The royal borough of Windsor: Introduction

A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1923.

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In this section



Windsores, Vuindesor (xi cent.); Nova Windleshora (xii cent.); Windeshores, Windesorum, Windesores (xiii cent.); Windsoure, Windsore (xiv–xvii cent.).

The parish of Windsor, more properly called New Windsor, has an area of 2,559 acres, of which 59 are covered by water. The borough of Windsor includes the whole parish of New Windsor together with part of the parish of Clewer. In 1894 the part of Clewer within the borough was formed into the civil parish of Clewer Within, the remainder being known as Clewer Without. Dedworth, a hamlet of New Windsor, was transferred to Clewer in 1878. Windsor Castle was extra-parochial until 1886, when the Lower Ward was included, for purposes of rating, within the borough of New Windsor. The rest of the castle, being in the occupation of the Crown, is not rateable.

The road from Slough and Eton enters the town on the north, crossing the Thames by a bridge built in 1823, on the site of the earliest bridge. The road from Datchet, which enters the town on the north-east, crosses the river by the Victoria Bridge, of one arch, built in 1850, about which time there was a rearrangement of the roads crossing the Home Park. (fn. 1)

The plan of the town is irregular, the oldest part lying in a comparatively small area between the western front of the castle and the river, and west and south of the castle. The centre of this older portion is at the crossing of Thames Street and High Street with Peascod Street and Castle Hill, close to which point, in the High Street, are the parish church of St. John Baptist, approached by a flight of stone steps, the town hall, and the market-place. Sheet Street bounded mediaeval Windsor in one direction and Windsor Bridge on the other. (fn. 2) The extension of the residential portion of the town to the west began in the early part of the 19th century, and the further expansions to the north-west towards Clewer, and south-west towards Spital, are later.

One of the oldest streets of the town is Thames Street, from which a flight of steps, known as the Hundred Steps, leads into the Lower Ward. The houses in Thames Street built on the site of the former castle ditch were removed in 1852. The majority of the shops here and in High Street and Peascod Street have modern shop fronts inserted on the ground floor, but the superstructures of many are of the 18th century or even earlier. None, however, are of any great architectural interest. Thames Street is continued as High Street, which contains the White Hart Hotel, on the site of the famous Garter Inn, and leads upward to the Castle Hill, the highest point of the town. High Street is continued in the south-westerly direction as Park Street, formerly Pound Street, which leads into the Home Park by Cambridge Lodge. Park Street has probably altered very little since the close of the 18th century. The houses are principally of red brick with tiled roofs and some have Doric pilasters on either side of the entrance doorways supporting entablatures.

Peascod Street runs at right angles into High Street, opposite Castle Hill. The Duke's Head Inn, in this street, took its name from the house occupied by George Villiers Duke of Buckingham. The houses in Church Street, which is opposite the Henry VIII Gateway of the castle, are almost without exception of the latter part of the 17th or early 18th century. In the middle of the east side of the street stand two fine late 17th-century red brick houses treated in one design with tiled roofs. At either end are pilastered doorways, above which, supported on carved brackets, are projecting bays carried up the full height of the building and roofed with hipped roofs, while at the wall-head level is a wooden modillion cornice. On the south side of this building is the King's Head Museum, a small house of about the same date, and at the south corner of the street stands the parish room, a two-storied 18th-century building with hipped dormers in the roof. The walls are rough-casted and the roof is tiled; the cornice is of wood and has carved modillions. At the opposite corner of the street is a large three-storied red brick building of 18th-century date; on the north side of this is a house of similar design, the walls of which are stuccoed. Higher up the street, on the west side, there stands a four-story red brick house probably of early 18th-century date.

Most of the old buildings in High Street, which had tiled roofs and good interiors, and the quaint shuttered shops in Peascod Street, have been pulled down, but there are still a few houses in High Street and Thames Street which contain oak panelling and fine staircases. The town hall, which was begun from the designs of Sir Thomas Fitz in 1687, and completed after his death by Sir Christopher Wren, is a building of brick and stone with an open area beneath it, and a later addition on the east of brick with stucco dressings containing the council chamber and parlour. The three exposed elevations of the hall are divided into two stages by a stone entablature supported at the angles by rusticated piers and on the west by plain Doric columns; on the north and south the entablature is supported by elliptical arches springing from smaller Doric columns. The intercolumniations, which were originally open, are now filled with modern glazing. The upper stage, containing the hall, is of brick with stone quoins and a crowning cornice, the end walls on the north and south being finished with pediments following the pitch of the roof. Six square-headed windows with moulded stone architraves light the hall on the west, while the north and south walls are each divided into three bays by small Corinthian pilasters, the side bays being occupied by windows like those on the west, but having swags beneath their sills, and the centre bay by a niche with a semicircular head. The niche on the north contains a statue of Queen Anne with the inscription:

'Arte tua, sculptor, non est imitabilis Anna;
Annae vis similem sculpere, sculpe deam
Anno Regni VI. A. S. MDCCVII. S. Chapman Praetore.'

