A view across the river from The Brocas
dated 1893 showing the initial stages of construction of the
promenade. To see a similar view of the promenade after it was
first completed, click
The Promenade at Barry Avenue, Windsor,
was first created in the early 1890s and has changed several
times in the 1900s, reflecting the increase in the river's attraction
as a leisure amenity rather than purely for commercial and travel
purposes as had been the case in earlier centuries.
There are records of coal being brought upstream
as long ago as 1367 to the Castle, and Cotswold stone being transported
by river for the construction of St George's Chapel in the late
1400s, but with the arrival in Windsor of the railways in 1849,
a new and faster transport system came into being that was nothing
short of revolutionary. Windsor was not alone in seeing the riverside
subsequently change into a leisure area with newly created walks
(promenades), coupled with tree planting and the provision of
boat hire and seating areas. There have been suggestions that
Alexandra Gardens should have extended to the river bank from
the outset, without the roadway (Barry Avenue) intervening, but
it was to be almost 100 years before plans were proposed (in
2002) to remove the road and link the gardens to the riverside
coupled with revised car parking areas. See Story. Come 2003 and a new Liberal Democrat
council and once again these plans were shelved.
Originally just a sloping bank to the
river, as illustrated in the Herbert Railton engraving above,
the 1890s development created Barry Avenue following the route
of the path to Clewer Church together with the first promenade.
The avenue was named after Sir Francis Tress Barry, MP for Windsor,
1890-1906. On the opposite side of the road, to the south, Alexandra Gardens was created
Approximately the same area of
The Promenade, Windsor. February 2000.
Work in progress [above] on the new riverside
promenade, with the GWR railway arches beyond and the two boathouses
used by Messrs. Boddy and subsequently by Arthur Jacobs, boat builders and hirers.
It is unclear where these boathouses were originally built. In
this view they appear to be on the main riverbank , but the boathouses
are on the small island, Jacobs Island, that remains to this
day. The boathouses had disappeared by the 1960s. Photo date
It is close by on this stretch of riverbank
that the well known steamer, 'Windsor Belle', was believed to
have been constructed in 1901 by E Bourgoine. Later, in 1923,
The 'New Windsor Castle' was constructed on Jacob's Island. Together
with 'The Empress of India' these launches were a very well known
sight on this reach of the Thames throught the 20th century.
The 'Windsor Belle' has survived in lovely condition, but both
'The Empress' and the 'Windsor Castle' were eventually broken
up in Sunbury in 2005 and 2009 respectively. There is more
about the Windsor steamers here.
It is likely that the floods of 1875,
1877 and 1894 had prompted the building-up of the bank as
an early form of flood defence for the town and refuse and rubble
had been tipped for a long period to raise the road level above
that of the area that was to become Alexandra
Gardens. It was certainly effective because in 1947, when
Windsor was flooded once more, Alexandra Gardens had to be pumped
dry after the floods had receded, as the waters were trapped
behind the embankment. [The Floods
The newly contoured banks formed a popular relaxation
area for visitors and Windsorians alike, and there have been
very many views published from the mid-19th century and throughout
the 20th century of Windsor from The Brocas. The earliest
photograph of Windsor, or so it claims, was taken from here.
Perhaps the earliest
photograph of Windsor? It was taken from The Brocas before
1863 when The Curfew Tower
A crowd gathers and a band plays
on the promenade during a Regatta early in the 1900s
A busy day on the promenade is illustrated
above, showing the sloping grass bank, flagpoles, young lime
trees and barrels planted with evergreen shrubs. At the top of
the bank was a wrought iron fence and hedge which was to last
until the mid 1930s when further development took place.
Swan uppers corral the swans on
the promenade in the reign of Edward VII, c. 1909. Note
the wooden bankside, barrels of shrubs and grassy bank.
