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East Terrace Garden

Windsor Castle

The four towers which dominate the east front are (from left to right) the Queen’s Tower, the Clarence and Chester Towers, and the Prince of Wales Tower ©

East Terrace Garden

Windsor Castle and the surrounding grounds share a rich history spanning 1,000 years. Many different kings and queens have made a mark on these gardens. In the 1650s the rolling fields of the Little Park (now the private Home Park) extended to the moat, which immediately surrounded the entire Castle.

 

Charles II

During the reign of Charles II in the 1670s, the North Terrace, which was first constructed in the 1530s, extended around the east and south sides of the Castle. The land immediately to the east of the new East Terrace was levelled and transformed into a series of three bowling greens. These can be seen in this plan of Little Park published in 1742. Charles was a keen player of lawn bowls and is credited with drawing up the first set of rules for the game.

map of Windsor Castle

The bowling greens are visible in this plan of the Castle ©

Creating the East Terrace Garden

The East Terrace Garden was created between 1824-1826, during the reign of George IV. In 1823, the King had ordered the closure of the old public footpath that had passed through the Little Park from the south-eastern corner of the Castle to the river crossing at Datchet. The Little Park was still open to the public, so the newly enclosed East Terrace Garden met the growing royal desire for privacy as well as ensuring that his newly created suite of rooms on the east front of the Castle looked out into a beautiful garden.

East Garden Terrace, Windsor Castle

East Garden Terrace, Windsor Castle ©

Plants and statues

The architect responsible for the final design was Jeffry Wyatville, who was in charge of all the King’s works at Windsor at this time. The design of the garden itself was almost certainly the responsibility of W.T. Aiton, Director of the Royal Gardens. Once completed, the garden received plants and statues from far and wide. The yew bushes around the perimeter of the garden date from this time, (yews are the longest living trees in Britain). The Orangery (since converted into a swimming pool) housed 34 orange trees, a gift to George IV from Charles X, King of France. 

In the severe winter of 1837–8, most of the plants perished and had to be replaced. Today, the garden also has one of the most important displays of garden sculpture in the country. The bronze figures are classical gods, goddesses and a Roman gladiator, and were cast in Rome in the 1630s for King Charles I. He originally displayed them in his gardens at St James’s Palace and at Whitehall Palace, after which they were displayed at Hampton Court Palace, which by the early 19th-century was no longer regularly occupied by the monarch. After Charles I's execution in 1649, Oliver Cromwell’s government sold off most of his art collection including the sculpture of the gladiator (called the Borghese Gladiator). This was one of the many works returned to the Royal Collection at a later date.

 
Opening the gardens up again

Unlike George IV, his successors William IV and Queen Victoria allowed the public to promenade on the Castle’s terraces, and in the new East Terrace Garden. During the reign of Queen Victoria, the general public had daily access to the North Terrace and access to the East Terrace at weekends, which meant that the royal family had little privacy in the East Terrace Garden. 

 

Visiting the Palaces through the centuries

Visiting the Palaces through the centuries ©

A passage of stairs was added under the terrace from the Prince of Wales Tower (the far right tower if you were looking directly at the Castle from the gardens), so that the family could at least reach the Orangery without being observed. This route continues to provide a private path to the Orangery to this day. 

The garden was redesigned during Queen Victoria’s reign by her husband, Prince Albert, who was actively involved in its design and planting. The Prince oversaw the development of the Little Park into the present, private Home Park 1851. Not far away from the East Terrace Garden were the royal kennels, which were designed to afford maximum comfort and hygiene for Queen Victoria’s numerous pets.

 

Recent history of the East Terrace Garden

During the Second World War, the 14 flowerbeds were planted with vegetables in response to the critical food shortages. Two small plots were set aside for the young Princess Elizabeth and her sister, Princess Margaret, to grow their own vegetables for the war effort. These included tomatoes, sweetcorn and beans.

After the war, during the reign of The Queen, the beds were reorganised into a simpler pattern planned by The Duke of Edinburgh. The garden now contains approximately 3,500 rose bushes, each selected for their colour or beautiful scent. Among these are roses in shades of bright pink, named after Princess Alexandra of Kent, and apricot, named after the author Roald Dahl.

The Duke of Edinburgh was involved in the design of a new bronze fountain inspired by the shape of a lotus flower for the central basin of the East Terrace Garden (a ‘lotus’ is a type of tropical water lily). In addition, a small area of garden immediately to the south of the Castle and the East Terrace Garden was redesigned with The Duke of Edinburgh's oversight to create an area with more privacy and less formality than George IV’s garden.

Lotus fountain, East Terrace Garden

Lotus fountain, East Terrace Garden ©

Learn more about the gardens at Windsor Castle by reading about the history of the Long Walk

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East Terrace Garden
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