The Town Hall, Windsor

In the southern niche is a statue of Prince George of Denmark, given by Christopher Wren, the son of the architect, in 1713. Within the area under the hall are columns which appear to support the floor, but the beams do not in reality touch them. The interior has been very much modernized.

In Church Lane adjoining the north-east corner of the churchyard stands an early 18th-century red brick building, the design of which is attributed to Wren. It was formerly the free school, but is now used as a masonic lodge. The house stands on a projecting plinth and is two stories high with a tiled roof. The elevations are symmetrically designed and have at the wall-head level a moulded brick modillion cornice. The central bays to both north and east elevations project slightly, and the cornice to the latter is carried up in a pointed pediment; the windows have segmental and semicircular heads.

Sheet Street, which appears early in the history of the town, runs southwards from High Street and is continued as King's Road. It contains the Royal Albert Institute, a red brick building with stone dressings opened by Edward VII when Prince of Wales, in 1881.

Standing on the east side of Sheet Street, opposite Victoria Street, is Hadleigh House. It is an 18th-century building of red brick, roofed with slates, and three stories high with a basement and attics. There is a wooden Ionic portico to the entrance doorway, which is approached by a small flight of stone steps. The house stands back from the roadway behind a high brick wall with some fine ornamental entrance gates of wrought-iron.

The names of several other streets which appear early in the history of Windsor have been changed. Queen's Street was formerly Butcher Row, St. Alban's Street was Priest Street. River Street leads from Thames Street down to the river and was formerly called Beer Lane. At the foot of Castle Hill stands a bronze statue of Queen Victoria in royal robes, by Boehm, which was unveiled in 1887. The statue is placed on a granite pedestal.

The King Edward VII Hospital, in St. Leonard's Road, was opened by his late Majesty in 1909. The Victoria Barracks, enlarged in 1911, lie south of Victoria Street, and the Cavalry Barracks are in St. Leonard's Road. The Windsor almshouses in Victoria Street, founded in 1503, were rebuilt in 1862. Chariott's almshouses is a smaller foundation.

The Great Western railway has a station in George Street, originally built in 1850, and entirely rebuilt and remodelled with a new royal waiting-room in 1897. This station was the scene of an attempt on the life of Queen Victoria in 1882. The London and South-Western railway station is in the Datchet Road, and has a private entrance for the use of the royal family.

The borough contains a good theatre, the Theatre Royal, built in 1823, and rebuilt, after being burnt down, in 1910. The first theatre in Windsor was opened in 1793. (fn. 3)

There is a public recreation ground, known as Bachelors' Acre, on the north side of Sheet Street, where a revel was held formerly every year. Seventy-five acres of land lying north of the castle which were cut off from the rest of the Home Park by the new road from Windsor to Datchet were, by order of Queen Victoria, thrown open for the use of the public.

The fairs formerly held in the town on Easter Tuesday and on 5 July have now been abandoned. As early as 1811 they were described as 'very inconsiderable.' (fn. 4) A weekly market is, however, held on Saturdays.

The first street to appear on the records is Peascod Street (Pesecroftestrete) in 1308. (fn. 5) Le Frithe, afterwards Frith Lane, is found in 1321, (fn. 6) and the name Hugh atte Gate of Windsor suggests the existence of a town gate. (fn. 7) Among 15th and 16th-century place-names are Shete Strete, Bisshop's Strete, Puket's Lane, Grope cownt Lane, Fishe Strete, Prest Strete, Pokatt's Gate, Spitell, tenements called Tawneys, le Whitehorse, the Black Egyll, the Saracen's hed, the Ram, le Ledenporche, le Crosse Keyes, the George and Deryngs. (fn. 8)

The Home Park, containing 400 acres, is magnificently timbered with elms and oaks; among the latter was the famous Herne's Oak which fell in August 1863, its site being marked by a young oak planted by Queen Victoria in the same year. The Long Walk, with its avenue of elms, runs southwards from the George IV gateway of the castle through the park in a straight line for 3 miles. At the end of the Long Walk is the bronze equestrian statue of George III in Roman dress, by Westmacott, which stands on a granite pedestal 26 ft. high at the top of an elevation known as Snow Hill.

Adelaide Cottage stands in a picturesque dell within the Home Park, about half a mile to the south-east of the castle. It is a small stuccoed two-storied building in the 'cottage-ornée' style of the early 19th century. Over the entrance, which is on the south side, is inscribed A.R. 1831, and on the north where the ground rises above the level of the ground floor of the southern portion are two large rooms opening on to the garden. The northern of the two rooms is a complete octagon, papered internally with an interesting trellis-pattern paper, while the southern room is decorated with fittings from the old yacht 'Royal George.' Adelaide Lodge, immediately to the south of the cottage, is designed in the same manner and serves as a gardener's residence. The names of the two houses were formerly reversed.

