Windsor Castle is damaged by fire
Just after 11.30 a.m. on November 20 1992 it is thought that a halogen lamp ignited a curtain in the Private Chapel at Windsor Castle . Some 15 hours later damage which would cost almost £40 million to repair had been done by the resulting fire and the efforts to prevent its further spread.
The progress of the fire was incredible, the castle's own 20-man fire brigade unable to stop it getting hold in the first minutes of the conflagration, and eventually some 39 fire appliances and 225 fire-fighters being required to beat the blaze. Teams of castle employees and volunteers from nearby worked to salvage art works and furniture from the smoke that preceded the flames. Fortuitously many larger pieces had been removed while rewiring work was carried out, but when the fire and smoke had finally been curbed more than 100 rooms had been affected, and major structural damage caused.
Windsor Castle is the Queen 's weekend retreat, but it is also the venue for many great state occasions, and a major tourist attraction. In public ownership since 1831 the restoration of the building officially should have fallen to the government and thus the taxpayer. But in what was undoubtedly a sign of the times debate in the press, Parliament and the pub focused on the fact that what the enormously wealthy Royal Family regarded as its real home should be paid for by the public, when the country's economic situation was poor, and taxpayers already hard pressed. In the Commons Dennis Skinner said "Is there not something brutally unfair about the fact that it is estimated that at least £60 million will be paid out by taxpayers to the richest woman in Britain to repair one of her homes without any contribution from herself?"
Major changes resulted from the fire and the actions needed to repair the damage it caused: the civil list was curtailed to the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh , and the Queen Mother , the Queen agreeing to fund all the rest of the royal family. She also agreed to be taxed on her private income.
In the end no public funds were required to effect repairs: Buckingham Palace was opened to visitors to fund part of the work, and visitors to the grounds of Windsor Castle would also be charged. The Queen donated £2 million of her private fortune, and an appeal raised further money.
The Castle, restored at an eventual cost of £37 million, was reopened to the public in 1997. While the craftsmanship used in the work was magnificent, many have regretted that very little truly modern style was incorporated in the restoration project, with a gothic style chosen for the majority of the work.
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