Archive for August 11, 2013

Windsor Castle, parts of which date back to the 11th century, is a royal residence at Windsor in the English county of Berkshire. The castle is notable for its long association with the British royal family and for its architecture. The original castle was built after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I, it has been used by succeeding monarchs and it is the longest-occupied palace in Europe. The castle’s lavish, early 19th-century State Apartments are architecturally significant, described by art historian Hugh Roberts as “a superb and unrivalled sequence of rooms widely regarded as the finest and most complete expression of later Georgian taste”. The castle includes the 15th-century St George’s Chapel, considered by historian John Robinson to be “one of the supreme achievements of English Perpendicular Gothic” design. More than five hundred people live and work in Windsor Castle.

Originally designed to protect Norman dominance around the outskirts of London, and to oversee a strategically important part of the River Thames, Windsor Castle was built as a motte and bailey, with three wards surrounding a central mound. Gradually replaced with stone fortifications, the castle withstood a prolonged siege during the First Barons’ War at the start of the 13th century. Henry III built a luxurious royal palace within the castle during the middle of the century, and Edward III went further, rebuilding the palace to produce an even grander set of buildings in what would become “the most expensive secular building project of the entire Middle Ages in England”. Edward’s core design lasted through the Tudor period, during which Henry VIII and Elizabeth I made increasing use of the castle as a royal court and centre for diplomatic entertainment.
Windsor Castle survived the tumultuous period of the English Civil War, when it was used as a military headquarters for Parliamentary forces and a prison for Charles I. During the Restoration, Charles II rebuilt much of Windsor Castle with the help of architect Hugh May, creating a set of extravagant, Baroque interiors that are still admired. After a period of neglect during the 18th century, George III and George IV renovated and rebuilt Charles II’s palace at colossal expense, producing the current design of the State Apartments, full of Rococo, Gothic and Baroque furnishings. Victoria made minor changes to the castle, which became the centre for royal entertainment for much of her reign. Windsor Castle was used as a refuge for the royal family during the bombing campaigns of the Second World War and survived a fire in 1992. It is a popular tourist attraction, a venue for hosting state visits, and the Queen’s preferred weekend home.
Windsor Castle occupies a large site of more than thirteen acres (five hectares), and combines the features of a fortification, a palace, and a small town. The present-day castle was created during a sequence of phased building projects, culminating in the reconstruction work after a fire in 1992. It is in essence a Georgian and Victorian design based on a medieval structure, with Gothic features reinvented in a modern style. Since the 14th century, architecture at the castle has attempted to produce a contemporary reinterpretation of older fashions and traditions, repeatedly imitating outmoded or even antiquated styles. As a result, architect Sir William Whitfield has pointed to Windsor Castle’s architecture as having “a certain fictive quality”, the Picturesque and Gothic design generating “a sense that a theatrical performance is being put on here”, despite late 20th century efforts to expose more of the older structures to increase the sense of authenticity. Although there has been some criticism, the castle’s architecture and history lends it a “place amongst the greatest European palaces”.
At the heart of Windsor Castle is the Middle Ward, a bailey formed around the motte or artificial hill in the centre of the ward. The motte is 50 ft (15 m) high and is made from chalk originally excavated from the surrounding ditch. The keep, called the Round Tower, on the top of the motte is based on an original 12th-century building, extended upwards in the early 19th century under architect Jeffry Wyattville by 30 ft (9 m) to produce a more imposing height and silhouette. [9] The interior of the Round Tower was further redesigned in 1991–3 to provide additional space for the Royal Archives, an additional room being built in the space left by Wyattville’s originally hollow extension. The Round Tower is in reality far from cylindrical, due to the shape and structure of the motte beneath it. The current height of the tower has been criticised as being disproportionate to its width; archaeologist Tim Tatton-Brown, for example, has described it as a mutilation of the earlier medieval structure.
The western entrance to the Middle Ward is now open, and a gateway leads north from the ward onto the North Terrace. The eastern exit from the ward is guarded by the Norman Gatehouse. This gatehouse, which in fact dates from the 14th century, is heavily vaulted and decorated with carvings, including surviving medieval lion masks, traditional symbols of majesty, to form an impressive entrance to the Upper Ward. Wyattville redesigned the exterior of the gatehouse, and the interior was later heavily converted in the 19th century for residential use.
The Upper Ward of Windsor Castle comprises a number of major buildings enclosed by the upper bailey wall, forming a central quadrangle. The State Apartments run along the north of the ward, with a range of buildings along the east wall, and the private royal apartments and the King George IV Gate to the south, with the Edward III Tower in the south-west corner. The motte and the Round Tower form the west edge of the ward. A bronze statue of Charles II on horseback sits beneath the Round Tower. Inspired by Hubert Le Sueur’s statue of Charles I in London, the statue was cast by Josias Ibach in 1679, with the marble plinth featuring carvings by Grinling Gibbons. The Upper Ward adjoins the North Terrace, which overlooks the River Thames, and the East Terrace, which overlooks the gardens; both of the current terraces were constructed by Hugh May in the 17th century.
Traditionally the Upper Ward was judged to be “to all intents and purposes a nineteenth-century creation … the image of what the early nineteenth-century thought a castle should be”, as a result of the extensive redesign of the castle by Wyattville under George IV. The walls of the Upper Ward are built of Bagshot Heath stone faced on the inside with regular bricks, the gothic details in yellow Bath stone. The buildings in the Upper Ward are characterised by the use of small bits of flint in the mortar for galletting, originally started at the castle in the 17th century to give stonework from disparate periods a similar appearance. The skyline of the Upper Ward is designed to be dramatic when seen from a distance or silhouetted against the horizon, an image of tall towers and battlements influenced by the picturesque movement of the late 18th century. Archaeological and restoration work following the 1992 fire has shown the extent to which the current structure represents a survival of elements from the original 12th-century stone walls onwards, presented within the context of Wyattville’s final remodelling.
The State Apartments form the major part of the Upper Ward and lie along the north side of the quadrangle. The modern building follows the medieval foundations laid down by Edward III, with the ground floor comprising service chambers and cellars, and the much grander first floor forming the main part of the palace. On the first floor, the layout of the western end of the State Apartments is primarily the work of architect Hugh May, whereas the structure on the eastern side represents Jeffry Wyattville’s plans.
The interior of the State Apartments was mostly designed by Wyattville in the early 19th century. Wyattville intended each room to illustrate a particular architectural style and to display the matching furnishings and fine arts of the period. With some alterations over the years, this concept continues to dominate the apartments. Different rooms follow the Classical, Gothic and Rococo styles, together with an element of Jacobean in places. Many of the rooms on the eastern end of the castle had to be restored following the 1992 fire, using “equivalent restoration” methods – the rooms were restored so as to appear similar to their original appearance, but using modern materials and concealing modern structural improvements. These rooms were also partially redesigned at the same time to more closely match modern tastes. Art historian Hugh Roberts has praised the State Apartments as “a superb and unrivalled sequence of rooms widely regarded as the finest and most complete expression of later Georgian taste.” Others, such as architect Robin Nicolson and critic Hugh Pearman, have described them as “bland” and “distinctly dull”.
A photograph of a large room with a long red carpet stretching through the middle of it and windows on the right hand side. Furniture fills both sides of the room. The ceiling contains ornate plasterwork and a chandelier hangs down from the middle of the picture.
The Crimson Drawing Room in 2007 following the 1992 fire and subsequent remodelling
Wyattville’s most famous work is the rooms designed in a Rococo style. These rooms take the fluid, playful aspects of this mid-18th-century artistic movement, including many original pieces of Louis XV decoration, but project them on a “vastly inflated” scale. Investigations after the 1992 fire have shown though that many Rococo features of the modern castle, originally thought to have been 18th-century fittings transferred from Carlton House or France, are in fact 19th-century imitations in plasterwork and wood, designed to blend with original elements. The Grand Reception Room is the most prominent of these Rococo designs, 100 ft (30 m) long and 40 ft (12 m) tall and occupying the site of Edward III’s great hall. This room, restored after the fire, includes a huge French Rococo ceiling, characterised by Ian Constantinides, the lead restorer, as possessing a “coarseness of form and crudeness of hand … completely overshadowed by the sheer spectacular effect when you are at a distance”. The room is set off by a set of restored Gobelins French tapestries. Although decorated with less gold leaf than in the 1820s, the result remains “one of the greatest set-pieces of Regency decoration”. The White, Green and Crimson Drawing Rooms include a total of sixty-two trophies: carved, gilded wooden panels illustrating weapons and the spoils of war, many with Masonic meanings. Restored or replaced after the fire, these trophies are famous for their “vitality, precision and three-dimensional quality”, and were originally brought from Carlton House in 1826, some being originally imported from France and others carved by Edward Wyatt. The soft furnishings of these rooms, although luxurious, are more modest than the 1820s originals, both on the grounds of modern taste and cost.
Wyattville’s design retains three rooms originally built by Hugh May in the 17th century in partnership with the painter Antonio Verrio and carver Grinling Gibbons. The Queen’s Presence Chamber, the Queen’s Audience Chamber and the King’s Dining Room are designed in a Baroque, Franco-Italian style, characterised by “gilded interiors enriched with florid murals”, first introduced to England between 1648–50 at Wilton House. Verrio’s paintings are “drenched in medievalist allusion” and classical images. These rooms were intended to show an innovative English “baroque fusion” of the hitherto separate arts of architecture, painting and carving.
Two designs for a ceiling; one showing a side view of structure and decoration; the bottom showing how it would appear from below. The ceiling is decorated with a network of gothic arches in gold on a blue background.
A handful of rooms in the modern State Apartments reflect either 18th-century or Victorian Gothic design. The State Dining Room, for example, whose current design originates from the 1850s but which was badly damaged during the 1992 fire, is restored to its appearance in the 1920s, before the removal of some of the gilded features on the pilasters. Anthony Salvin’s Grand Staircase is also of mid-Victorian design in the Gothic style, rising to a double-height hall lit by an older 18th-century Gothic vaulted lantern tower called the Grand Vestibule, designed by James Wyatt and executed by Francis Bernasconi. The staircase has been criticised by historian John Robinson as being a distinctly inferior design to the earlier staircases built on the same site by both Wyatt and May.
Some parts of the State Apartments were completely destroyed in the 1992 fire and this area was rebuilt in a style called “Downesian Gothic”, named after the architect, Giles Downes. The style comprises “the rather stripped, cool and systematic coherence of modernism sewn into a reinterpretation of the Gothic tradition”. Downes argues that the style avoids “florid decoration”, emphasising an organic, flowing Gothic structure. Three new rooms were built or remodelled by Downes at Windsor. Downes’ new roof of St George’s Hall is the largest green-oak structure built since the middle Ages, and is decorated with brightly coloured shields celebrating the heraldic element of the Order of the Garter; the design attempts to create an illusion of additional height through the gothic woodwork along the ceiling. The Lantern Lobby features flowing oak columns forming a vaulted ceiling, imitating an arum lily. The new Private Chapel is relatively small, only able to fit thirty worshippers, but combines architectural elements of the St George’s Hall roof with the Lantern Lobby and the stepped arch structure of the Henry VIII chapel vaulting at Hampton Court. The result is an “extraordinary, continuous and closely moulded net of tracery”, complementing the new stained glass windows commemorating the fire, designed by Joseph Nuttgen. The Great Kitchen, with its newly exposed 14th-century roof lantern sitting alongside Wyattville’s fireplaces, chimneys and Gothic tables, is also a product of the reconstruction after the fire.
