A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1923.
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The Domesday Survey records the existence of a royal town at Windsor containing ninety-five closes, (fn. 1) but it is probable that this entry refers to Old Windsor, which during the Saxon period had been the site of a royal house, and not to the new town, which was already, perhaps, beginning to grow up nearer the castle. The settlement at the place where New Windsor now stands certainly owed its origin, as it later owed its importance, to the great castle under the shadow of which it lies. Thus a town sprang up which was known as New Windsor to distinguish it from the Saxon vill about 2 miles away. (fn. 2)
It is in the reign of Henry I that the first mention of the borough of Windsor is found. The Pipe Roll of 1130–1 (fn. 3) records that William de Bochelanda rendered account of the new and old farm of Windsor, and incidental mention is made of a virgate which William Fitz Walter had in exchange for his land taken into the borough (capta est ad burgum). From this reign therefore, if not before, we may date the beginning of the history of the borough of Windsor, which was from the first, as it has since remained, a royal borough, owning no overlord but the king.
At the date of its first appearance the farm of the borough was paid through a royal official known as the bailiff or farmer of the bailiwick of Windsor, which consisted of the royal property in the vicinity of the castle. At this early period the post of farmer or bailiff of the bailiwick was held by the successive constables of the castle (q.v.). In the reign of Henry II the farm of the town was already becoming fixed at £26 yearly. (fn. 4) To the aid of 1177 Windsor paid 20 marks, 'being pardoned 10 marks.' (fn. 5) Ten years later the borough paid a tallage of £8 10s. 8d. (fn. 6) For the tallage for the king's ransom in 1195 Windsor paid 20 marks, (fn. 7) and in 1210 10 marks only, though Cookham and Bray together paid 50 marks. (fn. 8)
The accounts in the Pipe Rolls contain the first notice of the tolls received by the bailiff or bailiffs of Windsor from ships coming up or down the river. The exact status of this official or these officials at this date is uncertain, but they were distinct from and subordinate to the bailiff of the bailiwick. They acted possibly as officers of the constable (who farmed the bailiwick) rather than as officers of the townsfolk, and though they soon gained some official connexion with the government of the town, they did not enjoy any independence of the bailiff of the bailiwick as long as he remained responsible for the farm of the vill. (fn. 9) It is clear that the river-borne trade of the town was becoming considerable. In 1169 tolls amounting to £7 0s. 11d. were paid by ships bringing timber up the Thames to Windsor, and there are many references to the carriage of stone and other building materials. (fn. 10)
In 1189 the men of Windsor were tallaged together with the other towns and manors on the royal demesne. Windsor, which contributed £4 9s. 6d., occupied the fourth place in the county, contributing less than half the amount paid by Wallingford. (fn. 11)
During the reign of John Windsor seems to have made considerable progress. In 1212 the bailiff and faithful men of Windsor were ordered to provide ten armed men to serve the king, and the fact that Windsor was expected to provide as many as Wallingford is a proof of its growing importance. (fn. 12) It appears that burgage tenure was already the rule in the town, and that the average rent of a messuage was 2s. yearly, a toll of 6d. being paid to the king by the hands of the bailiff of the bailiwick. (fn. 13) The king owned a large number of houses in the borough, 60s. 10d. being paid for their custody in 1201. The farm of Windsor remained at £26 in the reign of John. (fn. 14)
In 1220 the inhabitants of the town of Windsor complained that the constable had violated a charter of Henry II and done them an injury by inclosing their pastures. The king directed that their grievances should be inquired into and their rights restored. (fn. 15) In an appeal in a case concerning the vill of Windsor twelve men appeared from Windsor to meet the justices in eyre, and this, though by no means conclusive as a test of burghal character, is valuable as subsidiary evidence. The case also refers to the bailiffs of the town. (fn. 16)
It is clear that the duties of the bailiffs were becoming more important about this period. In 1220 they were exacting tolls from the boats belonging to the Abbot of Reading, in the following year they were levying tallage in the town and demanding payment from the Prior of Merton's men in the town in spite of the exemption alleged by them. A respite was ordered pending inquiry. (fn. 17) In 1226 the bailiffs were ordered to pay one penny daily out of the rents of the town for the support of a prisoner in the castle. (fn. 18) A few years later they were ordered to paint the queen's chamber in the castle and line the chamber belonging to Prince Edward. (fn. 19) Orders of this kind show that the bailiffs' position as the king's servants was at least as prominent as their position as borough officers. The appointment in 1250 of Godfrey de Lyston, the king's serjeant, 'to keep the town of Windsor' during the king's pleasure, appears to add yet another separate office. This keeper was to farm the town of Windsor with its market, common pasture, &c., together with a cultivated inclosure of forest land, and collect its issues, paying for the whole £44 a year directly to the Exchequer. It was expressly provided that during the king's residence in Windsor the pleas of the market should be reserved for him. (fn. 20) In 1251 James le Gaunt became keeper of Windsor, (fn. 21) and in the following year Gilbert de Tegula was appointed as Gaunt's successor, paying, however, £50 a year instead of £44 to the Exchequer. (fn. 22) In 1254 he was ordered to pay 5 marks out of the rent of the town for repairing the paintings in the royal apartments and chapel. (fn. 23)
Later in the reign the constables of the castle were again granted the office of bailiff of the whole bailiwick of Windsor, (fn. 24) and to them the bailiffs of the town handed over the farm of the town, which they seem at this date to have collected. The next step, that of holding the town at farm directly of the king, was to follow in the next reign.
