Windsor Parish Church
St John the Baptist
Berkshire SL4 1LT
Situated in the centre of town, just down from The Guildhall, is Windsor Parish Church dedicated to St John the Baptist.
The Royal Court was using the church in the 12th century. The church we see today was built in 1822 on very ancient foundations. It follows the wall plan of the old church and contains many of the monuments, furnishings and fittings of the original church.
Because of its Royal connections there are many treasures in the church well worth seeing. The inside of the church is unusual in that it has cast iron piers supporting a ribbed roof and an upstairs gallery. The Chancel, Apse and Screen were added in the latter part of the 19th century – the Screen as a thanksgiving for Queen Victoria’s 60 years on the throne.
On entering the church from High Street the visitor will see many old memorials to eminent Windsorians. On the right hand side are memorials to the Topham Foote family. There s a bust in an architectural frame of young Topham (died 1712) with a family crest, and a memorial to his mother and her second husband, Thomas Reeve. American visitors will be particularly interested in this monument because of its connection with the colony of Virginia.
The memorial is an early work of Peeter Gaspar Scheemakers (1691-1781), prolific sculptor of busts of Shakespeare, Pope, Dryden and others in Westminster Abbey.
On the south wall under glass are two stone memorials from the early 1500’s; one to Guardsman Harry Bigge (1514) and the other Mayor Wyllima Canon (1509).
Grinling Gibbons carved Screen
At the east end, on the south side of the Sanctuary is a low screen containing panels carved by the famous Royal woodcarver, Grinling Gibbons (1648-1700). The screen formed part of the altar rail in St George’s Chapel until King George III gave it to the church. Visitors will note Gibbons’ peapod signature on the left of the carvings.
Royal or Frogmore Pew
Behind the screen is the Royal Pew (or Frogmore Pew). Within the pew are two thrones given to the church by Princess Augusta, George III’s daughter. Members of the royal family who were living at Frogmore House regularly worshipped at Windsor Parish Church including King George V and Queen Mary.
Up in the West Gallery is another gift from George III, a painting of ‘The Last Supper’ attributed to Franz de Cleyn (1588-1658) ), Court painter to James I. The little wine server figure in the foreground of the painting is a dwarf. This was a common device favoured by the Florentine School of Painting of this period.
St John the Baptist is the parish church of the Royal Borough of Windsor, hence the special mayoral pews with their coat of arms and the cushion to support the Mace. With its Royal connections and excellent visitor facilities it is worth spending a little time here.
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