One of the wonderful things about a getting to know a new place is the discovery of new places to walk and relax…. I have recently been discovering how the River Thames shapes the life of Windsor –
Windsor began as a Saxon village. Windsor’s name is believed to be a corruption of the Saxon words ‘windlass Oran’ meaning a bank with a windlass. After the Saxons founded the settlement it grew into a town because of its position by a river. In those days it was expensive to transport goods by land. It was cheaper to transport them by river. The Thames was an important artery between London and the heart of England. It was inevitable that a town would grow up on the site of Windsor.
By the time of the Domesday book (1086) Windsor was a small town it probably had a population of only a few hundred, which seems very small to us but settlements were very small in those days. A typical village only had about 100 to 150 inhabitants. William the Conqueror took Windsor as his own property. There was already a royal palace in the town. Windsor was near a forest were the king could go hunting and it was near a river which could be used for transport so the king liked it.
The original settlement was at Old Windsor but William built a castle on an escarpment at Clewer. Windsor Castle would have a large staff of defenders and servants and provided a market for the townspeople’s goods. So it stimulated the growth of Windsor. Soon the townspeople began to move to be nearer the castle and a new settlement grew up around it. At first Windsor castle was made of wood but in the 12th century it was rebuilt in stone. Windsor castle was strengthened and improved by Henry II (1154-1189) and Henry III (1216-1272).
In 1901 the population of Windsor was about 9,500. It was a small town dominated by the castle. In 1932 Sir Eric Savill laid out 35 acres of gardens. The new gardens were named after him. The King George V Memorial was erected in 1937. St Georges Chapel was restored in 1922-23. In 1992 Windsor Castle suffered a fire. However by 1997 the damaged had been repaired.
At the beginning of World War II it was assumed Windsor would be safe from bombing as it was not a manufacturing centre. Many evacuees were sent to the town but most of them soon went home. However Windsor was not entirely spared by the Germans.
Windsor has never been a manufacturing centre. Today industry in the town is dominated by tourism and by banking and finance. There are also computer companies and a pharmaceuticals industry. However many of the people in Windsor commute to Slough or London.
The Household Cavalry Museum opened in 1964. In 1974 local government was reformed and Windsor was joined with Maidenhead. King Edward Court was built in 1979. Royal Station shopping centre was built in 1997. Today the population of Windsor is 29,000.