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Guidebook: Windsor Town


Hope
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WINDSOR TOWN - at the foot of the Castle

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Windsor is delightfully situated in the county of Berks, twenty two miles west of London, on the verdant banks of the mild and gentle River Thames; which, from its serpentine course in this part of it, was, in King Edward the Confessor's charter, termed Windlesora, (the Winding Shore) hence, in time, it was called Windsor.

The elegant Windsor Town had grown through the ages as a direct consequence of the castle, taking its name from what came to be known as Old Windsor which was further down in the countryside, completely cut off from its colony. The new Windsor Town was created exclusively in response to the castle. All its citizens worked in the castle, made goods for the castle or provided housing for its guests and family of its inhabitants.

The Town of Windsor consists of six principal streets, Park Street, High Street, Thames Street, Peascod Street, Church Street, and Castle Street. The less considerable streets are, Butcher Row, Fish Street, Sheet Street, George Street, Beer Lane and Datchet Lane.

Nell Gwynn owned a merry house just off High Street that ended up at Kings Gate. She set a trend for the gentle but common visitors of the castle. The town also provided some rare pleasures that could not be found inside the large walls - a rich town and it showed in the colourful fronts of the many shops that begged the visitors to stop. 

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HEN'S TOES

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Settled comfortably on the main street of the town of Windsor, High Street, the Hen's Toes is a neatly turned out establishment, clearly catering to a more well-mannered class of person than the local country folk. A Tudor façade gives way to a comfortable common room upon first entry, scattered with tables and chairs rather than the more rustic benches that might be found in the local tavern. A roaring hearth dominates the right side of the room, staving off the deep winter chill. A few comfortable chairs accompanied by small side tables offer best access to its warmth. Beside it, a flight of stairs leads up to the floors above, where the sparse but clean guest rooms are located. On the other side of the room, an inconspicuous doorway leads to a private dining room.

Behind the bar one might find either Mr Clarke, a middle aged, stocky man whose rugged demeanour hides his gregarious, jovial nature, or his wife, whose beady eyes keep close eye on all goings on within the establishment.

 

Room#3 - 

A nicely appointment two bedroom apartment. There was a hearth burning, and some comfortable chairs and a loveseat. In one corner a desk. Some smaller side tables next to the chairs created space to leave a glass, but there was also a small dining table in the other corner, seating perhaps two. In the other room there was a large double bed with drawn drapings. As promised there was a large window that looked out upon the street, which on the middle of the day was rather busy with carts and people.

A comfortable rug could also serve as a bed for a servant as well. An alcove covered by a burgundy curtain contained the water closet. The slop pot was emptied twice a day.

Room#7 - 

A small but clean guest room. A single bed with an old oak dresser adorned the room. A very small watercloset was adjacent to the room. A single window looked out through skeletal tree limbs towards the icy river. The slop pot was emptied twice a day.

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SHOPS 'N STUFF

While a small town, servicing the nobility brings wealth, and the small mercantile quarter bears proof. While the vast array of goods that might be found in London cannot be supported by such a generally small populace, there is still enough to tempt the casual shopper.

While private citizens must sweep their own porches clear in the bitterly cold winter, the King's pleasure keeps High street free for the pleasure of his courtiers. The chill is kept at least a little distant by the occasional street stall, where steam rises from stoves bearing hot chestnuts, caramelised apples, mulled wine and cocoa.

 

CASTERBRIDGE FINE JEWELLERS

A narrow shopfront opens to a small, but well appointed room. Decor in rich bergundy and gold creates an atmosphere of warm wealth, with a pair of chairs supplied for the comfort of customers. A small display of jewels tempts the eye, pretty, but not the jeweller's best - only a fool would keep such things where anyone might see them!

Worthy customers, however, might request to view other items, or commission a piece, by application to one of a pair of slightly suspiciously sturdy, but well dressed and polite assistants.

 

MADAM GARLAND'S

That Madam Garland caters to the upper crust of society is immediately evident upon entering her shop. Silks and wools of the highest quality dominate her shelves, in an assortment of colours to please all but the foolishly particular. Madam Garland herself only appears for special customers, but an assisstant is always on hand to answer questions... And assure dirty paws don't mar expensive fabrics.

Gown repairs and alterations can also be performed by the Madam and her excellent staff.

 

MASTER GERSHWIN'S

The front of Master Tailor Gershwin's establishment is not terribly inviting, the interior austere in the extreme to eyes grown accustomed to the extravagances of court. His reputation precedes him, however, and this knowledge keeps the man at his work, rather than at the more business-like endeavour of beautifying his shopfront. A tinkle of the doorbell announces every entry, and will bring assisstance to the gentleman seeking repairs, alterations, or an entirely new garment.

 

CELESTIAL PATTISSERIE

Catering to those with a taste for the continetal, Celestial Pattisserie is noticable first by the rich odour of sweet breads that permeates the street before it. The interior is invitingly warm, the air enriched by the aromatic heat from the kitchen ovens. A delectable array of baked sweets catches the eye and tempts the mouth to watering.

 

ANGUS AND ROBERTSON FINE BOOKS

A small shop, rather dark, but for those enamoured of the printed word a treasure cave.

A cheery fire crackled on the compact hearth, warming the space and liberating the fragrance of fine paper and calfskin. All the modern English authors are in the collection and topics available range from embroidery to exploration, cookery to cuckoldry. The editions are of the finest quality - no cheapjack woodblocks here.

