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See also our article about The High Street for more images of the Guildhall

The Town Hall at Windsor, 1690
known as 'The Guildhall'

A Grade I Listed Building

The Guildhall in 1818

The Guildhall in 1818. Drawn by I Hassell, Aquatint by D Havell.
Note that the extension to the rear of the Guildhall had yet to be built when this picture was drawn

The Guildhall was the venue for the civil wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles. Originally planned for 8th April 2005 but delayed by 24 hours to 9th April at 12.30 so that Prince Charles could represent the Queen at the funeral of Pope John-Paul II in Rome.

Local taxi drivers complained about town being closed for the day - "Prince Charles should pay us..." insisted a greedy, selfish and thoughtless taxi driver. Read more on The Windsor Forum

Strictly speaking, Windsor's famous Guildhall, should be known as the Town Hall, for it was never the meeting place of the town's guilds. The meeting place or 'Guild Hall' would have been the 'Three Tuns' next door, which dates from around 1518.
  The merchant and craft guilds were important to the running of the town and its trade from the earliest days. A merchant guild was in existence by 1268 and would have been involved in negotiations for the granting of Windsor's first Charter on 28th May 1277. The Charter meant that Windsor was no longer administered by the Constable of the Castle, but became a free Borough, responsible for managing its own affairs.

The Guildhall in Windsor High Street

The Guildhall from the north side, Market Cross House to the left
and Queen Anne in the central niche

By 1337 we have the first recorded name of the steward, or leader, of the Guildhall, John Godray. Within a few years, in 1363, the title steward had given way to mayor, the first recorded being John Peyntour, whose position required him to represent the town, and exercise jurisdiction in a court that was held every three weeks. In 1439 a second charter was granted that included the right for the mayor and bailiffs to be Justices of the Peace and the title 'steward' fell out of use. A further Royal Charter of 1466 established a new Corporation comprising the mayor, bailiffs and burgesses.
  A meeting place known as Trinity House was built in 1518 and has survived to this day in the form of The Three Tuns public house behind the Guildhall. This was the meeting place of the Trinity Guild, a charitable institution, but such guilds were suppressed by Edward VI in 1547.
  Throughout this time, the area at the top of the town adjacent to the castle and Parish Church would have also been the market area, as established by the Normans.
  In the area now occupied by Queen Victoria's Statue there used to stand the Market Cross, built by John Sadler in 1380, where local produce could be bought and sold. It survived for over 300 years, until 1691, a year after the Guildhall we know today was completed.

Victoria Statue and Guildhall, to the east

The area of the Market Cross built in 1380

In 1592 a new market house was built just to the north of the site of the present Guildhall. This building lasted rather less than 100 years for in 1687 the council ordered it to be demolished. It was illustrated below by John Norden in his map of Windsor dated 1607. This is believed to be the only picture of this particular building. Note the pillory towards the church.

Guildhall Norden 1607

Extract from John Norden's map of Windsor, 1607

Market Hall in 1607

The Market Hall of 1607 as represented by a diorama commissioned in 1956 from Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards

The Town Hall as we know it today was commenced in 1687, the foundation stone being laid on 5th September 1687. It was designed by Sir Thomas Fitz, (Fiddes), Surveyor to the Cinque Ports. Sir Thomas died before the work was finished, and it was completed by Sir Christopher Wren and ready for occupation on 17th October 1689. The design of the building allowed for a corn market beneath the meeting chamber above. Many have wondered about the four pillars in the centre of the Corn Market, for they do not actually support the ceiling. Rumour has it that the council were concerned that the unsupported floor of the chamber may collapse, but Sir Christopher Wren, to prove a point, left the additional columns short of the ceiling. The pillars are of Portland Stone. In the large council chamber are a number of excellent paintings of Royal and other persons, including portraits of King George V and Queen Mary, presented by Their Majesties to the Corporation.

Guildhall Columns

The four pillars that serve no purpose in supporting the floor of the chamber above (although these days some wooden fillets have been inserted to take the weight - just in case!)

Queen Anne - Guildhall

The Statue in the niche on the north side of the Hall is that of Queen Anne, erected by the Corporation of Windsor in 1707.

Prince George of Denmark

The companion statue on the south side is that of Queen Anne's husband, Prince George of Denmark, the statue being presented to the town by Sir Christopher Wren.

The Town Hall until a few years ago was stuccoed and painted. The stucco has now been removed, the old walls beneath re-exposed and the building restored to its original appearance.

