Royal Windsor and its churches
A significant quantity of records from the parish of New Windsor St John the Baptist, 1870-1990, has been catalogued and includes some real gems (D/P149). As we celebrate a coronation this month, by coincidence we are able to tell you that Windsor’s close connection with the Royal Family over the years is highlighted in a number of these newly available records, including papers relating to a visit to the College of Chaplains by the late Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1983; and correspondence with the Royal Household concerning the use of the Royal Pew in Windsor parish church, 1973.
The fake arches which celebrated a queen
A real peculiarity of Windsor’s past is revealed in photographs of arches erected to line processional routes in Windsor on the occasion of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. They were designed by Arthur Young Nutt, and although they appear in the pictures to be very solid examples of real historic masonry, don’t be fooled into thinking they are a lost piece of Tudor architecture - they were actually built from canvas and wood in the vein of stage scenery. The statue of Queen Victoria, originally erected to celebrate her Golden Jubilee in 1887, also had a temporary stone canopy put over it for her Diamond Jubilee, 10 years later. We also have a photograph of a similar though slightly less impressive arch (also designed by Nutt) erected on Castle Hill to celebrate the Queen’s birthday in 1899.
X rays and other wonders
In 1905, some members of the Royal Family actually took part in a Grand Bazaar representing 'Windsor in the Olden Time', held in the Royal Albert Institute in aid of the fund for a new organ and other alterations to the church. Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein (Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Helena) opened the bazaar and was in charge of the book stall. Pictures on sale included watercolours by Princess Henry of Battenberg (Princess Beatrice, another of the Queen’s daughters), photographs of artworks by Princess Louise, donated by her, and there were also some 'unique Photographs of Scenes in South African war'. Scientific demonstrations included 'liquid air', 'X Rays and other Wonders', and radium.
The oldest of the new arrivals is a plan of the burial vaults in the parish church and churchyard, with a key to those who could be identified as being buried in vaults, created when the church was restored in 1870. Changing times are reflected in a letter requesting use of the east transept roof as a camera rostrum for filming street scenes for the film "No Sex Please, We're British", in 1973. Also of great interest are copies of an opinionated local magazine called The Sentinel, 1885-1886.
A good deal of the material relates to the parish schools, including minutes of the trustees of the Royal Free and Industrial Schools, 1895-1985. An interesting item is the 1986 report by a female sixth former from Princess Margaret Royal Free School on her experiences studying Russian as a guest student at Eton. This was a programme enabling Eton to contribute to the local community, and the report provides an insight into local attitudes to Eton boys and vice versa.
Kangaroos in the Great Park
A cinefilm of the Midsummer Fair of 1955 has been transferred to the Wessex Sound and Film Archive in Winchester as we lack access facilities here. Another curiosity is "Carols from Windsor Parish Church", a professionally released vinyl LP album. This featured a choir drawn from the boys of the Royal Free Schools and a peal of the church bells. Typed extracts from the autobiography of Louisianna Gibson, nee Sumner (1817-1899), include her childhood recollections of the fair in Bachelor's Acre, Windsor; a visit to see kangaroos which had been given to the King and were housed at Cumberland Lodge; Lousianna's brother's dangerous illness with typhus fever; and the public celebrations of the coronation of George IV. Louisianna was the daughter of the Revd Charles Richard Sumner, Librarian and Chaplain to George IV.
As part of this project material has also been added to the records of Windsor Holy Trinity, 1894-1986, including records for Holy Trinity School, c.1926-1983, and a beautiful watercolour design for a stained glass window, c.1913-1920 (D/P166). Records from Windsor All Saints (D/P149B) include a printed copy of the sermon preached in 1866 on the anniversary of its opening.
You can find out more about any of the records mentioned here and more, by searching our online catalogue. Simply enter the collection references mentioned above into the Catalogue Reference field.