Reading is situated on two small eminences, whose gentle declivities fall into a pleasant vale, through which the branches of the Kennet flow till they unite with the Thames at the extremity of the town.
This is a parliamentary borough (two members), with a population of 9,520, and a few public buildings, such as the Town Hall, built 1686, containing several royal portraits, and the modern church, in which are some of G. Gibbon’s carvings; but the chief attractions are the Castle and Park, the seat of her majesty the Queen, and of her ancestors from the period of the Conquest.
Eton College also is within a short distance.
Windsor is accessible by railway, via the South Western (25 miles), or the Great Western (21 miles) – the former by way of Datchet in front of the Castle – the latter by Slough and Eton.
Windsor is built on the banks of the Thames, and has long been celebrated for its royal Castle and Park. It is situated on a hill which commands a delightful prospect over the adjacent country. It was first built by William the Conqueror, soon after being seated on the throne of this kingdom. Edward III. was born here, and had such an affection for the spot that he caused the old building to be pulled dawn, and a magnificent palace to be erected on its site, under the direction of the celebrated William of Wykeham; and re-established the princely order of the Garter.
No Briton can view unmoved the stately towers of “Windsor’s castled keep.” The mind is irresistibly carried back to the time when the Norman conqueror so far bent the stubborn necks of our Saxon ancestors, as to compel them to extinguish their fires on the sound of the innovating curfew. Rival houses have in turn held regal sway within its storied walls. Its history is the history of our country, and some of its “brightest and blackest” pages are inseparably linked with the towers that arrest the eye of the traveller as he approaches the station. Its annals take us back to times when the rebellious Barons compelled King John, in its immediate neighbourhood, to sign the first great charter of our country’s rights. York and Lancaster have each struggled for its possession. It has witnessed the extinction of royal houses, and sheltered within its walls the representative of England’s short-lived Commonwealth, Within its precincts the Tudors have signed decrees to light the fires of Smithfield, and Cromwell has declared to Continental despotism, that no man shall be persecuted on account of his protestantism. Great names, too, are associated with its annals, and he who has read the history of his country can pass in review, before his mind’s eye, a long list of warriors, statesmen, churchmen, poets, and others, celebrated for their virtues or their talents, while he is also forcibly reminded that many names are mixed up with its history which he would willingly consign to oblivion.
The castle is divided into two courts, the upper and the lower, separated from each other by the Round Tower. On the north side of the upper court are situated the state apartments, and on the south the various apartments belonging to the officers of state. The lower court is chiefly remarkable as containing that beautiful structure St. George’s Chapel.
The Castle.–The State Apartments are open on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, from 11 until 6. Tickets gratis, at Moon’s, New Oxford Street; Colnaghi’s, 14, Pall Mall East; Mitchell’s, 33, Old Bond Street; Ackermann’s, 96, Strand. Guide books may be had, from 1d. to 1s. These tickets are available for a week from the day of issue, but not transferable; and no payment is to be made to the servants at the Castle. The private apartments are always closed, but a good panorama of their contents may be seen at Taylor’s Illustrated Gallery, High-street, Windsor; admittance, 1s. Guide Books, 2d. each. Choral service at St. George’s Chapel at 10½ and 4.
There is an ascent by the postern steps to the Castle for visitors arriving by the South Western rail; or you may go round to Henry VIII.‘s gate, which leads into the town, It stands on a site of 12 acres, on the summit of a hill, commanding a magnificent view from the terrace, which is 1,870 feet, or ½ of a mile long. The great circular keep (open daily) from which the standard waves when the Queen is here, divides the upper and lower ward; it is about 150 feet above the quadrangle or 300 feet above the park, and machicolated round the top, like most of the towers here. Twelve counties are visible in clear weather from the keep. Here state prisoners were confined. Since 1824 the restoration of the Castle, carried on by Sir Jeffry Wyattville has cost about £900,000. The state rooms, private apartments, &c. are in the upper ward; St. George’s church, the deanery, apartments of the knights, baronets, &c. in the lower, as you enter from Henry VIII.‘s gate.
The state apartments should be visited in the following order:– They are on the north side of the quadrangle.
Audience Chamber.–Ceiling by Verrio. Coronation of Esther, and the triumph of Mordecai, in Gobelin tapestry; portraits of Mary, Queen of Scots, the “daughter, consort, and mother of kings,” as she is styled.
