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The Lower Ward

LowerWard.jpg

 

The west side of the Castle is dubbed the Lower Ward, and consists of two principal parts. First and most importantly is St. George’s Chapel, on the north side of the courtyard. Second, are the buildings associated with the Order of the Garter, including the offices and residences of the deans, canons, and clerks. At the west end of the Ward sits the Horseshoe Cloister, a two-story building of red brick criss-crossed by dark wood beams, which houses the Chapel’s clergymen. Behind the Cloister rises Curfew Tower, which houses the Castle bells as well as a former dungeon. Along the south side of the Lower Ward are the lodgings of the ‘Poor Knights’, a group of eighteen military veterans who enjoy the King’s hospitality in exchange for their daily prayers on his behalf and their support of the Order and the Chapel. The Lower Ward also boasts two platforms of brass cannons as part of the Castle’s fortifications. All of this surrounds the courtyard itself, a grassy clearing delineated by a number of dirt pathways, along which the denizens of the Ward hurry from dawn til dusk as they perform their various duties.

 

The Lower Ward housed the barracks for the Life Guard and the gentlemen troopers could be seen frequently doing their exercises in the early morning, a new discipline having been enforced since May. It allowed spectators to watch these fine men on display, inspiring the troopers to their best effort.

 

St. George's Chapel

GeorgesChapel.jpg

 

Located in the Lower Ward, St. George's Chapel was the main place of worship for Windsor Castle. It falls directly under the jurisdiction of the monarch, as Head of the Church, and is also the chapel of the Order of the Garter. The Chapel was built from the 15th to 16th centuries in the Perpendicular Gothic style as an expansion and rededication of the 13th century Chapel of St Edward the Confessor. The Chapel suffered a great deal of destruction and looting during the English Civil War, but saw extensive repairs with the Restoration of King Charles II. The Chapel is governed by the Dean and Canons of Windsor, while the day to day running is the responsibility of the religious College of St George.

 

The Chapel is composed of two parts, the Nave and the Quire. As you ascend the shallow stone steps to the entrance, you are greeted by the sight of the great West Window, composed of seventy-five separate lights, or panels, and said to be third largest stained glass in England. Passing through the wooden double doors, you enter the Nave, its pale stone floors and walls dappled with a myriad of colors from dozens of additional stained glass windows in the clerestory. High above soars the ornate, fan vaulted ceiling, which echoes with the heavenly sound of the Chapel Choir, in existence since 1348. The long aisle leading to the Quire doors is lined with dozens of pews, each sporting a floral wreath hung in anticipation of the more splendid décor that will be installed for the Royal Wedding. The Organ Loft stands above the Quire doors, and is elaborately carved in the Gothic style from dark wood. There are also two chantries, one of each side of the Nave, which offer a more private location for prayers and small services.

 

Within the Quire, the Gothic woodwork of the Organ Loft is continued and multiplied in the fifty stalls installed for the Knights and Canons. When the Monarch bestows the Order of the Garter, a stall is provided for the Knight for the duration their life. A bronze Stall Plate, illustrating their Arms and titles, is fixed to the back of the stall and remains in place after their death. The heraldic banners of the Knights are also hung above the stalls. There is a separate Sovereign’s stall located just to the right of the entrance to the Quire. At the front stands a gold gilt altar and painted altar screen, and a stone in the middle of the aisle marks the vault where King Henry VIII and King Charles I are buried.

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  • 10 years later...

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Curfew Tower and Dungeon 

                                                                        

                                                                                          IMG_2147.thumb.jpg.3a696c5ffd45f31e1298fca85682d22f.jpg

 

Called the Curfew Tower because of the tolling of the bell that reminded people to extinguish all fires and lights before the nightly curfew. This is the secondary entrance to the castle and takes you into the Horseshoe Cloisters directly in front of St George’s Chapel.

Built in 1428 into a corner of the castle walls and overlooks the moat. The Tower walls are 13 feet thick at the base and it stands 100 feet high. The timber structure that sits atop it is the Belfry in which the bell is housed. At ground level there is a wooden door that leads down to the Dungeon but over the past ten to fifteen years it has not been used as a prison so this area has been allowed to become overgrown. Walking inside this part of the Lower Ward the door would hardly be noticeable to anyone.

INSIDE:

The Dungeon is a dimly lit underworld. From the outside twenty stone steps lead down from an archway to a small landing. To the right more steps lead down to the interior itself. To the left is the Guard Room. The ceilings are Gothic archways made of stone towering 50 feet in height. There are several cells placed at intervals around this central room with torches placed along the walls. Steel body cages still hang along the walls in several places offering testament to its past. The walls are blackened from the smoke of years and green moss now grows in places where water has begun to seep through the stones.

It is clearly a place long abandoned. Yet there are traces of habitation both human and animal.

In a far right corner is an archway that hides a double-sided door worn now with age. Behind it lies a passageway that is about six feet wide and eight feet tall with stone steps that go upwards. A few torches are placed along the walls. This is the Sally Port and it leads to a gate that opens to outside the Tower itself. Once used as a means of protection and escape from the Castle by soldiers and those living inside it has now become overgrown with foliage and few know of its existence. Those that do find it perfect as a way into the Dungeon using it for secret meetings or rendezvous.

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