The ground floor of the State Apartments retains various famous medieval features. The 14th-century Great Under croft still survives, some 193 ft (60 m) long by 31 ft (9 m) wide, divided into thirteen bays. At the time of the 1992 fire, the under croft had been divided into smaller rooms; the area is now opened up to form a single space in an effort to echo the under crofts at Fountains and Rievaulx Abbeys, although the floor remains artificially raised for convenience of use. The “beautifully vaulted” 14th-century Larderie passage runs alongside the Kitchen Courtyard and is decorated with carved royal roses, marking its construction by Edward III.
The Lower Ward lies below and to the west of the Round Tower, reached through the Norman Gate. Originally largely of medieval design, most of the Lower Ward was renovated or reconstructed during the mid-Victorian period by Anthony Salvin and Edward Blore, to form a “consistently Gothic composition”. The Lower Ward holds St George’s Chapel and most of the buildings associated with the Order of the Garter.
On the north side of the Lower Ward is St George’s Chapel. This huge building is the spiritual home of the Order of the Knights of the Garter and dates from the late 15th and early 16th century, designed in the Perpendicular Gothic style. The ornate wooden choir stalls are of 15th-century design, having been restored and extended by Henry Emlyn at the end of the 18th century, and are decorated with a unique set of brass plates showing the arms of the Knights of the Garter over the last six centuries. On the west side, the chapel has a grand Victorian door and staircase, used on ceremonial occasions. The east stained glass window is Victorian, and the oriel window to the north side of it was built by Henry VIII for Catherine of Aragon. The vault in front of the altar houses the remains of Henry VIII, Jane Seymour and Charles I, with Edward IV buried nearby. The chapel is considered by historian John Robinson to be “one of the supreme achievements of English Perpendicular Gothic” design.
A close-up photograph of a building made with black timbers and red brick. The building has four tall, brick chimneys. A relatively modern drainpipe comes down the middle of the building.
The Horseshoe Cloister, built in 1480 and reconstructed in the 19th century
At the east end of St George’s Chapel is the Lady Chapel, originally built by Henry III in the 13th century and converted into the Albert Memorial Chapel between 1863–73 by George Gilbert Scott. Built to commemorate the life of Prince Albert, the ornate chapel features lavish decoration and works in marble, glass mosaic and bronze by Henri de Triqueti, Susan Durant, Alfred Gilbert and Antonio Salviati. The east door of the chapel, covered in ornamental ironwork, is the original door from 1246.
At the west end of the Lower Ward is the Horseshoe Cloister, originally built in 1480, near to the chapel to house its clergy. It houses the vicars-choral or lay clerks of the chapel. This curved brick and timber building is said to have been designed to resemble the shape of a fetlock, one of the badges used by Edward IV. George Gilbert Scott heavily restored the building in 1871 and little of the original structure remains. Other ranges originally built by Edward III sit alongside the Horseshoe, featuring stone perpendicular tracery. As of 2011, they are used as offices, a library and as the houses for the Dean and Canons.
Behind the Horseshoe Cloister is the Curfew Tower, one of the oldest surviving parts of the Lower Ward and dating from the 13th century. The interior of the tower contains a former dungeon, and the remnants of a sally port, a secret exit for the occupants in a time of siege. The upper storey contains the castle bells placed there in 1478, and the castle clock of 1689. The French-style conical roof is a 19th-century attempt by Anthony Salvin to remodel the tower in the fashion of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc’s recreation of Carcassonne.
On the opposite side of the chapel is a range of buildings including the lodgings of the Military Knights, and the residence of the Governor of the Military Knights? These buildings originate from the 16th century and are still used by the Knights, who represent the Order of the Garter each Sunday. On the south side of the Ward is King Henry VIII’s gateway, which bears the coat of arms of Catherine of Aragon and forms the secondary entrance to the castle.
Windsor Castle was originally built by William the Conqueror in the decade after the Norman conquest of 1066. William established a defensive ring of motte and bailey castles around London; each was a day’s march – about 20 miles (32 km) – from the city and from the next castle, allowing for easy reinforcements in a crisis. Windsor Castle, one of the rings of fortifications, was strategically important because of its proximity to both the River Thames, a key medieval route into London, and Windsor Forest, a royal hunting preserve previously used by the Saxon kings. The nearby settlement of Clivore, or Clewer, was an old Saxon residence. The initial wooden castle consisted of a keep on the top of a man-made motte, or mound, protected by a small bailey wall, occupying a chalk inlier, or bluff, rising 100 ft (30 m) above the river. A second wooden bailey was constructed to the east of the keep, forming the later Upper Ward. By the end of the century, another bailey had been constructed to the west, creating the basic shape of the modern castle. In design, Windsor most closely resembled Arundel Castle, another powerful early Norman fortification, but the double bailey design was also found at Rockingham and Alnwick Castle.
Windsor was not initially used as a royal residence; the early Norman kings preferred to use the former palace of Edward the Confessor in the village of Old Windsor. The first king to use Windsor Castle as a residence was Henry I, who celebrated Whitsuntide at the castle in 1110 during a period of heightened insecurity. Henry’s marriage to Adela, the daughter of Godfrey of Louvain, took place in the castle in 1121. During this period the keep suffered a substantial collapse – archaeological evidence shows that the southern side of the motte subsided by over 6 ft (2 m). Timber piles were driven in to support the motte and the old wooden keep was replaced with a new stone shell keep, with a probable gateway to the north-east and a new stone well. A chemise, or low protective wall, was subsequently added to the keep.
Henry II came to the throne in 1154 and built extensively at Windsor between 1165 and 1179. Henry replaced the wooden palisade surrounding the upper ward with a stone wall interspersed with square towers and built the first King’s Gate. The first stone keep was suffering from subsidence, and cracks were beginning to appear in the stonework of the south side. Henry replaced the keep with another stone shell keep and chemise wall, but moved the walls in from the edge of the motte to relieve the pressure on the mound, and added massive foundations along the south side to provide additional support. Inside the castle Henry remodelled the royal accommodation. Bagshot Heath stone was used for most of the work, and stone from Bedfordshire for the internal buildings.
King John undertook some building works at Windsor, but primarily to the accommodation rather than the defences. The castle played a role during the revolt of the English barons: the castle was besieged in 1214, and John used the castle as his base during the negotiations before the signing of the Magna Carta at nearby Runnymede in 1215. In 1216 the castle was besieged again by baronial and French troops under the command of the Count of Nevers, but John’s constable, Engelard de Cigogné, successfully defended it.
The damage done to the castle during the second siege was immediately repaired in 1216 and 1221 by Cigogne on behalf of John’s successor Henry III, who further strengthened the defences.[78] The walls of the Lower Ward were rebuilt in stone, complete with a gatehouse in the location of the future Henry VIII Gate, between 1224 and 1230. Three new towers, the Curfew, Garter and the Salisbury towers were constructed. The Middle Ward was heavily reinforced with a southern stone wall, protected by the new Edward III and Henry III towers at each end.
Windsor Castle was one of Henry’s three favourite residences and he invested heavily in the royal accommodation, spending more money at Windsor than in any other of his properties. Following his marriage to Eleanor of Provence, Henry built a luxurious palace in 1240–63, based around a court along the north side of the Upper Ward. This was intended primarily for the queen and Henry’s children. In the Lower Ward, the king ordered the construction of a range of buildings for his own use along the south wall, including a 70 ft (21 m) long chapel, later called the Lady Chapel. This was the grandest of the numerous chapels built for his use, and comparable to the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris in size and quality. Henry repaired the Great Hall that lay along the north side of the Lower Ward, and enlarged it with a new kitchen and built a covered walkway between the Hall and the kitchen. Henry’s work was characterised by the religious overtones of the rich decorations, which formed “one of the high-water marks of English medieval art”. The conversion cost more than £10,000. The result was to create a division in the castle between a more private Upper Ward and a Lower Ward devoted to the public face of the monarchy. Little further building was carried out at the castle during the 13th century; the Great Hall in the Lower Ward was destroyed by fire in 1296, but it was not rebuilt.
Edward III was born at Windsor Castle and used it extensively throughout his reign. In 1344 the king announced the foundation of the new Order of the Round Table at the castle. Edward began to construct a new building in the castle to host this order, but it was never finished. Chroniclers described it as a round building, 200 ft (61 m) across, and it was probably in the centre of the Upper Ward. Shortly afterwards, Edward abandoned the new order for reasons that remain unclear, and instead established the Order of the Garter, again with Windsor Castle as its headquarters, complete with the attendant Poor Knights of Windsor. As part of this process Edward decided to rebuild Windsor Castle, in particular Henry III’s palace, in an attempt to construct a castle that would be symbolic of royal power and chivalry. Edward was influenced both by the military successes of his grandfather, Edward I, and by the decline of royal authority under his father, Edward II, and aimed to produce an innovative, “self-consciously aesthetic, muscled, martial architecture”.
Edward placed William of Wykeham in overall charge of the rebuilding and design of the new castle and whilst work was ongoing Edward stayed in temporary accommodation in the Round Tower. Between 1350 and 1377 Edward spent £51,000 on renovating Windsor Castle; this was the largest amount spent by any English medieval monarch on a single building operation, and over one and a half times Edward’s typical annual income of £30,000. Some of the costs of the castle were paid from the results of ransoms following Edward’s victories at the battles of Crécy, Calais and Poitiers. Windsor Castle was already a substantial building before Edward began expanding it, making the investment all the more impressive, and much of the expenditure was lavished on rich furnishings. The castle was “the most expensive secular building project of the entire Middle Ages in England”.
Edward’s new palace consisted of three courts along the north side of the Upper Ward, called Little Cloister, King’s Cloister and the Kitchen Court. At the front of the palace lay the St George’s Hall range, which combined a new hall and a new chapel. This range had two symmetrical gatehouses, the Spicerie Gatehouse and the Kitchen Gatehouse. The Spicerie Gatehouse was the main entrance into the palace, whilst the Kitchen Gatehouse simply led into the kitchen courtyard. The great hall had numerous large windows looking out across the ward. The range had an unusual, unified roof-line and, with a taller roof than the rest of the palace, would have been highly distinctive. The Rose Tower, designed for the king’s private use, set off the west corner of the range. The result was a “great and apparently architecturally unified palace … uniform in all sorts of ways, as to roof line, window heights, cornice line, floor and ceiling heights”. With the exception of the Hall, Chapel and the Great Chamber, the new interiors all shared a similar height and width. The defensive features, however, were primarily for show, possibly to provide a backdrop for jousting between the two halves of the Order of the Garter.
Edward built further luxurious, self-contained lodgings for his court around the east and south edges of the Upper Ward, creating the modern shape of the quadrangle. The Norman gate was built to secure the west entrance to the Ward. In the Lower Ward, the chapel was enlarged and remodelled with grand buildings for the canons built alongside. The earliest weight-driven mechanical clock in England was installed by Edward III in the Round Tower in 1354. William of Wykeham went on to build New College, Oxford and Winchester College, where the influence of Windsor Castle can easily be seen.
The new castle was used to hold French prisoners taken in at Poitiers in 1357, including John II, who was held for a considerable ransom. Later in the century, the castle also found favour with Richard II. Richard conducted restoration work on St George’s Chapel, the work being carried out by Geoffrey Chaucer, who served as a diplomat and Clerk of The King’s Works.
