Windsor Bridge

295 Frith photographs of Windsor

1172: It is likely there was a bridge here

Osbert de Bray, fermer of Windsor, accounted for £4 6s. 6d. derived from toll on vessels passing under Windsor Bridge.

1224 & 1236: Oak trees were felled in Windsor Forest for the construction of a bridge
1313:  Letters patent issued for the collection of royal dues on vessels passing Windsor Bridge
1367:  The cost of carrying coal by barge from London to Windsor is 1 shilling a  chaldron
1443:  Eton College granted free passage over and under Windsor Bridge
1730:  Daniel Beaumont, starchmaker, was prohibited from selling wine on a ship near Windsor Bridge on the Eton side, without a licence;  the scholars of the college being enticed to spend their time in idleness on board the said vessel.

1734: Act of Parliament set Windsor Bridge tolls -

For every hearse or coach passing over the said bridge with a dead corpse: 6 shillings & 8 pence
For every hackney coach (not a Freeman's) - for every passage: 2 pence
For every load, passage or carriage with household goods, wool, earthenware, charcoal, and leather: 4 pence
For every load, passage or carriage, with corn, hay, straw, dung, wood, and peat: 2 pence
For evey score of sheep: 2 pence
For every head of oxen, hogs, and other cattle: ½ penny
For every horse loaded with hampers or otherwise: ½ penny
For every barge going under bridge down stream: 6 pence

1737: Windsor Bridge in danger of collapse

1738: A Voyage up the Thames, Weddell -

We now came in sight of Windsor, which ... we were well pleased with: It does not appear to much advantage from the water, but has a cleaner look at some distance, than any place we had yet seen in our voyage.
We ordered our vessel to sail quite up to the bridge, where, for no reason that I can tell, unless it were a bias for learning, we landed on the side of Eaton, about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, on the 4th day of March, 1737-8, after a passage of near 22 hours.
We had no sooner got on shore, but we found ourselves more fatigued than we expected, and determined to repair to the first house for public reception, that by its outward appearance proposed genteel accommodation within.
With this design we wandered a prodigious way to no purpose, or our fatigue lengthened it ... at last our wishing eyes discovered the College, a stately old building, and finely situated for the purpose; and almost over against it ... a tavern or inn, or both, which promised the best entertainment.
Here we stopped to dispute whether we should view the College tonight or in the morning; but perceiving each other scarce able to keep our legs long enough to determine, we entered the house by unanimous consent.

1742: Collier –

A wooden bridge over the river Thames joins Windsor and Eton, so called from its low situation amongst the waters, and it is a gravelly soil, it is observed that no place is more healthy than this.

Before Romney Lock was built in 1794, Windsor Bridge was a difficult place for the towing of barges. From the Eton Book of the River -

... when a barge [going upstream from Black Potts] reached the tail end of Romney Island the tow-rope had to be cast off and the horses had to be taken up to the towing bridge across the conduit [where the modern lock is] and down Romney Island back to the barge in order to tow it up what is now the weir stream to the top of the island.
Here it was made fast, while the horses, poor brutes! no matter what the weather, were compelled to swim across the top end of the conduit to the Windsor bank, where a rough track not much above the level of the stream led from the top of Pearman's Close up a considerable slope, now replaced by a flight of steps, to Windsor Bridge, as is shown in an oil painting of 1763 ...

Windsor Bridge, Oil Painting, 1763 Windsor Bridge, Oil Painting, 1763
Seen from the Windsor Bank looking upstream

The embankment [below bridge on the Windsor side, Left bank] now used as a wharf for pleasure steamers is the work of the nineteenth century.
The ropes were carried across in a boat and then the barge was taken a stage further to the bridge.
Up to 1769, in order to achieve this, horses, men and ropes lumbered into and right across Thames Street, bringing all ordinary traffic to a standstill. In that year it was made illegal and offenders were punished by the confiscation of one horse with all its gear and a fine of forty shillings.
An alternative method had to be found; so a winch was erected on a platform projecting from the Windsor shore at the bridge, [ which can be clearly seen in the 1763 picture above ] two or three tow-ropes were knotted together and hitched round the winch, and the horses hauled downstream in order to drag the barge up. It is not surprising to learn that under this system many tow-ropes were broken, while the mortality among horses was considerable, forced, as they were, first to swim the conduit while hot and tired after a hard day's work, and then to stand about while the necessary arrangements were made for these complicated arrangements.

