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Histories of Windsor

The Civic Trust Project, May 1961
The Windsor High Street
Improvement Scheme

 Castle walls

Looking east, the removal of the high wall around the Castle opened up the entire area to great effect and, coupled with sympathetic redecoration of the facing shop fronts, was the most impressive feature of the Civic Trust Project.

In the following, we include additional photographs, plus contemporary notes about the project made at the time.

All photographs are © The Royal Windsor Website.

  In the two cartoons to the left, one of the ideals of the Civic Trust schemes around the UK at the time are nicely summarised - to remove all superfluous signs, and, ideally, traffic too, so as to create an attractive environment for all pedestrians using the area.

Queen at Curfew Tower BW

The Queen, Mayor and Mr Duncan-Sandys

H.M. The Queen with the Rt. Hon. Duncan-Sandys and the Mayor of Windsor leading the procession around the Castle on the occasion of the completion of the Civic Trust scheme

LS Queen in Thames Street

The procession in Thames Street viewed from the newly opened up lawns beneath the castle walls

The following is a summary of the scheme which transformed the area around Windsor Castle in May 1961. Many of the residents of Windsor will have forgotten the dramatic effect that the co-ordinated scheme achieved. From Park Street in the east, past the Guildhall, along the High Street and Thames Street down the hill towards Windsor Bridge, the overall effect was quite superb.

Although time has marred the original concept of a homogeneous concept, where each building is painted in sympathy with its neighbours, there is much that remains as a permanent feature, in particular the removal of a high wall around the castle itself, opening up the grassy slope between the High Street and the Castle walls themselves.

Policeman at Corner of Castle Hill

Complimentary and co-ordinated pastel colours were selected for groups
buildings throughout the length of Windsor High Street.

gift shop castle hill

The Gift Shop opposite the Henry VIII Gateway

Barclays Bank

The newly cleaned stonework of Barclays Bank

View towards Curfew Tower

The view to the west following removal of the high wall.

The White Hart Hotel

A maze of signs were removed leaving only a Bus Information Point
and stylish litter bin on left! Note that in 1961, 'Ye Olde Harte and Garter' hotel was
simply 'The White Hart Hotel'

station approach

Station Approach, originally built in 1897, with Thames Valley buses

thames street

Regardless of the age or style of each building, all were attractively
decorated in complimenting colour schemes.


Dyson's Jewellers, the shop with the clock in the pavement, left, and Dyson's piano and record shop next door.

The Queen in Procession

H.M. Queen Elizabeth walking the length of the High St. during the Official Opening.
The Rt. Hon. Duncan Sandys is to her right with local officials following.

This is the report that was prepared at the time following completion of the scheme.

The previous improvement schemes initiated by the Civic Trust, in Magdalen Street, Norwich, and Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, were, in a sense, exercises in rejuvenation. The former, a Cathedral City shopping street in decline, contained a number of fine buildings and it sprang to life afresh after a radical spring clean. The latter, a typical legacy of the nineteenth century industrial revolution, had quite disintegrated and required the creation of a new heart.
  The Royal Borough of Windsor, scene of the Trust's third pilot scheme, has little in common with these. It is a quiet but busy and prosperous town, with plenty of character; in spite of the tens of thousands of tourists who visit it every summer, it is clean and tidy too. Not a place, most people would have said in need of improvement. Towns evolve in a haphazard way, however shaped by a multiplicity of unrelated decisions: there are few urban areas anywhere in the world, the appearance of which has ever been subjected to overall scrutiny and design. The architectural interest of the Windsor improvement scheme perhaps lies in this: to what extent can an above-average street or other urban area be improved by such an operation? What has been done in Windsor is, inevitably, less dramatic in its effect than the improvement effected in Magdalen Street and Burslem; it is no less real, however, and, in its context, no less marked. The Windsor scheme confirms the Trust in its view that there is no area, the appearance of which cannot be improved, at relatively small cost, if all those concerned are prepared to work together voluntarily to that end.

Origins and Sponsorship

Officers of the Windsor Corporation attended the opening of the Magdalen Street Scheme in 1959 and the Corporation subsequently approached the Trust with a view to initiating a similar project. Joint meetings were held with the Chamber of Trade and, after it became clear that there was support for the idea, the Trust agreed to undertake the co-ordination of a scheme. Mr. Noel Tweddell, FRIBA, DistTP, formerly Chief Architect and Planner of Basildon New Town, was nominated as Co-ordinating Architect. It was decided that the scheme should embrace the whole of Lower Thames Street, Thames Street and the High Street; also the cluster of old properties between the Guildhall and the Castle in Church Street, Church Lane, Market Street and Castle Hill. In the area as a whole are some 120 properties, most of them shops, but including hotels, banks and public houses; among the organisations to be involved in the operation, in addition to the Windsor Corporation, were the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Works, the G.P.O., British Railways and London Transport.

