Exterior of The Windsor Guildhall
The Windsor Guildhall is located on Windsor's High Street

The Windsor Guildhall is, perhaps, most famous as the setting for the wedding between Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, as well as hosting one of the first ever UK civil partnerships for Sir Elton John.

It has been the town hall of Windsor since its completion in 1689 and today it stands as one of the most popular wedding and event destinations in Berkshire.

With COVID-19 still in full force, and another national lockdown upon us, you would imagine that the famous red doors of The Windsor Guildhall would be closed and the glittering chandeliers switched off.  But a trip to Windsor high street shows you that The Windsor Guildhall is alive with activity.

Huge scaffolding towers now cover the façade of this famous town hall, while a small fleet of white vans surround the vicinity.  We’ve been invited behind the scenes to find out what’s going on.

Scaffolding on The Windsor Guildhall
Scaffolding shrouding The Windsor Guildhall

A legacy worth keeping

The Windsor Guildhall was built in its current form in 1689, although there has been a Guild in the town since the middle ages.  The current building was completed by Sir Christopher Wren.  When it was finished, the royal family gave it their own seal of approval by presenting the building with their portraits; the images of King William III and Queen Mary II still adorn the walls of the Guildhall to this day.

Since then something of a tradition has formed, and a portrait of every monarch since has been presented to the Guildhall, sometimes by local friendly societies, but often by the King or Queen themselves.  Of particular note are the enormous portraits of King George V and Queen Mary, which were gifted personally by the King when he adopted the surname of Windsor for the royal family.

The Windsor Guildhall also houses the Civil Collection: artworks which have been gifted or presented by former mayors and councillors over the last 300 years, including a gilt commemorative cup which celebrates the ascension of King Charles II in 1660, and a set of union flags which were used by the Windsor regiment during the Napoleonic wars.

But a 300-year-old building containing many national treasures is not an easy venue to maintain.  As the timber and mortar ages, water can get in which then freezes in the winter and causes cracks, or else rots plaster and woodwork.  Pollution from the high street causes erosion of the bricks and window frames, and even sunlight poses a threat.  Damage from ultraviolet rays, which are transmitted through sunlight, are the single biggest threat to fabrics, upholstery and paintings.  UV damage is also permanent, so particular care has to be taken to prevent the damage from happening in the first place.

Small, daily steps can have the biggest impact

When you think of conservation, you’re probably thinking of a white-gloved curator, painstakingly restoring some ancient artwork piece, however a great deal of the conservation work is found in smaller, more regular steps.

At The Windsor Guildhall, two rounds are made daily, upon opening and again just prior to closing, at which point all of the artworks are checked and their conditions are monitored.

The main council chamber, which houses some of the finest royal portraits, has been installed with special UV filtering blinds which are used when the venue is not in use.  This way the collection is only exposed to sunlight when it needs to be, and will help in the overall wear of the art.

The moveable collection – which is furniture that is still used but classed as artwork within the collection – has to be especially looked after.  Staff are expected to have training in handling them.  The commercial business of The Windsor Guildhall has also been impacted by the need to conserve.  A new set of conservation-specific terms and conditions was introduced last year, and in some cases this meant that previously regular activities had to be cancelled.

Investment is always required, but striking a balance is key

But even with regular conservation routines, a building as old as The Windsor Guildhall will always need more specialist care from time to time.

In the last financial year, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead spent £42,300 on specialist conservation work on the royal portrait collection, which removed historic damage and hazardous 19th-century varnish.  Further repairs were carried out to the wall and render on the Corn Exchange Terrace, and over £41,000 was committed to the restoration of the windows to the Council Chamber, which was originally intended to be completed in March, but is currently ongoing, having been postponed due to the initial lockdown.

This current project is removing historic rot and damp wood, replacing it with conservation-approved resin, which restores the strength to the windows, allows their use once again, and also does the essential job of keeping The Windsor Guildhall watertight.

These repairs are being carried out by AC Beck, a well-established company with specialist knowledge of historic buildings.  Among their other credentials, AC Beck are the chosen contractors of the Royal Household.

A chartered surveyor has also been appointed to study The Windsor Guildhall so that further investment opportunities can be identified.  All of these activities are funded through the weddings and events at The Windsor Guildhall, in order to prevent the building from becoming a strain on the local taxpayer.

Guildhall window with resin
Resin repairs to a window at The Windsor Guildhall

Jordan Evans from The Windsor Guildhall told us:

“Everyone here at The Windsor Guildhall is determined to protect and preserve this local treasure.  Over the last two years we have worked incredibly hard to broaden our outreach and to ensure that people from all classes, race, sexuality and religion can enjoy The Windsor Guildhall as part of their local heritage and feel welcome here.  We also offer a £200 discount to all residents of the Royal Borough if they want to hire The Windsor Guildhall.  We’ve carried out some huge conservation projects to preserve both the Civic Collection and the fabric of the building, and we continue to do so now.

“In a building such as The Windsor Guildhall, there will always be more conservation to do, but finding the balance to ensure that conservation work is prioritised correctly, that we are financially sustainable and that we are flexible enough to adapt our plans at short notice have all helped preserve The Windsor Guildhall and will continue to preserve it for many generations to come.”


The Windsor Guildhall
Conferences & Weddings Conferences Category
The Windsor Guildhall exterior (image Jodie Humphries)

Next to Windsor Castle in the centre of this historic town, close to hotels, restaurants and transport links, The Windsor Guildhall is a stunning Grade 1 listed building perfect for your wedding, civil partnership, reception, dinner or event.



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