There is interesting evidence of the jealous exclusiveness of the burgesses in 1261, when the merchants of Reading complained that James the bailiff of Windsor incited his fellow townsmen to seize goods brought by Reading merchants to the town for sale, threw them down, trampled on them, tore them and beat their owners. The suit resulted in the bailiff being fined and condemned to pay damages. (fn. 25)
The extensions of the castle in the reign of Henry III were not without effect on the town below the walls. The castle ditch was extended on the side nearest the town and the houses that clustered there were taken down by the king's orders, £7 5s. being paid to the bailiff by way of compensation for damage to the good men of Windsor. (fn. 26) The fosse was enlarged in the following year, but directions were given that no more houses were to be sacrificed. The building of the barbican in 1249 also caused the demolition of houses.
In the 13th century there was a considerable market (fn. 27) at Windsor, attended by men of the neighbouring townships, the tolls from which, (fn. 28) though probably collected by the bailiffs, were paid over by them to Geoffrey de Picheford, who farmed the bailiwick of Windsor.
The borough of Windsor seems to have formerly included that part of Eton 'between Windsor Bridge and Baldwin's Bridge,' since the men dwelling between these bridges were at scot and lot with the burgesses of Windsor, (fn. 29) but at Windsor as elsewhere the king's rights had been invaded during the confusion of the Barons' Wars. The chief offenders had been Richard Earl of Cornwall, afterwards King of the Romans, and his son Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, who had withdrawn their men in Eton and other townships from the suit due at Windsor and withheld their tolls. The Prior of Merton had made still more serious encroachments, holding assizes of bread and ale, appointing ale tasters, holding pleas de namio vetito, and infangentheof within the royal borough. The Abbess of Burnham had set up a fair at Burnham and a market at Beaconsfield without licence, to the damage of the Windsor market. The Prior of Merton's claims were investigated under a writ of quo warranto in 1283. (fn. 30)
A year or two later, in 1277, the borough of Windsor obtained its first charter. (fn. 31) It confirmed rather than added to the privileges the town had already obtained. The town of New Windsor was to be a free borough, the good men of the town and their heirs were to be free burgesses, they were permitted to have a gild merchant and to enjoy the same liberties and free customs as the burgesses of other boroughs within the kingdom. They were to be quit of tolls, and their hogs were to be quit of the pannage called 'fentakes.' The eyres of the justices itinerant and of the forest judges were to be held in Windsor, the county gaol was to be in the town and gaol delivery was to be held there. (fn. 32) Windsor thus became the chief town of the county. A year or two later, on 1 January 1279–80, a further advance was made. The king granted the borough to the burgesses to farm at an annual rent of £30, on condition that they behaved themselves well and did justice to merchants denizen and alien and to the poor. (fn. 33) In September of the following year the fee-farm rent was reduced to £17, (fn. 34) probably in response to a petition of the inhabitants, who pointed out that the farmers before the charter had only paid £25. In the same petition they protested against a report made by the constable, Geoffrey de Picheford, to the king that certain land outside the borough belonged to the castle and not to the town. (fn. 35) The grant of 1280 was confirmed on 6 August 1293, (fn. 36) and again by Edward II in 1315 and 1316. (fn. 37) From this date the town became independent of the royal officials who farmed the bailiwick of Windsor and of the constables of the castle; the list of the latter no longer concerns the historian of the borough.
Windsor was first represented in Parliament in 1302, the borough being included for Parliamentary purposes within the liberty of the seven hundreds of Windsor, Cookham and Bray, to the bailiff of which the writs were addressed. On several occasions, in 1305, 1309, 1311, 1314, 1315 and 1318, the bailiff omitted to make any return, probably deliberately with a view to saving the borough trouble and expense. With these exceptions the representation of Windsor remained normal until 1321, after which date no members were returned until 1446, a break of over 100 years. (fn. 38)
Some Jews who had come to Windsor were removed in 1283 on the ground that there was no ancient Jewish settlement in the borough and no chest of chirographers of the Jews for the registration and safe keeping of their deeds. (fn. 39)
In 1307 the bailiffs and good men of the town had a grant of pontage for five years. (fn. 40) The town gaol dated from the charter of 1277, if not earlier. (fn. 41) In 1314–15 the inhabitants of Berkshire presented a petition praying for the removal of the county gaol to Wallingford, where it had been formerly, alleging that the situation of Windsor 'in the most remote part of the county' caused great inconvenience, and that, from the lack of facilities for obtaining provisions in the town, the men of the county were very reluctant to come there for gaol deliveries, and that the commonalty of the town was so weak that the alms of the inhabitants were insufficient for the maintenance of the prisoners, so that the innocent as well as the guilty perished. (fn. 42) A commission of inquiry into the facts alleged by the petitioners was issued, (fn. 43) but the record of its finding has not been preserved. It was not until long afterwards that the county gaol was removed from Windsor to Reading.