1969. A 'Near Miss' for the Queen forces Guildhall Restoration

During the autumn of 1969 Her Majesty the Queen paid a visit to the Guildhall at Windsor. What has remained unreported until now is that the very next day a length of heavy plaster frieze rail fell from high up in the Committee Room. It was realised with horror that Her Majesty had passed below that point only a few hours before! There were cracks appearing in the pediment mouldings, and the matter was debated urgently at the next committee. The Borough Engineer had scaffolding erected at the east end, to examine the brickwork, which appeared to be suspect. The officers were appalled to find that the whole pediment could be moved and so the area was closed. A consultant architect [Messrs Donald Insall & Associates] was engaged as a matter of urgency and their comprehensive report was submitted in November 1969.
  Floors had to be taken up for the timbers to be examined, and the roof timbers surveyed, so that the original construction and subsequent maintenance of the Guildhall could be recorded. Donald Insall in his white overalls was indefatigable, delving into the deeds - and misdeeds - of both Georgian and Victorian workmanship. Some penny pinching during the original construction was revealed and during subsequent maintenance too. The Bath stone which had been used for quoins and window openings had weathered badly such that replacement was essential. The lead gutters had been repeatedly patched with black bituminous material and had a history of leaking, so that the adjacent timbers were at risk. New leads were essential. Defective 17th century brickwork had to be renewed because some of the bricklaying was found to be "unbelievably bad". Chimney stacks had to be rebuilt and the flag staff resited so that it was supported on brickwork and not by the gutter boarding.
  The main beam under the Council Chamber appeared to be a ship's mast of huge proportions. Portions were found to be riddled with Death Watch beetle, and the decayed parts and associated 'frass' removed. The remainder was plated with steel angles to form a foundation for the brickwork above.
  It was clear that improvements to the ventilation were advisable as well as attention to the increasing problem of traffic noise and vibration. Double glazing was essential with only the best quality workmanship and materials acceptable to repair the building for a further three centuries.   The Corporation of Windsor adopted not only the 'essential' but aslo the 'recommended' sections of the report. The tender of Boyd & Murley Ltd from Reading was accepted with the work starting in April 1970. It took about six months and cost £50,000 including the consultant's fees. This is about £1.2 million at today's prices [2004].
  No records have been found concerning the original design by Sir Thomas Fitz, nor variations incorporated by Sir Christopher Wren after Sir Thomas had died. An early 17th century drawing by Knyff and engraved by Kip indicated both a hipped roof and a pediment, the same one that was found to be dangerous in 1969. It is assumed that money was short, and that Sir Christopher had to build the pediments as cheaply as possible. Instead of Portland stone, part of the work was rendering, and this had cracked. A core of tilework was supported by large iron spikes driven into a great beam which was a standard method at that time, but once the rendering had cracked, as it did, and the tilework had deteriorated, the spikes would rust and the beam would rot, so Portland stone was used as a replacement, protected by lead.
  At no time was the tradition of the corn exchange columns being left short of the council chamber floor proven, but the story dies hard.
  Perhaps of interest to American readers especially, the massive, wooden, mast-like joist supporting the floor of the council chamber was said to have come from a pine forest near Freeport, Maine in the US.

The Guildhall described around 1810

Charles Knight in his Guide to Windsor published c. 1810 describes The Guildhall at length

The Guildhall, which is situated in the principal part of the town, was erected in the year 1686, from a design by Sir Thomas Fiddes, Surveyor of the Cinque Ports, at the expense of £2006.14s. and was paid by the Corporation, except the sum of £680.7s.6d. which was presented by several gentlemen.

This is a handsome structure, supported with columns and arches of Portland stone. The hall or room in which the corporation meet for the dispatch of the business of the borough, is spacious, and well adapted for the purpose; and was in 1787, greatly improved by altering the construction of the windows, and substituting modern sashes in lieu of common quarries. It is adorned with the portraits of James I, Charles I, Charles II, James II, William III, Queen Mary, Queen Anne, George, Prince of Denmark, Prince Rupert, Archbishop Laud, Theodore Randue, Esq., The Earl of Nottingham, Lord Admiral in the year 1688, Governor of Windsor Castle, and High Steward of the Borough, etc. In 1707, the Corporation, from their regard to Queen Anne, who constantly resided at Windsor during the summer season, erected in a niche at the north end of this structure, the statue of that princess, vested in her royal robes, with the globe sceptre in her hands. Underneath, in the frieze of the entablature, is the following inscription in letters of gold.

Anno Regni fui VI.

Dom. 1707.

Arte tua, sculptor, non est imitabilis ANNA

ANNAE vis similem sculpere. Sculpe deam.

S. Chapman, Praetore.

And in a niche on the south side, is the statue of Her Majesty's royal consort, Prince George of Denmark, in a Roman military habit. Underneath is the following inscription:

Serenissimo Principi

GEORGIO Principi Daniaee,

Heroi Omni feculo venerando.

Christophus Wren, Arm.


In English thus:

To the most serene Prince George, Prince of Denmark
an hero to be revered in every age.
Christopher Wren, Esq. erected this statue, 1713.

In the area under the hall, is kept a market on Saturdays; and three fairs, on Easter Tuesday, July 5th and October 24th. These are become very inconsiderable, since their Majesties have resided so much here; who by their benevolent diffusion of their favours have excited a spirit of industry and emulation in the different tradesmen, who vie with each other in the improvement of their shops, and in the quality and cheapness of their various commodities; so that most of the necessaries, with many of the superfluities of life, may be purchased here on as eligible terms as at the first shops in the metropolis.


The Guildhall as the band marches past

The former Corn Exchange of the Guildhall makes an excellent viewing platform as the Guard and Band march to and from the castle for the Changing of the Guard ceremony.

The Guildhall is available for hire for events and celebrations of all kinds.

Please see
RBWM Web Page

See also

Charles Knight's Guide to Windsor

Sir Chistopher Wren's House Hotel and History

Back to Royal Windsor Home Page

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