Above is a view to the west, upstream,
in about 1913, when the grass had given way to a pathway and
the barrels removed. Note the 1908 Dyson Memorial
between the trees above the boys' heads. This is shown enlarged
further down this page. The boathouses in the distance by this
time had now been relocated on Jacob's Island.
The Ferry to the Brocas
The punts in the foreground belonged to
the ferryman who would take you across the river to the Brocas.
In Victorian times there was still a toll to be paid when crossing
Windsor Bridge, plus it was quite a detour around the foot of
the castle walls to get to the bridge. At that time neither Thames
Avenue, nor the riverside walk linking the promenade and Windsor
Bridge, existed and so a quick trip across the river on a punt
seemed an acceptable alternative. In the 1950s I recall the fare
was 3d, three old pennies, or about 1.5p in today's currency.
The ferryman poses midstream for
the camera in the very early 1900s. He used a quant pole to propel
his punt across the river by pushing the pole onto the riverbed.
The passengers would sit on wooden benches along each side of
(Extract from a tinted postcard view)
This image was first published
in 1896 and shows the ferry in the foreground and his passengers.
Above is an earlier view of the ferry from
the 1890s, quite possibly of the same ferryman, with either a
passenger holding onto a pole to steady the punt on the Brocas
side of the river, or perhaps helping the ferryman with a second
quant pole - unlikely! A quant
pole is long enough to push down to the river bed and so propel
the punt across the river at a healthy speed. The joke is that
if the pole gets stuck in the mud of the river bed, the 'quanter'
gets pulled into the water. The truth is, you let go!
The Dyson Memorial (Extract from
1913 photo reproduced above)
The Dyson Memorial
The Dyson Memorial
The Dyson Memorial was originally located
on Barry Avenue, opposite the junction with Goswell Road as illustrated
above, but is now located in Alexandra Gardens. The Memorial,
in the form of a drinking fountain, commemorated Thomas Dyson
who had founded 'Dyson and Sons, pianoforte dealers' in Thames
Street in 1865 and who had became Mayor in 1890. Thomas Dyson
actively promoted improvements in the town, such as the construction
of the promenade.
in August 2002
The riverside promenade, c.1913,
The Promenade from 1910
In the photograph above there are clearly
two paths and many seats along the length of the promenade. Also
boats for hire are seen lined up along the riverside.
A similar view but taken in 1926. Two visitors
to Windsor, 'Jack and Ivy', are seen walking east along the promenade.
They had earlier visited the castle.
Below is another view of the same area looking upstream.
It is hard to date precisely, but judging by tree growth and
the gentlemen's clothes we estimate 1920.
The promenade looking upstream,
perhaps in 1920, Note Jacob's boathouses in the distance on Jacob's
Island. On the curve of the promenade, in a break in the hedge,
the roof of the ferryman's ticket office can be seen
A hand-tinted version of a similar view.
There seems to be a picnic table constructed around the large
pine tree. The card is titled Alexandra Gardens, River Side,
Windsor, which is not strictly true, Alexandra Gardens being
on the other side of Barry Avenue. (From a postcard in the collection
of the RWWS, Nov. 2005)
This view is taken from Jacob's Island,
on the slipway, and looks towards the promenade. The rowing boats
are those of Messrs Jacob's. the boat houses would be immediately
behind the photographer, to the right of this view. Approximate
date 1910 and published by Valentine.
Barry Avenue and The Promenade
with Jacob's Island to the left.
Here is the same view with some colour
added by the postcard publisher Valentine. The colouring artist
has also taken the opportunity to add in some ladies too! The
ferryman is just visible in the distance.
The Promenade to the
This photograph is looking east towards the point at which the
1936 photo was taken.
Below is an earlier view from a similar point.
An 1880s view of approximately
the same area before work on the promenade was commenced.
A photograph taken adjacent to
Jacobs Island with a bridge across to the island.
The above photograph was taken in the 1890s.
In the background construction work is beginning on the promenade.