1792: Picturesque Views on the Thames, Samuel Ireland -

Windsor Castle & Bridge Ireland 1792
Windsor Castle & Bridge, Samuel Ireland, 1792

1793: Report on the state of the river between Staines and Maidenhead declares that only one of the dozen or more openings in Windsor Bridge could be navigated.

1793: Windsor Bridge, Boydell -

Windsor Bridge Boydell 1793
Windsor Bridge. June 1, 1793. J. Farington R.A. delt. J.C. Stadler sculpt.
(Published) by J. & J. Boydell, Shakespeare Gally. Pall Mall & (No. 90) Cheapside London.

1811: The Thames -

... what would a foreigner say, were he to find this tottering, ruinous, rotten old fabric, not only in the high road to the palace of the King of Great Britain, but in its very purlieus?
The navigation at this place being obstructed by the shallowness of the river, a lock was constructed about ten years ago : the canal begins near the bridge, on the Berkshire side, as is seen in the view, and falls again into the main river at Eton wharf. This view is taken from the ayte[sic] below the bridge.

Eton Bridge, 1811
Eton Bridge, 1811

1819: Decision to build a new bridge.  The designer was Charles Hollis and the new material used was cast iron.


Windsor - proud, fascinating spot,
In Britain none can with thee vie,
Thy views sublime are equalled not,
Like thine no prospects feast the eye.

From the Terrace round each hill
Nature a landscape doth display,
Which to portray defies the skill
Of artists, or the poet's lay.

Thy groves and meads are rich array'd
In Vegetation's choicest sweets.
Thro' which majestic Thames displayed,
Meandering, Grandeur's height completes.

Kings well may leave the cares of state,
Tranquil retreat, to fly to thee;
In rural pomp and splendor great,
Thy seat is - Nature's majesty.

1822: Cooke -

... Eton Bridge, a tottering, ruinous, rotten old fabric ...

1822: Cornerstone of new bridge laid by the Duke of York.  The river bed at this site was said to be quicksand.  At this date so fierce was the current through the new works … “two stone boats sunk at the Cobler”

1824: from Knight's Quarterly Magazine -

Gerard complaineth of the municipality of Windsor for prolonging the building of an iron bridge over the Thames, and thus apostrophizeth in verse:-

I stood at Windsor on the bridge of wood,
A castle and a college on each hand,
And marked the iron arches o'er the flood.
Their ponderous length, by slow degrees, expand.
I wish they'd build them quicker, if they could.
'Tis a long time since first the bridge was planned :
And I'm beginning to dislike taxation,
And grudge my half-pence to the corporation.

1824: Bridge completed at a cost of £15,000. 
1825: A Guide to Windsor -

The new bridge, connecting Windsor and Eton, erected by Mr. Charles Hollis upon the site of the ancient wooden structure, which had become greatly decayed, is 200 feet in length from end to end, by 26 feet in width, and consists of three arches of cast iron, the ribs of which spring from substantial piers of granite; the centre arch is 55 feet span. The two inner piers are ornamented with circular tablets and wreaths of foliage. A neat iron rail, with recesses over the piers, having ornamental lamp-irons, and receding circularly at the extremities, finishes the whole, and gives it an appearance of considerable lightuess and elegance. A small lodge for the residence of the toll-keeper is erected on the Windsor side.
The first stone of this handsome structure was laid on the 17th of July, 1822, with great ceremony and masonic splendour, by his Royal Highness the Duke of York. The Corporation of Windsor, attended by the officers and members of the Provincial Lodge in full costume, the Duke of York, and several of the nobility and military officers in his suite, the Fellows of Eton College, Canons of Windsor, &c. &c. with music and banners, formed in procession at the Guildhall, and proceeded, under a discharge of cannon, to the scite[sic] of the bridge, where, after depositing in a glass vase the various coins of the present reign, his Royal Highness placed the stone with the usual ceremonies, and strewing the surface of it with corn, wine, and oil, he concluded an impressive and interesting ceremony with the following address: -
"May the Great Architect of the Universe bless the work this day commenced,
and may this structure conduce to the harmony of the towns of Windsor and Eton."
The bridge was opened to the public on the 1st of June, 1824 ; and a toll is taken upon horses and carriages, whether of burden or pleasure, without any exemption in favour of the burgesses of Windsor, as was the case prior to the removal of the old bridge.