The bailiffs obtained a grant of pontage in 1314 (fn. 44) and 1324. (fn. 45) These grants were probably made in answer to petitions from the inhabitants (several of which have been preserved) (fn. 46) that all boats plying on the Thames, even those belonging to the king, should pay the dues they owed to the bailiffs, '12d. from each ship laden at Orpetre and Heddesore and 4d. from each ship laden at Bray or Datchet.' (fn. 47) This petition was granted. (fn. 48)
The charter was again confirmed in 1328. (fn. 49) There were various grants of pontage, (fn. 50) but little else. The havoc caused by the Black Death can only be conjectured from the evidence of the mortality among the workmen employed at the castle, (fn. 51) and from the fact that in 1352 there was remitted to the burgesses 'in relief of their state' £20 due on a grant of a tenth and a fifteenth. (fn. 52) At Windsor, as elsewhere, the visitation hastened the movement towards the commutation of villein services. In 1369 there was a survey of the whole of the borough, all customary services being remitted in return for 'new rents' amounting to £7 13s. 4¾d. (fn. 53)
In 1350 the Sheriff of Berkshire was ordered to cause two fairs to be held at Windsor yearly, on the eve and feast of St. George (23 April) and the eve and day of Midsummer and the three following days. (fn. 54)
An important event of this period was the inclosure by the king from 1359 onwards of common pasture belonging to the king's tenants in Old and New Windsor, (fn. 55) other pasture in Windsor Forest being allotted them in lieu of it. In 1376 the Thames watermen petitioned for relief from the heavy tolls demanded at the bridges of Staines, Windsor and Maidenhead. (fn. 56) The farm of the town remained at the former amount of £17 yearly. (fn. 57)
Very little is known of the town during the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V. The third year of the reign of Richard II brought another confirmation of the borough charter, for which a payment of 100s. was made. (fn. 58) These scanty notices, with grants of pontage for the repair of Windsor bridge in 1397, 1403, 1408, 1412 and 1425, are all that have been found beyond references to individual burgesses and to the gaol. (fn. 59) There is evidence of the residence of certain alien merchants from Flanders and Germany in the town at this period. (fn. 60) An inquisition of 1439, taken on the petition of the king's tenants, who complained that the town was 'likely to be widowed of its inhabitants owing to the intolerable burden of the ferm,' (fn. 61) proves that Windsor was far from prosperous. It appeared that the town was held at farm for £17, as it had been in the reign of Edward I, but the profits of tolls, of the fair and weekly market, of the court held every three weeks by the bailiff, of view of frankpledge, which formerly amounted to about £17 yearly, did not come to more than £6 11s. owing to the fact that the town 'by great mortality and pestilence at various times was emptied and wasted … It had become, as it were, destitute and despoiled, and the inhabitants poor and moneyless diminished from day to day.' (fn. 62) Many burgages, messuages and tenements lay ruinous, empty and destroyed. As a result of this inquiry the farm of the town was reduced to £10 by a new charter granted on 19 May 1439. (fn. 63) The charter is much more detailed than its predecessors. It rehearsed the tolls from which the burgesses were exempt, 'pannage, passage, pontage, lastage, stallage, tallage, carriage, pesage, picage and ferrage throughout England,' confirmed the right of the burgesses to have the forfeited goods and fines of all inhabitants of the borough in whatever court of the kingdom they might be condemned, to have cognizance in the borough courts held by the mayor and bailiffs in the gildhall of all manner of pleas, and of all offences touching labourers and artificers determinable by the justices of the peace for the county, saving only felony, in which they were not to proceed without the king's special mandate. Further, they were given special protection for trespasses either within or without the verge, from the jurisdiction of the steward and marshal of the king's household and the clerk of the king's market, who were forbidden to make any interference within the borough. They were confirmed in their rights of holding assize of bread, wine and ale, of taking waifs and strays, and other privileges. This charter is of special interest as being the first record of the government of Windsor by a mayor.
A few years later the diminished rent paid by the town was still further reduced, a charter of 1444 providing that £8 only should be paid 'for the remainder of the term of 10 years,' (fn. 64) and £15 yearly on the completion of that term. (fn. 65) In return for this charter the burgesses had executed a deed surrendering to the college of St. Mary at Eton the fishery in the Thames of the yearly value of 40s., held by them under the charter of Edward I, with right of free passage under and over the bridge. (fn. 66) The language of these charters, which refers to the 'rents belonging to the burgesses as well within the town as without as far and wide as it is called New Windsor,' affords proof of the extension of the borough beyond the boundaries of the town itself into the neighbouring parish of Clewer. In accordance with this charter the fee-farm rent of the town was later raised to £15. (fn. 67)
In 1446 Windsor was again represented in Parliament, two members being returned by the mayor and burgesses. The indenture is signed by the mayor, four bailiffs, five constables and others, (fn. 68) but from other records of the same date it appears that the officials annually elected were two bailiffs, with two bridge keepers and two 'keepers of the Holy Trinity.' This introduces the subject of the town gild, which seems in Windsor, as in Reading, to have been almost identical with the governing body of the town. The governing body is often described as the gild of the Holy Trinity, and the gild organization was made use of for the election of the borough officials. (fn. 69) It may be doubted whether any burgess could reach any official position in Windsor without being a member of the Trinity Gild. (fn. 70) It was the avenue through which the townsman sought office. It should be noticed, however, that, close as was the practical connexion between gild and governing body, they were never formally merged. The records of both bodies were kept distinct. From a set of rules transcribed by Ashmole out of a book of corporation records now missing it appears that the gild consisted of twenty-eight or thirty brethren, of whom thirteen should be benchers 'and sitt upon the Benche and shalbe called Burgenses.' Of these thirteen burgenses, those who had borne the office of mayor to the number of seven should be called aldermen. (fn. 71) The method of the appointment of the mayor was curious. The gild brethren who were not benchers elected two aldermen, one of whom was to be chosen mayor by a majority of votes from the burgesses and aldermen. One bailiff was to be chosen by the gild brethren, the other by the aldermen and burgesses.
