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Windsor, Berkshire

Historical Description

Windsor, a municipal and parliamentary borough, market and union town, and head of a petty sessional division and county court district in Berks. The town stands on the river Thames at the termini of two branch lines of the G.W. and L. & S.W.R., 22 miles W by S from London. By the river it is 43 miles from London and 68½ from Oxford. The name, signifying " the winding shore," alludes to sinuosities of the Thames in its vicinity, belonged originally to Old Windsor, 2½ miles to the SE by S, and was written by the Saxons Windlesofra and Windlesora. The town grew around the nucleus or early portions of Windsor Castle, and has always owed its main consequence to the contiguity of that royal residence. Its chief thoroughfare goes curvingly through its centre from the Thames, is about half a mile long, and bears the names successively of Thames, High, and Park streets. Its aggregate structure as to either alignment or architecture, viewed apart from the royal palace, is of little interest. A house at the foot of the Hundred Steps, and demolished in 1860, is supposed to have been the house of Mrs Page in Shakespeare's " Merry Wives of Windsor." The Duke's Head public-house in Peascod Street took its name from Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, and was a resort of that duke and of Charles II. The Town-Hall was built in 1686 by Wren, is a plain edifice, but contains a fine collection of portraits. The town, owing to its Royal Castle, is an important military station, one regiment of the Household Cavalry and one battalion of Foot Guards being always stationed here. Infantry barracks for 1000 men are in Sheet Street, and cavalry barracks for the same number are in Spital Road. Trovers College in Datchet Road was formerly occupied by the Naval Knights of Windsor, but after their dissolution in 1893 the building was taken over as a school for the boys of St George's Royal Chapel. The Military Knights, first instituted by King Edward III., have their residences on the south-side of the lower castle ward. A bridge across the Thames connecting the borough with Eton, was built in 1823, has three granite piers, supporting three cast-iron arches, and is 200 feet long and 29 wide. A large market for meat, poultry, and butter adjoins the town-hall. The theatre in Thames Street was built in 1815 at a cost of nearly £6000, was much remodelled in 1869, and will hold 500 persons. The Albert Institute in Sheet Street, opened by H.R.H. The Prince of Wales in 1881, is an edifice of red brick in the Tudor Gothic style. It has a large lecture hall, a library and museum, reading, class, and billiard rooms. A hideous statue of Queen Anne is on the N side of the market-place; and a pillar, commemorative of the jubilee of George III,, is at Bachelor's Acre. The Jubilee statue of Her Majesty Queen Victoria stands on the Castle Hill, is the work of the late Sir J. E. Boehm, R.A., and is of bronze on a pedestal of Aberdeen granite. A bronze equestrian statue of the late Prince Consort, presented to the Queen by the women of the United Kingdom as part of their jubilee offering, stands on Smith's Lawn, Windsor Great Park, and was unveiled 12 May, 1890. A magnificent mausoleum of the late Prince Consort stands half a mile E of the town, and is noticed in our article on FROGMORE. The G.W.R. from Slough is carried across the river a little above the town by a handsome bridge of very peculiar construction. The L. & S.W.R. from Staines crosses a little below the town, terminates immediately at the base of the Castle, and has a private entrance for the Queen.

The parish church, dedicated to St John the Baptist, is in the High Street, and is a plain building of freestone in a style of modern Gothic, consisting of apsidal chancel, nave, aisles, and a large embattled square tower with pinnacles at the angles. It has a handsome interior with open chancel, nave, aisles, and galleries, contains some fine carved oak, the work of Grinling Gibbons, many ancient and interesting tombs and monuments, and some good stained windows. All Saints, a chapel of ease to the parish church, stands in Frances Road, and is a building of brick in the Early English style. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Oxford; gross value, £1000 with residence, in the gift of the Lord Chancellor. Holy Trinity is an ecclesiastical parish formed in 1843. The church, erected in 1843,is the garrison church of Windsor, and is a cruciform building of brick in the Early English style, consisting of chancel, nave, aisles, transepts, and a western tower with pinnacles and spire. It contains a memorial to the Brigade of Guards, and has an illumination running round the entire face of the gallery, with the name of every officer and man of the three battalions of Foot Guards who fell in the Crimea-2129 names in all. It has also a beautiful east window of stained glass, and many handsome monuments. The living is a rectory of the net value of £370, in the gift of the Crown. The church of the Saviour in River Street is a chapel of ease to Holy Trinity, and is a building of brick and stone in the Early English style. The ecclesiastical parish of Clewer St Stephen was formed in 1872. The living is a perpetual curacy of the gross value of £200. The church in Vansittart Road, erected in 1872, is a building of white brick and stone in the Early English style, consisting of chancel, nave, side aisles, and a central crocketed flfeche containing one bell. There is a Roman Catholic chapel in the Alma Road, and there are Baptist, Brethren, Congregational, Evangelistic, Primitive Methodist, and Wesleyan chapels. The charities are numerous and valuable, amounting in the aggregate to upwards of £3000 a year.

