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The Royal Windsor Website is featuring here a rare book about Windsor, published in late Victorian times but featuring Windsor as it was in the 1700s. Reproductions of the original engravings are also reproduced here. These texts have been electronically scanned and so if any errors have crept through we would be pleased to hear about them so they can be rectified. To contact us, please email Thamesweb.

© Copyright The Royal Windsor Website 2006

Windsor in the Last Century

Six Views of the Town

By A T Barber


Windsor acquired the term New, to distinguish it from Old Windsor, on whose ruin it arose, when Doomsday was taken.
  Windsor. if indeed there was anything more than a Castle, was neither a Parish nor a Manor. The Castle, built by the Conqueror, was within the Manor, and probably the Parish of Clewer, of which Windsor was only a Chapelry. However, it afterwards became an extensive seat of honour. William seemed to have intended his Castle as a Military Post. Old Windsor appears to have been an ancient town at the time of the Norman survey. It belonged to the Saxon Kings, who are supposed to have had a Palace there, and here also Edward the Confessor certainly kept his Court. It appears after Windsor Castle was built, that the Palace of Old Windsor was occasionally inhabited by the Kings of England till 1110, when, Henry I having completed additional buildings in the Castle, Old Windsor seems to have lost its consequence.
  There is no account of Windsor whatever before Saxon times, when it was called Wyndle-shora, 'the dwelling on the winding shore," from the winding course of the Thames in this part.
[Editor: More recent thinking is that it evolved from the windlasses used to 'wind' boats through the shallows of the river at that point]. The town was made a free Borough, with various privileges to its inhabitants, by King Edward I, in 1276, from which period it has been gradually increasing. Windsor, for a time, was the County Town, but so many inconveniences arose from its situation at one corner of the County, that the removal of the Assizes to Reading was soon felt to be desirable, and 1314 a petition was presented to Parliament complaining of these inconveniences. Edward II at first gave a decided negative to the request, but afterwards agreed to the removal to Reading.
  The Corporation Seal formerly bore the likeness of Edward III and Queen Philippa. The appointment of the Corporation was made in the time of James I and confirmed by Charles II but as it is now constituted under the Municipal Act of 5th and 6th William IV, cap. 76. The first Book of Orders, or Hall Book of the Corporation, begins in 1653, and ends in 1725.

Town Hall (Guildhall)

The Town Hall

The Guildhall or Town Hall, situate in the central part of the town, is a neat and handsome building, supported and adorned with columns and arches of Portland stone, commenced Sept. 5th, 1686, from a design of Sir Thomas Fitz, Surveyor of the Cinque Ports, and finished on the 17th of October, 1689, under the direction of Christopher Wren, at the cost of £2006 14s. 2d. (an example of the small sum a real artist requires to produce a good effect), which was paid for by the Corporation, with the exception of the sum of £680 7s. 6d., generously subscribed by the following gentlemen:

   £  s. d.
William Child, M.D. *  20 0 0
James Graham, Esq. 100 0 0
Theodore Randue Esq. * 175 0 0
Chiffinch, Esq. 100 0 0
Richard Graham, Esq 50 0 0
Richard Reeve, Esq. 101 0 0
Mr Wilcox 10 0 0
Charles Aldsworth, Esq. 50 0 0
Mr. Peter Welch 5 7 6
­ Meystnor 20 0 0
James Paule, Esq. 50 0 0




* Portraits of these worthies now hang in the Council Chamber.

The Hall, a large and handsome room, fitted up as a Court of Justice, with raised seats for the Mayor and Aldermen, and, with the Council Chamber, is adorned with paintings of George III and Queen Charlotte, presented to the Corporation- by George IV, Charles I, Charles II, James II, William III, Queen Mary, Prince George of Denmark, Queen Anne (by Closterman), Queen Elizabeth, Prince Rupert (Constable of Windsor Castle, and High Steward of the Borough in 1668), Earl of Nottingham (Lord High Steward of the Borough), Archbishop Laud, and other benefactors.
  Over the Mayor's seat is a beautifully carved Coat of Arms of Queen Anne, who constantly made Windsor her summer residence, and out of singular regard to whom, the Corporation erected, in a niche at the north end of the Guildhall, a statue in her Royal Robes, with a sceptre in her right hand, a globe in her left, and under her feet, an inscription written by William Peisley, Esq., at that time Under Steward of the Borough:

Carver forbear, thy art no Anne can show
Would'st thou show Anna, set a goddess to our view

This statue cost the Corporation £40.
  At the south end is a statue of His Royal Highness George, Prince of Denmark, in a Roman military habit. This statue was erected at the expense of Christopher Wren, Surveyor of Works at the Castle, and, for a short period, one the representatives of the Borough in Parliament. In his right hand Prince George holds a baton, as a General, and on his left is a globe set on a pedestal with compasses, as an Admiral - with an inscription under his feet, of which the following is a translation:

To His Most Serene George, Prince of Denmark,
an Hero to be revered in every age.
This structure was erected by Christopher Wren, Esq., 1713.

