History, situation & administration

Windsor is on the south bank of the river Thames about 20 miles west of London. The Ordnance Survey grid reference is SU965765. Today it is lies between the M25 & the M4 motorways. It is in the historic county of Berkshire (although this is no longer an administrative body), and the hundred of Ripplesmere. The Thames was the main highway into London. The early name Windelsora probably refers to a windlass on the riverbank. This early settlement was where Old Windsor is today, around the Anglo-Saxon palace by the river.

William I chose to build a castle, one of a ring to defend London, on the cliff at Clivore (now Clewer) - another old parish. The old palace was still used as a royal residence until Henry I decided to move into the castle. The settlement that grew up around the castle was called New Windsor, a name it kept officially until 1974. It was given royal borough status by a charter of 1277 and this charter gave the merchants of the town the right to form a guild and hold a weekly market. The town became very prosperous during the rebuilding of the castle which brought many workers to the town around 1227 and again around 1350. In the 14th century it was made the chief town of the county. Many pilgrims came to the town to visit the shrines in St George’s Chapel. From 1302 Windsor sent two members to parliament.

In the 1400s the court moved away and the town became poor, though the rebuilding of St George‘s Chapel from 1475 brought an improvement in fortune. By the 1520s the royal family began to use the castle again so prosperity returned. The English Civil War saw the New Model Army coming to Windsor, and soldiers being billeted in the town - as many as 12 in one inn. Excise officers in 1686 said there were 339 guest beds available in the town. In George III’s time two barracks were built to relieve the situation.

In 1673 the first regular stagecoach service to & from London was set up. A new Town Hall was built in 1689 and the statues placed on it during Queen Anne’s reign.

There was a bridge over the Thames at Windsor which needed repairing in 1236. The wooden bridge lasted until 1822 when the present cast-iron one was built in 1824. All people and vehicles crossing had to pay tolls until 1898. In 1706 Queen Anne paid for a free bridge over the Thames at Datchet.

Windsor is now administratively in the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, one of the six Unitary Authorities that replaced the Royal County of Berkshire. The earliest surviving corporation accounts date from 1514 and are in the New Windsor borough archives to be found in the Berkshire Record Office (BRO) in Reading.

The population of Windsor in the late 17th century was about 2,000. By 1801 it had risen to 3,361, 5,328 in 1831, 6,734 in 1851 and 9,500 in 1901. In the 2001 census the population of the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead was 133,626; by 2011 it had risen to 144,566.

The civil registration district was Windsor from 1837-1974 but then changed to Windsor and Maidenhead. The area covered can be found at: or genuki/reg/districts/windsor/html


Windsor wills proved in the Archdeaconry Court of Berkshire between 1480 & 1837 can be read in the Berkshire Record Office (BRO); after 1837 seek out at First Avenue House, 42-49 High Holborn, London 020 7947 6043/6939.

Parishes & churches

There are three parishes in New Windsor and one in Old Windsor.

Parish of New Windsor

There is no mention of a church in New Windsor until the 12th century. The castle and the new settlement were probably still counted as Clewer.

Anglican churches:

  • Parish church of St John the Baptist - in 1184 the church of St John the Baptist & the chapel at Old Windsor were granted to Waltham Abbey until the Dissolution when

they went to the Crown. The church was repaired many times, but in 1820 it was found to be unsafe & demolished. The new New Windsor Parish church of St John the Baptist was opened in 1822. The parish registers of St John the Baptist church are in the BRO, (C1559-1988. M1559-1967, B 1559-1988) and there is a transcript 1559-1837.

  • Holy Trinity Church - Holy Trinity Church was consecrated in 1844 and their registers are in the BRO (C1844-1965, M 1844-1989, no burials). A daughter church St Saviour’s was built in River Street in 1876.

  • All Saints, Frances Road - All Saints, Frances Road was consecrated in 1864, but registers in BRO run from 1897-1964 for christenings & 1867-1966 marriages.

There are also some Anglican baptisms registered at King Edward VII Hospital from 1943-1947.

There was a Roman Catholic chapel in Hermitage Lane, Clewer from 1826 which was replaced in 1868 by St Edward’s R C church. Their registers run from 1825 C, 1855 M and 1871 B.

Records of Non-conformist churches are not so well preserved. BRO has some records from the Independent (Congregational) Chapel in William Street - C1781-1836, B 1833-1837 & Trustees records 1832-1930.

The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel has deposited records C 1823-1837 & some other records 1825-1894.

Victoria Street Baptist Chapel, built 1838, is represented by some Memorial Inscriptions.

