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Windsor in 1843

WINDSOR, properly called New Windsor, a parliamentary and municipal borough, on the banks of the Thames, in Berkshire, 22 miles from London. It derives its importance, and perhaps its origin, from having been a favourite residence of many of the kings of England since the Conquest. The Saxon kings had a palace at Old Windsor, called Windles-ofra, or Windleshora, from the winding course of the Thames in this part, and Edward the Confessor occasionally kept his court there ; but it is a distinct parish, about two miles south-east of New Windsor.

In the reigns of William the Conqueror and William Rufus Windsor Castle was a military fortress, and it is doubtful whether they used it as a residence. Henry I enlarged and improved the Castle, and held his court there, and from this time it was the frequent residence of the king, in consequence of which New Windsor received many marks of royal favour. From having been a chapelry in the parish of Clewer, it was constituted a separate parish. Edward I made it a free borough, and in his reign it first returned two members to parliament : probably through the indulgence of the king, it was allowed for above a century to omit making returns ; but from the 25th Henry VI (1447) it has regularly returned two members.

Edward IV granted the burgesses a charter of incorporation. The limits of the municipal and parliamentary boroughs are identical, and comprise the whole of the parish of New Windsor, with the exception of the small hamlet of Dedworth, which is separated from the town by an intervening agricultural district. A part of the parish of Clewer, into which the town of Windsor has extended, is comprised within the borough ; and on the passing of the Reform Act an extra-parochial division, called the Lower Ward of the Castle, containing the residences of the provosts and fellows of St. George's chapel and those of the Military Knights of Windsor, was made part of the borough.

Though situated on opposite banks of the Thames, Windsor and Eton form in appearance but one town, the line of houses being interrupted only by the bridge, a neat structure of iron, erected in 1824, 200 feet long and 26 wide, and consisting of three arches.

Windsor is pleasantly situated on rising ground, and consists of six principal streets, well paved, and lighted with gas, besides a number of smaller ones of rather mean appearance. The drainage of the town is very defective.

The population of the parish, in 1841, was 7,528, including 101 in the hamlet of Dedworth. The borough contained 1,072 inhabited houses, and the population was 7,786, but this included 789 males and 124 females in the infantry barracks, soldiers on guard, 11 persons in the gaol, and 150 strangers. The number of persons in the Castle (‘Windsor Castle, Upper Ward,’ extra-parochial) was 30 males and 55 females ; in ‘Windsor Castle, Lower Ward,’ also extra-parochial, 274, including 44 soldiers at the guard-house. The number returned in the borough as born in the county was 3,076, and elsewhere 4,710, including 512 born in Scotland and 900 in Ireland.

Prior to the passing of the Municipal Reform Act in 1835, the corporation was governed by a charter granted in 16 Charles II, under which it consisted of the mayor and nine other chief benchers, or aldermen, three benchers, and fifteen or seventeen younger brethren, who were elected by the upper class in the council. As remodelled, there are six aldermen, one of whom acts as mayor, and eighteen councillors. The borough is divided into two wards, and the number of burgesses on the borough register was 569 in 1835, and 515 in 1837. There is a separate commission of the peace and separate sessions for the borough, and offenders are committed to the borough gaol. In 1840-41 the ordinary municipal expenses were - for police and constables, £680 ; administration of justice, £170 ; gaol, maintenance of prisoners, &c. £100 ; allowances to municipal officers, £374. In the same year the receipts under the head of rents, fines, or leases, &c. was £542 ; tolls and dues, £201 ; borough and gaol rates, £671 ; miscellaneous, £241 : making, with other items, a total of rather less than £2,000 in the year. Before 1690 the corporation usurped the exclusive right of voting in the election of members of parliament, but it was afterwards extended to all the inhabitants paying scot and lot. The greatest number of electors polled at any election during the thirty years before the passing of the Reform Act was 363 : in 1839-40 the number of parliamentary electors for the borough was 667.

The public buildings of Windsor (exclusive of those pertaining to the Castle) are not in any way remarkable. A notice of the Castle will be found in another article. The Lower Castle Ward is divided into two parts by the Collegiate Chapel of St. George, which stands in the centre. A chapel dedicated to St. George, for the service of the Order of the Garter, was erected at Windsor by Edward 111 (1327-77) ; but the present edifice was begun by Edward IV (1461-83), and was not completed until after the commencement of the sixteenth century. It is one of the most beautiful specimens of ornamental pointed architecture in this country. The exquisite proportions of the interior, the richly decorated roof, the painted windows, the banners and escutcheons of the Knights of the Garter overhanging their carved stalls, within which are fixed the armorial bear ings of each Knight Commander from the time of the founder, Edward III, alike impress the mind with a sense of beauty and powerfully seize upon the imagination. The great east window is painted after the designs of West ; and over the altar is one of West's best productions, representing the Last Supper. The cenotaph of the Princess Charlotte is in St. George's Chapel. Edward IV is buried here, beneath the steel tomb executed by Quintin Matsys. Henry VI lies under a plain marble in the opposite aisle. Henry VIII and Charles I are entombed under the choir. At the foot of the altar is a subterranean passage communicating with the tomb-house, in which George III, George IV, William IV, and others of the present royal family are interred. St. George's Chapel is a collegiate establishment.

The chapter consists of a dean, eight canons, and six minor canons ; and its gross annual revenue, for the three years ending 1831, averaged £22,475, net income £19,380.

The old church was pulled clown in 1818, and the present edifice was completed, in 1822, in the later pointed style. The living is a vicarage, in the gift of the crown, valued at £4001 a year. There are places of worship for several denominations of Dissenters.

The guildhall or townhouse, erected in 1686, is rather a handsome building, supported by pillars and arches of Portland stone. There are a number of portraits of kings of England and personages of rank in the hall or courtroom ; and externally, at each end, there is a statue of Queen Anne and one of her consort Prince George of Denmark. A free-school was erected in 1706, and is partly supported by endowments.

The charitable institutions comprise Brotherton's hospital, founded in 1503, for eight poor persons ; Reeves's almshouses, founded in 1676 ; besides a dispensary, lying-in charity, &c. There are barracks for infantry and cavalry, the latter in Clewer parish. A weekly newspaper is published in the town.

The Castle is surrounded on two sides by the Little Park, a very ancient and beautiful domain, which at one time formed part of Windsor Forest. Within its precincts is Frogmore Lodge, now occupied by the Duchess of Kent : the grounds comprise about thirteen acres, laid out with great taste. In the reign of Queen Anne that part of Windsor Forest which remained the property of the crown, under the name of the Great Park, was cut off from the Castle by the intervening private property ; and it was therefore determined to buy as much land as might be required to complete an avenue from the Castle to the Forest. This is the present Long Walk, generally considered the finest thing of the kind in Europe. It is a perfectly straight line, above three miles in length, running from the principal entrance to the Castle to the top of a commanding hill in the Great Park called Snow Hill. On each side of the road, which is slightly raised, there is a double row of stately elms, now in their maturity. The view from Snow Hill is very fine. In 1832 a colossal equestrian statue of George III was erected on the highest part of this hill. The total elevation of the statue and pedestal exceeds 50 feet, and the statue (man and horse) is 26 feet in height. The walks and drives in the Great Park present scenes of great beauty and variety. At the southern extremity of the Park is Virginia Water, the largest artificial lake in the kingdom. The eastern side of the Great Park is chiefly in Surrey.


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