Arthur Jacobs
(1863 - 1928)

From our Windsor People series

This page updated October 2023

Arthur Jacobs

Arthur Jacobs

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.

View from Jacobs Island

A view downstream from Jacobs Island showing the rowing boats for hire and the earlier promenade beyond

An interesting little tale... When Lance Summers, boat builders, arrived to build the New 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
                      turns in

The New Windsor Castle

The New Windsor Castle
                      turns in

The New Windsor Castle turns in to Windsor Promenade
The boathouses on Jacobs Island where she was built are beyond

  Thge Windsor Belle in

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.

Constructing Barry

Work is in hand constructing Barry Avenue, circa 1895,
with the original boathouses beyond

A double-fronted boat house appears to have first been built on the banks beside Corporation Island in Victorian times. 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.

Promeande and boathouses
                      circa 1913

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 New Windsor Castle. The name serves to remind us of a famous name from not only Windsor's history but that of the River Thames also.


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