Castle to get pounds 30m 'redesign and restoration': Windsor fire damage to be made good with blend of craftsmanship and modern design

WINDSOR CASTLE is to be rebuilt at a cost of pounds 30m- pounds 40m with a blend of 'restoration and redesign', it was announced yesterday. For areas virtually destroyed by last November's fire, notably the Private Chapel, Buckingham Palace promised 'the best of contemporary design and craftsmanship'.

However, the palace has yet to decide whether the design will be thrown open to architectural competition and how it will be supervised. Sources declined to comment yesterday on reports that the Duke of Edinburgh, a relative enthusiast for modern architecture, will oversee the task in preference to the Prince of Wales, a traditionalist.

The cost of rebuilding will be largely financed through opening Buckingham Palace to tourists during August and September, at pounds 8 a head, and levying a new charge on visitors to the precincts of Windsor Castle, which is currently free. Two million people a year visit the castle precincts: from January 1994 they will pay pounds 3 each.

The charges will raise an estimated 70 per cent of the rebuilding cost. The remainder - pounds 2m to pounds 2.5m a year over five years - will come from efficiencies in the royal palaces maintenance programme.

The announcement follows several months of debate involving the Department of National Heritage, the Royal Fine Art Commission, the Royal Institute of British Architects and English Heritage, over the merits of a purely conservationist approach, as adopted at Uppark, the National Trust house destroyed by fire.

Lord Airlie, the Lord Chamberlain and head of the Queen's household, said yesterday that there had been 'strong views' for several differing approaches.

'On the one hand it may be thought that failing to restore all the rooms precisely as they were before the fire would be culturally irresponsible. On the other hand, the castle is a living and working building which has been developed and added to progressively over the centuries and it may be thought that this opportunity to leave some late 20th-century imprint in this part of the castle should not be foregone.'

The mixed approach being adopted means that most of the areas damaged by last November's fire will be restored. This includes not only the Crimson Drawing Room which, though badly damaged, forms part of a suite of three drawing rooms, but also St George's Hall.

Although the ceiling and partition at the eastern end of the hall were totally destroyed, much of the wall panelling remains. The room is the ceremonial centre for the order of St George: its previous decoration incorporated the arms of the Knights of the Garter since its foundation in 1348. Because of its historic associations, the room will be restored.