Windsor Castle continued to be favoured by monarchs in the 15th century, despite England beginning to slip into increasing political violence. Henry IV seized the castle during his coup in 1399, although failing to catch Richard II, who had escaped to London. [98] Under Henry V, the castle hosted a visit from the Holy Roman Emperor in 1417, a massive diplomatic event that stretched the accommodation of the castle to its limits.
By the middle of the 15th century England was increasingly divided between the rival royal factions of the Lancastrians and the Yorkists. Castles such as Windsor did not play a decisive role during the resulting Wars of the Roses (1455–85), which were fought primarily in the form of pitched battles between the rival factions. Henry VI, born at Windsor Castle and known as Henry of Windsor, became king at the young age of nine months. His long period of minority, coupled with the increasing tensions between Henry’s Lancastrian supporters and the Yorkists, distracted attention from Windsor. The Garter Feasts and other ceremonial activities at the castle became more infrequent and less well attended.
Edward IV seized power in 1461. When Edward captured Henry’s wife, Margaret of Anjou, she was brought back to be detained at the castle. [Edward began to revive the Order of the Garter, and held a particularly lavish feast in 1472. Edward began the construction of the present St. George’s Chapel in 1475, resulting in the dismantling of several of the older buildings in the Lower Ward. By building the grand chapel Edward was seeking to show that his new dynasty were the permanent rulers of England, and may also have been attempting to deliberately rival the similar chapel that Henry VI had ordered to be constructed at nearby Eton College. Richard III made only a brief use of Windsor Castle before his defeat at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, but had the body of Henry VI moved from Chertsey Abbey in Surrey to the castle to allow it to be visited by pilgrims more easily.
Henry VII made more use of Windsor. In 1488, shortly after succeeding to the throne, he held a massive feast for the Order of the Garter at the castle. He completed the roof of St George’s Chapel, and set about converting the older eastern Lady Chapel into a proposed shrine to Henry VI, whose canonisation was then considered imminent. In the event, Henry VI was not canonised and the project was abandoned, although the shrine continued to attract a flood of pilgrims. Henry VII appears to have remodelled the King’s Chamber in the palace, and had the roof of the Great Kitchen rebuilt in 1489. He also built a three-storied tower on the west end of the palace, which he used for his personal apartments. Windsor began to be used for international diplomatic events, including the grand visit of Philip I of Castile in 1506. William de la Pole, one of the surviving Yorkists claimants to the throne, was imprisoned at Windsor Castle during Henry’s reign, before his execution in 1513.
Henry VIII enjoyed Windsor Castle, as a young man “exercising himself daily in shooting, singing, dancing, wrestling, casting of the bar, playing the recorders, flute, virginals, in setting of songs and making of ballads”. The tradition of the Garter Feasts was maintained and became more extravagant; the size of the royal retinue visiting Windsor had to be restricted because of the growing numbers. During the Pilgrimage of Grace, a huge uprising in the north of England against Henry’s rule in 1536, the king used Windsor as a secure base in the south from which to manage his military response. Throughout the Tudor period, Windsor was also used as a safe retreat in the event of plagues occurring in London.
Henry rebuilt the principal castle gateway in about 1510 and constructed a tennis court at the base of the motte in the Upper Ward. He also built a long terrace, called the North Wharf, along the outside wall of the Upper Ward; constructed of wood, it was designed to provide a commanding view of the River Thames below. The design included an outside staircase into the king’s apartments, which made the monarch’s life more comfortable at the expense of considerably weakening the castle’s defences. Early in his reign, Henry had given the eastern Lady Chapel to Cardinal Woolsey for Woolsey’s future mausoleum. Benedetto Grazzini converted much of this into an Italian Renaissance design, before Woolsey’s fall from power brought an end to the project, with contemporaries estimating that around £60,000 (£295 million in 2008 terms) had been spent on the work. Henry continued the project, but it remained unfinished when he himself was buried in the chapel, in an elaborate funeral in 1547.
By contrast, the young Edward VI disliked Windsor Castle. Edward’s Protestant beliefs led him to simplify the Garter ceremonies, to discontinue the annual Feast of the Garter at Windsor and to remove any signs of Catholic practices with the Order. During the rebellions and political strife of 1549, Windsor was again used as a safe-haven for the king and the Duke of Somerset. Edward famously commented whilst staying at Windsor Castle during this period that “Methinks I am in a prison, here are no galleries, nor no gardens to walk in”. Under both Edward and his sister, Mary I, some limited building work continued at the castle, in many cases using resources recovered from the English abbeys. Water was piped into the Upper Ward to create a fountain. Mary also expanded the buildings used by the Knights of Windsor in the Lower Ward, using stone from Reading Abbey.
Elizabeth I spent much of her time at Windsor Castle and used it a safe haven in crises, “knowing it could stand a siege if need be”. Ten new brass cannons were purchased for the castle’s defence. It became one of her favourite locations and she spent more money on the property than on any of her other palaces. She conducted some modest building works at Windsor, including a wide range of repairs to the existing structures. She converted the North Wharf into a permanent, huge stone terrace, complete with statues, carvings and an octagonal, outdoor banqueting house, raising the western end of the terrace to provide more privacy. The chapel was refitted with stalls, a gallery and a new ceiling. A bridge was built over the ditch to the south of the castle to enable easier access to the park. Elizabeth built a gallery range of buildings on the west end of the Upper Ward, alongside Henry VII’s tower. Elizabeth increasingly used the castle for diplomatic engagements, but space continued to prove a challenge as the property was simply not as large as the more modern royal palaces. This flow of foreign visitors was captured for the queen’s entertainment in William Shakespeare’s play, The Merry Wives of Windsor.
James I used Windsor Castle primarily as a base for hunting, one of his favourite pursuits, and for socialising with his friends. Many of these occasions involved extensive drinking sessions, including one with Christian IV of Denmark in 1606 that became infamous across Europe for the resulting drunken behaviour of the two kings. The absence of space at Windsor continued to prove problematic, with James’ English and Scottish retinues often quarrelling over rooms.
Charles I was a connoisseur of art, and paid greater attention to the aesthetic aspects of Windsor Castle than his predecessors. Charles had the castle completely surveyed by a team including Inigo Jones in 1629, but little of the recommended work was carried out. Nonetheless, Charles employed Nicholas Stone to improve the chapel gallery in the Mannerist style and to construct a gateway in the North Terrace. Christian van Vianen, a noted Dutch goldsmith, was employed to produce a baroque gold service for the St George’s Chapel altar. In the final years of peace, Charles demolished the fountain in the Upper Ward, intending to replace it with a classical statue.
In 1642 the English Civil War broke out, dividing the country into the Royalist supporters of Charles, and the Parliamentarians. In the aftermath of the battle of Edgehill in October, Parliament became concerned that Charles might advance on London. John Venn took control of Windsor Castle with twelve companies of foot soldiers to protect the route along the Thames River, becoming the governor of the castle for the duration of the war. The contents of St George’s Chapel were both valuable and, to many Parliamentary forces, inappropriately high church in style. Looting began immediately: Edward IV’s bejewelled coat of mail was stolen; the chapel’s organs, windows and books destroyed; the Lady Chapel was emptied of valuables, including the component parts of Henry VIII’s unfinished tomb. By the end of the war, some 3580 oz (101 kg) of gold and silver plate had been looted.
Prince Rupert of the Rhine, a prominent Royalist general, attempted to relieve Windsor Castle that November. Rupert’s small force of cavalry was able to take the town of Windsor, but was unable to overcome the walls at Windsor Castle – in due course, Rupert was forced to retreat. Over the winter of 1642–3, Windsor Castle was converted into the headquarters for the Earl of Essex, a senior Parliamentary general. The Horseshoe Cloister was taken over as a prison for captured Royalists, and the resident canons were expelled from the castle. The Lady Chapel was turned into a magazine. Looting by the underpaid garrison continued to be a problem; 500 royal deer were killed across the Windsor Great Park during the winter, and fences were burned as firewood.
In 1647 Charles, then a prisoner of Parliament was brought to the castle for a period under arrest, before being moved to Hampton Court. In 1648 there was a Royalist plan, never enacted, to seize Windsor Castle. The Parliamentary Army Council moved into Windsor in November and decided to try Charles for treason. Charles was held at Windsor again for the last three weeks of his reign; after his execution in January 1649, his body was taken back to Windsor that night through a snowstorm, to be interred without ceremony in the vault beneath St George’s Chapel.
The Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 saw the first period of significant change to Windsor Castle for many years. The civil war and the years of the Interregnum had caused extensive damage to the royal palaces in England. At the same time the shifting “functional requirements, patterns of movement, modes of transport, aesthetic taste and standards of comfort” amongst royal circles was changing the qualities being sought in a successful palace. Windsor was the only royal palace to be successfully fully modernised by Charles II in the Restoration years.
During the Interregnum, however, squatters had occupied Windsor Castle. As a result, the “King’s house was a wreck; the fanatic, the pilferer, and the squatter, having been at work … Paupers had squatted in many of the towers and cabinets”. Shortly after returning to England, Charles appointed Prince Rupert, one of his few surviving close relatives, to be the Constable of Windsor Castle in 1668. Rupert immediately began to reorder the castle’s defences, repairing the Round Tower and reconstructing the real tennis court. Charles attempted to restock Windsor Great Park with deer brought over from Germany, but the herds never recovered their pre-war size. Rupert created apartments for himself in the Round Tower, decorated with an “extraordinary” number of weapons and armour, with his inner chambers “hung with tapisserie, curious and effeminate pictures”.
Charles was heavily influenced by the works of Louis XIV of France, imitating French design at his palace at Winchester and the Royal Hospital at Chelsea. At Windsor, Charles created “the most extravagantly Baroque interiors ever executed in England”. Much of the building work was paid for out of increased royal revenues from Ireland during the 1670s. French court etiquette at the time required a substantial number of enfiladed rooms in order to satisfy court protocol; the demand for space forced May to expand out into the North Terrace, rebuilding and widening it in the process This new building was called the Star Building, because Charles II placed a huge gilt Garter star on the side of it. May took down and rebuilt the walls of Edward III’s hall and chapel, incorporating larger windows but retaining the height and dimensions of the medieval building. Although Windsor Castle was now big enough to hold the entire court, it was not built with chambers for the King’s Council, as would be found in Whitehall. Instead Charles took advantage of the good road links emerging around Windsor to hold his council meetings at Hampton Court when he was staying at the castle. The result became an “exemplar” for royal buildings for the next twenty-five years. The result of May’s work showed a medievalist leaning; although sometimes criticised for its “dullness”, May’s reconstruction was both sympathetic to the existing castle and a deliberate attempt to create a slightly austere 17th-century version of a “neo-Norman” castle.
William III commissioned Nicholas Hawksmoor and Sir Christopher Wren to conduct a large, final classical remodelling of the Upper Ward, but the king’s early death caused the plan to be cancelled. Queen Anne was fond of the castle, and attempted to address the lack of a formal garden by instructing Henry Wise to begin work on the Maestricht Garden beneath the North Terrace, which was never completed. Anne also created the racecourse at Ascot and began the tradition of the annual Royal Ascot procession from the castle.
