Town & City Historic Maps
Windsor & Eton
An Historical Map of Windsor & Eton
Windsor and Eton are two well-known towns straddling the river Thames to the west of London. Now very popular with visitors from home and overseas, the two main attractions are world famous: Windsor Castle and Eton College. But this map reveals that the towns in 1860 had much more to show than these famous foundations, and it will be of interest to the historians of town growth and family history as well as those fascinated by royal history.
Windsor is a town dominated by its castle - the largest and longest-occupied royal castle in the world. The town of Windsor originated not on its current site next to the castle, but at a place some three miles down the river, now called Old Windsor. It relocated to its current site in c.1110, some 40 years after the castle was founded by William the Conqueror. The strategic position of this castle, on a chalk outcrop overlooking the Thames, was important and as well as its military use, it also assumed a role as a place for royal assemblies.
A planned new town was set out next to its gates by around 1135, with streets, a market place and church – and this arrangement survives to the present day. Windsor Bridge built c.1170 established the town as a commercial centre and shortly after this date its streets started to acquire names, many of which survive to the present day. By the late thirteenth century it had become a prosperous town, ranking above towns like Winchester in terms of wealth. But it stagnated and it was not until the mid nineteenth century that it began to grow again, aided by the coming of the railways and the adoption of the castle as a principal residence of Queen Victoria.
At the time of the map, new streets were being built and new public buildings erected. The coming of the two, large, ceremonial railway stations (which still serve the town) necessitated the widening of its central streets, changing Windsor's appearance for the first time since the Middle Ages. The statue of Queen Victoria was added in 1887 to mark her golden jubilee, strategically positioned on the town's market place where once the medieval market cross had stood.
Eton was a small farming community until about 1440 when Henry VI enlarged its parish church to create a college of priests to pray for his soul after death. This foundation included a small school, which in time — and especially after the Reformation — flourished and grew to become the main reason this small Berkshire village is now known throughout the world. At the time of the map, Eton College had acquired properties across the town, and the High Street was dominated by its boarding houses.
The Historical Map of Windsor and Eton about 1860 has been compiled by local author and historian Dr David Lewis who has spent many years researching the history of the two towns, their buildings and streets. Author of the British Historic Towns Atlas volume on Windsor and Eton, Dr Lewis has written an informed introduction to the two towns and their history, with short essays on Windsor Castle and Eton College, and a gazetteer of the towns' main buildings and sites.
Not currently in print
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