The gild brethren were to be 'of the substauncyelst and wysest men of the towne,' and were to fill up vacancies in their ranks by summoning 'wyse and honest persons, Comeners of the same Towne,' or any gentleman or learned man not dwelling in the town whom the mayor and alderman should think an addition to their number 'yf the seid Gentylman … be desirous of the same.' (fn. 72) Rules of the usual kind were made for the punishment of gild brethren who should 'stryke, myssuse, revyle, rayle or mocke' any of the fellowship, and of those who fought, quarrelled, scolded or defied the mayor's authority. (fn. 73)
The reign of Edward IV brought the borough of Windsor a charter of incorporation. The first charter of Henry VI (17 Henry VI) had been confirmed by the new king in 1462, but on 22 September 1467 a new charter was granted to the burgesses of the town (fn. 74) in consideration of the loss they had sustained by the inclosure of 200 acres added to the royal park. The charter provided that the borough should be a perpetual commonalty incorporate, consisting of one mayor and two bailiffs and burgesses with perpetual succession, the right of acquiring and owning property in perpetuity. Further, the fee-farm rent was permanently reduced to £10 and a fair on the feast of St. Edward the Confessor was granted to them. (fn. 75) The burgesses obtained a grant of pontage for seven years for the repair of the bridge in 1469. (fn. 76)
The first reference to the coroner of Windsor appears in 1501. (fn. 77) Almost the only notice of the Mayor of Windsor found in this reign is in the king's proclamation of 1495 concerning the circulation of coin. (fn. 78) There is also a notice of the acquisition by the corporation of the standard weights and measures made obligatory by an Act of Henry VII, 1495, (fn. 79) and the inventory of those kept in the gildhall survives. (fn. 80) In 1500 the charters of Edward IV were confirmed.
The privilege of keeping swans on the Thames had belonged to the gild of Windsor from an early period, but it appears that the flock or 'game' of swans had much diminished, 'lost, wasted and worn away,' and in the reign of Henry VII it was renewed, and by the reign of Elizabeth had increased to fourteen swans. The corporation of course possessed their special swan-mark which was marked on the swans' bills once a year at the upping. (fn. 81)
In 1513 the extant accounts of the borough begin. (fn. 82) From them it appears that the mayor received a salary of 20s. yearly, the keeper of the bridge a salary of 6s. 8d., and the clerk of the market received 6s. 8d. for his expenses. The amount of the fine paid for entrance to the gild was 6s. 8d. Forty shillings was paid to the two members of Parliament. (fn. 83) The borough charter was again confirmed on 10 March 1515.
The building of three shops by the castle ditch in 1525 and 1526 gives an approximate date to the beginning of the west side of the street known later as Thames Street, and at about the same period we hear of the Butchery and Drapery Row, both near the site of the present town hall.
The practical identification of the corporation and the Trinity Gild at this period appears in the fact that the accounts were entered in the same book and without any separation. Payments for repairs to the bridges, for mending the mace and similar entries appear side by side with the wages of the chantry priest, the payment for mending the glass windows in the gildhall, fines (6s. 8d.) for entrance into the gild, 'lovyng drynkyngs' among the brethren and the like. Two separate entries of £5 6s. 8d. and 33s. 'for ye crosse' probably refer to the town cross. (fn. 84)
In 1539 the corporation bought the manor of 'Underoure' from Richard Ward. (fn. 85) Fearing apparently a confiscation of the lands of the Holy Trinity Gild, the mayor, bailiffs and brethren of the gild drew up a memorandum on 28 January 1540–1 that any vacant lands belonging 'to the gwyld haule of New Wyndesor, or to the fraternitie or bretherhode of the blyssyd Trinitie there,' should be held by the mayor, bailiffs and brethren individually for life, all the members being provided with land in turn according to seniority as the land became vacant, (fn. 86) the remainder to be to the next member of the corporation, provision being made for exchanges. By this arrangement the members of the corporation hoped to retain for themselves individually the lands that would otherwise have been forfeited.
Foxe in his account of 'The Trouble and Persecution of Four Windsore Men' gives a very vivid account of the trials and deaths of Robert Testwood, Henry Filmer and Anthony Pearson, men who 'smelled of the new learning' and suffered under the Six Articles in 1543, being burnt at the stake. (fn. 87)
The bridge was occasionally leased out, three quarters' rent amounting to £4 6s. 8d. The total value of the corporation property was £10 5s. 1d. annually at this period, and the rents were collected by two chamberlains. The mayor's salary rose to £3, and that of the borough members to £4 each. (fn. 88)
The town charter was again renewed in 1550. About the same date the mayor and corporation, uneasy about their position as the owners of chantry lands, were anxiously 'making suytt for the Trynyty land.' (fn. 89)
Queen Elizabeth's first visit was celebrated by the presentation by the mayor of 'a cup of double guilt.' (fn. 90)
The trading of foreigners, i.e. of non-burgesses, was jealously restricted. In 1560 'forraigne' shoemakers were forbidden to enter the town except on fair days, and in 1576 this prohibition was extended to all foreign retailers. These restrictions do not seem to have been sufficient, and some years later, in 1588, agreements were made by indentures between the mayor and certain of the chief tailors, drapers, glovers, mercers or salesmen and cordwainers, and with two of the Barber Surgeons Company, providing that in return for a small annual payment no foreigner should be permitted to trade in the town without their leave. (fn. 91)
The collection of 'statutes and ordinances of the Guildhall' made in 1579–80 presents no unusual features. (fn. 92) It was presented to the Berkshire justices for confirmation in 1592. (fn. 93) During the reign of Elizabeth there was considerable agitation for a renewal of the town charter. Old precedents were looked up, a draft charter was drawn up (on eightyone sheets of MS.) and engrossed on parchment, the mayor rode 'divers tymes to court to My Lord of Leicester about the charter,' and a cup costing £10 was presented to Mr. Attorney-General, but this expenditure of time and money was thrown away and the charter was not obtained in this reign. (fn. 94)
An Act for paving the town was passed in 1585, all the inhabitants being ordered to pave the street in front of their dwellings to a width of 4 yards. (fn. 95)
In January 1578–9 certain witches were apprehended at Windsor who used 'pictures of wax.' They were to be examined about the device and those who were skilled in it, as the queen had been threatened in this way. (fn. 96)
A new market-house was built about 1588, the cost being defrayed by the contributions of several gentlemen about the court and by the self-denial of the burgesses themselves, who decided to do without all but four of the endless bailiffs' dinners, as well as the entertainments given by the mayor on St. Edward's Day, Christmas Day and Midsummer Eve, and bestow the money saved (£18) on the market-house fund. (fn. 97)