George I took little interest in Windsor Castle, preferring his other palaces at St James’s, Hampton Court and Kensington. George II rarely used Windsor either, preferring Hampton Court. Many of the apartments in the Upper Ward were given out as “grace and favour” privileges for the use of prominent widows or other friends of the Crown. The Duke of Cumberland made the most use of the property in his role as the Ranger of Windsor Great Park. By the 1740s, Windsor Castle had become an early tourist attraction; wealthier visitors who could afford to pay the castle keeper could enter, see curiosities such as the castle’s narwhal horn, and by the 1750s buy the first guidebooks to Windsor, produced by George Bickham in 1753 and Joseph Pote in 1755. As the condition of the State Apartments continued to deteriorate, even the general public were able to regularly visit the property.
George III reversed this trend when he came to the throne in 1760. George disliked Hampton Court, and was attracted by the park at Windsor Castle. George wanted to move into the Ranger’s House by the castle, but his brother, Henry was already living in it and refused to move out. Instead, George had to move into the Upper Lodge, later called the Queen’s Lodge, and started the long process of renovating the castle and the surrounding parks. Initially the atmosphere at the castle remained very informal, with local children playing games inside the Upper and Lower Wards, and the royal family frequently seen as they walked around the grounds. As time went by, however, access for visitors became more limited.
George’s architectural taste shifted over the years. As a young man, he favoured Classical, in particular Palladian styles, but the king came to favour a more Gothic style, both as a consequence of the Palladian style becoming overused and poorly implemented, and because the Gothic form had come to be seen as a more honest, national style of English design in the light of the French revolution. Working with the architect James Wyatt, George attempted to “transform the exterior of the buildings in the Upper Ward into a Gothic palace, while retaining the character of the Hugh May state rooms”. The outside of the building was restyled with Gothic features, including new battlements and turrets Inside, conservation work was undertaken, and several new rooms constructed, including a new Gothic staircase to replace May’s 17th-century version, complete with the Grand Vestibule ceiling above it. New paintings were purchased for the castle, and collections from other royal palaces moved there by the king. The cost of the work came to over £150,000 (£100 million in 2008 terms). The king undertook extensive work in the castle’s Great Park as well, laying out the new Norfolk and Flemish farms, creating two dairies and restoring the Virginia Water lake, grotto and follies.
At the end of this period Windsor Castle became a place of royal confinement. In 1788 the king first became ill during a dinner at Windsor Castle; diagnosed as suffering from madness, he was removed for a period to Kew, where he temporarily recovered. After relapses in 1801 and 1804, his condition became enduring from 1810 onwards and he was confined in the State Apartments of Windsor Castle, with building work on the castle ceasing the following year.
George IV came to the throne in 1820 intending to create a set of royal palaces that reflected his wealth and influence as the ruler of an increasingly powerful Britain. George’s previous houses, Carlton House and the Brighton Pavilion were too small for grand court events, even after expensive extensions. George expanded the Royal Lodge in the castle park whilst he was Prince Regent, and then began a programme of work to modernise the castle itself once he became king.
George persuaded Parliament to vote him £300,000 for restoration (£245 million in 2008 terms). Under the guidance of George’s advisor, Charles Long, the architect Jeffry Wyattville was selected, and work commenced in 1824. Wyattville’s own preference ran to Gothic architecture, but George, who had led the reintroduction of the French Rococo style to England at Carlton House, preferred a blend of periods and styles, and applied this taste to Windsor. The terraces were closed off to visitors for greater privacy and the exterior of the Upper Ward was completely remodelled into its current appearance. The Round Tower was raised in height to create a more dramatic appearance; many of the rooms in the State Apartments were rebuilt or remodelled; numerous new towers were created, much higher than the older versions. The south range of the ward was rebuilt to provide private accommodation for the king, away from the state rooms. The statue of Charles II was moved from the centre of the Upper Ward to the base of the motte. Sir Walter Scott captured contemporary views when he noted that the work showed “a great deal of taste and feeling for the Gothic architecture”; many modern commentators, including Prince Charles, have criticised Wyattville’s work as representing an act of vandalism of May’s earlier designs. The work was unfinished at the time of George IV’s death in 1830, but was broadly completed by Wyattville’s death in 1840. The total expenditure on the castle had soared to the colossal sum of over one million pounds (£817 million in 2008 terms) by the end of the project.
A black and white photograph of an elderly Victoria sat alongside a younger woman (Beatrice) reading a newspaper. The room is ornately decorated, with a number of photographs, paintings and a large chandelier hanging from the ceiling.
Queen Victoria and Princess Beatrice in the Queen’s Sitting Room in 1895, photographed by Mary Steen
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made Windsor Castle their principal royal residence, despite Victoria complaining early in her reign that the castle was “dull and tiresome” and “prison-like”, and preferring Osborne and Balmoral as holiday residences. The growth of the British Empire and Victoria’s close dynastic ties to Europe made Windsor the hub for many diplomatic and state visits, assisted by the new railways and steamships of the period. Indeed, it has been argued that Windsor reached its social peak during the Victorian era, seeing the introduction of invitations to numerous prominent figures to “dine and sleep” at the castle. Victoria took a close interest in the details of how Windsor Castle was run, including the minutiae of the social events. Few visitors found these occasions comfortable, both due to the design of the castle and the excessive royal formality. Prince Albert died in the Blue Room at Windsor Castle in 1861 and was buried in the Royal Mausoleum built at nearby Frogmore, within the Home Park. The prince’s rooms were maintained exactly as they had been at the moment of his death and Victoria kept the castle in a state of mourning for many years, becoming known as the “Widow of Windsor”, a phrase popularised in the famous poem by Rudyard Kipling. The Queen shunned the use of Buckingham Palace after Albert’s death and instead used Windsor Castle as her residence when conducting official business near London. Towards the end of her reign plays, operas and other entertainments slowly began to be held at the castle again, accommodating both the Queen’s desire for entertainment and her reluctance to be seen in public.
Several minor alterations were made to the Upper Ward under Victoria. Anthony Salvin rebuilt Wyattville’s grand staircase, with Edward Blore constructing a new private chapel within the State Apartments. Salvin also rebuilt the State Dining Room following a serious fire in 1853. Ludwig Gruner assisted in the design of the Queen’s Private Audience Chamber in the south range. Blore and Salvin also did extensive work in the Lower Ward, under the direction of Prince Albert, including the Hundred Steps leading down into Windsor town, rebuilding the Garter, Curfew and Salisbury towers, the houses of the Military Knights and creating a new Guardhouse. George Gilbert Scott rebuilt the Horseshoe Cloister in the 1870s. The Norman Gatehouse was turned into a private dwelling for Sir Henry Ponsonby. Windsor Castle did not benefit from many of the minor improvements of the era, however, as Victoria disliked gaslight, preferring candles; electric lighting was only installed in limited parts of the castle at the end of her reign. Indeed, the castle was famously cold and draughty in Victoria’s reign, but it was connected to a nearby reservoir, with water reliably piped into the interior for the first time.
Many of the changes under Victoria were to the surrounding parklands and buildings. The Royal Dairy at Frogmore was rebuilt in a Tudorbethan style in 1853; George III’s Dairy rebuilt in a Renaissance style in 1859; the Georgian Flemish Farm rebuilt, and the Norfolk Farm renovated. The Long Walk was planted with fresh trees to replace the diseased stock. The Windsor Castle and Town Approaches Act, passed by Parliament in 1848, permitted the closing and re-routing of the old roads which previously ran through the park from Windsor to Datchet and Old Windsor. These changes allowed the Royal Family to undertake the enclosure of a large area of parkland to form the private “Home Park” with no public roads passing through it. The Queen granted additional rights for public access to the remainder of the park as part of this arrangement.
Edward VII came to the throne in 1901 and immediately set about modernising Windsor Castle with “enthusiasm and zest”. Many of the rooms in the Upper Ward were de-cluttered and redecorated for the first time in many years, with Edward “peering into cabinets; ransacking drawers; clearing rooms formerly used by the Prince Consort and not touched since his death; dispatching case-loads of relics and ornaments to a special room in the Round Tower … destroying statues and busts of John Brown … throwing out hundreds of ‘rubbishy old coloured photographs’ … [and] rearranging pictures”. Electric lighting was added to more rooms, along with central heating; telephone lines were installed, along with garages for the newly invented automobiles. The marathon was run from Windsor Castle at the 1908 Olympics, and in 1911 the pioneering aviator Thomas Sopwith landed an aircraft at the castle for the first time.
George V continued a process of more gradual modernisation, assisted by his wife, Mary of Teck, who had a strong interest in furniture and decoration. Mary sought out and re-acquired items of furniture that had been lost or sold from the castle, including many dispersed by Edward VII, and also acquired many new works of art to furnish the state rooms. Queen Mary was also a lover of all things miniature, and a famous dolls’ house was created for her at Windsor Castle, designed by the architect Edwin Lutyens and furnished by leading craftsmen and designers of the 1930s. George V was committed to maintaining a high standard of court life at Windsor Castle, adopting the motto that everything was to be “of the best”. A large amount of staff was still kept at the castle, with around 660 servants working in the property during the period. Meanwhile, during the First World War, anti-German feeling led the members of the Royal Family to change their dynastic name from the German House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; George decided to take the new name from the castle, and the Royal Family became the House of Windsor in 1917.
Edward VIII did not spend much of his reign at Windsor Castle. He continued to spend most of his time at Fort Belvedere in the Great Park, where he had lived whilst Prince of Wales. Edward created a small aerodrome at the castle on Smith’s Lawn, now used as a golf-course. Edward’s reign was short-lived and he broadcast his abdication speech to the British Empire from the castle in December 1936, adopting the title of Duke of Windsor. His successor, George VI also preferred his own original home, the Royal Lodge in the Great Park, but moved into Windsor Castle with his wife Elizabeth. As king, George revived the annual Garter Service at Windsor, drawing on the accounts of the 17th-century ceremonies recorded by Elias Ashmole, but moving the event to Ascot Week in June.
On the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 the castle was readied for war-time conditions. Many of the staff from Buckingham Palace was moved to Windsor for safety, security was tightened and windows were blacked-out. There was significant concern that the castle might be damaged or destroyed during the war; the more important art works were removed from the castle for safe-keeping, the valuable chandeliers were lowered to the floor in case of bomb damage and a sequence of paintings by John Piper were commissioned from 1942–4 to record the castle’s appearance. The king and queen and their children Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret lived for safety in the castle, with the roof above their rooms specially strengthened in case of attack. The king and queen drove daily to London, returning to Windsor to sleep, although at the time this was a well-kept secret, as for propaganda and morale purposes it was reported that the king was still residing full-time at Buckingham Palace. After the war the king revived the “dine and sleep” events at Windsor, following comments that the castle had become “almost like a vast, empty museum”; nonetheless, it took many years to restore Windsor Castle to its pre-war condition.
In February 1952, Elizabeth II came to the throne and decided to make Windsor her principal weekend retreat. The private apartments which had not been properly occupied since the era of Queen Mary were renovated and further modernised, and the Queen, Prince Philip and their two children took up residence. By the early 1990s, however, there had been a marked deterioration in the quality of the Upper Ward, in particular the State Apartments. Generations of repairs and replacements had resulted in a “diminution of the richness with which they had first been decorated”, a “gradual attrition of the original vibrancy of effect, as each change repeated a more faded version of the last”. A programme of repair work to replace the heating and the wiring of the Upper Ward began in 1988.] Work was also undertaken to underpin the motte of the Round Tower after fresh subsidence was detected in 1988, threatening the collapse of the tower.

