Not the least of the attractions of the park is Virginia Water, with its bright and beautiful expanse, its cincture of green banks, soft and smooth as velvet, its screen of noble woods, its Chinese fishing-temple, its frigates, its ruins, its cascade, cave, and Druidical temple, its obelisk and bridges, with numberless beauties besides, which it would be superfluous to describe here. This artificial mere covers pretty nearly the same surface of ground as that occupied by the great lake of olden times.
Windsor forest once comprehended a circumference of a hundred and twenty miles, and comprised part of Buckinghamshire, a considerable portion of Surrey, and the whole south-east side of Berkshire, as far as Hungerford. On the Surrey side it included Chobham and Chertsey, and extended along the side of the Wey, which marked its limits as far as Guildford. In the reign of James the First, when it was surveyed by Norden, its circuit was estimated at seventy-seven miles and a half, exclusive of the liberties extending into Buckinghamshire. There were fifteen walks within it, each under the charge of a head keeper, and the whole contained upwards of three thousand head of deer. It is now almost wholly enclosed.
V. The Last Great Epoch in the History of the Castle.
A prince of consummate taste and fine conceptions, George the Fourth meditated, and, what is better, accomplished the restoration of the castle to more than its original grandeur. lie was singularly fortunate in his architect. Sir Jeffry Wyatville was to him what William of Wykeham had been to Edward the Third. All the incongruities of successive reigns were removed: all, or nearly all, the injuries inflicted by time repaired; and when the work so well commenced was finished, the structure took its place as the noblest and most majestic palatial residence in existence.
To enter into a full detail of Wyatville's achievements is beyond the scope of the present work; but a brief survey may be taken of them. Never was lofty design more fully realised. View the castle on the north, with its grand terrace of nearly a thousand feet in length, and high embattled walls; its superb facade, comprehending the stately Brunswick Tower; the Cornwall Tower, with its gorgeous window; George the Fourth's Tower, including the great oriel window of the state drawing-room; the restored Stuart buildings, and those of Henry the Seventh and of Elizabeth; the renovated Norman Tower; the Powder Tower, with the line of walls as far as the Winchester Tower; -- view this, and then turn to the east, and behold another front of marvellous beauty extending more than four hundred feet from north to south, and displaying the Prince of Wales's Tower, the Chester, Clarence, and Victoria Towers -- all of which have been raised above their former level, and enriched by great projecting windows; -- behold also the beautiful sunken garden, with its fountain and orangery, its flights of steps, and charming pentagonal terrace; -- proceed to the south front, of which the Victoria Tower, with its machicolated battlements and oriel window, forms so superb a feature at the eastern corner, the magnificent gateway receiving its name from George the Fourth, flanked by the York and Lancaster Towers, and opening in a continued line from the Long Walk; look at Saint George's Gate, Edward the Third's renovated tower, and the octagon tower beyond it; look at all these, and if they fail to excite a due appreciation of the genius that conceived them, gaze at the triumph of the whole, and which lords over all the rest -- the Round Tower -- gaze at it, and not here alone, but from the heights of the great park, from the vistas of the home park, from the bowers of Eton, the meads of Clewer and Datchet, from the Brocas, the gardens of the naval knights -- from a hundred points; view it at sunrise when the royal standard is hoisted, or at sunset when it is lowered, near or at a distance, and it will be admitted to be the work of a prodigious architect!
But Wyatville's alterations have not yet been fully considered. Pass through Saint George's Gateway, and enter the grand quadrangle to which it leads. Let your eye wander round it, beginning with the inner sides of Edward the Third's Tower and George the Fourth's Gateway, and proceeding to the beautiful private entrance to the sovereign's apartments, the grand range of windows of the eastern corridor, the proud towers of the gateway to the household, the tall pointed windows of Saint George's Hall, the state entrance tower, with its noble windows, until it finally rests upon the Stuart buildings and King John's Tower, at the angle of the pile.
Internally the alterations made by the architects have been of corresponding splendour and importance. Around the south and east sides of the court at which you are gazing, a spacious corridor has been constructed, five hundred and fifty feet in length, and connected with the different suites of apartments on these sides of the quadrangle; extensive alterations have been made in the domestic offices; the state apartments have been repaired and rearranged; Saint George's Hall has been enlarged by the addition of the private chapel (the only questionable change), and restored to the Gothic style; and the Waterloo Chamber built to contain George the Fourth's munificent gift to the nation of the splendid collection of portraits now occupying it.
"The first and most remarkable characteristic of operations of Sir Jeffry Wyatville on the exterior," observes Mr. Poynter, "is the judgment with which he has preserved the castle of Edward the Third. Some additions have been made to it, and with striking effect -- as the Brunswick Tower, and the western tower of George the Fourth's Gate-way which so nobly terminates the approach from the great park. The more modern buildings on the north side have also been assimilated to the rest; but the architect has yielded to no temptation to substitute his own design for that of William of Wykeham, and no small difficulties have been combated and overcome for the sake of preserving the outline of the edifice, and maintaining the towers in their original position."
The Winchester Tower, originally inhabited by William of Wykeham, was bestowed upon Sir Jeffry Wyatville as a residence by George the Fourth; and, on the resignation of the distinguished architect, was continued to him for life by the present queen.
The works within the castle were continued during the reign of William the Fourth, and at its close the actual cost of the buildings had reached the sum of 771,000, pounds and it has been asserted that the general expenditure up to the present time has exceeded a million and a half of money.
The view from the summit of the Round Tower is beyond description magnificent, and commands twelve counties -- namely, Middlesex, Essex, Hertford, Berks, Bucks, Oxford, Wilts, Hants, Surrey, Sussex, Kent, and Bedford; while on a clear day the dome of Saint Paul's may be distinguished from it. This tower was raised thirty-three feet by Sir Jeffry Wyatville, crowned with a machicolated battlement, and surmounted with a flag-tower.
The circumference of the castle is 4180 feet; the length from east to west, 1480 feet; and the area, exclusive of the terraces, about twelve acres.
For the present the works are suspended. But it is to be hoped that the design of Sir Jeffry Wyatville will be fully carried out in the lower ward, by the removal of such houses on the north as would lay Saint George's Chapel open to view from this side; by the demolition of the old incongruous buildings lying westward of the bastion near the Hundred Steps, by the opening out of the pointed roof of the library; the repair and reconstruction in their original style of the Curfew, the Garter, and the Salisbury Towers; and the erection of a lower terrace extending outside the castle, from the bastion above mentioned to the point of termination of the improvements, and accessible from the town; the construction of which terrace would necessitate the removal of the disfiguring and encroaching houses on the east side of Thames Street. This accomplished, Crane's ugly buildings removed, and the three western towers laid open to the court, the Horse-shoe Cloisters consistently repaired, Windsor Castle would indeed be complete. And fervently do we hope that this desirable event may be identified with the reign of VICTORIA.