The Queen’s Berkshire “home town” of Windsor has been celebrating her 90th birthday in grand style. Monday was annual Garter Day, when the Queen, accompanied by the Prince of Wales, the Princess Royal, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, and her grandson Prince William, led the procession of the Order of the Garter through the streets of this historic town on the Thames.
The Order, started by Edward III in 1348, is the highest order of knighthood and the country’s third-most prestigious honour. Restricted to 24 Knights Companion, it includes Lord Carrington, its longest-serving knight, and former prime minister John Major.
The grand birthday celebration last month, in the private grounds of Windsor Castle, the Queen’s favourite weekend retreat, was a spectacular, star-studded show of music, song, dance and equestrian displays.
Her official birthday was on Saturday, June 11, but Windsor was the focus for the Queen’s real birthday, on April 21, when the town was packed with well-wishers for her tour with Prince Philip.
Later this year an exhibition, Fashioning a Reign, will go on display at the castle. It will chart the significant events in the Queen’s life and the nation’s history through a fascinating display of her clothes and accessories from her childhood to the present day, including outfits designed by Sir Norman Hartnell and Sir Hardy Amies.
Estate agent Charles Elsmore-Wickens, of Savills, says at least a third of his buyers have left London for Windsor, drawn by its history and royal connections, the river, easy access to the capital and Heathrow airport, and by its good schools, both private and state.
Some overseas parents with children at nearby Eton College buy property in Windsor for when they visit.
This commuter and tourist town on the south bank of the Thames is 23 miles from central London, near junction 6 of the M4. Slough is three miles to the north, Heathrow is to the east, Ascot lies to the south and Maidenhead is to the north-west.
When it comes to housing types, Windsor has got the lot. The areas that surround the town feature period country houses, often associated with courtiers at Windsor Castle.
In the town of Windsor itself there are fine Georgian properties, Victorian terraces, and modern houses from the Thirties to the present day. There are also houses and flats that make the most of Windsor’s riverside setting.
Mayfield Place, a Bloor Homes development in Winkfield on the outskirts of town, offers seven detached houses, with prices starting from £1.65 million for a five-bedroom property. Through Hamptons International (01753 855555).
There are three new homes schemes in St Leonards Road. Brulures Place is a development of six three-storey houses, with prices starting at £1.2 million for a three-bedroom townhouse. Call Savills on 01753 834600. Leopold Place is a scheme of three terrace houses and a two-bedroom maisonette, with prices starting at £449,000 for the maisonette. Through Hardings (01753 833118).
Finally, Alexandra Court contains 14 one- and two-bedroom flats, with prices starting at £359,950. Through Hamptons (as before). The Parade, off Ruddlesway, is a scheme of 14 three-bedroom and four-bedroom houses. Prices start at £520,000. Through Horler (01753 621234).
Castle View in Helston Lane is a development of 58 apartments for the over-55s, with a roof garden. Prices start at £350,000 for a one-bedroom flat, and in Sheet Street, two properties remain in a Thomas Homes scheme of 25 flats, with prices from £280,000 for a studio. Both schemes are available through Savills (01753 834600).
The Gables (020 8504 4500) in Eton is the conversion of a former Eton College Victorian school building into seven two bedroom flats with a further five new build traditionally styled houses in the grounds. Prices of the flats start at £499,950 and the houses at £975,000.
Lettings associate at Savills, Sue Bird, says Windsor is popular with people from overseas who are working in London or at one of the nearby business parks. She says some of her tenants are weekend holiday home renters, attracted by Windsor’s royal connections, the river and the pretty surrounding countryside.
Estate agent Charles Elsmore-Wickens of Savills says the majority of his sellers and buyers are moving locally, with Windsor offering enough choice for both trading up and down.
SL4 is the Windsor postcode which also includes Old Windsor and Eton. Englefield Green, home to The Savill Garden, is in the TW20 Egham postcode.
Park Street is the best road, with Windsor’s finest Georgian houses, the charming, cosy Two Brewers pub, and an entrance to the Long Walk in Windsor Great Park.
In Windsor’s “Golden Triangle”, Frances Road has large detached and semi-detached Victorian houses, while Kings Road has Georgian houses, some with pretty ironwork balconies, and Adelaide Square is a leafy road of Victorian cottages.