Church Street, showing Old Houses and Henry VIII Gateway

Frogmore House, (fn. 9) about three-quarters of a mile to the south of the castle, is a stuccoed building consisting of a plain three-storied central block with low projecting wings on the north and south connected on the ground floor of the west front by a glazed and painted wooden colonnade of the Tuscan order. The central block dates from the first half of the 18th century and retains some detail of that period in the brick groining of the basement beneath it and the panelling of two of the rooms on the ground floor, but on the purchase of the house by the Crown in 1792 the interior was almost entirely redecorated by Wyatt, who also added the colonnade on the west with the portions of the wings immediately adjoining the original building on the north and south. A print of 1794 preserved in the house shows these works as on the point of completion, but without the large rooms at the extreme ends of the west front, and with the colonnade unglazed. The wings appear to have been extended to their present size between this date and 1819, as the view in Pyne's 'Royal Residences' shows the garden front precisely as it now exists. The principal entrance is in the centre of the east front and is covered by a 'porte cochère' with stone Doric columns and entablature, evidently an addition of the 19th century. The porch admits directly to a well-proportioned staircase hall with a black and white stone pavement; the stairs have a central and two return flights on either side, the handrails being supported by delicately designed wrought-iron balustrading, while the first-floor landing over the hall is supported by fluted Corinthian columns of wood with answering pilasters. The equerry's room to the left of the hall and the small room adjoining it are lined with oak panelling of the original date of the house. On the west side of the central block, and entered directly from the entrance hall, is the small dining-room; no features of architectural interest remain here, but the ante-chamber or lobby opening out of it on the east has a good late 18th-century ceiling. From this lobby the rooms in the south wing, which are planned 'en suite,' are entered. The walls and ceiling of the first of these rooms are decorated with flower-paintings by Mary Moser, R.A., while the large drawing-room adjoining it is a very complete and charming example of early Victorian decoration from the panelled paper on the walls to the flowered carpet on the floor. The doorcases and mouldings are painted in white and gold, and the room is lighted on the west by a large semicircular bay window, a recess of the same form answering to it on the east. The suite is completed by the large dining-room, a plain room of no artistic interest. The north wing, which is arranged in the same manner, contains the library, the yellow drawing-room, the king's writing-room, lighted on the west by a bay window corresponding to that of the large drawing-room, and the queen's writing-room, or boudoir. The landing at the head of the principal stairs leads by two doors directly into a narrow gallery running from back to front in the centre of the first floor, the walls of which are painted in the Pompeian manner; this decoration is probably the work of one of the daughters of George III, perhaps the Princess Elizabeth, who is known to have decorated two of the ground-floor rooms in imitation Japan; the execution is somewhat crude, the swags of the frieze and some of the smaller figures being merely cut out of paper and pasted on. On the west front, leading out of the gallery on the north, is the bedroom in which the Duchess of Kent died, and on the south a sitting-room. These and the remaining rooms on the upper floors are quite plain and contain no fittings of interest. On the west side of the house is a large piece of artificial water, skilfully laid out in a winding course, and in the grounds are several summer-houses, one of which, designed in the 'Gothic taste,' has some wrought detail brought from St. George's Chapel. A little under a quarter of a mile to the north of the house is Frogmore Cottage, a plain two-storied early 19th-century building.

On the west side of the water, about the same distance to the west of the house, is the mausoleum of Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort. The building, which is in the Italian Renaissance manner, was designed by Professor Grüner and consists of a central domed octagon, 30 ft. in diameter, with four transepts at the cardinal points, each 16 ft. deep, and connected with each other by curved aisles or ambulatories encircling the octagon. The walls are of granite to the sill level of the aisle windows, and of Portland stone above, the pilasters at the angles of the transepts being entirely of granite. The domed plaster ceiling of the central portion is framed with teak and has a low-pitched pyramidal roof covered, like those of the rest of the structure, with Australian copper. The whole building stands upon a paved terrace following its outline and is entered by a doorway in the end wall of the east transept beneath a large triple-arched porch with polished granite columns and pilasters, approached from the terrace level by black marble steps. Both transepts and porch have low-pitched gables, and the windows, which are all round-headed, are arranged, with the exception of those of the aisles, in groups of three. Over the entrance doorway is inscribed:—

'Alberti Principis quod mortale erat | hoc in sepulcro deponi voluit | vidua moerens Victoria Regina A. D. MDCCCLXII | Vale desideratissime! Hic demum conquiescam tecum | tecum in Christo consurgam.'

