The original castle was built in the 11th century after the Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I, it has been used by the reigning monarch and is the longest-occupied palace in Europe. The castle’s lavish early 19th-century State Apartments were described by the art historian Hugh Roberts as “a superb and unrivalled sequence of rooms widely regarded as the finest and most complete expression of later Georgian taste”. Inside the castle walls is the 15th-century St George’s Chapel, considered by the historian John Martin Robinson to be “one of the supreme achievements of English Perpendicular Gothic” design.
Originally designed to protect Norman dominance around the outskirts of London and oversee a strategically important part of the River Thames, Windsor Castle was built as a motte-and-bailey, with three wards surrounding a central mound. Gradually replaced with stone fortifications, the castle withstood a prolonged siege during the First Barons’ War at the start of the 13th century. Henry III built a luxurious royal palace within the castle during the middle of the century, and Edward III went further, rebuilding the palace to make an even grander set of buildings in what would become “the most expensive secular building project of the entire Middle Ages in England”. Edward’s core design lasted through the Tudor period, during which Henry VIII and Elizabeth I made increasing use of the castle as a royal court and centre for diplomatic entertainment.
Windsor Castle survived the tumultuous period of the English Civil War, when it was used as a military headquarters by Parliamentary forces and a prison for Charles I. At the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Charles II rebuilt much of Windsor Castle with the help of the architect Hugh May, creating a set of extravagant Baroque interiors that are still admired. After a period of neglect during the 18th century, George III and George IV renovated and rebuilt Charles II’s palace at colossal expense, producing the current design of the State Apartments, full of Rococo, Gothic and Baroque furnishings. Queen Victoria made a few minor changes to the castle, which became the centre for royal entertainment for much of her reign. Windsor Castle was used as a refuge by the royal family during the Luftwaffe bombing campaigns of the Second World War and survived a fire in 1992. It is a popular tourist attraction, a venue for hosting state visits, and the preferred weekend home of Queen Elizabeth II.
ROYAL BOROUGH OF WINDSOR & MAIDENHEAD WWW.WINDSOR.GOV.UK
Windsor is a historic market town and unparished area in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in Berkshire, England. It is widely known as the site of Windsor Castle, one of the official residences of the British Royal Family.
The town is situated 21.7 miles (34.9 km) west of Charing Cross, central London, 5.8 miles (9.3 km) southeast of Maidenhead, and 15.8 miles (25.4 km) east of the county town of Reading. It is immediately south of the River Thames, which forms its boundary with its smaller, ancient twin town of Eton. The village of Old Windsor, just over 2 miles (3 km) to the south, predates what is now called Windsor by around 300 years; in the past Windsor was formally referred to as New Windsor to distinguish the two.
The River Thames (/ˈtɛmz/ (listen) TEMZ), known alternatively in parts as the Isis, is a river that flows through southern England including London. At 215 miles (346 km), it is the longest river entirely in England and the second-longest in the United Kingdom, after the River Severn.
It flows through Oxford (where it is called the Isis), Reading, Henley-on-Thames and Windsor. The lower reaches of the river are called the Tideway, derived from its long tidal reach up to Teddington Lock. It rises at Thames Head in Gloucestershire, and flows into the North Sea via the Thames Estuary. The Thames drains the whole of Greater London.
Its tidal section, reaching up to Teddington Lock, includes most of its London stretch and has a rise and fall of 23 feet (7 m). Running through some of the driest parts of mainland Britain and heavily abstracted for drinking water, the Thames’ discharge is low considering its length and breadth: the Severn has a discharge almost twice as large on average despite having a smaller drainage basin. In Scotland, the Tay achieves more than double the Thames’ average discharge from a drainage basin that is 60% smaller.
Along its course are 45 navigation locks with accompanying weirs. Its catchment area covers a large part of south-eastern and a small part of western England; the river is fed by at least 50 named tributaries. The river contains over 80 islands. With its waters varying from freshwater to almost seawater, the Thames supports a variety of wildlife and has a number of adjoining Sites of Special Scientific Interest, with the largest being in the remaining parts of the North Kent Marshes and covering 5,449 hectares (13,460 acres).
The land that is now Eton once belonged to the manor of Queen Edith, wife of Edward the Confessor. The land was appropriated by the Normans after 1066. The main road between Windsor and London went through the area and a hamlet sprang up amid pasture meadows to maintain the road and the bridge.
In 1440, Henry VI chose Eton as the location for his new college, Eton College. Workmen were moved into Eton to build the college. All of the land immediately around the hamlet was granted to the college, which stopped further growth. The new college chapel made the village a pilgrimage point, and inns were set up along the high street. Henry VI gave the college the right to hold fairs on its grounds.
During the English Civil War, after Windsor Castle was captured by parliamentarian forces, the Royalist army moved into Eton and attempted to retake the town, occupying the college. Efforts to retake Windsor were unsuccessful and the royalists eventually fled.
The population was 3,526 by 1841.
The college sometimes leased small plots of land to the village as an act of charity, leading to the construction of houses near the bridge. Scholars at the college also used to collect “salt” (money) from the inns of Eton High Street. This practice continued until 1845 when a scholar refused to associate with the inns because they were a “temptation” to Eton students. Eton was favourably[clarification needed] modernised and was the first village in the UK to have its own post office and modern drainage system.
By 1925 the town was described as more commercial than residential, with most of the buildings (apart from those of the school itself) belonging to businesses serving the schoolboys.
In about 1970, the bridge connecting Eton to Windsor was closed to all motor traffic.