Virginia Water lake is a large man-made expanse of water in the south-western part of Windsor Great Park. It was dug in the early 1750s by damming the river Bourne (also known as the Virginia River). There is some evidence to suggest that this first lake was dug by the soldiers of William, Duke of Cumberland, also known as ‘The Butcher of Culloden’ for his ruthless treatment of the Scottish rebels. He was reluctant to disband his loyal troops after they had served him in Scotland and the Low Countries, for fear that he should need them again quickly, so he kept them on to dig the lake. However, in late summer 1768, heavy rain caused the dam to break, and parts of Thorpe and Chertsey were flooded.
For some time the lake was forgotten, until George III decided to restore it, using local labour for the digging.
More land was acquired, and the boundary of Windsor Great Park was extended, diverting the Great Western Road (now the A30). The Cascade, a picturesque waterfall constructed with stones from Bagshot Heath, served to disguise the dam which prevented the lake from flooding the local villages once more.
Another well-known feature of the lake and its environs are the Ruins. They are situated not far from the A329 at the edge of the lake, and originate from the ancient city of Leptis Magna, to the east of present-day Tripoli, north Africa. They were brought to the British Museum in about 1818, but were not thought to be of high enough quality to be put on display. George IV decided to set them up near a quiet corner of the lake, with advice from Classical historians on how they should be laid out, and visitors were able to wander amongst them for many years. Fears about theft and safety eventually caused them to be fenced off, but they are still clearly visible today.
Davis, Ron and Dorothy, The Virginia Water Picture Book
Museum boxfiles and press cuttings.