On the occasion of a state visit paid by the queen to the corporation 10 August 1586 the mayor handed over his mace, 'offering up not only this small peece of government which we sustaine and exercise under your Majestie, but ourselves also and all that we have freely, not co-arctedly, joyfullie not grudgingly, to be for ever at your gratious disposing.' (fn. 98)
The new charter, for which the town had been petitioning during the reign of Elizabeth, was granted in the first year of James I. (fn. 99) The charter declared the mayor, bailiffs and burgesses to be a body corporate, with the right of perpetual succession, and the use of a common seal. It confirmed to them the weekly market on Saturdays, three fairs yearly, the right to hold a borough court every Monday, the return of all writs, and the right to have a prison or gaol within the borough. It was provided that twenty-eight or thirty of the townsmen should be called the brethren of the gildhall and constitute the common council of the borough. Thirteen of these were to be called benchers of the borough, ten of whom were to be aldermen or chief benchers. The mayor was to be chosen from among the aldermen, the two bailiffs from the general body of brethren. The charter included a list of aldermen (or chief benchers) and of benchers, all of whom were appointed for life. A chief steward and an under steward or town clerk were both appointed for life. The charter also confirmed to the town the manor of Windsor (Underore) to be held of the Crown by fealty in free socage at a quit-rent of £4 5s. 3¼ d. yearly. The expenses of the town in presents, entertainments and legal expenses connected with this renewal of the charter amounted to £119 11s. 4d. (fn. 100) The mayor's fee had risen to £30 in 1608, the steward's to £5.
From Norden's Survey, (fn. 101) made in 1607 by the king's command, it appears that Thames Street and Peascod Street consisted of one row of houses only, the side near the castle ditch being fenced and not yet built upon. A few houses had, however, already been built in the 'castle ditch,' which seems never to have been a moat filled with water, but merely a deep dry ditch surrounding the castle. (fn. 102) A brewery occupied very nearly the site of the present brewery; Sheet Street and Park Street (then Pound Street) were only just begun. There was a public well in Park Street, (fn. 103) the stocks and probably the pillory were behind the market-house, and Bere Lane led from Thames Street down to the river. Chains were drawn across the foot of the bridge and the upper end of Peascod Street. (fn. 104)
The bridge was an endless source of expense as well as income, a large sum for its repair appearing in the accounts nearly every year. (fn. 105) About this period the high steward of the town was often also constable of the castle and keeper of the forest. In 1624–5 the Duke of Buckingham held all these offices, the 'humble entreaty' of the borough that he would accept the office being worded most deferentially. (fn. 106)
A market cross had been erected in the 14th century at the point where the four main streets of the town meet; it had disappeared by the date of Norden's map. (fn. 107) The rebuilding of the town cross in 1635 by Dr. Goodman, Bishop of Gloucester, who had already presented an organ to the parish church, roused a storm of Puritanical opposition. The new work included a sculptured or painted crucifix. Letters were written to the bishop, who in reply hinted that the town had already 'receaved a checke for Puritanisme,' and the king was petitioned in vain. The cross remained until 1641, when the triumph of Puritanism led to its mutilation. (fn. 108) The ruins of the cross were removed in 1691, but the site is still known as the Cross, and public proclamations are made there. (fn. 109)
The accounts for the years 1637, 1638 onwards give many curious details illustrating the social life of the time—references to the town hall spit, the cleansing of the dungeons, the cage, the stocks, whipping post, pillory and cucking stool, the purchase of 'saie coles,' the many gifts of wine, sugar loaves, hogsheads of ale to distinguished persons whose patronage was thought advantageous to the town, including the gift of bugle horns and scarves to Prince Charles and his brother. (fn. 110) In 1640 there was a dispute about the returns of the members of Parliament, the forerunner of a long series in the 18th century. It turned on the question whether the election of members of Parliament was confined to the mayor and officials of the town or whether it was the right of the townspeople in general, and the House of Commons decided that it belonged to the inhabitants in general. (fn. 111)
There was much resistance in Windsor to the shipmoney writs of 1637 and 1638. Many prominent inhabitants refused to pay, and their goods were distrained; others were arrested and brought before the Star Chamber. (fn. 112)
During the struggles of the next eight or nine years Windsor, in spite of its position under the walls of a royal castle, sided with Parliament against the king. (fn. 113)
A contemporary pamphlet relates Prince Rupert's occupation of the town in October 1642, 'which being utterly indefensible he was without resistance Master of.' His attack on the castle was beaten off, and he retired to Staines. (fn. 114)
Windsor, which had been disfranchised under the Commonwealth, returned two members as usual to the Parliament of 1658. (fn. 115) A double return was made to the Parliament of 1660, one being by the mayor under the common seal, the other by the burgesses. (fn. 116) This is the second case of a disputed ceeded in getting their members returned, but on this occasion the members returned under the common seal took their seats. (fn. 117)
King Charles was proclaimed 'with all ioye and acclamations' on 12 May 1660 by the mayor, attended by a troop of horse, at the round market-house, at Windsor bridge and at the castle gate. The Restoration was perhaps responsible for the decision of the corporation to have a magnificent new mace twice the weight of the old one, which had been 'much bruised and squatted,' and for the restoration of the town cross. The appointment of Prince Rupert as high steward was celebrated by a great banquet, bell-ringing and a bonfire. (fn. 118)
For some time after the Restoration a large garrison was maintained in the castle, and thirty-eight innkeepers and victuallers of the town complained that 300 men of the garrison were quartered in their houses, in some cases as many as twelve in one house, that they had to allow them 6d. a day with fire, candle and lodging, so that they had few or no spare rooms and were likely to be ruined. (fn. 119) It was several years before the town was as orderly as before the Civil War. There were many complaints of 'insolent rioting.' Men of Windsor broke down the gates and pales of the Little Park and used 'ill language.' (fn. 120) There were many complaints of 'unlawful conventicles' in the town, and even the man who read sermons in his own house which the neighbours came in to hear was compelled to leave the town. (fn. 121) Later on in the reign licences were occasionally obtained for sectarian meetings in private houses in the town. (fn. 122)
Another double election which took place in 1661 led to a resolution being passed by the House of Commons that 'the mayor bailiffs and burgesses not exceeding the number of thirty have only the right of election,' the decision being made on the ground that the inhabitants at large had never chosen until the year 1640. (fn. 123) Elections were governed by this decision for about eighteen years.