Up and coming
House hunters who can’t afford the town head for the cheaper but less well-known village of Datchet close by.
Close to junction 6 on the M4, Windsor is convenient for Heathrow airport terminals, at junctions 4 and 4b. The town’s two railway stations are Windsor & Eton Riverside, with trains to Waterloo taking about 55 minutes — an annual season ticket is £2,824 — and Windsor & Eton Central with trains to Paddington, changing at Slough, taking from 24 to 55 minutes, and an annual season ticket costing £2,724.
The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead is Conservative controlled, and Band D council tax for the 2016/2017 year is £1,182.58.
Shops and restaurants
Windsor has plenty of shops, cafés and restaurants concentrated along Thames Street and Castle Hill outside the castle, along Peascod Street and in Windsor Royal Shopping Centre, created from the concourse at Windsor & Eton Central station. Daniel of Windsor, a department store in the town centre, is well known for its toy department.
Most high street brands are represented in Windsor, from budget names such as New Look and Topshop, to midmarket chains such as Whistles, Hobbs and Jigsaw, to upmarket brands such as Jaeger and Aquascutum.
There is no shortage of chain restaurants, either, with Bill’s, Patisserie Valerie, Café Rouge, Carluccio’s, PizzaExpress, Nando’s and Prezzo. The Tower Brasserie in The Harte & Garter Hotel & Spa opposite the castle is popular for afternoon tea.
There are also restaurants with outside tables in the little streets around the Guildhall, and in Church Street, where the Clarence Brasserie & Tea Room is another afternoon tea favourite.
Fans of independent shops and cafés head for St Leonards Road at the far end of Peascod Street, where Michael Chell is a renowned men’s fashion boutique; Urbansuite sells modern designer furniture, and there is a fishmonger, O’Driscoll’s.
The iconic Long Walk in Windsor Great Park has one of the country’s best-loved vistas. It is about two-and-a-half-miles from Windsor Castle to the Copper Horse, the statue of George III on horseback that marks the end of the walk at Snow Hill.
The park also contains The Savill Garden, a heavily planted ornamental garden created in the Thirties, in Wick Lane, Englefield Green. The Thames Path passes through Windsor on its way to Maidenhead.
Leisure and the arts
Windsor has its own repertory theatre, the Theatre Royal in Thames Street, currently in the middle of the Windsor Repertory Festival which is billed as “six weeks of quality theatre”. The Firestation Centre for Arts and Culture in St Leonards Road puts on a mixture of arts events including comedy and live music, and there is a wide programme of classes.
The Royal Windsor Horse Show takes place every year in May.
The LEGOLAND Windsor Resort is a Lego-based theme park in Winkfield Road to the south of the town centre.
The Windsor Leisure Centre in Stovell Road is the local council-owned swimming pool.
Windsor has an unusual state school structure, with first schools up to age nine; middle schools from nine to 13, and upper schools from 13 to 18. Judged “outstanding” by the Ofsted schools watchdog are St Edward’s RC First School in Parsonage Lane; Windsor Girls’ Upper School in Imperial Road, and Hilltop First School in Clewer Hill Road.
Nearby Slough has four grammar schools and one comprehensive school that are rated “outstanding”. They are: Upton Court Grammar; Langley Grammar; St Bernard’s Catholic Grammar; Herschel Grammar, and Slough and Eton CofE Business and Enterprise College. All are co-ed, for ages 11 to 18.
Windsor’s good choice of private schools includes: St George’s (co-ed, ages three to 13) in Windsor Castle, which is also the choir school for St George’s Chapel; The King’s House School (co-ed, ages three to 11), a Christian school in Frances Road; Upton House (boys ages two to seven; girls ages two to 11) in St Leonards Road; Brigidine School (boys, ages two to 11; girls ages two to 18), a Catholic school in Kings Road; and Eton End (boys ages three to seven; girls ages three to 11) in Eton Road, Datchet.
World-renowned Eton College (boys, ages 13 to 18) is reached by crossing a pedestrian bridge from Windsor. Old Etonians include Princes Willam and Harry, Prime Minister David Cameron and Tory MP and former London Mayor, Boris Johnson.