1902 Encyclopedia > Windsor

Windsor




WINDSOR,1 a parliamentary and municipal borough of Berkshire, England, 21 miles from London by the Great Western Railway, situated on the right bank of the Thames, is chiefly remarkable for its royal castle. The town itself is of no special interest, in spite of its great antiquity. In 1276 Edward I. made Windsor a free borough. In 1302 it began to send representatives to parliament, though at irregular intervals, and from the time of Henry VI. it returned two members till 1867, when they were reduced to one. The town is presided over by a mayor, aldermen, and councillors, who were incorporated by a charter of Edward IV. The town-hall was built in 1686 by Sir

Plan of Windsor.
1 The name is said to be derived from Windelsora (A.S. windel,
Christopher Wren, but was much altered in 1852. The Thames is crossed here by a bridge resting on three granite piers (1823). The parish church of St John the Baptist was rebuilt in 1822; the other two churches are also modern. The town was formerly celebrated for the number of its inns, of which " The Garter " and " The White Hart" were the chief. The former was the favourite inn of Shakespeare's Sir John Falstaff, and is frequently men-tioned in the Merry Wives of Windsor. In 1650 the town contained 70 inns, many of which were very picturesque half-timbered buildings; but none of these now exist. In

1871 the population of the municipal borough was 11,769 and in 1881 12,273 ; that of the parliamentary borough (area 3253 acres) in the same years was 17,281 and 19,082 respectively. Of this last total 3464 were in Buckinghamshire, into which county the parliamentary borough of Windsor extends.
Windsor Castle, from its commanding position, its stately group of ancient buildings, and its long list of historical associations, is one of the most magnificent and interesting of royal palaces. It has for many centuries been the chief residence of the English sovereigns. As early as the time of the Heptarchy a stronghold of some importance existed at Windsor; the chief part of this still remains, and forms the great circular mound, about 125 feet in diameter, on wdiich the Bound Tower now stands. This great earth-work was once surrounded by the fosse, agger, and vallum which were usually constructed to defend both Roman and Saxon strongholds. The primitive wooden enclosure was replaced by a stone circuit-wall in the time of William the Conqueror ; and the first complete Round Tower was built by Henry III. about 1272, but was wholly reconstructed on a more massive scale by Edward III., who in 1344 designed the new tower to form a meeting-place for his newly-estab-lished order of the Knights of the Garter. Edward selected this spot because, according to a popular legend (quoted by Froissart), it was on the summit of the circular mound that King Arthur used to sit surrounded by his knights of the Round Table. The main bulk of the present Round Tower is of this date ; but its walls were heightened, and the tall flag-turret was added by the court architect, Sir Jeffrey Wyatville, in the reign of George IV. In addition to the Round Tower, Henry III. constructed long lines of circuit-walls, crowned at intervals with many smaller towers, one of which, named after him, still exists in good preserva-tion. He also built a great hall, kitchen, and other apart-ments, together with a chapel, which was afterwards pulled down to make room for the present chapel of St George. The beautiful little chapel cloister which Henry III. built still exists, and on its walls are traces of contemporary paintings in distemper. Another chapel was built by Henry III. and dedicated to his favourite saint, Edward the Confessor. This graceful building, with an eastern apse, is now called the Albert Memorial Chapel; a good deal of Henry III.'s work still exists in the lower part of its walls, but the upper part was rebuilt in 1501-3 by Henry VII. Some years later the unfinished chapel was given by Henry VIII. to Cardinal Wolsey, and for long after it was known as "Wolsey's tomb-house." Wolsey engaged a Florentine sculptor named Benedetto to make him a very magnificent and costly tomb of marble and gilt bronze, with a recumbent effigy at the top, probably very similar in design to Torrigiano's tomb of Henry VII. at Westminster. The rich bronze work of Wolsey's tomb was torn off and melted by order of the Commonwealth in 1642, and the mere metal was sold for the then large sum of ¿£600. In 1805 the black marble sarcophagus, stripped of its bronze ornaments, was moved from Windsor and used as a monument over Nelson's grave in the crypt of St
Paul's. Though Wolsey's tomb-house was roofed in and used for mass by James II., the stone vaulting was not com-pleted till recent times, when the whole place was fitted up by Sir Gilbert Scott as a memorial to the Prince Consort. Its internal walls were then lined with rich marbles, and decorated with reliefs by Baron Triqueti, in a style somewhat tawdry and discordant with the old building.
The magnificent chapel of St George ranks next to Westminster Abbey as a royal mausoleum, though no king was buried there before Edward IV., who left directions in his will that a very splendid tomb was to be erected with an effigy of himself in silver. Nothing now remains of this, except part of the wrought iron grille which surrounded the tomb—one of the most elaborate and skilfully wrought pieces of iron-work in the world. This grille has recently been moved from the north aisle to the north side of the sanctuary. The next sovereign buried here was Henry VIII., who directed that his body should be laid beside that of Jane Seymour, in a magnificent bronze and marble tomb. The tomb was never completed, and what existed of its metal-work was probably melted down by the Commonwealth. No trace of it now remains. The chapel itself is one of the finest examples of Perpendicular archi-tecture in England, and is on the whole finer in design than the other two royal chapels, those of King's College at Cambridge and that of Henry VII. at Westminster, which were a little later in date. The existing building was begun by Edward IV., who in 1473 pulled down almost the whole of the earlier chapel, which had been completed and filled with stained glass by Edward III. in 1363. The nave of St George's was vaulted about the year 1490, but the choir groining was not finished till 1507 ; the hanging pendants from the fan vaulting of the choir mark a later development of style, which contrasts strongly with the simpler lines of the earlier nave vault. In 1516 the lantern and the rood-screen were completed, but the stalls and other fittings were not finished till after 1519.
The present private apartments of the sovereign at Windsor were mostly rebuilt or remodelled by Sir Jeffrey Wyatville, but some of the rooms, and especially the library, contain fine mantelpieces and ceilings of the 16th and 17th centuries. Among the many treasures preserved in the royal library is a fine collection of drawings by the chief Italian painters, together with three volumes of MSS. in the auto-j graph of Leonardo da Vinci, illustrated with many draw-' ings by his hand. The library also contains a magnificent I series of portraits byHolbein, eighty-seven in number,highly J finished in sepia and chalk, representing the chief personages : of Henry VIII.'s court—all of them works of the highest ! beauty and marvels of iconic vigour. The foundation at-; tached to the royal chapel, which possesses the privileges ! of a "royal peculiar," consists of a dean, who is exempt from any episcopal jurisdiction, and a college of canons. The royal forest of Windsor is one of the finest in the \ country, though it has been much reduced in size even i since 1790, when it contained about 60,000 acres; many i of its oaks are of great size and antiquity. (J. H. M.}



Footnotes

The name is said to be derived from Windelsora (A.S. windel,


See Loftie, Windsor, reprinted with etchings from The Port/olio, London, 1885 ; Tighe and Davis, Annals of Windsor, 1860 : and Ashton, Illustrations of Windsor Castle, 1841.
Probably a son or nephew of the Florentine sculptor Benedetto
da Maiano, who died in 1497 ; another member of the same family was employed by Wolsey at Hampton Court







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