Heritage and History of Windsor
The towers and battlements of the impressive Windsor Castle can be seen on every approach to the town of Windsor, remaining as the oldest and largest castle residence of its kind in the UK as an enduring testament to a fascinating medieval and royal tale - one that is entwined in the town.
Humble Beginnings to Thriving Transport Hub
Starting life as a Saxon village, its proximity to The River Thames and the high costs associated with moving goods by land meant that the site of Windsor was always destined to become a vital stop on trading routes between London and the rest of the country.
In 1070, William the Conqueror saw the growing settlement’s usefulness as both a trade and defensive outpost, fortifying the hill that the castle now rests upon and setting about building a community with the fortress at its heart, with the nearby forest for hunting and the flowing water nearby making for useful import and export routes.
Building of Windsor Castle
The iconic stone castle we see today in the centre of the town was originally built with wood, however the castle was partially rebuilt in stone by Henry II in 1170, which is now known as the Round Tower – improving upon what had originally been more of a limited motte and bailey structure.
Private royal dwellings and ceremonial spaces including the Great Hall were also added, with the curtain wall linking the castle towers also turned into stone – although not fully completed until the reign of Henry III, who also set about adding additional towers.
After a series of attacks by French forces in the early 1200s, parts of the castle required repairs and other improvements, including a larger chapel area and two more chapels where the king and queen’s quarters were held. After much money was spent, the castle was now regarded as a well-established royal residence that we now see today.
In 1277, Windsor was granted the rights of its townspeople to be able to regulate trade to and from the town, leading to a weekly market and two fairs held at certain times each year with the promise of generating interest in wares and further business across Berkshire.
After a period of financial decline in the 15th century after a recession hit the region, a reformed government including a mayor and two bailiffs helped return the town to prosperity, and only bouts of plague in the 16th and 17th centuries deterred the population from growing – and by the late 17th century, over 2,000 people occupied its streets.
Earning its status in England as a blossoming market town, and with the inclusion of prominent architectural feats including The Guildhall built by Sir Thomas Fritz and the Theatre Royal in 1793, Windsor was becoming a cultural centerpiece.
With a current population of around 32,000, Windsor has benefitted from rapid growth in the 19th century. A cast-iron bridge was erected over the Thames in 1824, before gas street lighting and a railway line connecting London to Windsor helped keep it at the forefront of contemporary developments.
A further period of growth occurred in the 20th century, with what was to become The Savill Gardens laid out across 35 acres by Sir Eric Savill himself in 1932 aiding the town in its image as an attractive countryside spot.
Museums, shopping centres and more have since been constructed, leaving us with the Windsor of today which continues to be a popular destination for history enthusiasts and culture-seeking families alike.