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The Curfew Tower
Pictures from 1770 and later

Panorama 100

The famous 'pepper pot' shape of the Curfew Tower, at the far left of the castle from a panorama taken in the 1990s To see a larger version of this panorama, click here

A view of the castle from the 1850s showing the earlier square Curfew Tower belfry
This image, which claims to be 'the earliest photograph of Windsor', features in its own story

One of the delights of looking after the Royal Windsor Website is that every so often some really early pictures come along that illustrate how the town and the castle have developed over the years. Four such images surfaced in July 2003 and one more in February 2007, from a variety of separate sources, illustrating, sometimes by accident, the Curfew Tower and nearby buildings.

Thames Street 1856

Thames Street and the earlier square belfry at the top of the Curfew Tower, often known as the Clewer Tower in earlier times, photographed by Arthur J Melhuish in 1856, seven years before work began on the Tower.

Curfew Tower 2000

A similar view 144 years later in 2000

Curfew Tower and scaffolding

Curfew Tower surrounded by scaffolding

The picture above was found in an album containing pictures dated 1856 though this image is certainly later. Two dates are possible. The earlier is during the original construction of the new roof of the Curfew Tower in 1863, or later, from 1885, when further attention was required to the stone work of the west front, including the Curfew Tower. This additional attention was necessary because the stone facing work of 1860 was rapidly deteriorating. In 1859 the west front of the castle had been in a sorry state, the Garter Tower being in a very poor condition indeed. In 1860 therefore Anthony Salvin, was charged with restoring the west front as part of a general restoration of the Lower Ward. Unfortunately, the stone he chose for the job was just too soft and so in 1885 the Curfew, Garter and Salisbury Towers were refaced once again, this time with heath stone from High Wycombe. [Source Windsor Castle: Olwen Hedley, p. 201]

10 March 1863 and Princess Alexandra is riding in her carriage to St George's Chapel for her wedding to Prince Albert (to become Edward VII in 1901) and in the background is the Curfew Tower surrounded by scaffolding.

We believe that the following two images, taken from extremely rare stereoviews, show the stonemason's yard in the Lower Ward of the castle, and the carts used to take dressed stone through the Horseshoe Cloisters, to the top of the Curfew Tower.

Horse and Cart 1850s

The picture above, taken from a stereoview, is also believed to date from 1863. A cart has just come out of the archway leading to the Horseshoe Cloisters. It was probably loaded with stone associated with the work on the Curfew Tower and west front. Note the figure sitting on the fence, extreme right, and the ghostly image of the horses head! It must have nodded as the photo was taken for photographic exposure times in those days were quite slow, often several seconds. Towards the middle left of the picture there is another figure who also appears in the picture below.

Stone yard in Lower Ward

In this view, an extract from a second stereoview of the Lower Ward, the stones are clearly visible, fenced off from the public area. Also, note the soldier on guard, centre, and above him to the left, a figure seated by the fence. This same figure appears in the first picture above at the far right. We are satisfied that these two views were photographed on the same day, probably during the west front's restoration.

A Note about Stereoviews

Stereoviews provide a stereoscopic, 3D, effect when looked at through a viewer. Two images are required, one just to one side of the other, exactly as the human eye sees the view. The brain then combines the images and the 3D effect is created for the individual looking at the images. Some of the earliest stereoviews were created for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London at the Crystal Palace. In the mid 20th century Viewmaster used the same principle with pairs of images incorporated into a disk which slotted into the viewer.

1855 stereoview lower ward

The original stereoview above came from a bundle of stereo cards. Those that were dated were all either 1858 or 1859. Early stereoviews were made flat, with square corners on the card mounts, until 1865. From 1865 to 1890 the cards were still flat but with rounded corners as the manufacturers learned that the corners would otherwise become 'bumped' and damaged. After 1890 the cards were made with curved mounts ('warped' stereoviews) as they felt they got better stereo and more strength.

Colour was very rare in Victorian times and could only be created by hand-tinting both images. The coloured stereo below is therefore very sought after.

Colour Lower Ward

The Curfew Tower before 1863

The Curfew Tower and Horseshoe Cloisters in the 1850s
from an exceptionally rare, early stereoview in the Royal Windsor Website Collection

In the stereoview above, which was purchased by the Royal Windsor Website in February 2007, the earlier roofline of the Curfew Tower is clearly visible, with its single clockface still facing approximately east. Beneath the clocktower is what is now known as the Horseshoe Cloister. Paul Sandby had painted a very similar scene almost 100 years earlier, shown below. The cloister will be the subject of another RWWS article in the future, but for now suffice it to say that in the mid-Victorian times they were in need of considerable restoration and refurbishment. This was to take place in 1870 when the Tudor style we know today was restored to the entire cloister and the central wall was removed.

Sandby Cloisters 1770

We are indebted to W H St John Hope and his major publication Windsor Castle (1913) for these references. St John Hope was not impressed with the new Victorian roofline and refacing of the Curfew Tower writing in 1913 of the 'disfigurement' of the original structure.

Curfew Tower from Horseshoe Cloisters

A view of the Curfew Tower from within the Horseshoe Cloister in 2000

Curfew Tower from the Railway Viaduct

The Curfew Tower from the Central Railway Station

The Curfew Tower was originally built between 1227 and 1230 and was for several centuries known as the Clewer Tower. Later it was also known as the Bell Tower as it was the belfry for St George's Chapel during its construction in the reign of Edward IV in about 1474.
  The present roof was copied from La Tour du Trésau, Carcassonne, France at the suggestion of Albert, The Prince Consort. It is likely that he was given the idea by Emperor Napoleon III who had made a State Visit to Windsor in 1855 while the Carcassonne tower was being repaired.

Tresau, Carcassone

La Tour du Trésau (The Treasury Tower)
This tower is one of the most beautiful and imposing towers in the city of Carcassonne. It gave Prince Albert the idea for the roof line for the restored Curfew Tower at Windsor in 1863.
[Carcassonne Web Site]

Curfew Tower from Thames Street 1900

A remarkably similar view of the Curfew Tower taken in around 1900.
A modern taxi rank remains to this day as do the iron bars set in the curb to stop the horse-drawn cabs from running back down the hill. [2003]

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