Windsor contains a church that despite walking past hundreds of times in my youth, I was never able to go inside — until today.
Windsor also contains a church that is open daily and freely to visit, and was often a spot for lunch, so I went back today with a camera.
St John the Baptist
This is the main church in the centre of Windsor, and the one most tourists visits, because it’s a) in the centre of Windsor and b) it has a very famous painting inside.
The church itself is relatively modern, being a mere 200 years or so old, but replacing a church on the site that can be dated to at least the 10th century
What looks like a stone built church is in fact an iron frame, with the girders floated down the Thames from London (probably docklands), and then clad in stone to make it look a bit more conventional.
Inside is equally conventional, being a two-floor Georgian era church, and not really a lot going for it otherwise. But turn around.
High up above the door is a painting of the Last Supper.
Dating to the time of King James I, it used to hang in Windsor Castle, but was given to the church by King George III. It is a bit far away to fully appreciate, and the surrounds rather lacklustre, but it’s a significant painting and worth craning the head a bit to see.
I used to be quite fond of this church, being where I learnt brass rubbing, and where a group of ladies used to sell tea and rolls on Saturdays. I later found myself, a heathen, attending services on Remembrance Day as I was the flag bearer for the St Johns’ Ambulance. A morning of mild panic to make sure we did everything correctly and that I didn’t drop the very heavy flagpole, and frankly, not a moment of remembrance whatsoever.
The church of St John the Baptist is open daily.
Holy Trinity Garrison Church
Not on the tourist trail, and frankly unless you head to this part of town, most people in Windsor probably don’t know this church exists either.
I walked past it hundreds of times as the local library was nearby, and on occasional visits to Windsor since, have always popped back on the off-chance the doors would be open. They’ve always been closed.
Wandering around the side, the door was open and a big sign offered a welcome to visitors.
As it turned out, this is actually a very special church — the only Parish AND garrison church in the UK with permission to wear the Royal Navy’s White Ensign.
It’s unusual significance is due to a decision by Queen Victoria that rather than having chapels for each of the two military barracks in Windsor, and none for the people, one big church should be built to serve all their needs.
The addition of the White Ensign followed later, and it now remembers those who die at sea.
As such, when you go inside, what is nominally a parish church is packed full of the military memorials you would normally find in a military chapel.
The largest memorial is the Guard’s Chapel, built in 1883, dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives in the 1882 Egyptian Campaign.
There are badges of the Royal Horse Guards, Life Guards, Coldstream and Irish Guards on the front pews, and on my visit, I presume for a wedding, lots of bows and flowers.
I popped outside to take a photo and as I turned, the doors were closed. A fleeting glimpse inside a church I have wanted to visit for decades, so quite an exciting moment.
The website says that the church was closed when I lived in Windsor, but is open daily 10am-2pm now — which doesn’t fit in with my memories of being around at lunchtimes on several recent occasions, and even today as the doors closed behind me, it was barely 1pm.
If in Windsor try to visit, but don’t be too surprised if the doors remain locked, nor too down-heartened, after all, it took me decades of pushing on locked doors before they final yielded.