What was done

The whole of this area is dominated by the great bulk of the Castle, round the Western wall of which High Street and Thames Street wrap themselves. The object of the scheme was to enhance the character and dignity of this unique relationship.
  The street picture, even in Windsor, was confused by a multiplicity of structures and objects and signs, none of them particularly offensive in themselves but cumulatively irritating and unsightly. There were, for example, in the area under consideration, 221 signs of one sort and another: 148 traffic signs, including 106 'No Waiting' and 'Waiting Limited' signs; 29 Corporation and others, excluding 11 public transport signs; others included some 33 electrical signs on buildings. All these it has proved possible drastically to reduce, in particular by the redesign of certain Ministry of Transport traffic signs and an extended use of the Ministry's experimental yellow kerb line. In many cases the new traffic signs have been affixed directly to the buildings, thus doing away with the previous striped poles.
  Bus shelters, seats and litter bins have been replaced by others of improved design. Sand, transformer and switchgear boxes have been removed from the pavements and resited less obtrusively. Telephone kiosks have also been resited. A new and vastly improved lighting scheme for the street has made possible the replacement of 18 lighting columns and three hanging lights, by 36 lanterns bracketed from the buildings thus noticeably improving the view of the Castle. A number of other lanterns have been converted or installed at particular points.
Of the 120 properties in the area, only a handful have felt unable totally to participate, A number of buildings which where in need of basic repair have made good their street elevations. Those redecorating have conformed to a range of 30 colours and wherever possible buildings in divided ownership have unified the upper parts of their premises. A number of inappropriate signs on buildings have been removed. The Wren-designed Guildhall and Corn Exchange have been cleaned, the statuary repaired and repainting has included the use of a strong Peacock Blue on the ceiling of the Corn Exchange. The main piers at the entrance to the Parish Church of St. John's have been. rebuilt and new wrought iron gates have been made without charge by Mr. J. House, the Corporation blacksmith.
  Kerb lines have been changed in three places, primarily for reasons of traffic flow, car parking and pedestrian safety, but the opportunity has been taken at the Park Street corner at the same time to plant trees and install flower tubs. Castle Hill and High Street have both been resurfaced. Floodlighting has been installed on the Guildhall, the Parish Church, the War Memorial and King George V Memorial; Barclays Bank and The Ship have also contributed special external lighting to their premises.

The Wall

The biggest single change in the appearance of the High Street has been the removal, by gracious permission of H.M. The Queen, of the boundary wall dividing the Castle from the street. The wall was built a little over a century ago, after the demolition of the small cottages and houses that had previously clustered under the Castle Wall itself. Almost 500 ft. long and 6 - 12 ft. high, it blocked the view from many points but served no useful purpose. Its removal, and the clearance of all extraneous street furniture from the pavement it abutted, has brought the Castle right into the town and opened up a most imposing vista. In the autumn two forest trees will be planted near the Salisbury Tower.

Demolishing the castle wall 1961

Work proceeds apace on the demolition of the wall between the High St and The Castle

The work was carried out by the Ministry of Works, who removed the coping and reset it at pavement level, and by a team of volunteers, organised by the Civic Trust with equipment and other assistance kindly loaned by Messrs. Wimpey. The Trust has for some years organised work camps for the demolition of large-scale eyesores in National Parks and rural areas. It has recently applied the principle to a pilot urban scheme in Stepney and Windsor provided another example of the contribution that can be made to the appearance of our towns by public spirited volunteers. Mr. Duncan Sandys himself knocked out the first stone just before Easter. The team which the took over consisted of twelve students from different parts of the country who camped in a local school, worked for a fortnight in rain and sun and finished their task a day ahead of schedule.



The Rt. Hon. Duncan Sandys attacks the wall as part of a publicity exercise.


It must be remembered that in schemes of this kind, streets and buildings are not redesigned ab initio; that neither the Local Authority, nor the Chamber of Trade, nor the Civic Trust have any powers other than the power of persuasion. The extent to which any particular proposals may actually be implemented depends upon individual taste, individual readiness to meet the cost involved, individual trading problems and competition, individual house-styles and redecoration programmes, together with a multiplicity of factors, often conflicting, created by public utilities and public accounting.
  There remain things in Windsor, between the river and Park Street which the Civic Trust would have been glad to change but which, usually on grounds of cost, could not be undertaken on this occasion. There may be instanced, as an example, the King George V Memorial at the corner of Datchet Road: designed for a site that was originally bounded by buildings in Datchet Road: this now sits, since the demolition of the buildings, uneasily upon an axis that no longer relates to the area. The statue of Queen Victoria, at the foot of Castle Hill, might with advantage, it may be thought, be moved either to the grassy embankment surrounding the Salisbury Tower, or to the new paving at Park Street corner where, among the newly planted trees, it could form a welcome focal point. One day, too, it may prove possible to resolve the somewhat indeterminate relationship of the Curfew Tower to the pavement of which it forms the hub, possibly by the construction of a small terrace with seats where shoppers could rest their feet and visitors admire the view.
  Such things, however, can still be done in the future. Schemes of this kind are not finite. Towns continue to change and develop and improvements to a town's appearance do not cease to become necessary or possible after an arbitrarily chosen date. What must have struck any visitor to Windsor during April 1961 was the astonishing sense of corporate endeavour shown by the activity in the High Street and Thames Street. In all directions, scaffolding, building material and ladders were to be seen; men were painting, drilling, laying paving, installing lights or bus shelters. When a town shows its passionate concern with, and pride in, its appearance in this way, things are unlikely ever to be quite the same again.

May 1961



Members of the team meet the Duke of Edinburgh (List and photo)

A film, New Face for Britain: A Make-over for Windsor was made by the Civic Trust at the time and copies are now to hand.

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