Presence Chamber.–Charles II.‘s queen, Katherine, on the ceiling. Subjects from Esther, in tapestry. Myten’s portrait of George I.‘s mother. Gibbon’s carved work. Bacon’s mantel-piece. This room is generally used as the ball room.
Guard Chamber.–Old armour, including that of John of France (taken at Poitiers), and David of Scotland (captured at Neville’s cross), both of whom were prisoners here in the reign of Edward III., who was born in the Castle, 1312. Also Henry, Prince of Wales, (son of James I.), Prince Rupert’s, &c. Chantrey’s bust of Nelson, on a stand made out of the Victory’s mast. Busts of Marlborough and Wellington (the latter by Chantrey), with the yearly banners presented to the Queen, on 2nd August and 18th June, for Blenheim and Waterloo. Henry VIII.‘s shield, by B. Cellini, the famous goldsmith.
St. George’s Banqueting Hall.–200 feet long, 34 feet broad; Gothic ceiling, full, of escutcheons of the Knights of the Garter since 1350, Portraits of sovereigns from James I., by Vandyke, Lely, Kneller, &c. Throne, chair of state, etc. in oak. Knights of the Garter are here knighted.
Ball Room.–90 feet long, by 34 broad; one fine Gothic window; furniture of the time of Louis XIV. (“Louis Quatorze” style); Emperor of Russia’s malachite vase; Jason and the Golden Fleece, in tapestry.
Throne Room.–Carvings by Gibbons; ornaments of the Order of the Garter, in the ceiling and carpet; with portraits by Lawrence, &c.
Waterloo or Grand Dining Room is 98 feet long, and 45 high to the lantern ceiling-, In the Elizabethan style. Full of portraits, &c. of Waterloo men, sovereigns, and statesmen of that age; carvings by Gibbons; oak furniture; most of the portraits by Lawrence; among them are Picton, Anglesey, Wellington, Hill, Blucher, Castlereagh, Metternich, Pope Pius VI, Cardinal Gonsalvi (one of the best), Emperor Alexander, Platoff, Canning, and Humboldt
Grand Vestibule, 47 ft. long, 45 high, armour, banners, &c.
Grand Staircase.–Chantrey’s statue of George IV.
State Ante-room.–Verrio’s Banquet of the Gods, in the ceiling; tapestry, Gibbons’ carvings; Reynolds’ George III.
Small Vestibule, near the Waterloo Room. Large paintings by West, of the events in Edward III.‘s reign. Carvings by Gibbons.
Rubens’ Room.–All paintings by Rubens’ mostly life size, including his portrait by himself, his wife, Battle of Nordlingen, &c. Fine view from the Oriel; and chair made of wood from old Alloway Kirk.
Council Chamber of Charles II.‘s time, Kneller’s Duke of Marlborough, Lely’s Charles II. and Prince Rupert. Pictures by Flemish masters, &c.
King’s Closet, adorned with marine emblems. Quentin Matsys’ misers, and other pictures, Flemish, Italian, &c.
Queen’s Closet.–A small room with “Adelaide Regina, 1853,” in the roof. Charles II. and William III.‘s silver tables. George IV.‘s state bed. Portraits by Holbein, pictures by C. Lorraine, Teniers, &c.
Queen’s Drawing Room.–Large pictures by Quccarelle.
Vandyck Room.–Portraits by Vandyck of Charles I, his Queen, and family, Sir K. Digby, Duchess of Richmond, &c.
On the south and east sides of the quadrangle are the Queen’s private apartments. In the middle is a bronze statue of Charles II. with bas-reliefs by Gibbons.
St. George’s Collegiate Church, in the Lower Ward, was first built by Edward III, and rebuilt by George III, It is a long straggling cross in the decorated Gothic style, with battlements, buttresses, &c., and a highly ornamented roof. The stalls and banners for the Knights of the Garter are in the choir. The windows are painted with subjects from West and Williment; that in the east window is the Resurrection by the former. There are various chapels and monuments; one of the oldest being that by Canon Ovenbridge, in 1 – 322, near the cenotaph to the Princess Charlotte. In a vault near the fourth stall, Henry VI. and Henry VIII. are buried. (Henry VI. was born in the Castle.) Edward IV. is also buried here under a curious tomb of iron work by Matsys; and George III. and most of his family lie in the Tomb House or Mausoleum at the east end. George III.‘s affectionate tablet to Mary Gaskoine, servant to Ms daughter Amelia, as in the cloisters.
