On the opposite bank of the River Thames from Windsor lies the town of Eton. Connected by a footbridge, Eton has an importance of its own both historically and commercially. Why not purchase the self-guided heritage trail from Royal Windsor Information Centre to discover the town’s fascinating past?
It is impossible to think of Eton without reference to its famous public school, Eton College, and indeed the later history of the town is inseparably entwined with that of the college. Although the vehicular access from Windsor across the river bridge (built 1821-3) has now been closed, many thousands of visitors come each year to see the College School Yard, Chapel and Museum and to walk down the high street containing some finely preserved shop fronts, including the Tiger Garden restaurant, a half-timbered building believed to date from 1420. it contains the remains of the original area used for cock fighting, which went on during the 17th and 18th centuries.
At the time of the Domesday survey Eton was noted as being thickly wooded and its name is derived from Eyot-tun which means 'the settlement on the island', a probable reference to the way the Thames divided in earlier times.
The bridge over the stream known as Barnes Pool has been subject to a trust since at 1592 and probably earlier. The trustees were empowered to purchase property in Eton High Street and rents were used for various local needs.
Eton College occupies the whole of Eton north of Barnes Pool bridge and was founded by King Henry VI in 1440 and is second only to Winchester as the oldest public school in England. A statue of the founder by Francis Bird (1719) can be seen in the cobbled court of School Yard.
The parish church, which is dedicated to St John the Evangelist, was consecrated in 1854 and stands near the site of the original church which was pulled down when the College Chapel was completed at the end of the 15th century and which for more than 250 years performed the function of the parish church.
The modern residential area of Eton Wick is a mile west of the town and is separated from it by South Field which, as with most open land in the area, is subject to Lammas (or Loaf Mass) and Common rights handed down since the 7th century. The red-brick church of St John the Baptist was consecrated in 1867 by Samuel Wilberforce, then Bishop of Oxford.