1825: The New Windsor Bridge, drawing -

Windsor Bridge, 1825
Windsor Bridge, 1825

Windsor Bridge, 1834
Windsor Bridge, 1834, Tombleson

1838: 'The Pilgrims on the Thames' by Pierce Brosnan -

The next day, Windsor Castle was the great object of attraction with the Pilgrims; the morning was inviting, the row up the river truly pleasant, and every thing went on as agreeably as they could wish; but during the time they were resting upon their oars, Makemoney was describing to the ladies some anecdotes, connected with the above ancient palace of royalty.
"Windsor Castle," said he, " is thus described by Hogarth, in his Analysis of Beauty ; it is a noble instance of quantity. The hugeness of its few distinct parts, strikes the eye with uncommon grandeur at a distance as well as nigh. It is quantity with simplicity which makes it one of the finest objects in the kingdom ; though void of any regular order of architecture."
A boat full of Eton boys, whom it should seem, were determined for a spree, rowed right against them ...
This outrageous conduct of the Eton boys so enraged Makemoney, that in his exertions to catch hold of the ringleader, he missed his aim, and fell into the water. This accident produced loud shouts and peals of laughter, during the time Flourish and Turf were rescuing Makemoney from his perilous situation ; if not from a watery grave ! The Eton scholars singing -
"Overboard he vent; Chip, chow, cherry chow, fel-de-dol-de-da! How drunk the old chap is ; well, he is only mixing his grog; perhaps adding a little water to his heavy whet ! It will cool his courage, at all events. Ha! ha ! ha !"
Then dashing their oars into the water - splashing the Pilgrims all over.

Pilgrims on the Thames, 1838
Pilgrims on the Thames, 1838

1843: William Harrison Ainsworth, Windsor Castle (in the time of Henry VIII) -

On the left, a view altogether different in character, though scarcely less beautiful, was offered to the gaze. It was formed by the town of Windsor, then not a third of its present size, but incomparably more picturesque in appearance, consisting almost entirely of a long straggling row of houses, chequered black and white, with tall gables, and projecting storeys skirting the west and south sides of the castle, by the silver windings of the river, traceable for miles, and reflecting the glowing hues of the sky, by the venerable College of Eton, embowered in a grove of trees, and by a vast tract of well-wooded and well- cultivated country beyond it, interspersed with villages, churches, old halls, monasteries, and abbeys.

Windsor Bridge, 1850
Windsor Bridge, 1850

1866: A postcard showing Windsor Castle from the Bridge published by James Valentine & Co in 1866. Photograph probably taken by James Valentine, who died in 1879. From the University of St Andrew's online collection -

Windsor Bridge, Postcard 1866
Postcard showing Windsor Castle from the Bridge published by James Valentine & Co in 1866

