Lower Thames Street and Datchet Road is the King George V Memorial. It was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and unveiled by George VI on 23rd April 1937. Nearby is a blue plaque which remembers the Windsor Martyrs. It is inscribed, "Three local men who were burnt to death on this spot in 1543 for their religious beliefs."
Cross over Datchet Road using the pelican crossing. Windsor & Eton Riverside Station is just 70 yards to the right.
Windsor & Eton Riverside opened in 1849, the same year as Windsor Royal Station. There is a direct train from here back to Staines Station and the train goes on with stops to Waterloo (see Windsor & Eton Riverside Station entry at National Rail).
There are so many other things to see in Windsor and I could go on for pages, but will stop here. To find out more, follow the link to Windsor Castle on the British Monarchy website, and visit Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead. Both the Windsor and the ThamesWeb websites have some great photos of Windsor and the surrounding area.
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