Warwick Castle is a medieval castle developed from an original built by William the Conqueror in 1068. Warwick is the county town of Warwickshire, England, situated on a bend of the River Avon. The original wooden motte-and-bailey castle was rebuilt in stone in the 12th century. During the Hundred Years War, the facade opposite the town was refortified, resulting in one of the most recognisable examples of 14th century military architecture. It was used as a stronghold until the early 17th century, when it was granted to Sir Fulke Greville by James I in 1604. Sir Fulke Greville converted it to a country house. It was owned by the Greville family, who became earls of Warwick in 1759, until 1978 when it was bought by the Tussauds Group.

An Anglo-Saxon burh was established on the site in 914; with fortifications instigated by Ethelfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great. The burh she established was one of ten which defended Mercia against the marauding Danes. Its position allowed it to dominate the Fosse Way, as well as the river valley and the crossing over the River Avon. Though the motte to the south-west of the present castle is now called “Ethelfleda’s Mound”, it is in fact part of the later Norman fortifications, and not of Anglo-Saxon origin.

After the Norman conquest of England, William the Conqueror established a motte-and-bailey castle at Warwick in 1068 to maintain control of the Midlands as he advanced northwards. Building a castle in a pre-existing settlement could require demolishing properties on the intended site. In the case of Warwick, the least recorded of the 11 urban castles in the 1086 survey, four houses were torn down to make way for the castle. A motte-and-bailey castle consists of a mound – on which usually stands a keep or tower – and a bailey, which is an enclosed courtyard. William appointed Henry de Beaumont, the son of a powerful Norman family, as constable of the castle. In 1088, Henry de Beaumont was made the first Earl of Warwick. He founded the Church of All Saints within the castle walls by 1119; the Bishop of Worcester, believing that a castle was an inappropriate location for a church, removed it in 1127–28]

In 1153, the wife of Roger de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Warwick, was tricked into believing that her husband was dead, and surrendered control of the castle to the invading army of Henry of Anjou, later King Henry II. According to the Gesta Regis Stephani, a 12th-century historical text, Roger de Beaumont died on hearing the news that his wife had handed over the castle. Henry later returned the castle to the Earls of Warwick as they had been supporters of his mother, Empress Matilda, in The Anarchy of 1135–54.

From 1088, the castle had traditionally belonged to the Earl of Warwick, and it served as a symbol of his power. The castle was taken in 1153 by Henry of Anjou, later Henry II. It has been used to hold prisoners, including some from the Battle of Poitiers in the 14th century. Under the ownership of Richard Neville – also known as “Warwick the Kingmaker” – Warwick Castle was used in the 15th century to imprison the English king, Edward IV.

During the reign of King Henry II (1154–89), the motte-and-bailey was replaced with a stone castle. This new phase took the form of a shell keep with all the buildings constructed against the curtain wall. During the barons’ rebellion of 1173–74, the Earl of Warwick remained loyal to King Henry II, and the castle was used to store provisions. The castle and the lands associated with the earldom passed down in the Beaumont family until 1242. When Thomas de Beaumont, 6th Earl of Warwick, died the castle and lands passed to his sister, Lady Margery, countess of Warwick in her own right. Her husband died soon after, and while she looked for a suitable husband, the castle was in the ownership of King Henry III. When she married John du Plessis in December 1242, the castle was returned to her. During the Second Barons’ War of 1264–67, William Maudit, 8th Earl of Warwick, was a supporter of King Henry III. The castle was taken in a surprise attack by the forces of Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, from Kenilworth Castle in 1264. The walls along the northeastern side of the castle were slighted so that it would be useless to the king. Maudit and his countess were taken to Kenilworth Castle and held until a ransom was paid. After the death of William Mauduit in 1267, the title and castle passed to his nephew William de Beauchamp, 9th Earl of Warwick. Following William’s death, Warwick Castle passed through seven generations of the Beauchamp family, who over the next 180 years were responsible for most of the additions made to the castle. In 1312, Piers Gaveston, 1st Earl of Cornwall, was captured by Guy de Beauchamp, 10th Earl of Warwick, and imprisoned in Warwick Castle until his execution on 9 June 1312. A group of magnates led by the Earl of Warwick and Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster, accused Gaveston of stealing the royal treasure.

Under Thomas de Beauchamp, 11th Earl, the castle defences were significantly enhanced in 1330–60 on the north eastern side by the addition of a gatehouse, a barbican (a form of fortified gateway), and a tower on either side of the reconstructed wall, named Caesar’s Tower and Guy’s Tower. The Watergate Tower also dates from this period.

Caesar’s and Guy’s Towers are residential and may have been inspired by French models (for example Bricquebec). Both towers are machicolated and Caesar’s Tower features a unique double parapet. The two towers are also vaulted in stone on every storey. Caesar’s Tower contained a “grim” basement dungeon; according to local legend dating back to at least 1644 it is also known as Poitiers Tower either because prisoners from the Battle of Poitiers in 1356 may have been imprisoned there or because the ransoms razed from the battle helped to pay for its construction. The gatehouse features murder holes, two drawbridges, a gate, and portcullises – gates made from wood or metal. The towers of the gatehouse were machicolated.

The facade overlooking the river was designed as a symbol of the power and wealth of the Beauchamp earls and would have been “of minimal defensive value”; this followed a trend of 14th-century castles being more statements of power than designed exclusively for military use.