In the area underneath the Town Hall (where the weekly Corn Market is held on Saturdays), may be noticed four pillars, which were put up to satisfy the scruples of certain members of the Corporation, who imagined the upper portion of the building was not sufficiently supported; curiously, however, they do not touch the ceiling by something like an inch.
  The Basement is fitted with a commodious kitchen and cellars, which were formerly used as a store-house for Windsor porter or Brown stout.
  It will be noticed that steps once led up to the centre of the Corn Market from the roadway in High Street.
  The ancient building on the right of the plate, was at one time known as Trinity Hall, but in the present day as the Three "Tuns."

St John's Church

St. John's Church

The Parish Church is dedicated to St. John the Baptist, and was originally a chapelry to Clewer.
  It has a Peal of Eight Bells, two of which were given by Lord Marsham, who re-cast the other six. The following inscription is cast on them in old text characters:


A well-executed painting of the Lord's Supper is hung in the Church. It was discovered in 1707, behind some wainscotting in St. George's Chapel, where it had been concealed during the civil wars between Charles I and his Parliament. It was presented to the Parish by George III in 1788, when the Collegiate Chapel underwent a general repair.
  In 1636, William, son of Izaak Walton (the celebrated angler and resident of Windsor), was baptised in this Church.
  In the body of the Church lies the wife of Simond Allen, Canon of Windsor, the facetious "Vicar of Bray."
  Perhaps the most curious monument in the Church is one in the north aisle with the following inscription:

"In happie memory of Edward Jobson and Elynor his wyfe, by whom the sayd Edward had issue VI sons; vidt Edward, Francis, Homfrie, James, William, Richard, and IIIJ daughters, Elizabeth, Elizabeth, Catharine, Sara."

The parents and wives of their children, habited in the costume of the 16th century, are carved in relievo, kneeling on each side of an altar reading desk, under which is a recumbent figure of an infant; above are the family arms, and the sides of the monument are ornamented with fruit and foliage.
  Formerly there was but one sermon on a Sunday in the Parish Church, and it was delivered alternately, morning and afternoon. When there was no discourse, the people after prayers walked to St. George's Chapel to hear the sermon there. This caused great disturbance, to put an end to which, George III. allowed £50 a year for a sermon to be preached in the Church every Sunday morning.
  In times gone by, oratorios have been performed in the Church to defray the cost of various repairs. The last important occasion was on the 29th of October, 1807.
  The present Church was built in 1821, at the cost of £14,070 17s. 3d. The estimate was for £9,000 only, but the addition was owing to the many deviations and additions to the contract.
  In the Churchyard is the tomb of the Rev. Dr. Foster, with a Latin inscription, written by himself shortly prior to his decease; he was the son of a Windsor tradesman, and having received a classical education, so sedulously pursued his studies at Cambridge, that he obtained the greatest academical honours, and subsequently filled the high situation of Head Master at Eton College; he was afterwards appointed a Canon of Windsor, and died in 1773.

Thames Street

Old Houses in Thames Street

Besides the houses and shops which formerly stood under the Castle walls, between Henry VIII's gateway and the Curfew Tower, until 1861 houses continued to line Thames Street from that point to the Lodge at the foot of the Hundred Steps. One of these was supposed by some to have been in the thoughts of Shakespeare, as the abode of Mrs. Page in the "Merry Wives of Windsor." The spot, marked by the present pump, was originally in the passage of the "Crispin Inn," the dwelling nearest but one to the Bank House.
  Upon the demolition of the last of these Medieval houses, occupied by Mr. Marriott in 1857, two coins of the reign of Henry V were found in the roof.
  The removal of these houses was an improvement by way of widening the roadway, but it destroyed the romantic charm of the ascent, and picturesque effect of the ancient towers mounting over the roofs of the humbler dwellings beneath them.
  The first stand of Hackney Coaches, for hire on the Hill appears to date from 1687, and in later times Cabriolets and Flies have occupied almost the same position.
  The residence now in the occupation of R. A. Ploetz, Esq., is said to have been designed by Sir Christopher Wren. It contains some very fine wood carving, attributed to Grinling Gibbons; also a beautiful marble mantel-piece.
  The Chimes in the Curfew, or Julius Caesar's Tower, form the music to No. B52, Hymns Ancient and Modern.