1880: William Morris, Putney to Kelmscot -

Wednesday Aug. 11. ... towed on to Runnymede calling at Staines for soda water, ginger beer & milk.
Hove to for tea on Left bank; boiled water etc. about 6.30
William Morris barked his shin on re-entering the 'Ark' and gave vent to his feelings by another "By D---", which was big enough to be recorded.
(note by author 'this narrative may and should be filled up at frequent intervals with such expletives as may seem to fit the occasion without fear of corrupting the text or in any way leaning towards exaggeration of the facts)
Towed on to Windsor Bridge which was reached at 8.15. Sunset beautful and very hazy.
Whole party lodged at Bridge Hotel. Supper (Note lemon squash). Bed early. The 'Ark' was moored at Goodman's and a youth received 5 shillings for taking care of her for the night. Very hot day, hazy evening, dark night, rather cooler.
WM indisposed.
Thursday August 12.
DM & RCG bathed below the weir at 8 o'clock: Breakfast 8.30. Whole party (except Mrs. M.) went to see Eton College & Fields. (In spite of gammoning Eton is very fine: chapel a sublime late Gothic little old quad & cloisters beyond every thing delightful: item looking from Clewer meadows up to Windsor is not an every day sight.)
Bought vegetables and bread and also large quantities of fruit: also a very large cucumber (bought by Cornell Price)
Started at 11.30. WM convalescent

1888: Windsor Bridge, Henry Taunt -

Windsor Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1888
Windsor Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1888
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT05262

1897: Tolls abandoned. It seems that this was because the legal basis for them was challenged and found to be inadequate.

1929: A Thames Survey -

Windsor Bridge was erected in 1822. It consists of three arches in iron with iron balustrade and stone piers. The mouldings of the piers and the old toll-house on the Berkshire bank are in the Greek Revival manner.

1938: Concerns about cracks in bridge

1955: Windsor Bridge, Francis Frith -

1955:  Windsor Bridge, Francis Frith
1955:  Windsor Bridge, Francis Frith

1970: Vehicles banned from Windsor Bridge, cutting off Windsor from Eton by this direct route.
2000: It was found that there was insufficient capacity to carry "unmanaged pedestrian loading".  Structures to prevent pedestrians filling the centre of the bridge were added.
2002: I witnessed a large launch making a determined attack on Windsor Bridge in 2002 - without any evident damage to the bridge - though the launch fittings were well and truly demolished as it tried to take a short cut under the curve of the arch.  The noise as its upperworks sprang from one rib to the next was quite spectacular!

Windsor Bridge 2004
Windsor Bridge in 2004, from upstream

John Eade, 100 Miles completed, Lechlade to Windsor Bridge, 2004
John Eade, 100 Miles completed, Lechlade to Windsor Bridge, 2004

Windsor Bridge, Doug Myers © 2005
Windsor Bridge, Doug Myers © 2005

Firework Ait

Left bank above bridge

The Brocas

Right bank

1792: Samuel Ireland -

Windsor Castle 1792
Windsor Castle, Samuel Ireland, 1792

1873: Taunt's Map and Guide to the Thames -

The view of Windsor from the Brocas is the grandest on the River Thames. It should be seen with the red light of sunset glinting upon it; then the warm lights, contrasting so finely with the grey shadows, make every part stand out with boldness and reality; and the noble round tower, raising its head far above the surrounding buildings, gives a breadth and airiness to the whole. ...

Lantern Slide (1883-1908) - Windsor from the Brocas
Pictures by W.C.Hughes. Thanks to Pat Furley, research by Dr Wilson.

1900: Boats for hire on the Brocas -

Boats for hire on the Brocas in 1900
Boats for hire on the Brocas in 1900

Windsor from ‘The Genius of the Thames’ by Thomas Love Peacock –

The Norman king's embattled towers
Look proudly o'er the subject plain,
Where, deep in Windsor's regal bowers,
The sylvan muses hold their reign.
From groves of oak, whose branches hoar
Have heard primeval tempests roar,
Beneath the moon's pale ray they pass
Along the shore's unbending grass,
And songs of gratulation raise,
To speak a patriot monarch's praise.

Deadwater Ait

Left bank opposite Brocas

1906: Windsor, Mortimer Menpes -

Windsor, Mortimer Menpes, 1906
Windsor, Mortimer Menpes, 1906

1929: Windsor, Francis Frith -

1929:  Windsor, Francis Frith
1929:  Windsor, Francis Frith

1963:  Frozen Thames at Windsor
Frozen Thames at Windsor, 1963,
thanks to Jeremy Worth