The town has a head post office, three banks, several hotels, and a police station, is a seat of petty sessions, special sessions, and county courts, publishes two weekly newspapers, carries on the brewing of ale chiefly for the London market, and has a weekly market on Saturday. Its shops and other business establishments are much superior to those of most other towns of its size, and serve not only for the town itself, but for a populous and very wealthy neighbourhood. Not fewer than 100 gentlemen's seats are within 7 miles of it, and the attractions of the royal palace, the races at Ascot, and the fitness of the adjacent reaches of the Thames for fishing and boating draw many visitors. A regatta is held here annually when challenge and presentation prizes are offered for competition. There is also a racecourse about a mile from the town on Rays Island above Clewer, where meetings are held at different periods of the year. The town was chartered by Edward I., is governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors. It sent two members to Parliament several times before the reign of Henry VI., continued to send two from the time of Henry VI. till 1867, and was reduced by the Reform Act of that year to the right of sending only one. The parliamentary borough includes portions of Eton and Clewer, has an area of 3275 acres and a population of 18,893. The municipal borough is divided into the Castle, Clewer, and Park Wards, and has a population of 12,327. The Marquis of Bute takes from the town the title of Earl.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5

Church Records

The register of St. John the Baptist dates from the year 1559.

The register of the Holy Trinity dates from the year 1844.

The register of St. Stephen's dates from the year 1873.


Churches

Church of England

All Saints, Frances Road

All Saints' church, in Frances road, is a structure of brick in the Early English style, consisting of chancel, nave of six bays, south aisle and a central tower containing one bell: the first stone was laid on the 21st November, 1864, by the Empress Frederick of Germany: there are about 400 sittings.

St. John the Baptist, High Street (parish church)

The parish church of St. John the Baptist, in the High street, was rebuilt in 1822 at an expense of £14,040 17s. 3d. of which £1,005 was subscribed by the King and Royal Family, and is an edifice of freestone in a nondescript style of modern Gothic, 90 feet in length by 60 feet wide, with later additions at the east end in much better style, and consists of apsidal chancel, nave of six bays, aisles and a western embattled tower with pinnacles containing 8 bells, two of which were presented by Samuel, 1st Baron Masham, cofferer to Queen Anne, in 1707; the rest are said to be Elizabethan: within, the church has a generally fine appearance, although, from being surrounded by galleries on three sides, the effect is somewhat heavy: the chancel is decorated with mosaics by Salviati, representing angels and objects symbolical of the Crucifixion: the windows of the apse are stained, that in the centre being a memorial to the late Mrs. Ellison: on the south side is a kind of chapel, forming a royal pew attached to Frogmore House; it has a separate entrance from the churchyard, and is chiefly remarkable for its fine carved screen of oak, the work of Grinling Gibbons, formerly in St. George's chapel: the chairs formerly in the Frogmore pew, but now at the end of the stalls, were presented to the church by H.R.H. the Princess Augusta: on the wall of the north-west vestibule are two ancient black-letter inscriptions, almost illegible, one of which, dated 1509, commemorates William Canon, mayor of Windsor, and Elizabeth his wife: here is also the monument of Sir Thomas Reeve, Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, who resided at Windsor and died in 1736; it consists of a sarcophagus and pyramid of veined marble, with bust of himself and his wife, by Scheemaker, and was erected at the cost of Dr. Mead; in the north aisle is a quaint undated monument of the 16th century, inscribed to Edward Jobson, Elynor, his wife, and their family, with kneeling effigies of all, and above, a shield of arms: there are also other memorials to Sir Thomas Reeve of Holyport, ob. 1777; Topham Foot esq. ob. 1712, with a bust by Scheemaker; John, son of Sir William Dugdale, ob. 1570; William Heberden M.D. d. 17th of May, 1801, and to the families of Braham, Starkey, Hale, Topham and Litton: in the west gallery is a large picture of the Last Supper, discovered in 1707 behind the wainscot of one of the chantries in St. George's chapel and used as the altar-piece there till 1788, when it was presented by George III. to the parish church, together with the organ: the windows of the apse and two others are stained: an oak screen, from designs by the late Sir Arthur Blomfield A.R.A. was erected in 1898, at a cost of £300, to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, and in 1906 extensive alterations were made at a cost of about £2,300: a large organ was also erected at a cost of £1,450; a new system of warming and ventilation introduced, a choir vestry built and much of the gallery reseated: there are 1,200 sittings.