The corporation was visited and purged by commissioners in 1662, (fn. 124) four aldermen being displaced.
The Great Plague of 1665 seems to have affected the town comparatively little. About £17 was spent by the corporation in preventive measures and in relief to the stricken, and the law courts were transferred to Windsor when the plague in the capital was at its height. (fn. 125) There had been several other visitations earlier in the century. An outbreak in 1603 had been followed by the erection of a pest-house in Sheet Street. (fn. 126) A house of correction was built adjoining the pest-house about 1636. (fn. 127) Curiously enough, several years before the Great Plague, in 1659, the pest-house had been repaired at the suggestion of Matthew Day. 'We know not,' he wrote, 'how sone it maye pleasse God to send a visitacion.' A workhouse was built on the site of the pest-house in 1733.
A new charter, which varies very little from that of James I, was granted to the town on 9 February 1664 (fn. 128) in answer to a petition of the preceding November. (fn. 129) It was not quite all the governing body had hoped for. They had petitioned that the charter might expressly confine the election of burgesses of Parliament to 'the Mayor and Company only as it hath lately been adjudged their right,' and that the clause in the old charter providing that any inhabitant might be made a bencher should be omitted. Fortunately the new charter was a disappointment to them in this respect. It also failed to set out the boundaries of the borough as they had hoped it would. (fn. 130) The only variations from the earlier charter—the imposition of the oaths of allegiance and supremacy on the officials and the necessity for submitting them to the king for approval before they took up office—cannot have been very palatable to the governing body of the town.
In 1673 the first regular stage-coach service between Windsor and London was started, not without complaint from the watermen, who related their woes in a tract with the weighty title of 'The Grand Concern of England explained,' and about the same time there was a daily post to and from London for the time of the king's stay in the castle. (fn. 131)
A series of by-laws for the government of the town, drawn up at a court held in the gildhall 3 January 1682–3, were confirmed by the assize judges in the following March. (fn. 132) Among other things they contain rules for keeping the streets of the town clean and in good repair. A common channel apparently ran down the middle to receive refuse of all kinds. The repair of the pavement was the duty of individual householders, who were bound every Saturday afternoon to sweep the street in front of their houses, no light task as it appears from the mention of 'dunghills, tubs, empty barrels, corrupt or stinking fish, feathers or herbs that may annoy the said streets with unwholesome smells.' (fn. 133) At night from Michaelmas to Lady Day the streets were lighted by candles hung out by householders.
Even these conditions must have been an improvement on the previous state of affairs. In 1666 the mayor and townsfolk had petitioned the king to help them in a design 'chiefly intended for his majesty's satisfaction and that of his servants,' that of pitching the main streets of the town with flint and stone. The town, they reported, was much forsaken by the gentry, and the burden of the poor had thereby become so great that many of the better householders were leaving. The town could therefore contribute little more to the work than their good wishes, hands and spades. (fn. 134)
The by-laws of 1682–3 set up a system of election by which the office of mayor was to be held by the aldermen of the town in rotation according to seniority—a rather unpractical method, which endured until 1746, when it was cancelled. (fn. 135)
There was another double election for Windsor in 1678–9, the old dispute between the mayor, bailiffs and thirty burgesses and the general body of townsmen being renewed. The question was referred to the House of Commons, the decision being that the right of election lay in the whole body of freeholders, (fn. 136) a decision which was confirmed on a subsequent dispute in 1689. (fn. 137)
A new charter was granted by James II on 23 March 1684–5, which only remained in force until 17 October 1688, when it seems to have been repealed by the proclamation. (fn. 138) Windsor continued to be governed under the charter of Charles II from 24 October 1688 onwards. (fn. 139) The charter of 1684–5 was similar to that of Charles II in most points, but included the clauses usual to the charters of this date. Chief Justice Jeffreys was appointed recorder.