This view is from close by Jacob's Island
looking upstream towards Brunel's 'bowstring' Bridge (GWR to
Slough) probably around 1907. The sailing barge is to be seen
in a number of Windsor postcards of the time. (See also [Alexandra Gardens] where there
is a view of the gardens and the promenade taken from the arches
of the railway line to Slough.
The same location, but looking
downstream. Young willow trees seem to be planted by the river
- see close up below. In recent years some of these have since
fallen or been felled.
An extract from the above card
showing the young trees planted along the line of Barry Avenue
and what seems to be young willows close to the river bank. Shortly
after this post card was published the refreshment kiosk was
constructed, illustrated below.
The same area of The Promenade,
at the western end, near the GWR railway arches, in around 1912.
Baths Island is to the left.
A similar view of The Promenade
a year or two later, perhaps the summer of 1914. The card is
postmarked November 1914. The trees have grown a little in this
view and a lifebouy has now been installed on the grass slope.
The sailing ship, seen clearly in the picture below, is just
visible moored at Jacob's Island a short way downstream.
An early photographic view, probably
late 1870s, by George Washington Wilson illustrating the two
islands before they were joined to create Baths Island as we
know it today. © The Royal Windsor Website 2007
The Swimming Baths 1904 by F G O Stuart
We were delighted to discover this photograph
taken by F G O Stuart from the railway arch overlooking
the Swimming Baths. The sailing barge features in a number
of other views of this area including a contemporary view of
Alexandra Gardens. To the
left Baths Island seems now to be joined to Deadwater Ait. In
a map dated 1897, the two islands are shown as separate. Even
today, when the river levels rise, this is the point at which
the water first finds its way across and separates the islands
The picture shows the reconstruction in 1904 of the
Western Baths beside the railway bridge after they had been moved
downstream, out of public view, at the request of Queen Victoria
some years earlier. Please see our story The
Windsor Swimming Baths for more information.
Close examination of the picture, which has been
tinted by hand, shows evidence of construction work continuing.
The step ladder far left, two piles of planks far right, one
by a small corrugated iron hut, and the other by the fence beside
a second hut, as well as the outline of a wheel-barrow on the
pathway to the right, all suggest 'work in progress'. It is possible
that the large punt-like boat in the centre of the picture was
actually used by the builders to install the steps and artificial
riverbank. Beyond the area set aside for swimming centre left,
the bank of the former Deadwater Ait has been planted up with
shrubs between the trees. These may have been planted several
years earlier, judging by their size, We shall continue researching
the history of this area and would welcome any pointers or references
that readers may be able to come up with.
The Sailing Barge
We have found two photographs said to date
from October 1912 and illustrating some kind of 'inauguration'
with a visit from the Mayor and councillors and other local dignitaries.
If anyone has any further information we would be pleased to
hear what the background story is.
The Promenade photographed in 1936,
The 1930s Improvements
to the Promenade
In 1934 plans for further changes to the
promenade were proposed including the narrowing of Barry Avenue,
the removal of some of the lime trees, the construction of the
wall along the length of the promenade and the provision of permanent,
concrete pathways. In the photograph below, taken in 1936, it
can been seen that the original tree planting remains complete,
although in the years since a number of trees have been removed
as they matured. The changes were completed in 1936 and altered
the slope to the bank which was now more sharply 'stepped' with
the construction of upper and lower walls in stone. Reinforced
concrete posts featured electric lighting within elegant twisted
glass shades. Note that the boathouses remain on Jacob's Island
Jacob's boathouses, middle right, are on Jacob's Island
Here is another view from a similar position
but looking east. Although not clear in this postcard view, the
promenade extension through to Windsor Bridge has yet to be constructed,
dating this card to within a year or so of the promenade's modernisation
in 1935-36. The original 'flame-like' frosted glass shades are
clearly visible mounted on fluted columns, made from reinforced
The postcard view above dates from the
early 1950s. It is postmarked 1955. To the left the ferryman
can be seen posing rather awkwardly with his foot on a wall which
is just a little too high for the position to be comfortable!