Windsor Bridge

Windsor Bridge

At the bottom of Thames Street, less than a hundred years since, stood the old wooden Bridge, connecting Windsor with Eton.
  The Corporation have held charters from the earliest times to levy tolls for portage and passage over and under the said bridge - that is to say:

For every Horse and Coach passing over the Bridge with a Corpse

6s. 8d.

For every Hackney Coach


For every Load of Goods, Wool, Charcoal,
or Leather


For every Load, Passage or Carriage with Corn, Hay, Straw, Wood, &c.


For every Score of Sheep


For every Horse laden


For every Barge going under the Bridge down stream


Certain persons having refused to pay the said tolls, the Corporation, in 1735, applied to their Members in Parliament, Lord Beauclerk and Lord Sidney, to support their demands, and by whose assistance their rights were maintained. Since that period the rights of the Corporation have been menaced, and now, after a lapse of more than 160 years, the question is again brought before the Courts and likely to be determined once and for all. [Editor: Indeed, at this time the tolls for using Windsor Bridge were scrapped.]
  The present bridge was built in 1823-4, at the expense of the Corporation.

Dukes Head

Peascod Street

Peascod, or Peascod Street is one of the oldest streets in the town, and appears to have been a spot where public games and festivities were held, for in one old view of the Castle and town, a Maypole is represented in the street.
  Windsor formerly had an Hospital for leprous men and women, dedicated to St. Peter (but was given to Eton College in Edward IVth's time). It was situated next door to the "Crown" Inn, Peascod Street, and at present occupied by Messrs. Hull & Sons. Their hall (now reduced and used as a tinman's workshop), was painted in small panels, on which scenes from Scripture history were depicted - from Adam to the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. The whole of the panelling remaining is now thickly coated with whitewash and paint. By the courtesy of the occupiers, I have removed the whitewash, &c., from two of the panels and found the paintings were very carefully executed.
  The three houses now in the occupation of Messrs. Rubie, Freeman & Co., and Vickery, orginally formed the "Castle Inn." The signboard is still in the possession of Mr. Rubie. On one side is a representation of Henry the VIIth's Gateway, and the reverse a view of the entrance on Castle Hill, as it appeared about 1703.
  The "Duke's Head" was pulled down in 1868. I have a very curious pair of tongs, which were found embedded in a wall of this house many years ago. This building was, during the reign of Queen Anne, fitted up for theatrical performances. Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, is said to have resided there at the time he was High Steward of the Borough. Among the corporation accounts for 1625, there is an entry of 3s. 4d. for "limning, gilding and writing the patent which was made the Duke's Grace of Buckingham for the office of High Steward of Wyndsor." It was also used for theatrical performances in the time of George I. After this period performances were given in Sheet Street, then in High Street (on the site of the Constitutional Club), and later in the present Theatre, which was erected in 1815, at the cost of nearly £6,000.

Masonic Hall

The Masonic Hall

This building, standing at the north corner of St. John's Churchyard, was built about 1716 from a design by Christopher Wren, as a Charity School for 30 boys and 20 girls, now the Free Schools in Bachelors' Acre.
  Nearly the whole of the lower portion is now sub-let as a Volunteer Drill Hall. The remainder is used by the brethren of The Windsor Castle Lodge (No. 771). The Temple is not particularly large, but is looked upon by Freemasons generally as being almost unique in its arrangements. These characteristics are frequently commented upon in the Masonic world, not only in the Province, but throughout the whole of England.

And what will Windsor's Royal Towers,
With all their proud array,
Be, when some fleeting centuries have passed,
With yesterday

See also these other articles about Windsor

1 The Town of Windsor

2 Building of The Castle

3 The Castle - Upper Ward

4 The Castle - The Round Tower

5 The Castle - Lower Ward

6 St George's Chapel - I

6 St George's Chapel - 2

6 St George's Chapel - 3

7 The College of St George

8 The Royal Lodges and Parks

9 Of The Order of The Garter

The History Zone Index

A List of Kings and Queens of England since AD1066

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