The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead is home to world-famous attractions but there are some lesser known and delightful ‘hidden gems’ too – some just outside the borough – just waiting to be discovered.
Stanley Spencer Gallery
The Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham, Berkshire, is unique in that it is the only gallery in Britain devoted exclusively to an artist (Stanley Spencer 1891-1959) in the village where he was born and spent most of his life. Spencer was strongly influenced by the river and his religious beliefs, and the gallery occupies the former Victorian Methodist Chapel where Spencer was taken as a child to worship. The gallery originally opened in 1962 but underwent an £800,000 refurbishment in 2007.
Taplow Court is a mid-19th century mansion set high above the Thames near Maidenhead. In the 18th century, Taplow Court was the home of the Earls and Countesses of Orkney. The first Earl fought at the Battles of the Boyne and Blenheim and was created first British Field Marshall. In the mid 19th century the house was given its present Jacobean-revival/French Gothic appearance by the architect William Burn. At the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, the great sportsman, William Henry Grenfell and his wife Ettie, hosted gatherings of the elite, aristocratic social group 'the Souls' here. Their eldest son, Julian Grenfell, one of the war poets, was killed in 1915.
Today Taplow Court is the home of SGI-UK, a lay Buddhist society. The house and other buildings on site are used for courses and conferences for the society's members. The house is open to the public on Sundays and Bank (national) Holiday Mondays during the summer months, when exhibitions about the history of the house, or about social and environmental issues may be seen. Music, song, drama and poetry events or a guided tour are also on offer to visitors. Cream teas are available in the canteen or you may picnic in 85 acres of grounds.
Dorney Court was built in 1440 and lived in by the present family for more than 400 years. The rooms are steeped in history with 15th- and 16th-century oak and 17th-century lacquer furniture. The adjacent 13th-century church of St James, with Norman front and Tudor tower, can also be visited. Dorney is the ancient word for 'island of bees' and Dorney is famous for its honey which is still produced today. The very first pineapple to be raised in England was grown at Dorney Court and presented to Charles II in 1661. From late April until the end of May Dorney Court sells its own home-grown asparagus from the back entrance of the house. This is picked first thing every morning and has usually sold out by early afternoon!
Frogmore House, situated in the private Home Park of Windsor Castle, has been linked to various monarchs since the 17th century - and the house and gardens were one of Queen Victoria's favourite retreats. In the gardens stands the mausoleum where Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert are buried though this is closed in the long term for conservation work. Frogmore House is no longer a Royal residence, but the house and gardens are sometimes used by the Royal Family for functions.
Waltham Place, White Waltham
Waltham Place is a working farm owned by Nicky and Strilli Oppenheimer, whose family have lived there since 1910. The estate spans 170 acres, including a farm with several rare breed animals and poultry and an entirely organic garden with walled gardens dating from the 17th century. There are extensive arable and grazing fields as well as vegetable gardens, orchards, ornamental and landscape gardens and a large lake surrounded by woods and parkland. Care for the environment and sustainability are prime objectives at the estate. The estate is also committed to its own education programme and is an excellent venue for educating schoolchildren and the general public about organic production and environmental issues.
Various parts of the estate are open to the public and a series of walks and events are held throughout the year. The farm's produce is also on sale at the farm shop and in the tea room.
Evensong at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle
St George's Chapel, within Windsor Castle, is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in England and is particularly noted for its magnificent stone fan vaulting. It is the spiritual home of the Order of the Garter, the senior order of British Chivalry established in 1348 by Edward III. Visitors are most welcome to attend services at St George’s Chapel, which are free to all. The evensong service is one of the most beautiful. Doors open at 17:00 for the 17:15 evensong service; entry is via Henry VIII Gate. Download more information on services and music at St George's Chapel.
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