Just across the footbridge from Windsor lies the village of Eton, rightly described by many as one of the most beautiful villages in England.
Essentially comprising just the High Street which runs from the Thames, up past Eton College and off toward Slough, with a few smaller lanes heading east and west for short distances the history of the village is inextricably tied to the history of the famous public school.
The parish of Eton can be traced back to the Domesday book where we find Walter, the son of Other, owning the manor of Eton, comprising twelve hides, of which eight carucates were arable land. The manor previously belonged to Queen Eddid, the wife of Edward the Confessor.
(A carucate was the land that a plough team of eight oxen could work in a year)
The story of Eton as we know it began in 1440 when King Henry VI founded the “The King’s College of Our Lady of Eton beside Windsor.” After more than 600 years it is still a working school and visitors can enjoy daily tours of the buildings as long as they keep the noise down when close to classrooms. The school was originally to be for the poor boys of Windsor. Oh, how times change!
The Eton Wall game is played here with the big match of the season being played on St Andrew’s Day. This is a wonderful oddball of a contest with fiendishly obscure rules where two sides of 10 boys each form a scrum and push a ball backwards and forwards along a wall for an hour, grazing elbows knees and ribs as they do so. No punching is allowed, but pushing someone’s head with your fist in an attempt to prise them away from the wall is a correct way of playing the ‘game’. November 2009’s 0-0 draw between the King’s Scholars and Oppidans marked the 100th consecutive annual St. Andrew’s Day match in which no goals were scored by either team. Former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was a noted played of the Wall Game at Eton.
The village grew up to service the school (which doesn’t explain the high proportion of pubs along the high street!). Eton College is one of the most expensive and prestigious schools in England and so alongside the tuck shop you will find a branch of Coutts and Co (the Queen’s own bank) A sports car dealership and a couple of antique shops.
Humphrey Lyttelton (1921 -2008), The famous English jazz musician and chairman of BBC Radio’s long running ‘antidote to panel games’ I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue was born in Eton.
There is an excellent Natural History Museum in Eton. Open to the public on Sunday afternoons, it offers a wide ranging display of exhibits and some really well written information boards. It has been a learning place for generations of schoolboys.
Thanks to Nick Braithwaite for this lovely shot of Eton from the air, taken high above Windsor and showing the River Thames in all her splendour.
Just across the river thames from Windsor Castle on the riverbank at Eton is a glorious riverside meadow, great for picnics, called the Brocas.
The Brocas meadow is south facing which means there is a lot of summer sun.
The view of Windsor castle and the river is why many people come to the brocas each year. The late afternoon sun lights the castle giving a view like no other.
The name comes from the Brocas family who were local nobility in the 13th Century, notably Sir Bernard Brocas, Master of the Horse to King Edward III, and good friend of the Black Prince. Sir Bernard Brocas died in 1395 and was buried in St. Edmund’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey.
To get to the Brocas from Windsor, cross the bridge and take the first road to your left. Now walk to the end and through a short alley and you will find yourself at the edge of the brocas.
Further along the river the views are lovely in the afternoon
Riverbank at Windsor and Eton, just past the Brocas.
Every summer there is a fair held on the brocas.
One noteable street to the east of the High Street in Eton is King Stable Street which, as the name implies, was where royal stables once stood. These appear to have been in use in the 16th and 17th Centuries although may have been much earlier too. The royal stables were on the north bank of the thames so that the King could travel by splendid, but very heavy, coach to london without putting undue stress on the rickety Windsor town bridge.