Tyburn’s gallows was the main place of execution for London and Middlesex until 1783. It was also the place where women were burnt for Petty Treason and High Treason and soldiers shot for military offences.
In 1571, the famous “Triple Tree” was set up at Tyburn to replace the previous smaller gallows and was, at least once, used for the hanging of 24 prisoners simultaneously. This was on the 23rd of June 1649, when 23 men and one woman were executed for burglary and robbery, having been conveyed there in 8 carts. Another mass execution took place on March 18th, 1740 when the famous pickpocket and thief, Jenny Diver, was hanged before a huge crowd, together with 20 other criminals. Tyburn’s gallows consisted of 3 tall (approx. 12-18 feet high) uprights joined at the top with beams in a triangular form to provide a triple gallows under which 3 carts could be backed at a time. It remained in use until Monday, the 18th of June 1759 when Catherine Knowland, convicted of highway robbery, became its last customer. The structure was removed during the summer, as it had become a cause of traffic congestion and was disliked by the residents of what was becoming a fashionable area of west London. It was replaced by a portable gallows which was first used on Wednesday, the 3rd of October 1759 for the hanging of 4 men, as reported in the Whitehall Evening Post of that day. It stood near the union of Bryanston Street and Edgware Road and was dragged into position by horses for each execution. Surprisingly, there is little detail of what the new gallows looked like. The condemned were still transported to Tyburn in carts and turned off from them as previously according to contemporary accounts. The last execution at Tyburn took place on Friday, the 7th of November 1783, when John Austin was hanged for highway robbery.
Criminals were tried at the Old Bailey and then sentenced to death in groups at the end of each Sessions before being returned to Newgate prison to await their fate. Prior to 1752, murderers were treated in the same way, although it was not unusual for them to be executed more quickly than other felons. Occasionally, as in the case of Jack Sheppard (16th of November 1724) who had escaped several times, a person was hanged alone, but this was unusual, probably due to the expense of it. After 1752, murderers had to be hanged within two days of their sentence unless this fell on a Sunday, in which case they were executed on the Monday. It was normal for judges to sentence them on a Friday to allow them this extra day. Additionally, they had to be kept in irons and fed only on bread and water.
For ordinary criminals, there could be from 2 weeks to 4 months before execution. After the Sessions finished, the Recorder prepared his report for submission to the King and Privy Council indicating which prisoners the Court felt should hang and which should have their sentences commuted, usually to transportation. The King and Privy Council met in what was called the “Hanging Cabinet” which ratified or commuted the death sentences. Those not reprieved would be kept in the condemned areas of Newgate in abysmal conditions, and it was not unusual for one or two to die of Goal Fever or other illness before their execution date. Prisoners were grouped together, often from several Sessions, to be taken to Tyburn on the next “hanging day.” Women prisoners frequently “pleaded their belly,” i.e. that they were pregnant. If they were found to be “quick with child,” and they often were, they were respited and usually in fact reprieved, although theoretically they could be re-called to their former judgement.
If the prisoner was wealthy, they might be permitted to be driven to Tyburn in a morning coach, as happened with Jenny Diver, thus sparing them from the insults of the crowds along the way. It was normal for better off criminals to wear their best clothes for their “Hanging Match” as executions were known.
The execution process began at around 7 o’clock in the morning when the condemned men and women would be led in fetters (handcuffs and leg-irons) into the Press Yard in Newgate. Here the blacksmith would remove the fetters and the Yeoman of the Halter would tie the criminals’ hands in front of them with a cord around the body and elbows (so that they were able to pray when they reached Tyburn) and place the rope (or halter, as it was known) round their necks, coiling the free end round their bodies. The noose was just a slip knot like the halter used on cattle and not the coiled type typically shown in films. A typical condemned group might comprise of 7 men, not one convicted of murder or rape, but of crimes such as highway robbery and various forms of theft and burglary, and perhaps one woman convicted of privately stealing, highway robbery or stealing in a dwelling house. When the pinioning was completed, they were placed in open horse drawn carts sitting on their coffins surrounded by armed cavalry. The procession consisting of the City Marshall (a court officer responsible for prisoners), the Ordinary (Newgate’s prison chaplain), the hangman and his assistants, and a troop of javelin men started out for Tyburn about two and a half miles away. The procession made its slow and bumpy passage along Holborn, St. Giles, and the Tyburn Road (now called Oxford Street) to Tyburn itself near what is now Marble Arch. The narrow streets could be lined with crowds, especially if the criminals were notorious, and there would often be insults and more solid objects hurled at the prisoners and their escorts on the way. A stop was often made at St. Sepulchre’s Church where the bell would be tolled and the minister would chant, “You that are condemned to die, repent with lamentable tears; ask mercy of the Lord for the salvation of your souls.” As the procession passed on, the minister would tell the audience, “All good people, pray heartily unto God for these poor sinners who are now going to their death, for whom the great bell tolls.” Here friends might present the criminals small nosegays (bunches of flowers).
Stops were made at two public houses along the way, probably the Bowl Inn at St Giles and the Mason’s Arms in Seymour Place, where the condemned would be allowed an alcoholic drink. Once they left the second pub, it was a short journey to the gallows.
On arrival at Tyburn around noon, some two to three hours after they had left Newgate, the prisoners were greeted by a large crowd, of anything up to 100,000 people, who had come to watch the spectacle. Amongst the crowd were hawkers selling food and souvenirs and people selling copies of broadsides purporting to contain the prisoners’ last dying speeches and confessions of the condemned (bear in mind this was before they had been executed!) It has often been said that pickpockets were operating among the crowd, despite the fact that it was frequently some of their number who were being hanged.
Wealthier spectators hired seats in Mother Procter’s Pews – open galleries like modern grandstands at a football stadium. A seat with a good view was much sought after and very expensive – 2 shillings (10p) was a lot of money then. The poor just milled round the gallows held back by the Javelin men.
There was a house overlooking Tyburn, with iron balconies, from which the Sheriffs of the City of London and Under Sheriff of Middlesex plus their invited guests watched the executions.
The carts were each backed under one of the three beams of the gallows. The hangman uncoiled the free end of the rope from each prisoner and threw it up to one of his assistants positioned precariously on the beam above. They tied the rope to the beam leaving very little slack. The Ordinary would pray with the prisoners and when he had finished, the hangman pulled nightcaps over the faces of those who had brought them. As you can imagine, the preparations took quite some time where a large batch of prisoners were being hanged.
When everything was ready, the horses were whipped away, pulling the prisoners off the carts and leaving them suspended. They would only have a few inches of drop at most and thus many of them would writhe in convulsive agony for some moments, their legs paddling the air – “dancing the Tyburn jig” as it was known, until unconsciousness overtook them. The hangman, his assistants and sometimes the prisoners’ relatives might pull on the prisoners’ legs to hasten their end.
It was not unknown for the occasional person to survive their hanging. One of the most famous cases is that of John Smith, hanged on Christmas Eve 1705. Having been turned off the back of the cart, he dangled for 15 minutes until the crowd began to shout “reprieve,” whereupon he was cut down and taken to a nearby house where he soon recovered.
He was asked what it had felt like to be hanged and this is what he told his rescuers:
“When I was turned off I was, for some time, sensible of very great pain occasioned by the weight of my body and felt my spirits in strange commotion, violently pressing upwards. Having forced their way to my head I saw a great blaze or glaring light that seemed to go out of my eyes in a flash and then I lost all sense of pain. After I was cut down, I began to come to myself and the blood and spirits forcing themselves into their former channels put me by a prickling or shooting into such intolerable pain that I could have wished those hanged who had cut me down.”
Another case is that of 16 year old William Duell, who was hanged along with 4 others, on the 24th of November 1740. He had been convicted of raping and murdering Sarah Griffin and was therefore to be anatomised after execution. He was taken to Surgeon’s Hall where it was noticed that he was showing signs of life. He was revived and returned to Newgate later that day. The authorities decided to reprieve him and his sentence was commuted to transportation.
After half an hour or so, the now lifeless bodies were cut down and claimed by friends and relatives or sent for dissection at Surgeons’ Hall. Fights often broke out between the rival parties over possession of the bodies. (Prior to the Murder Act of 1752, surgeons were allowed 10 bodies per year, after that they got the bodies of all murderers as well). Wealthier criminals provided coffins for themselves, the poorer ones often could not afford these. It was not unusual for their friends and relatives to sell the bodies to dissectionists.
The clothes of the executed belonged to the hangman and, therefore, some prisoners only wore their cheapest, oldest clothes whilst others dressed to look their best for their final performance.
In the case of notorious criminals, the hangman would sell their rope by the inch – hence the expression “money for old rope.”
Where a woman was to be burned at the stake for High Treason (mainly offences of clipping filing or forging coins) or Petty Treason, her execution was normally carried out after the hangings. Both men and women convicted of treason were drawn on a sledge to their execution instead of riding in the carts with the others.
The whole execution was a leisurely, and in many ways, theatrical process. Time seemed to matter very little (unlike 20th century hangings) and everyone went to enjoy the morbid entertainment. In some cases, the prisoners seemed to enter into the spirit of the occasion. They were, after all, the stars of the show wearing their best clothes and behaving with as much courage as they could summon, even joking and making speeches from the carts. Others seemed more affected by their situation and prayed fervently at the end with the Ordinary, no doubt afraid of what lay ahead in the afterlife which they would have believed in.
In a lot of cases, the public sympathised with the criminal, except where they had committed a really horrible crime. Elizabeth Brownrigg who had beaten and starved her apprentice girls to death was the sort of criminal the public really hated (c.f. the attitude to child murderers now). She was hanged on the 14th of September 1767.
From 1702, hangings were reported in the fledgling press, the Daily Courant being the first London daily newspaper, as well as the execution broadsides. The Ordinary’s reports of condemned criminals were also available.
Hangmen at Tyburn.
William Marvell took over from his predecessor, John Price, who was hanged for murder on Saturday, the 31st of May 1718. Marvell was a temporary replacement for Price from 1714, while the latter was in prison for debt. He held the job until November 1717, when he was dismissed after also getting into debt, but then presumably re-appointed to replace Price. He was succeeded by one Mr. Banks about whom very little is known. He was at some point between 1717 and 1725 succeeded by Richard Arnet who died in 1728.
John Hooper was appointed to take over from Arnet, working till 1735 when he was replaced by John Thrift who reigned for nearly 18 years, dying on the 5th of May 1752.
Thomas Turlis replaced him working for nearly 20 years before dying in 1771. His first job was to hang 12 people on Monday, the 4th of February 175
I do not think this is a realistic picture of the London Hangman in action, rather it is a propaganda piece, the executioner depicted as establishment figure, as “The Finisher of the Law”. Thomas Turlis’ clothes, appropriate to a tradesman or a member of the minor gentry, emphasise his respectability. Not for him the hood and half mask of the hangman of nightmares, nor the rough, workmanlike clothes of the butcher. He holds the main tool of his trade – the noose or halter – displayed in his hands. The simple running knot of the business end is quite clear and nothing like the later hangman’s knot. In practice, this haltar would have been tied about the neck of the condemned in the Press Yard Room at Newgate by the Yeoman of the Halter and the slack wound about their waist. No doubt the executioners and their assistants had learned by experience that it provoked less resistance – and in a location where resistance could be more easily suppressed – to noose the condemned while still within the confines of the prison rather than wait until they were all actually under the beam of the gallows. Once they were arrived and the cart carefully positioned, the slack would have been unwound and the free end tossed over and secured to one of the beams of the Tyburn gallows.
If the picture is a propaganda piece, yet the other attendant details it shows are fascinatingly accurate. It must date from between May 1752 when Turlis succeeded John Thrift and the summer of 1759 when the permanent triangular gallows of Tyburn was demolished to be replaced by a portable, single beamed, structure, since behind Turlis’ left shoulder is quite clearly one angle of the notorious and iconic Triple Tree – the Deadly Nevergreen – the Three-legged Horse – the Horse Foaled by an Acorn.
The cart on which Turlis is standing is the kind of cart used to transport the condemned to the gallows (you can see part of the wheel in the right foreground) and which has high sides to stop them easily jumping out but no tailgate so that they can be dragged off it once they are strung up. However, there is no sign of the cart’s horse whose hind quarters should be just visible beyond the dangling noose. Perhaps this would have complicted the picture too much. The horse in not out of sight at the other end of the cart because the condemned always rode with their backs to the horse and the direction of travel, although whether this was a deliberate humiliation or to spare them the sight of the gallows until the very last moment, is debatable.
Beside the cart is a mounted pike man, one of the military escort except that in many depictions of the escort, the pike men are on foot and the mounted escort are cavalry men with sabres. This man may be a conflation of both types of escort. Behind the two seated felons is a dark shadow which may represent the coffin in which one of them will be buried and against which they leaned or sat on the journey to Tyburn. It is interesting that the faces of the pikeman and the felons boarder on caricature while the face of Turlis is almost noble. There is no knowing whether it is an accutate likeness.
The felons themselves are two symbolic types. The one on the left is decently dressed in coat and cravat and has on his head the traditional white nightcap which the hangman will pull down to cover his face just before he is turned off. He bows his head in a posture of remorse. He depicts the appropriately pentitent criminal who meets with the chaplain’s approval. His companion gazes up in defiance or anguish. He has not bothered – or cannot afford – decent clothes: his shirt is ragged and his neckcloth a limp rag. He has no nightcap to conceal the final distorted expression of his face. The chaplain has not succeeded in bringing him to a suitable state of mind to confront Eternity. But both are shown to be weeping, the tears are clear on both faces. They are also shown as tied in the traditional way with a rope round the upper arms holding their elbows in at the waist but leaving their hands free to wring in anguish or to clasp in prayer. Again, long experience must have shown that this kind of bond was sufficient to immobilise the man: he would be have limited use of his hands to hold his tankard at St Giles or to give his friends and family a final handshake, but he cannot get them up to his throat to loosen the noose. Only the most notorious offenders – like the escapee Jack Shepherd – were handcuffed on the way to Tyburn.
Edward Dennis succeeded Turlis in 1771, carrying on at Newgate and assisted by William Brunskill until November 21st, 1786, when Dennis died and Brunskill took over.
It was widely believed at the time that the body of a newly hanged person had healing properties. People would pay the hangman to be allowed to stroke the hands of the executed person across their warts and injuries. Some people would also try and obtain trophies such as locks of hair.
For more detailed accounts of executions at Tyburn, read the cases of Catherine Hayes who burnt at the stake for Petty Treason in 1726, Jenny Diver who was hanged there with 19 others on the 18th of March 1741, Earl Ferrers, the last peer of the realm to hang in May 1760 and Elizabeth Brownrigg hanged in 1767 for murdering her apprentice.

