Arthur Jacobs was born in 1863 at the
old Anglers Rest, an inn which stood on the site occupied by
the Thames Hotel, built around 1906-1907, and of which he was
to become proprietor for 22 years. Prior to that he was licensee
of the Watermans Arms at Eton. As a boy he attended Eton Porny
School and from his earliest days to the close of his life
he was either a swimmer or took the greatest of interest in it.
At the age of ten years Arthur Jacobs went to Eastbourne
to take part in a high diving competition, an open event in which
some of the best divers in the world took part. He won the contest
and this was, perhaps the beginning of a wonderful career in
the swimming world. Even before this, when he was but eight years
old, he assisted in the saving of the lives of two little girls
off the Cobbler. His next exploit was to participate in the saving
of the lives of two boys at Athens, across the river from Windsor
Racecourse, and he also figured in the rescue of a gentleman
whose boat had upset.
It was on 7th January 1894, that Arthur Jacobs performed
one of the bravest deeds of his life. He gallantly saved a young
woman named Elizabeth Burridge who fell into the river when the
ice across the Thames to the Brocas gave way. For this act of
conspicuous courage, which involved diving under the ice, risking
of his own life, he was the recipient of a testimonial from over
200 townspeople who subscribed to the presentation. The gift,
which included a cheque for over £21, was made on behalf
of the inhabitants by the Mayor of the Borough of Windsor.
On another occasion he saved a Mr Wells and his two
daughters when they fell through the ice, and he rescued two
girls when he was just eleven years old.
Some years ago a Limehouse man, visiting Windsor,
had the misfortune to fall into the river and was in peril of
drowning. Arthur Jacobs without hesitation dived into the water
and rescued the man. Subsequently there was a remarkable demonstration
at Limehouse Town Hall, where Arthur Jacobs's bravery was suitably
honoured by a well-earned testimonial.
It is said that if anyone ever got into trouble in
the water he would never rest until he got them ashore, without
thought to himself. The list of his exploits is too numerous
to record, but it is thought that during a lifetime spent by
the river he had been instrumental in rescuing over sixty people.
He received three certificates from the Royal Humane Society
and also the gold, silver and bronze medals for deeds of bravery.
Arthur Jacobs came from a family of established carpenters,
his mother Sarah was a daughter of Roger Tolladay, a successful
boat builder, who originated from Lambeth, and ran his own company
in Eton, building racing boats for Eton College.
It is not surprising with that background that Arthur
Jacobs began his passenger boat company. In his capacity as a
riverside hotel and boat proprietor he was one of the most popular
and familiar figures on the upper reaches of the Thames. Arthur
Jacobs was never afraid to advance with the times and the building
of the New Windsor Castle, one of the largest and most up to
date of up-river steam launches, was a big venture that he undertook
in 1923. The steamer was constructed using the latest methods
on Jacobs Island, adjoining the promenade. The launching of the
vessel created quite a stir in the town at the time, with children
being given the day off school to watch. The 'New Windsor Castle'
was launched stern first from the slipway which was built facing
upstream because the area downstream of the island was used for
mooring and letting small craft. Some years ago, David Pickin
rediscovered the slipway and restored and recommissioned it.
It was in use up to the 1960's.
A view downstream from Jacobs
Island showing the rowing boats for hire and the earlier promenade
An interesting little tale... When Lance
Summers, boat builders, arrived to build the Windsor Castle and
the Grand Duchess they asked for assistance to carry their anvil
onto the island. Clifford Davey the captain of the Empress of
India, who was a tremendously strong man, picked up the anvil
and put it on his shoulder and walked across to the island. When
the boat building had finished Cliff was asked to take the anvil
back. His comment was "I carried it over, you take it back!"
The anvil was so heavy that two of us had difficulty lifting
it so the anvil was left there and the company still has it.
The New Windsor Castle
The New Windsor Castle turns
in to Windsor Promenade
The boathouses on Jacob's Island where she was built are beyond.
The Windsor Belle in 1901
Other boats in the Jacobs fleet were
the Woodland Lily, The Duchess and The Welbeck as well as many
rowing boats and punts.
Work is in hand constructing
Barry Avenue, circa 1905,
with the original boathouses beyond
A double-fronted boat
house was first built on the banks beside Corporation Island
in Victorian times and it is here that the Windsor Belle was
built in 1901 by Edward Burgoine for Arthur Jacobs. Records show
that she was built on Corporation Meadow (Clewer Meadow) which
was to become Alexandra Gardens and Barry Avenue. Subsequently
the boat houses were moved to the island, probably in 1905 when
Barry Avenue was constructed.
Circa 1913 and
the promenade with the rebuilt boathouses beyond on Jacobs Island.
In later photographs the boathouses are seen to be striped.
In addition to his Thames
steamer and boat hire business, Arthur Jacobs was chairman of the Windsor Conservative Party and
for nine years a member of Windsor
Town Council. He died in 1928 at the age of 65. It is fitting
that the former Corporation Island has long been known as Jacobs
Island, probably since the 1920s and the construction of the
Windsor Castle. The name serves to remind us of a famous name
from not only Windsor's history but that of the River Thames