There is a descent by the hundred, steps to the town near the apartments for the Naval Knights. The Military Knights are lodged in the Lower Ward, they were established by Henry VIII. and paid 1s. day. The Dean and Chapter were also allowed 1s per day out of the same fund; but while the emoluments of this body have been made to increase with the relative value of money, that of the Knights has remained the same.
The York and Lancaster gate, or main entrance to the Castle, fronts the Long Avenue. The Little Park is about four miles round. It contains Adelaide Lodge, at the bottom of the pretty slopes the Royal Gardens; and Frogmore, the seat of the late Duchess of Kent; but Herne’s Oak with “great ragged horns,” to which the Merry Wives of Windsor inveigled Falstaff, disguised like Herne, with huge horns on his head, was cut down many years ago, though another tree has taken its name in Queen Elizabeth’s walk.
From the Castle gate a noble avenue of tall spreading elms, three miles long, and nearly 300 ft. broad, leading to the great Park, to Snow Hill, a low eminence surmounted by Westmacott’s massive statue of George III, 66 ft high, including the pedestal Cooper’s Hill, Runnymede, and the Thames, Harrow Hill, &c. are visible. Here, the scenery becomes wild and forest like. The original Windsor Forest extended over 15 or 20 miles, almost to Reading. Near this is Cranbourne Lodge in the neighbourhood of the Conqueror’s Oak, an ancient tree, nine or ten centuries old, 26 ft in girth and quite hollow. Queen Anne’s, Queen Caroline’s, Queen Charlotte’s, Queen Adelaide’s and Queen Victoria’s trees are also seen, the last being bare for 50 ft. from the root.
From the statue it is two miles further to Virginia Water.
Eton College, on the Bucks side of the Thames, was founded 1440 by Henry VI., upon the plan of Winchester; its object being to supply King’s College at Cambridge, as William of Wykeham’s supplies New College at Oxford. Two brick quadrangles, in one of which is the founder’s bronze statue, the chapel and upper school, built by Wren; and in the other the ancient Commons’ Hall; the new buildings are in the Tudor style, The chapel is Gothic, 175 ft. long, with turrets at each comer. Bacon’s statue (marble) of Henry VI. is under the west window. A brass of Lord Gray (1521), deserves notice; the oldest is 1424. Sir H. Wotton and John Hales are buried here. Busts of Gray, Fox, Canning, &c., in the upper school, and other Etonians. Peel, the late Duke of Wellington, Chatham, Porson, are on the list. Album, with autographs of the Queen, Prince Albert, Louis Philippe, &c, in the library, which contains many books, MSS., curious maps, &c. A collection of portraits at the Provost’s apartments.
At Salt Hill the Eton Montem used to be held every Whitsuntide, till 1847, when it was discontinued. Regatta on the 4th June; boat races on the last Saturday in July, at Brocus Meadows, when the seniors are elected to Kings. Further up the river is Monkey Island, and a fishing temple built by the Duke of Marlborough.
Upton Church is a complete specimen of the Norman style, and contains the grave of Sir W. Herschel the astronomer, whose observations were carried on at Slough; but the great telescope, 40 ft. long, is removed. At Stoke Pogis Church, an ancient building covered with ivy, Gray is buried; It was the scene of his beautiful Elegy in a Country Churchyard. In Stoke Park, the seat of the Penns, (descended from the founder of Pennsylvania), are some remains of an old house which belonged to Coke the great lawyer; portraits, &c., in the present mansion.
Down the river you come to Old Windsor or Windlesford, where the Saxon and early Norman kings fixed their seats at first; and Ankerwyke, the Harcourt’s seat, where there is a famous oak, 33 ft. girth, as old as the Conquest. Runnymede, which comes from the Saxon Rune-mede, or Council-field, is near Charter Island, and is the spot on which the barons (fighting, however, for their own hand as the Scotch say), extorted the Great Charter from King John in 1215. Ditton Park is Lord Montague’s seat.
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Hampton Court stands on the north bank of the Thames, about twelve miles from London. Numerous sovereigns have made it their temporary abode; and the last who resided here were George II. and his Queen.
Summary Visitors’ Guide Places of Amusement Is the capital of Great Britain, and indeed, if its commercial and political influence be considered, of the civilised world. The British metropolis, if we include its suburban districts, contains the largest mass of hu…