The doors themselves are of gun-metal fashioned in panels, and behind them is a well-executed grille of the same material gilded. Internally the central octagon opens to the transepts by four great arches of Sicilian marble springing from an entablature which is continued round the walls of the transepts and across the four blank faces of the octagon and is supported beneath the arches and at the angles of the transepts by Corinthian pilasters with gilt bronze capitals and bases. The pilasters stand upon pedestals, the mouldings of which are likewise continued round the building. The drum of the dome, which is also octagonal, rises from an enriched dentil cornice immediately above the great arches and the intervening pendentives, and is lighted from each face by three grouped round-headed windows divided by polished granite shafts with gilt bronze capitals, while from the angles spring the ribs of the dome, the shell of which is arched over the windows. In each of the blank faces of the octagon below the main entablature is a hemispherical-headed niche of marble with a canopy of gilt bronze containing statues of Daniel, by Gustav Kuntz; Isaiah, unsigned; David, by F. Rentsch; and Solomon, by H. B. Baumer; all of white marble. The niches are surrounded by panels of various coloured marbles with borders of white marble, while the pendentives above contain paintings of the four Evangelists, also inclosed by panels of coloured marbles. The drum of the dome is painted in imitation of marble, and the eight ribs are fashioned as gilded angels, the dome itself being painted with angels and stars on a gold ground. In the centre of the marble pavement beneath, standing on a black marble step, is the sarcophagus containing the bodies of Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort, a huge mass of Cairn-gall granite with their recumbent effigies in white marble on the top and four bronze angels at the corners, the work of Baron Marochetti. The transepts have barrel-vaulted ceilings concentric with the great arches enriched with paintings and plaster basreliefs, and are lighted from their end walls by triplets of round-headed windows above the main entablature. In the west transept is placed a marble altar, and above it is a large painting on canvas of the Resurrection, while the end walls of the north and south transepts have similar paintings of the Nativity and the Crucifixion. In the south transept is the memorial to Princess Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse, a marble table tomb with the recumbent effigies of herself and her child. Small arches of white marble open from the side walls of the transepts into the aisles, and round these are painted arabesque panels. In their jambs are niches, all of which originally contained vases of serpentine, but three of these have been replaced by busts of Leopold Duke of Albany, the Grand Duke of Hesse, and Prince Henry of Battenberg. The aisles are lighted by round-headed windows with jambs painted in imitation of marble and are covered by barrel ceilings.

A little distance to the south-east upon an artificial promontory on the east bank of the water is the mausoleum of the Duchess of Kent, a circular domed building surrounded by a peristyle of polished granite Ionic columns with bronze capitals and bases. The whole stands upon a circular terrace approached by balustraded flights of steps, beneath which is the vault containing the sarcophagus. On the frieze of the peristyle is inscribed:—

'Hoc templum pietatis monumentum consecrarunt Victoria Britt: regina et Albertus consorseius an. sal. MDCCCLXI Victoriae Mariae Louisae Cantii ducissae matris dilectissimae reliquiis conservandis.'

The doors are of gunmetal backed with oak, and within the cell is a white marble statue of Her Royal Highness, by Theed, standing upon a pavement of coloured marbles. The walls are painted with the heraldry of her husband and her ancestors of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld upon a ground of scarlet drapery, and light is obtained from an internal dome of blue glass with yellow stars, itself borrowing light from the eye of the external dome.

The Home Park also contains the royal gardens, dairy and dairy farm and the Prince Consort's Home Farm and Shaw Farm, model farms established by the Prince Consort and maintained by King Edward VII and King George V, and also the Queen's aviary, which contains a fine collection of birds. Lower Lodge was occupied in the 17th century by the Duke of St. Albans, being then known as Burford House. It was bought by George III and was later occupied by members of the royal family. The whole of the Home Park and a small part of Windsor Great Park (fn. 10) lie within the parish.


  • 1. Local and Pers. Act, 12 & 13 Vict. cap. 39.
  • 2. A guide to Windsor published towards the end of the 18th century states that the town 'consists of six principal streets, viz. Park Street, High Street, Thames Street, Peascod Street, Church Street and Castle Street' (now Castle Hill).
  • 3. Windsor Guide (1811).
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Cal. Pat. 1307–13, p. 137.
  • 6. Cal. Close, 1318 23, p. 303.
  • 7. Ibid. 1307–13, p. 555.
  • 8. Cal. Pat. 1446–52, p. 529; Early Chan. Proc. bdles. 29, no. 522; 40, no. 116; 73, no. 24; Ashmole's MSS. no. 1125, fol. 66–7; 1126, fol. 31–3, 81; no. 1763; Pat. 49 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 18; Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), ccxcii, 183; cccxxxv, 17; Accounts quoted by Tighe and Davis, Annals of Windsor, passim.
  • 9. See below, p. 25.
  • 10. See below, p. 80 et seq.