History – The Legend has it…
(All facts stated here are merely hearsay and may not be 100% accurate)
Although it is one of Windsor’s oldest eateries, Drury house has not always been a restaurant. It was built in the reign of King Charles I, in 1645. It was built originally to house the staff from Windsor Castle, until it became part of the abode of Nell Gwyn, Charles II’s favourite Mistress; to accommodate their secret liaisons, a tunnel was built between the Drury House and the Castle, enabling Nell Gwyn to have a secret rendezvous with the King at a moment’s notice. The tunnel is still in existence to this day, though for security reasons have been partially blocked off. A century later the house was divided up to create separate houses for the employees of the castle. It then became a utility house, housing coffins, suits of armour and supplies for the castle. It thereafter became a residential town house in the late 18th century.
During the 1920s it was the home of the Honourable Lady Curtis, but she was not the first aristocrat to live here. Charles Beauclerk, first earl of Burford may well have lived here with his mother Nell Gwynne. His father, King Charles II lived with the Queen in the castle, but local legend has it that naughty King Charles used a secret tunnel to visit Nell, his mistress. In the sub-basement of Number 4 Church Street there is a clearly visible end of a bricked-up tunnel. Windsor is build on chalk and tunnelling through to a point within the castle grounds would have been comparatively easy.
In the 1920s Lady Curtis believed that local legend was actually a little wrong. It was her family’s belief that King Charles housed a Catholic priest in Drury House and it was he whom the king visited in secret. Lady Curtis even had a small statue of said priest on display by the stairwell. During the 17th century Anti-Catholicism was widespread and the king was in name a Protestant, although he did convert to Catholicism on his deathbed in 1685. Curiously enough his final words were in reference to Nell Gwynne, his mistress who was still living in Windsor, but by now had moved around the corner to the much grander residence of Burford House. King Charles is reputed to have said to his brother, (James I) ‘let not poor Nellie starve’.
Coming up from the basement the stairs are small and narrow, winding up through the subterranean levels and three floors above. In design this is a typical Stuart period town house retaining much of the layout of the original house and wood panelling appropriate to the late 1600s.