His punt can be see lower left to take passengers across the
river to The Brocas. The small pleasure boat, 'Avon***' is just
visible and would be similar to 'The Angler' and 'Humble' which
also offered river trips to visitors. Once again the pair of
boathouses on Jacob's Island are clearly visible.
At the eastern end the promenade and steps
up to Windsor Bridge were not completed until a year or so later.
This postcard view shows the newly completed
promenade by the River Street slipway, but no access further
downstream along to the bridge.
Barry Avenue and refreshment kiosk.
Barry Avenue in the mid-1960s looking east
and the junction with Goswell Road. Note the car parking at that
time was on the far side of the road. At the time of writing,
2006, parking is now on the river side of the avenue.
The view along Barry Avenue to
the east. May 2002
The western end of Barry Avenue
adjacent to the entrance to Alexandra Gardens.
Some of the 1930s improvements have since
been removed, such as the reinforced concrete lamp posts with
twisted glass shades and some lengths of the wall, particularly
around the refreshment kiosk, which was altered in 2001.
Barry Avenue and the car park entrance
by the railway arches
Plans were announced in 2002 for the gardens
to be extended across Barry Avenue to the promenade but these
plans were scrapped in May 2003 when a new Liberal Democrat council
was elected. See Car Park
The Promenade and Barry
Avenue in 3D
The following 3D stereoviews date from the 1950s and come from a private, amateur collection.
The three dimensional effect can be seen using a stereoscopic viewer.
The Royal Windsor website has such viewers available from time to time.
To contact us, please email Thamesweb.
A view of the Caf`é
Barry Avenue and the Promenade
Pleasure launches by the Prom with
a rather bare Fireworks Eyot (Pr. Ait) beyond
By the slipway near theThames Hotel
Self drive motor boats moored at
their pontoon by Wren's Old House Hotel
The lawns to the west of the railway
arches - a putting green until the late 1980s.
Beyond the Arches
The boathouse and Leisure Centre are both visible in the distance.
The ISC Boathouse in 1937
The former baths area upstream
of the railway bridge
In the mid-1930s the promenade beyond the
arches of the GWR railway line, was modernised. A putting green
was created immediately to the west, upstream of the arches,
stretching as far as the ISC boathouse.
The backwater by the arches was used as
the swimming baths which ran from around 50 yards upstream of
the arches, under the railway bridge, and extended some 50 yards
downstream. A small foot bridge, variously painted green, silver
or blue through the ages, used to be installed under the railway
bridge. It was later moved to the downstream end of Baths Island,
perhaps in the 1960s, and later back to beside the railway bridge
to allow cruisers access to overnight moorings in the backwater.
September 2006. The handrail just
above water level
The area of the swimming baths
upstream of the railway arches in around 1947 before being dismantled
The lawns are now regularly spoiled by the presence of Canada
Geese. Their droppings, their webbed feet and the constant grazing
all combine to turn the lawns into a messy morass in wet weather
and not very pleasant in good weather. This was certainly not
the case in the 50s where the riverside was solely the domain
of swans and ducks. The Canada Geese are a comparatively
recent arrival and should be culled! They are a nuisance
to say the least.
is still visible on Baths Island
The stonework from the end of the
Between the putting green and the swimming
area was a grassy slope, plus a large rockery and an artificial
stream constructed from concrete and stone, meandering between
the putting greens and the pathway along the river. At one point,
close to the boathouse, the path crossed the stream via a miniature
hump-backed bridge. As a child I recall wishing that this stream
still flowed, though I have vague memories from the 1950s of
each section still containing water.
remains around this tree by the boathouse
To be continued
Later, perhaps in the 1960s, the watercourse
was filled with soil and planted up, but with the advent of the
Leisure Centre development, all of this area, including the putting
green, was turned into lawns with a small shrubbery on the higher
ground, near the river, and which in recent times now features
a wooden bridge.
To contact us,