Visitors to Windsor Castle in England will now be able to see the Inner Hall for the first time since Queen Victoria closed it 150 years ago. The castle is the Queen's principal weekend retreat, and she has been instrumental in transforming it into a major visitor attraction in the last couple of decades.
The Inner Hall was created by George IV in the 1820s as a magnificent welcome area to receive official guests. Queen Victoria made use of it for almost 30 years, but in 1866 she instructed her architect, Anthony Salvin, to close it off and build a new, smaller State Entrance hall running east to west in the castle. The direction of the Grand Staircase was also reversed so that the stairs could be reached from the new hall. In December 1867, Victoria recorded in her journal that she was dissatisfied with the work. She called the alterations "dreadful" and said the work would have to be done again, but no further significant changes were made.
For many years, the Inner Hall was used as a storeroom, and in 1965, part of it was made into a temporary display space. The Royal Collection Trust decided in recent years to restore the hall to its original brilliance, funding a full refurbishment that included chipping off layers of paint to reveal the intricate Regency ceiling bosses that were created by famed stuccoist Francis Bernasconi. The opening of the Inner Hall reinstates the sequence of spaces linking the visitor entrance on the North Terrace with the State Entrance on the south side and the uninterrupted view across the ground floor of the castle.
From the Inner Hall, visitors can explore the State Apartments and Semi-State Rooms, Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House and the State Entrance hall, which is also a new addition to the visitor route. From here, for the first time, visitors can see the State Entrance, where guests of the Queen are welcomed to Windsor, and enjoy the spectacular view of the two-and-a-half-mile Long Walk, created by Charles II in the 1680s. The refurbishment is part of Future Programme, a series of projects funded by Royal Collection Trust to enhance the visitor experience at the castle.
Another recent addition to the visitor route is a display telling the story of the castle’s 1000-year history. Next year will see the opening of a dedicated learning centre and the castle’s first permanent café in the medieval Undercroft, one of the oldest surviving parts of the original castle, dating back to the reign of Edward III.
Visitor information and tickets for Windsor Castle are available here.