Father John Gerard was a spy. In November 1588 he was among a team of four Jesuit priests sent from Rome and secretly landed on the shores of England with the mission of making contact with and ministering to that country’s Roman Catholic community. He joined a clandestine network of Catholic operatives controlled from their headquarters in London.
Born in England, Father Gerard mingled easily among English society, passing himself off as a gentleman of leisure. It was a dangerous existence; as evidenced by the fact that Father Gerard’s three companions in the landing party were eventually discovered and executed. Gerard remained undetected for six years until his betrayal by a servant in a household in which he was staying.
After three years in captivity he was taken to the Tower of London where he was subjected to torture in an effort to force him to confess that his mission was to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and to reveal the identity of the leader of the spy ring. Despite the pain, he refused to divulge any information. On the night of October 4, 1597 he made a daring escape from the Tower with the help of friends on the outside. He slipped into the English countryside and remained undiscovered for another eight years.
Finally, with the attempt to blow up Parliament and the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, the political atmosphere became too dangerous. Father Gerard slipped out of the country and sailed to the European continent disguised as a member of the Spanish diplomatic mission.
Father Gerard wrote a book detailing his adventures shortly after his escape to Europe. He describes his torture in the Tower of London:
“We went to the torture room in a kind of procession, the attendants walking ahead with lighted candles.
The chamber was underground and dark, particularly near the entrance. It was a vast place and every device and instrument of human torture was there. They pointed out some of them to me and said I would try them all. Then he asked me again whether I would confess.
‘I cannot,’ I said.
I fell on my knees for a moment’s prayer. Then they took me to a big upright pillar, one of the wooden posts which held the roof of this huge underground chamber. Driven into the top of it were iron staples for supporting heavy weights. Then they put my wrists into iron gauntlets and ordered me to climb two or three wicker steps.
My arms were then lifted up and an iron bar was passed through the rings of one gauntlet, then through the staple and rings to the second gauntlet. This done, they fastened the bar with a pin to prevent it from slipping, and then, removing the wicker steps one by one from under my feet, they left me hanging by my hands and arms fastened above my head. The tips of my toes, however, still touched the ground, and they had to dig the earth away from under them. They had hung me up from the highest staple in the pillar and could not raise me any higher, without driving in another staple.
Hanging like this I began to pray. The gentlemen standing around me asked me whether I was willing to confess now.
‘I cannot and I will not,’ I answered.
But I could hardly utter the words, such a gripping pain came over me. It was worst in my chest and belly, my hands and arms. All the blood in my body seemed to rush up into my arms and hands and I thought that blood was oozing from the ends of my fingers and the pores of my skin. But it was only a sensation caused by my flesh swelling above the irons holding them.
The pain was so intense that I thought I could not possibly endure it, and added to it, I had an interior temptation. Yet I did not feel any inclination or wish to give them the information they wanted. The Lord saw my weakness with the eyes of His mercy, and did not permit me to be tempted beyond my strength. With the temptation He sent me relief. Seeing my agony and the struggle going on in my mind, He gave me this most merciful thought: the utmost and worst they can do is to kill you, and you have often wanted to give your life for your Lord God. The Lord God sees all you are enduring – He can do all things. You are in God’s keeping.
With these thoughts, God in His infinite goodness and mercy gave me the grace of resignation, and with a desire to die and a hope (I admit) that I would, I offered Him myself to do with me as He wished. From that moment the conflict in my soul ceased, and even the physical pain seemed much more bearable than before, though it must, in fact, I am sure, have been greater with the growing strain and weariness of my body…
Sometime after one o’clock, I think, I fell into a faint. How long I was unconscious I don’t know, but I think it was long, for the men held my body up or put the wicker steps under my feet until I came to. Then they heard me pray and immediately let me down again. And they did this every time I fainted – eight or nine times that day – before it struck five…
A little later they took me down. My legs and feet were not damaged, but it was a great effort to stand upright…”


The Pentrich Rising was the ‘revolution’ for which the government had been waiting. Since the Spa Fields riots in December 1816, Sidmouth, the Home Secretary in Lord Liverpool’s government, had been receiving reports from his spies and informers that a revolution was in the making in the north of England. Events such as the march of the Blanketeers, the threats to ‘make a Moscow of Manchester’ (burn it to the ground) and the Ardwick Bridge Conspiracy was seen as evidence of this. The date of the revolution was changed to suit circumstances.

On 23 May, Sidmouth was informed that an insurrection would take place on 9 June. In March, William Richards had offered his services to the government, promising to gain the confidence of the leading radicals and feed the information he acquired back to the Home Office. Richards is better known as “Oliver the Spy”. Oliver was sent north by Sidmouth to encourage the risings by giving promises of support in London.

On 29 May, the Sheffield magistrates raided a secret meeting in the town, which an informer claimed was planning an insurrection for 10 June. The arrest of the Sheffield men threw that storm centre of unrest into confusion; on 6 June a meeting of delegates at Thornhill Lees near Dewsbury was betrayed by Oliver and the men were seized by troops. Oliver moved on to Nottingham on 7 June where he assured his contacts that all was ready for a rising on 8 June and that lavish promises of support from Birmingham and London had been made. The men of Pentrich had no support, apart from a group of weavers from Holmfirth who set out for Huddersfield on the evening of 8 June. After exchanging a few shots with the military, the men escaped into the night. Although two men were arrested and eventually tried, they were acquitted by the jury.

The principal activist in the Nottingham and Pentrich area was the veteran radical Thomas Bacon, who had attended the meeting of Hampden Club delegates in London in January and had been at the Wakefield meeting reported by Oliver. A framework-knitter and ex-iron worker, he provided Oliver’s main contact. He was also a travelling delegate between the Midlands, Lancashire, Yorkshire and London. It was Bacon who suggested Pentrich as the base for the rising, possibly because of its proximity to the Butterley ironworks which it was hoped to use for the manufacture of pikes and cannon during the coming insurrection. However, Bacon took no part in the rising. Its actual leader was Jeremiah Brandreth, a 27 year old man who had worked in a number of trades, and had only recently moved into the area. Taking charge a few days before 8 June, he organised support from the area around Pentrich.


On the evening of 8 June between 50 and 300 stockingers, ironworkers and labourers from the villages of Ripley, Pentrich, Alfreton, and South Wingfield gathered and set out to march the fourteen miles to Nottingham, collecting more men and arms on the way. Brandreth assured his followers that Nottingham would already be secured, that 100,000 men from other towns would meet them, and that London would be the next objective. Roast beef, rum and a hundred guineas a man were promised to those who were reluctant. The prospect of ending the National Debt and all taxes and releasing some ‘great men’ from the Tower were also offered. The men called at farms and houses on the route, demanding arms and support. At one of these farms, Brandreth demanded entrance to a house where it was believed there was a gun, fired through the window and killed a farm servant.

Brandreth led his wet, despondent and dwindling party with determination, repeating rhymes:

Every man his skill must try
He must turn out and not deny;
No bloody soldier must he dread,
He must turn out and fight for bread.
The time is come you plainly see
The government opposed must be.

