The History of Windsor

The name of Windsor comes from the Old English name Windles-ore which means “winch by the riverside”. Until 1974 the town now known as Windsor was called New Windsor.

Some Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman remains have been found in the Windsor region.

The success of the town has always been linked to the presence of a royal castle and the area chosen by William The Conqueror in the late 11th century in the area now called Old Windsor, three miles from the town of Windsor, had probably previously been a Saxon royal settlement. The motte and bailey castle built by William The Conqueror in New Windsor was noted in the Domesday book as Windsor Castle.

The town’s royal roots ensured an elevated status and the royal patronage led to it being named chief town of the county and given royal borough status.

Continued work on improved and extending Windsor Castle was accelerated during the 14th century reign of Edward III, when the scale of the work meant that it was regarded as the largest non-religious building project in the country. The presence of the Castle also brought tradesmen, merchants and many others to Windsor.

The shrine of the assassinated Henry VI and the piece of the True Cross contained in St GeorgeĀ“s Chapel led to Windsor becoming a popular 15th pilgrimage site, second only in the country to Canterbury. This in turn led to a number of inns and lodging houses springing up, bringing more prosperity to the town.

The 16th and 17th period is considered as Windsor’s most decadent spell, with poverty and poor standards of living showing the decline in the town’s fortunes and its ability to attract wealthy pilgrims and merchants.

The decision of George III to move to Windsor in the late 18th century led to another period of development and the resurgence of the town as a major force. This was continued and expanded upon in Victorian times as the town benefitted from the construction of two railway stations and the visits of many of the European royal families. During this period a number of old buildings were demolished to allow the rebuilding of the town.

In 1917 the British royal family changed their surname from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor, anti-German feeling during the First World War convincing them that the name of the town was a more suitable option.