At least one of the partners are always in attendance, Mr Angus being a stout Scot of about 45 and Mr Robertson an Oxford graduate of about 30.

 

MARE'S NEST ANTIQUES AND CURIOSITIES

The Mare's Nest is full of possibilities. Dimly lit, crowded - is that half-seen item an antique valuable beyond measure or what is politely termed 'a collectable'?

Shelves and tables overflow with items - fine furniture stands cheek by jowl with dubious marriages of timber oddments which nevertheless may really be the clothes press of Old King Ned - King Hal's grandsire that was.

Mr Otway, the gentle greybeard proprietor, filled his speech with 'in the style of', 'reputed to be' and, daringly,'from the school of'. Buy it because you enjoy it, not for it's value, would be his advice - were he asked for it.

 

Gems among the current stock include:

A mirror, small and exquisite, the soft old glass reflecting with a gentle lustre. Set in a frame of Persian make, red lacquer and tiny pieces of mirror-glass scattered across it like shining foam on a blood-red sea.

A small portrait, Holbein-style, of a young blonde girl, 17, perhaps, her blue eyes wistful as she holds a white rose in one hand and, unusually for the time, holds a ribbon tied around the neck of a lamb in the other. Her gown is a rich blue brocade, so life-like you can hear it rustle. Sadly, the lady's name is lost to us.

An exquisite little table - it's modern, make not mistake - but truly a thing of beauty. Boulle inlay on rosewood.

Small enamelled brooch - King Richard's cap badge, lost and found in Bosworth field. Or so it is said.

An emerald and gold cross allegedly found after the wreck of a Spanish ship in the New World some 70 years ago. It's provenance may be dodgy but it's value is clear. 9 Fine large emeralds set in high grade gold, with a golden chain. A Papist ornament? Perhaps - but it can always be refashioned.

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WINDSOR BATHS

'Bathhouse' was, in truth, too austere a word to describe the cornucopia of decadent entertainment to be found at the Windsor Baths. While they certainly served their hygienic purpose well, no elite leisure is ever simple, and such held as true with a bath house as it did with a palace salon. The exterior showed no particular promise, being an older complex reminiscent of the years before the extravagance of the Baroque style fully developed, but a step within proved the Baths were well up to modern fashions. The baths were a place not only for washing, but for primping, preening, and socialisation. The less formal attire required for bathing made for an easier atmosphere to that of the palace, one in which the impropriety Charles' court was famed for could truly run rampant.

Comfort and luxury were the order of the day as far as the baths were concerned, and no expense had been spared. A lavishly decorated foyer allowed access to two separate areas - to the left, a heavy blue velvet curtain allowed entrance to the men's baths, to the right a red for the ladies. A servant always stood watch to ensure proper segregation, but it was not unheard of for sufficient distraction to shake her concentration upon the task at hand.

The hefty sum of a pound was charged for entry.

 

LORDS

Wearing underwear sufficient to only cover the most sensitive areas of a gentleman's anatomy, a gentleman entering the baths would find himself first in a room dominated by an enormous, sweet-scented bath. Steam rose constantly from the surface, the heat inside the bath house a comfortable contrast to the bitter cold outside. To one side of the bath, a wall was dominated by a Romanesque fountain, sirens and mermaids lounging amidst cascading water that ensured the room was never silent. Sitting by the fountain, one might almost be assured of private conversation. From one mermaid's hands a fountain of warm water spouted high, then down direclty into the baths.

For those seeking to perform their ablutions with an even greater semblance of privacy, curtained archways gave way to several rooms hosting smaller pools that might fit up to 5 gentlemen.

Another archway was sealed with a door rather than a curtain, behind which would be found a room heated to almost unbearable temperatures. In its center burned coals, with a water handy to be tipped over them and bring forth steam. Just beside the door outside, a stone cold bath was recessed into the wall.

One more door led to a walled outdoor area. The freezing cold air temperature was tempered by a dip into a steaming hot bath. Three sides boasted stone walls - the third was a wicker fence, behind which lay the ladies baths. It was an easy thing to hear and converse with the ladies on the other side, and a very enterprising man might find the occasional illusive peekhole...

 

LADIES

Upon entering the central bath, clad only in her shift, the bathing lady would find herself first with a choice - lavender, sage and mint, or rosemary? Three baths formed a ring about a central fountain, occupied by musician cherubs, from whose lips and instruments water flowed forth.

For those seeking to perform their ablutions with an even greater semblance of privacy, curtained archways gave way to several rooms hosting smaller pools that might fit up to 5 ladies.

Another archway led to a room in which the bath was filled not only with water, but also with a hint of honey and buttermilk. From the cloudy water rose an almost irresistable scent, overhanging frescoes giving the room an almost cavelike feel.

In the same manner as the men's baths, a doorway led to a sauna, accompanied by a cold bath.

The women could enjoy an outdoor bath, one wall being wicker instead of stone, beyond which bathed the men. The enterprising lady was just as capable of gaining an elusive glimpse through the fence as her male counterpart, should she so choose.

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RESIDENCES

DeCourtenay House - with select guests (Eton Students) 

Three stories of light tan brick with dark brown trim and roofing make up the Windsor Students residence .

Ivy crept across the walls in a carefully cultivated display, giving the structure more than a hint of reverant majesty. A heavily polished bronze door knocker sat on the front of a sturdy front door. A high stone wall encircles the house, with its expansive gardens filled with exotic flowers, green lawns and fruit trees. A path of tan gravel lead up to the front of the house.

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