The only other event of interest during the reign was the destruction of the old market-house (March 1687) and butchers' shambles and the building of the new town hall, (fn. 140) the first stone of which was laid on 5 September 1687. It was opened for corporation business in October 1689. (fn. 141) The cabstand on the Castle Hill dates from this reign, a licence for standing two hackney coaches being granted in 1687. (fn. 142)
The mayor, bailiffs and a certain number of the burgesses elected Henry Powle, the Speaker of the House of Commons, and Sir Christopher Wren to the Parliament of 1689. (fn. 143) The usual dispute arose as to whether their election was valid, and, after long proceedings before the Committee of Privileges, (fn. 144) it was settled that the right of electing was vested in the inhabitants of the borough generally.
From the records of the large expenditure on bonfires, processions, feasting and the consumption of 'kilderkins of drink' to celebrate the accession of William III, the royal birthdays, his victory in Ireland and so on, it appears that the corporation was very zealous in support of the Revolution settlement. (fn. 145) Its sympathies had long been Whig and anti-Court in spite of the castle influence.
In 1693 the king granted an annuity of £50 out of the revenues of the honour and castle of Windsor to the Mayor and churchwardens of Windsor 'for and towards the benefit, support and maintenance of the Church and Poor' in the parish of Windsor. (fn. 146) It appears, however, that this annual grant soon fell into arrears, and the churchwardens had some difficulty in getting the money. (fn. 147)
When selling to King William certain land lying between the north of the castle and the river, containing inclosed fields, open waste, Mill Mead and Datchet, known as the Mill Common Mead, and gravel-pits, and acquiescing in its inclosure into the Little Park, the corporation decided to petition for compensation for the loss of their common rights and for the diminution in the area of the land liable to parochial rates. (fn. 148) The king allowed their claim, and in compensation granted to the town the profits from 31 acres of land lying between the park wall and the river valued at £20 per annum, together with a grant of £50 yearly from the Exchequer. (fn. 149)
The only other points of interest besides the disputed election of 1690, are the removal, in 1690, of the old market cross and of the pillory, (fn. 150) and the first recorded admission of a woman to the freedom of the borough in 1695. (fn. 151)
The Princess Anne had always been very popular in Windsor, and her accession brought great rejoicings. A statue of the queen in royal robes, which cost the town £40, was placed in a niche in the northern wall of the town hall in 1707, and in 1713 a statue of Prince George of Denmark (who wears a periwig with his Roman costume) was set up in the southern wall. (fn. 152)
The improvements made by the queen's orders in connexion with the building of Datchet Bridge involved considerable interference with the 31 acres of land which the corporation enjoyed under William's grant. A petition for compensation for the destruction of tenants' improvements and for the diminution of the tolls of Windsor Bridge was forwarded to the Treasury. The surveyor-general reported that the corporation had no legal claim in respect of the bridge tolls, the new bridge being built on the queen's own land, but suggested that £55 should be granted to the corporation and £25 to their tenant who farmed the tolls of the bridge. The queen accepted this report, and the grants were made as of the royal bounty. To compensate the corporation for the other improvements an annual grant of £20 per annum was authorized. (fn. 153)
At the general election of 1715 Christopher Wren and Robert Gayer were returned in the Tory interest, but their return was petitioned against on the ground of illegal practices and they were unseated. The influence of the constable and of the king's name seems to have been unfairly used. One man said that he had been offered the making of buckskin breeches for several families at one guinea per pair if he voted for the petitioners. Sir Henry Ashurst and Samuel Travers were declared duly elected, the decision being made, of course, by a vote of the House on party lines. (fn. 154)
According to Horace Walpole, in the election of 1737, which resulted in a tie with regard to two candidates, the Duke of Marlborough had acted 'a very indecent and precipitate part.' It appears that the duke and duchess both favoured the opponent of Lord Vere Beauclerk, who was declared elected. (fn. 155)
In 1725 a schoolhouse was built on the north side of the churchyard, (fn. 156) and in 1733 the workhouse built on the site of the old pest-house, near 'Puttocks Gate,' was conveyed by the corporation to trustees, with the proviso that if there were a further outbreak of plague the house should be used as a pest-house. Though used as a workhouse for some years, the building later became an ordinary poor-house, supported by the poor rates. This was its state in 1835. (fn. 157)
A difficulty arose about the grant of £50 a year made by William III to the mayor and churchwardens, (fn. 158) and the control of the money paid to the town by way of compensation was later transferred to the Patent Office, from which £100 per annum was paid to the overseers of the poor and £20 per annum to the churchwardens. (fn. 159) There was a similar difficulty over the £20 granted by Queen Anne to the corporation in 1708, which had usually been paid by them to the churchwardens and overseers for the use of the poor of the parish. One or two attempts—in 1732 and 1772—were made by the corporation to withhold the money. The churchwardens remonstrated in vain, and after much discussion and many years of delay they had recourse to litigation. On 10 February 1800 the Court of Exchequer gave judgement for the churchwardens, ordering the corporation to refund the arrears from 1771. These arrears with interest (£642 10s.) were invested in consols, the income being used by the churchwardens for church expenses. (fn. 160)
Political feeling ran very high at this period, and every election threw the town into a ferment. The successful candidate at the election of 1757 said that the contest had cost him £4,000, 'besides more anxiety than he ever had in his life,' and it was reported that the whole town and Eton as well were in an uproar. (fn. 161) The average number of electors varied between three and four hundred; majorities were small and bribery was elaborately organized. George III, in his anxiety to get the control of a considerable party in the House of Commons, used all his influence in the election of 1780. The king wrote in a private letter that the corporation had 'ever been adverse to Government,' but that it was now anxious to have a candidate 'recommended by Administration,' and that the inhabitants would 'warmly espouse the cause of such a person.' The king favoured the candidature of Mr. Powney against the sitting member, Admiral Keppel, who he thought 'could be thrown without any difficulty'; he decided to get his tradesmen 'encouraged to appear for him,' had the names of members of the royal household entered as occupiers of royal houses and so forth. The election resulted in Keppel's defeat. Rockingham wrote that 'the Squire of Windsor had prevailed against Keppel.' Walpole reported that all the royal bakers and brewers and butchers had voted against him. (fn. 162)
The condition of the streets of the borough was greatly improved by the changes introduced under the Act of 1769 'for the better paving, cleansing, lighting and watching of the streets and lanes in the parish and borough of New Windsor.' (fn. 163) The streets were repaved, glass lamps were set up and six watchmen were appointed, the cost being provided for out of the rates.
