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Monday, November 17, 1997 Published at 23:54 GMT


Windsor fire still flares for locals

Visitors to Windsor Castle have to pay even to go into the grounds

The people of Windsor have mixed feelings about the newly-completed restoration of the castle.

"It'll certainly be good for trade," said Stephen Murphy of Stanleys souvenir shop.

"But the real question is, now they've finished the work are they going to drop the admission charge?"

After the 1992 fire that destroyed much of the Queen's weekend residence, an admission charge was levied for entering the grounds to help raise money for the restoration.

The damage caused by the fire was estimated at between 40-60m. The Queen said she would meet 70% of the cost of the castle's restoration work, even though the castle is owned by the Government. It is not known whether the work has been fully paid for.

[ image:
"It's a rip off!" said a group of tourists, deciding not to visit
Locals feel it was right that the Queen undertook most of the payment. But many, who used to walk in the grounds for free, feel bitter.

"I used to live in the grounds because my dad worked in one of the glasshouses, but he lost his job because they were forced to shut," said a young shopkeeper.

"Now I have to pay just to go in. It's a lot of money - 6.60. And most of the rooms are shut now anyway."

More than 100 rooms were closed after the fire, which is thought to have been started by a spotlight shining on a curtain.

When the castle rooms reopen to the public in late December, the admission fee goes up to the full amount of 9.

[ image: But most visitors are not put off]
But most visitors are not put off
Until then, visitors can still see Queen Mary's Doll's House, the Gallery, and the China Museum. And tourists continue to pour in, many from abroad.

"It is very beautiful," says Elena Tabolina, a Russian tourist. "But I think I will come again when it reopens next year."

But most Russians, at least, seemed undeterred by the restoration works.

"In Russia most museums are closed for renovation anyway," said tour-guide Ivan Ivanovich.

"In Russia you just learn to expect the worst!"

Whether or not visitors will be able to walk freely in the castle grounds once more in December is the question on everyone's lips. The locals suspect the fee is there to stay.

"They won't take it away now," said a policeman on guard. "It's easy enough to find something else to spend it on."

If this is the case, then Windsor Castle will join some of the many other museums, which have begun charging admission fees in the last two years. The Victoria and Albert Museum began charging just over a year ago, and Westminster Abbey is to become fee-paying early next year.

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