St. Saviour's, River Street

St. Saviour's, in River street, erected in 1875, at a cost of £1,400, as a chapel of ease to Holy Trinity, is an edifice of brick and stone in the Early English style, from designs by Mr. Stephen M. Wyborn, architect, of Windsor, consisting of chancel, nave of three bays, north aisle, eastern porch, and a turret at the east end containing one bell: the foundation stone was laid Nov. 25th, 1875, by H.R.H. Princess Christian: there are 150 sittings.

St. Stephen, Vansittart Road

Clewer St. Stephen is an ecclesiastical parish, formed Oct. 18th, 1872, from the parish of Clewer. The church, in Vansittart road, was erected in 1873-4, at a cost of £6,327, and consecrated in 1874 and is an edifice of white brick with stone dressings, in the Early English style, consisting of chancel, clerestoried nave of six bays, low side aisles and a central crocketed flàche, containing one bell: many of the windows are stained and there is a fine reredos: the church was enlarged and a chapel added in 1897, in commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, and a porch built in 1905: there are 700 sittings.

The Holy Trinity, Trinity Place

The church of the Holy Trinity, in Trinity place, the foundation stone of which was laid by the late Prince Consort, on the 4th April, 1842, is a cruciform building of brick, in the Early English style, consisting of apsidal chancel, nave of seven bays, aisles, transepts and a western tower with pinnacles and spire, containing one bell: galleries surround the interior on three sides, on the face of which are inscribed the names of the officers and men of the Guards who fell during the Crimean war, 1,800 in all: in 1881 handsome carved oak choir stalls were erected at the cost of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn bart. to the memory of his nephew, who was drowned at Windsor weir: in 1882 a stained window was inserted in the chancel by public subscription to commemorate the deliverance of Her Majesty Queen Victoria from assassination at Windsor; communion rails of carved oak were erected at the same time: the church also contains monuments to Gen. Sir Thomas Myddelton Biddulph K.C.B. keeper of the Queen's privy purse, 1867-78; Henry, 4th Baron Rossmore, Lieut. 1st Life Guards, d. 28th March, 1874: Sir Algernon Peyton bart. capt. 1st Life Guards, d. 25th March, 1872; to Thomas, 4th Earl of Ranfurly, capt. Grenadier Guards, died in Abyssinia, 10th May, 1875, and to Col. the Hon. Oliver Montague, d. 24th Jan. 1893; the stained east window was given by the Grenadier Guards; others in the south and west by the Coldstream Guards; the north transept window was erected by the Rev. A. Robins M.A. rector 1873-99, to the memory of the Duke of Clarence and Avondale K.G. d. 14 Jan. 1892, and was unveiled by His Majesty King Edward VII. then Prince of Wales, 12th August, 1892; the pulpit was presented by the Scots Guards and the font by the non-commissioned officers and privates of the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards: the reredos was painted by Mrs. Robins, wife of the Rev. A. Robins: a chapel adjoining the chancel has been built by the officers of the 1st Life Guards, in commemoration of their comrades who fell in the Egyptian campaign, 1883: a baptistery was opened in 1900, as a memorial to the Rev. Arthur Robins M.A. (rector 1873-1900); and three memorial brasses were placed in 1901-02 by the regiments of Household cavalry, to the officers and men who fell in South Africa: the church will seat 1,400 persons.

Baptist

Baptist Chapel, Victoria Street

The Baptist chapel in Victoria street, built in 1838, seats 360 persons.

Baptist Chapel, Adelaide Square

The Baptist chapel in Adelaide square, built in 1881, seats 120 persons.

Brethren

Brethren Chapel, Sheet Street

The Brethren have a chapel in Sheet street, with 100 sittings.

Brethren Chapel, St. Leonard's Road

The Brethren have a chapel in St. Leonard's road, seating 300.

Methodist

Primitive Methodist Chapel, Denmark Street

The Primitive Methodist chapel in Denmark street has 130 sittings.

Wesleyan Chapel, Alma Road

The Wesleyan chapel, in Alma road, erected in 1876-7, is a building of stone in the Gothic style of the 14th century, and will seat 700 persons.

Roman Catholic

St. Edward, Alma Road

The Catholic church, in the Alma road, dedicated to St. Edward, is a building of Kentish ragstone in the Early English style, erected at a cost of about £6,000: the church consists of chancel, nave, aisles and chantry; the chapel contains pictures by Murillo and Carlo Dolci, and a beautiful reredos, having in the centre a 14th century statue of the Virgin Mary: the windows are all stained, many being the work of Ion Pace: the church will seat about 500 persons.


Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Windsor from the following:


Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Berkshire is available to browse.


Maps

Online maps of Windsor are available from a number of sites:


Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Berkshire papers online:


Visitations Heraldic

The Visitations of Berkshire 1532, 1566, and 1665-6 is available online.

CountyWindsor and Maidenhead
RegionSouth East
CountryEngland
Postal districtSL4
Post TownWindsor