According to one of Brandreth’s commanders, Brandreth “believed the day and hour were fixed when the whole nation was expected to rise; and before the middle of the week, he believed there would be hundreds of thousands in arms … there were men appointed all over the nation.” When they arrived at Nottingham they found none of the support that had been promised, apart from a group of about a hundred who gathered briefly in Nottingham Forest with pikes and poles and who dispersed quietly of their own accord. The Pentrich men fled at the first contact with soldiers and were rounded up during the next few days.

The Pentrich rising had involved only a few hundred men at most, many of them effectively forced into taking part during the night march to Nottingham. Armed with a few guns, home-made pikes, scythes, and pitchforks they killed only one man during the whole episode. The Government, however, decided to make an example of them and forty five were tried for High Treason by Special Commission in Derby in July. Three were hanged, including Brandreth; thirty more were sentenced to transportation, including Bacon.

A prosecution witness against Brandreth and his colleagues gave evidence at the trial:

On the morning of Tuesday 10th I went on the road towards Eastwood, where I met a considerable body of men armed with pikes; I returned to Nottingham and procured some troops from the barracks … eighteen privates … and a subaltern officer…. When we got as far as Kimberley, a village about four miles from Nottingham and about two miles short of Eastwood, the people told us that the mob, on hearing of the soldiers coming, had dispersed; we followed the route they had taken, and found a quantity of arms, pikes and guns, scattered about on the road.
This witness talked about a conversation he had with one of the leaders, before the rising

I asked him what the poor women and children were to do; he said there would be a provisional government formed and sent down into the country to relieve the wives and children of those that were gone away.

Mr. Cross (for the defence): So that you see these hungry paupers wanted a provisional government to supply them with food … that was their idea of the alteration they proposed of the government.

The Government s reaction could be interpreted as one of genuine alarm but the sentences were deemed to be excessive. Even more serious for the Government was the exposure of Oliver’s role. This gave the Whigs and the radical press another stick with which to beat the Tory administration. Not only could the Government be accused of restricting traditional liberties, but it appeared to be tricking distressed workmen into conspiracy.

Earl Fitzwilliam, the Lord Lieutenant of Yorkshire, wrote to Sidmouth about this episode, blaming the spy ‘Oliver’ for what had happened:

There certainly prevails very generally in the country a strong and decided opinion that most of the events that have recently occurred in the country are to be attributed to the presence and active agitation of Mr. Oliver. He is considered as the main spring from which every movement has taken its rise. All the mischievous in the country have considered themselves as subordinate members of a great leading body of revolutionists in London, as cooperating with that body for one general purpose, and in this view to be under its instructions and directions, communicated by some delegate appointed for the purpose. Had not then a person pretending to come from that body and for that purpose, made his appearance in the country, it is not assuming too much to say that probably no movement whatever would have occurred – it does not follow that a dangerous – spirit could not have been found lurking in any breast, but that that spirit would not have found its way into action.

Sidmouth himself wrote in reply to the charge that Oliver had caused the Derbyshire Rising:

The statement is to me incredible but I think it so important as to require immediate and minute investigation. It is directly at variance with the instructions given to Oliver and with his communications to Sir John Byng [the Military commander in the North], as well as to myself… It would have been entirely inconsistent with the instructions given him by Government if he had in any instance fomented or encouraged the disaffected to proceed with greater activity or to greater lengths than they were themselves inclined to do.


Following the Pentrich Rising and other manifestations of discontent, the government passed the Six Acts in 1819 in an attempt to maintain law and order.


After the end of the French Wars, it became increasingly clear that England was suffering from great social, economic and political upheavals. These problems collectively became known as the ‘Condition of England Question’. Many of these problems would have occurred eventually but had been speeded up by the effects of the French Wars on the country. Most of the major changes were the direct result of the French Wars. Others came from natural growth and change. The distress and discontent caused by these enormous changes were manifested in a series of events in the period 1811-19. One of these was the upsurge in Luddism.
Luddites were men who took the name of a (perhaps) mythical individual, Ned Ludd who was reputed to live in Sherwood Forest. The Luddites were trying to save their livelihoods by smashing industrial machines developed for use in the textile industries of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire. Some Luddites were active in Lancashire also. They smashed stocking-frames and cropping frames among others. There does not seem to have been any political motivation behind the Luddite riots; equally, there was no national organisation. The men merely were attacking what they saw as the reason for the decline in their livelihoods.
However, early outbreaks of Luddism occurred during the French Wars and were seen by the government as clear evidence of disaffection. In 1812 the government probably had reason to be fearful: a large part of the army was overseas, mainly in the Peninsular with Wellington; the country was fighting not only the French but also the Americans.
England was experiencing the worst trade depression since the 1760s and people were suffering great hardship. As evidenced by the Sheffield riots of 1812
The only person who seems to have appreciated the problems faced by ordinary people was the Earl Fitzwilliam, Lord Lieutenant of the West Riding of Yorkshire. He said, ‘outrage and conspiracy … are the offspring of distress and want of employment … fostered and rendered formidable by nothing but the want of trade’.

This period was not the first time that England had experienced occurrences of machine-breaking. In 1779 the failure of a Bill to regulate the frame-knitting industry had resulted in 300 frames being smashed and thrown into the streets. However, by 1810 the Orders in Council and a change in fashion had led to deterioration in the standard of craftsmanship required in stocking making and a consequent cheapening of the trade. It was the attempt to intimidate some masters who brought in the new machines that caused Nottingham stocking knitters to smash the machines.
Stocking knitting was predominantly a domestic industry, the stockinger renting his frame from the master and working in his own ‘shop’ using thread given to him by the master; the finished items were handed back to the master to sell. The frames were therefore scattered round the villages; it was easy for the Luddites to smash a frame and then disappear. Between March 1811 and February 1812 they smashed about a thousand machines at the cost of between £6,000 and £10,000. In April 1812 the Luddites burned the West Houghton mill in Lancashire. Samuel Whitbread, an MP, said of the event
As to the persons who had blackened their faces, and disfigured themselves for the purposes of concealment, and had attended the meeting on Deanmoor, near Manchester, it turned out that ten of them were spies sent out by the magistrates… These spies were the very ringleaders of the mischief, and incited the people to acts which they would not otherwise have thought of.
The authorities were incapable of stopping the attacks so the government felt obliged to put in place special legislation. Machine-breaking had been made a capital offence in 1721; in 1811 a special Act was passed to secure the peace of Nottingham. At the Nottingham Assizes in March 1812, seven Luddites were sentenced to transportation for life; two others were acquitted.

In April 1812, the Luddites attacked William Cartwright’s mill at Rawfolds near Huddersfield. The event was described by Charlotte Brönte in her novel Shirley. Cartwright and a few soldiers held the mill against about 150 attackers, two of whom were killed. The following week an attempt was made on Cartwright’s life and on 28 April William Horsfall, another manufacturer, was killed.
In June 1812 Lord Sidmouth became Home Secretary, by which time the outbreaks of Luddism had begun to diminish. However in July, parliament set up Secret Committees for the examination of evidence from the ‘disturbed areas’. Information had been given to Major Searle, the commander of the South Devon Militia, which was stationed in Sheffield. The informant was not identified. Part of the Report said
It is the opinion of persons, both in civil and military stations, well acquainted with the state of the country, an opinion grounded upon various information from various quarters now before your committee, but which, for obvious reasons, they do not think proper to detail, that the views of some of the persons engaged in these proceedings have extended to revolutionary measures of the most dangerous description.
Their proceedings manifest a degree of caution and organisation which appears to flow from the direction of some persons under whose influence they act.
On the strength of the evidence, the Secret Committees in parliament approved a Bill to preserve the public peace of the ‘disturbed districts’ and to give additional powers to the magistrates. It passed through parliament and remained in force until 25 March 1813. This was the only way that the government could compensate for the inefficient methods of crime prevention at the time. However, despite the government’s fears, there is no evidence whatsoever that the activities of the Luddites were politically motivated.
Another parliamentary committee heard petitions for relief from the cotton workers and reported to parliament in 1812: it is clear from this section of the report that the government would do nothing to move from the economic ideas of laissez faire:
While the Committee fully acknowledge and most deeply lament the great distress of numbers of persons engaged in the cotton manufacture, they are of opinion that no interference of the legislature with the freedom of trade, or with the perfect liberty of every individual to dispose of his time and of his labour in the way and on the terms which he may judge most conducive to his own interest, can take place without violating general principles of the first importance to the prosperity and happiness of the community, without establishing the most pernicious precedent, or without aggravating, after a very short time, the pressure of the general distress, and imposing obstacles against that distress ever being removed.

Lord Liverpool, the PM endorsed the view of the committee when he said:
In these cases the Legislature ought not to interfere, but should leave everything to find its own level… I am satisfied that government or parliaments never meddle in these matters at all but they do harm, more or less… The evils inseparable from the state of things should not be charged on any government; and, on enquiry, it would be found that by far the greater part of the miseries of which human nature complained were at all times and in all countries beyond the control of human legislation.
In January 1813 three men were charged at York for the murder of Horsfall, were found guilty and were hanged. Fourteen others involved in the attack on Cartwright’s mill or related activities were hanged a week later. Sidmouth and Lord Ellenborough expected the executions to have the ‘happiest effects in various parts of the kingdom’.

Direct action in the shape of strikes or machine breaking continued despite the special legislation and severe measures. A Bill was introduced to parliament to regulate the stocking knitting trade and especially to prohibit the cheap, nasty ‘cut-ups’ that were being sold [‘Cut-ups’ were tubes of stocking fabric that were cut to appropriate lengths and one end was then stitched to form the toe part of the stocking]. The legislation was rejected by the House of Lords. The textile workers then attempted to form a Trade Society to promote their demands but it was deemed to be illegal under the Combination Acts and it collapsed.
In 1816 there was a revival of violence and machine breaking following a bad harvest and a downturn in trade. On 28 June the Luddites attacked Heathcote and Boden’s mill in Loughborough, smashing 53 frames at a cost of £6,000. Troops were used to end the riots and for their crimes, six men were executed and another three were transported. William Cobbett’s view of events was that
Society ought not to exist, if not for the benefit of the whole. It is and must be against the law of nature, if it exists for the benefit of the few and for the misery of the many. I say, then, distinctly, that a society, in which the common labourer . . . cannot secure a sufficiency of food and raiment, is a society which ought not to exist; a society contrary to the law of nature; a society whose compact is dissolved.