Powerflush nearby to Windsor
Windsor is a historic market town and unparished area in Berkshire, England, in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. It is the location of Windsor Castle, one of the British monarch’s official residences. The town is located 21.7 miles (34.9 kilometers) west of Charing Cross in central London, 5.8 miles (9.3 kilometers) southeast of Maidenhead, and 15.8 miles (25.4 kilometers) east of Reading, the county town. It is located immediately south of the River Thames, which separates it from its smaller, older twin town of Eton. The village of Old Windsor, located just over 2 miles (3 kilometers) to the south, predates what is now known as Windsor by around 300 years; in the past, Windsor was formally referred to as New Windsor to differentiate the two.
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The Middle Ages
The site’s early history is unknown, but it was almost certainly[dubious – discuss] settled before 1070, when William the Conqueror had a timber motte-and-bailey castle built.
However, the focus of royal interest at the time was not the castle, but a small riverside settlement about 3 miles (4.8 km) downstream, possibly dating back to the 7th century. High-status visitors, including royalty, began to visit the site around the 8th century. The site’s association with King Edward the Confessor can be traced back to the 11th century. Later in the medieval period, royal use of the site increased, most likely because it provided easy access to woodlands and opportunities for hunting – a sport that also required military skills.
The settlement at Old Windsor was largely transferred to New Windsor during the 12th century, though significant planning and development of the new town (including the parish church, marketplace, bridge, hermitage, and leper hospital) did not occur until around 1170, under Henry II, following Stephen’s reign’s civil war. The castle was rebuilt in stone around the same time. Windsor Bridge is the earliest bridge on the Thames between Staines and Reading, built at a time when bridge construction was uncommon; it was first documented in 1191 but was most likely built in 1173, according to the Pipe rolls. It was an important part of the national highway system, connecting London to Reading and Winchester. It aided the success of New Windsor’s fledgling economy by directing traffic into the new town.
Following the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1175, the town hosted the Treaty of Windsor. Henry II and Ruadhr Ua Conchobhair, High King of Ireland, signed the treaty. The treaty included agreements on the two kings’ respective spheres of influence on the island of Ireland, control over their subjects, and payment of tribute to Henry. Despite the agreement, the treaty would fail, and the conflict in Ireland would last for centuries.
As an ancient demesne of the Crown, the town of New Windsor was a privileged settlement from the start, apparently having the rights of a free borough, for which other towns had to pay substantial fees to the king. It had a merchant guild (known by the 14th century as the Fraternity or brotherhood of the Holy Trinity) since the early 13th century and, under royal patronage, was made the county’s chief town in 1277, as part of Edward I’s charter grant of royal borough status. This charter, somewhat unusually, did not grant Windsor any new rights or privileges, but rather codified the rights that it had enjoyed for many years.
Windsor’s reign as the county town of Berkshire, however, was short-lived because it was difficult to reach. In the early 14th century, Wallingford took over this position. Windsor, as a self-governing town, had a number of freedoms that other towns did not have, such as the right to hold its own borough court, the right of membership (or ‘freedom,’) and some financial independence. The town accounts from the 16th century have been preserved in part, but the majority of the once extensive borough archive dating back to the 12th century was destroyed, most likely in the late 17th century.
Tudor and Stuart dynasties
However, with the Reformation’s closures, Windsor’s pilgrim traffic died out, and the town began to stagnate about ten years later. The castle was regarded as antiquated, and shrines to the dead were regarded as superstitious. The early modern period contrasted sharply with the town’s medieval history. In 1547, Henry VIII was buried in St George’s Chapel alongside Jane Seymour, the mother of his only legitimate son, Edward (Edward VI). Henry, the founder of the Church of England, may have wanted to profit from the influx of pilgrims. That is the impression given by his will.
Most accounts of Windsor in the 16th and 17th centuries mention poverty, poorly constructed streets, and substandard housing. The Merry Wives of Windsor, a play by William Shakespeare, is set in Windsor and contains numerous references to the town and surrounding countryside. Shakespeare must have walked the streets of the town, near the castle and the Thames, as many people do today. The play may have been written in the Garter Inn, which stood directly across from the Castle, but it was destroyed by fire in the late 17th century. Nell Gwyn, a long-serving – and well-known – courtesan of King Charles II, was given a house on St Albans Street: Burford House (now part of the Royal Mews). As far as I can tell, her stay in this house was brief. Only one of her letters from Burford House has survived; it was most likely intended as a legacy for her illegitimate son, the Earl of Burford, later the Duke of St Albans.
The Georgian and Victorian eras
The royal presence was resumed in 1778, with George III at the Queen’s Lodge and, beginning in 1804, at the castle. With the construction of two army barracks, Windsor entered a period of new development. However, the large number of soldiers associated with the town led to a major prostitution problem by 1830, in a town where the number of streets had changed little since 1530. The town traded with London in the 18th century, selling the Windsor Chair, which was actually made in Buckinghamshire.
Several fine houses were built during this time period, including Hadleigh House on Sheet Street, which was built in 1793 by Windsor’s then-mayor, William Thomas. It was the home of John O’Reilly, George III’s apothecary-surgeon, in 1811. Windsor Castle served as the westernmost sighting point for the Anglo-French Survey (1784–1790), which used trigonometry to calculate the precise distance between the Royal Greenwich Observatory and the Paris Observatory. Windsor was chosen because of its proximity to the survey’s base-line at Hounslow Heath.
The subsequent decade saw significant redevelopment of the castle, Queen Victoria’s residence from 1840, and the arrival of two railways in 1849, heralding the most dramatic changes in the town’s history. These events catapulted Windsor from a sleepy medieval has-been to the heart of empire, with many European crowned heads of state visiting the Queen throughout the rest of the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, excessive redevelopment and’refurbishment’ of Windsor’s medieval fabric during this time period resulted in widespread destruction of the old town, including the demolition of the old parish church of St John the Baptist in 1820. The original structure was constructed around 1135.
The majority of the current town’s streets date from the mid- to late-nineteenth-century.
However, the main street, Peascod Street, predates the castle by many years and is most likely of Anglo-Saxon origin. It was part of the parish structure in east Berkshire in the 10th century and was first referred to as Peascroftstret around 1170. In comparison, the 1,000-year-old royal castle, while the largest and longest-occupied in Europe, is a relatively new development. In 1974, “New Windsor” was officially renamed “Windsor.”