The parish of Clewer

This is part of the modern town and has two Anglican churches:

  • The parish church of St Andrew’s Clewer - it has deposited registers from 1653-1971

  • St. Stephen’s – has registers C 1871-1910 M 1871-1972.

St George’s Chapel in the Castle is a Royal Peculiar - independent of the bishop. It has C1609-1677, M1627-1871 & MIs at the Chapel.

Spital Cemetery Chapel was used for some christenings from 1867-1874.

The Parish of Dedworth

It is to the west of the town centre with an Anglican parish church of All Saints, Dedworth, built in the 1860s and the deposited registers are C1944-2001, M1948-1987 with some gaps, no burials.

Dedworth Green Baptist church has deposited some records from 1890-1966, and baptisms 1963-1999.

St Mark’s RC church Dedworth has M1958-77, B1977- to the present day in the church.

Pre 1944 Anglican CMB may be in Bray parish.

Parish of Old Windsor

Located to the south of the town centre, with an Anglican parish church dedicated to St Peter and St Andrew, Old Windsor, this had a fire in 1772 which destroyed the historic records, so BRO has C1772-1898, M1755-1834, B1772-1920. BRO has Bishops’ Transcripts from 1612-24, 1628-9, 1631-2, 1634-6, 1668-9, 1671-1704, 1713-1836.

Burial grounds

Early burials took place in churchyards, but they ran out of space. St John the Baptist Church used ground on Madeira Walk, above Bachelors’ Acre, until that was full. In 1851 the graveyards were closed. The new cemetery was laid out in St Leonard’s Road, Spital and consecrated in 1858. A cemetery was built in Old Windsor, with a chapel added in 1866.

These cemeteries were open to all denominations. Some of the records are with the Cemeteries Dept at the Town Hall, Maidenhead.


Two railway companies opened lines and stations in Windsor in 1849 – the South Western to Black Potts which in 1851 was extended to Windsor & Eton Riverside, and the Great Western to Windsor Central.

Hospitals & workhouse

The first hospital in Windsor was probably the leper hospital founded in 1168, which was given land in Windsor Forest in 1252 and in 1462 was given to Eton College. In 1575 there was a Pest house for plague victims, rebuilt in 1604. In 1818 a free dispensary for the relief of the sick poor was established with support from Queen Charlotte. It moved to Bachelors’ Acre in 1834. In 1909 a new King Edward VII Hospital & Dispensary was opened on its present site. It no longer has wards, but is home to many clinics, The Prince of Wales Eye Unit and the Parapet Breast Screening Centre.

The first workhouse for Windsor was set up around 1731 in Sheet St. In 1835 a Poor Law Union was formed for the parishes of Clewer, Egham, New Windsor & Dedworth, Old Windsor, Sunninghill & Thorpe (some of these in nearby Surrey). The new workhouse was built at Crimp Hill in Old Windsor and inmates were moved in during 1840. It remained there until 1948 when it was taken over by King Edward VII Hospital and used as a maternity ward until 1967 and children’s wards until 1970. The hospital finally closed its activities there in 1991. The building has now been turned into luxury apartments.


In 1725 a charity or free school was built in the corner of the churchyard of St John the Baptist with places for 40 boys & 30 girls. This school continued in many forms and on different sites until, as Princess Margaret Royal Free School, it was closed in 2000. In 1820 the National School, for children of Anglican families, was established, followed in 1841 by the British School for noncomformist children. Two years later the Royal School for children of royal employees was opened. During the late 1800s many Church Schools were opened and closed.

In 1906 St Stephen’s Senior Girls School was opened and in 1944 it was renamed Princess Margaret Rose School when the princess became its patron. The Windsor County Boys School was opened in 1908 and moved to Maidenhead Road in 1938. In 1920 the Windsor County Girls School opened. In 1939, thousands of evacuees from London arrived in Windsor so school hours had to be changed to fit them in.

From 1911 -1942 the Imperial Services College was in Windsor, but in 1942 it merged with Haileybury School and relocated to Hertfordshire.

Further Education was provided by Windsor Technical Institute until 1952 when East Berks College was built. The Brigidine Convent School opened in 1947.

Modern times

Charles Knight published the 1st edition of the Windsor & Eton Express in 1812 and it continues to this day. There is not much manufacture in the town. The main industries are tourism, banking & finance, computers and pharmaceuticals. Many residents commute to Slough or London.


Article contributed by Olwen Mundye




Berkshire Record Office holds many Windsor records - tel 0118 901 5132

Windsor Library local Studies Department - tel 01753 743941

Windsor Museum local history collection - tel 01628 796829

Berkshire FHS Research Centre – tel 0118 950 9553

RBWM Town Hall - tel 01628 683800

Also see,_Berkshire

Additional information