Windsor job is finished for just pounds 37m

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The Independent Online
Five years after it was gutted by fire, the state dining room at Windsor castle will provide the setting for celebrations to mark the Queen and Prince Philip's golden wedding anniversary. Stephen Goodwin, Heritage Correspondent, toured the rooms where glory has replaced devastation.

Gorgeous George IV would have loved the curtains. The flounce and ostentation is back in his crimson and green drawing rooms at Windsor, where the original exuberance has been restored to the valances, tassels and gilt after decades of a shrunken, dowdier appearance.

"Architecture on steroids," was the apt description by Jane Brighty, a specialist in curtain decoration. It applies to all of the "semi state rooms" - these drawing rooms, the state dining room, the octagon dining room and the China corridor - which will be open to the public for the first time after Christmas.

The huge tassel order went to Portugal, about the only craftwork done outside Britain. Silk damask cost pounds 78,000, the curtain trimmings pounds 36,000 and 500,000 leaves of gold were used to gild the ceilings.

St George's hall, where the blaze raced from end to end of the 180ft roof void, will be re-opened in an airy form not familiar to George IV. And in an all-but-new private chapel there is stained-glass based on a sketch by Prince Philip, who had overall charge of the restoration.

On 20 November 1992 nine principal rooms and more than 100 others were damaged in a fire which lit up the Berkshire sky. It started in the private chapel where paintings were being inspected while rewiring was underway. Someone screamed "get the paintings out" and all but one of the works of art in the main rooms were saved.

Servants of the royal household were yesterday preening themselves on the fact that the "Windsor job" had been completed six months early and for pounds 3m under its pounds 40m budget. "The restoration has been undertaken at no extra cost to the taxpayer," emphasised officials. That is not to say at "no cost".

In the face of public indignation, the Queen released the Tory government from itspromise to pay for the repairs and agreed to meet 70 per cent of the cost. The other 30 per cent comes from the annual government grant to the Royal household property section.

The style of the restoration is pretty much what one might have expected from the House of Windsor. As Prince Philip pointed out, a complete redesign was out since all the furniture, carpets and works of art had been saved. A theatrical touch has been added by an equestrian statue on the musicians' gallery of the hall. Prince Philip wanted "something dramatic". The horse has an undistinguished pedigree - about 50 years old and made of plaster - but the armour was once worn by Sir Christopher Hatton, Queen Elizabeth 1's champion.

Windsor Restored; ITV; 10.40pm Thursday 20 November; Restoration, The Rebuilding of Windsor Castle; Adam Nicolson; Michael Joseph; pounds 20.

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