The jubilee of George III was the occasion of great rejoicings in the borough, and the queen and other members of the royal family were present at the roasting of an ox in Bachelor's Acre. An obelisk to commemorate this occasion was erected in Bachelor's Acre by 'the Bachelors of Windsor, as a tribute of their gratitude for the particular esteem he [the king] has on all occasions manifested for their native town.' (fn. 164)
On the destruction of the old prison in the castle by George III a new gaol was built by the king in the borough. (fn. 165)
The election of 1802 was preceded by vestry cabals and monthly meetings in public-houses. Many complaints were made of the enormous expenditure necessary in Windsor elections. Canvassing 'by secret means and public entertainments' went on for months before the poll was opened. It was alleged that in the contest of 1794 £9,000 had been 'circulated amongst Inn Keepers and Lawyers, Printers' and other Devils,' and that two years later 'a further Sum of between Six and Seven Thousand Pounds was brought to market.' (fn. 166) The hand-bills circulated on both sides are curious for their violent language and bitter personal attacks.
In the election on the eve of the Reform Act in 1831 the town was addressed by candidates vying with each other in their zeal for reform and anxiety to reduce the expense of elections and 'maintain the pure spirit of the elective franchise.' (fn. 167)
By the Reform Act of 1832 the borough franchise, which since 1690 had been vested in all householders paying scot and lot, was slightly modified; it was provided that all electors were to be registered, and six months' residence within the borough or within 7 miles of it was required. (fn. 168) In the following year an Act was passed to extend the borough boundaries, to include part of the parish of Clewer, together with the lower ward of the castle, which contained the residences of the Provost and fellows of St. George's Chapel, of the Poor Knights and others. (fn. 169) The part of the parish of Clewer thus included was defined by the Act as the part lying east of the following boundary:—
'From the point at which the Goswell Ditch (fn. 170) joins the River Thames, along the Goswell Ditch to the point at which the same meets Clewer Lane, then westward, along Clewer Lane to a point twenty-five yards distant from the point last described, thence in a straight line to the north-western corner of the enclosure wall of the cavalry barracks; thence along the western enclosure wall of the cavalry barracks to the point at which the same cuts the boundary of the parish of New Windsor.' Under the Reform Act of 1867 it was provided that Windsor should be represented in Parliament by one member instead of two.
Poor relief in the parish of Windsor had been administered in the 18th and early 19th centuries by a committee of twelve inhabitants and by four overseers and their assistant. (fn. 171) The usual system of giving relief out of the rates to supplement wages in proportion to the size of the family (fn. 172) had been followed in Windsor, where the amount raised by way of poor rate in 1830 had reached £3, 705 8s. 6½d. The only form of employment provided for the ablebodied pauper was work on the roads. By the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1835 (fn. 173) Windsor became the centre of a Poor Law Union, and a workhouse for the union was built in Old Windsor.
The Report of the Commission on Municipal Corporations, presented in January 1834, (fn. 174) throws much light on the constitution of Windsor in the early years of the 19th century. The corporation was appointed as provided by the charter of Charles II with a few variations, the under steward and common clerk being replaced by a recorder (who appointed a barrister as his deputy) and a town clerk.
Under the Act of 1835 (fn. 175) the composition of the governing body of Windsor was modified. The corporation was to consist of the mayor, six aldermen and eighteen councillors (the old division into the mayor, chief benchers and younger brethren being swept away). The town was divided into two wards. Other changes made by the Act were the abolition of the offices of high steward and under steward, who were replaced by a recorder; the limitation of the criminal jurisdiction enjoyed under the charter; the abolition of the obsolete right of exclusive trading; and the removal from the control of the corporation of estates held in trust for charitable purposes.
At the beginning of the 19th century three fairs—on Easter Tuesday, 5 July and 25 October—were held yearly. (fn. 176) At the present day the October fair is still held.
During the years 1851 and 1852 the houses in the castle ditch which formed the east and south-east sides of Thames Street were taken down, and with the destruction in 1857 of the old house at the foot of the Hundred Steps, the property of the dean and chapter, which had remains of mediaeval work, the last house abutting on the castle was removed. (fn. 177)
The corporation plate includes a silver-gilt mace 3 ft. 6 in. long, with a richly chased shaft, the base being adorned with the arms of the borough, and the head, which is elaborately worked, with the national emblems, each surmounted by a crown and the letters C.R. Its date is 1660. There is a tall covered cup of the same date and a smaller cup dated 1627. The mayor's chain and badge were given by George IV in 1820 and enlarged by William IV in 1830.
The early 14th-century seal of the town has been preserved. It bears a triple towered castle between the arms of England and of Castile and Leon. The 15th-century seal has a castle with four towers, surmounted by a stag's head, between the antlers of which are the arms of France and England quarterly.