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Waywizer on its stand
Patrick Young Alexander (1867 – 1943)
PY Alexander was lamed by an accident at sea and came into a considerable amount of money at a young age. He was involved with aeronautical research and was a friend of many of the pioneers of flight, including the Wright brothers. He was known all over the world and in September 1898 was presented with a trophy for furthering aeronautics in Berlin. This trophy is now in the museum and is much admired. He taught aeronautics at United Services College, Windsor and the museum has some of the models he used in his science of aviation classes. The College was in financial difficulties and the Imperial Service College Trust helped out and the name was changed to Imperial Service College in 1911. Alexander was a great philanthropist and also gave them £10,000, but this was the last of his inheritance, and he nearly went bankrupt. When this was discovered he was employed for life at the College. He died in 1943 and was buried in Windsor cemetery
Elias Ashmole (1617 – 1692)
Elias Ashmole is most famous for the Ashmoleum Museum in Oxford, but was also Windsor Herald. Appointed by Charles II shortly after the restoration in 1660, he resigned in 1672 having written and published his masterpiece The Institutions, Laws, and Ceremonies of the Order of the Garter, which was reprinted just after his death. He also wrote a very personal diary about his time as the Windsor Herald and this was published in 1719 in Antiquities of Berkshire, and reprinted in 1736. The museum has a first edition of the massive tome on the Order of the Garter and a small selection of copies of other items.
Sir Sydney Camm (1893 – 1966)
Born at 10 Alma Road, Windsor, the oldest of 12 children, Sydney Camm was educated at the Royal Free School which he left in 1908 when he was 14 years old. Inspired by drawings by the Wright Brothers and the antics of Tommy Sopwith and Gustav Hamel he started Windsor Model Aeroplane Club in his father’s garden workshop. After an apprenticeship as a carpenter and joiner he became a wood worker at an aircraft firm in Woking, but fortunately for the world, this firm went bankrupt and he went to work at Hawkers where he eventually became chief designer. In 1934 he produced the initial designs for the Hurricane fighter which made its first flight in November 1935. 500 were ready by the outbreak of WW2 and 14,000 were made by July 1944. Hurricanes were responsible for three out of every five enemy planes shot down. Sydney was knighted in 1953 and was made an HonFRAeS in 1961. The Museum owns an engine and some wheels that Sydney bought when the model aeroplane club decided to make life sized aeroplanes to carry passengers, but there is nowhere to display or store them and so they are on permanent loan to Brooklands Museum. We have photographs of Camm as a child, the model aeroplane club and documents including membership cards of the club. Among these documents is a copy of his birth certificate which clearly shows his name as Sydney not Sidney Camm.
F J Camm (1895-1959)
Sydney’s brother Frederick was known as ‘The Practical Man’ because he started and edited the Practical series of magazines that were published by Newnes, the first being Practical Wireless and including Practical Mechanics, Practical Householder and Practical Engineering. The museum has a selection of these magazines. He was a prolific writer and editor on technical subjects. His story is told in F J Camm The Practical Man by Gordon Cullingham, available from Thamesweb.
John Davis, grandfather (1650-1713) John Davis, father (1690 – 1762) John Davis, son (1722 -1801)
The museum has a waywizer, made by John Davis, clockmaker, but with no date on it. It is said to have been made in about 1700 by the man who made the clock in the Curfew Tower of Windsor Castle. If this is so it would have been John Davis the grandfather, but John Davis the father was the most successful of the three and supplied clocks to all parts of the south of England, including Baylis House in Slough. He also increased the variety of work he took on and supplied most of the metal work required by Eton College including a clockwork roasting jack which was in use until the 1920s. He also made 65 brass locks for the college. He took an interest in the waterworks. The son also took over the business, but was better known as a locksmith. His son George (1760-1833) was also a locksmith and became Mayor of Windsor in 1819. For the full story of the Davis family see the article by Peter Ashworth in Windlesora 9. A waywizer is a wheel that is pushed along the ground to measure the distance.
Sir Daniel Gooch (1816-1889)
Daniel Gooch was not only a fine engineer and businessman, but a diplomat when dealing with some of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s more fanciful notions about locomotive traction. His broad gauge engines were legendary for speed and reliability, many remaining in use until the final conversion of the main line to standard gauge in 1892. The success of the Great Western Railway brought him considerable wealth and in 1859 led to the purchase of Clewer Park near Windsor. ‘Pretty Clewer’, as he called it, became a peaceful haven and Sir Daniel, as he was to become, valued its rural setting and the comfortable home life it provided. A full insight into Daniel Gooch’s fascinating life and career is detailed in his Memoirs and Diary. (Ed. Roger Burdett; Pub. David and Charles 1972) a copy of which is held in the Museum Collection along with other items connected with him. Clewer Park was demolished in the 1940s but a row of workman’s cottages, built by Gooch, survive in Mill Lane, Clewer and his tomb is to be found in St Andrew’s churchyard nearby.
Charles Knight lived as a boy above his father's bookshop in Castle Hill, Windsor and on leaving school was indentured as an apprentice to his father thus beginning a life's work in bookselling and publishing. He became associated with the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge and published the Penny Magazine and other weeklies. He founded the Windsor and Eton Express in August 1812. He numbered among his friends George Cruikshank, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins , Lord Brougham and Rowland Hill who began the Penny Post. He died in 1873 aged 81 and is buried in the family vault in Bachelors Acre, Windsor having achieved his ambition to bring good literature within the reach of all. There is a bust and portrait of Charles Knight in Windsor Guildhall and two watercolours, one of Charles Knight and the other of his wife Sally, by artist John Collingham Moore have recently been obtained by the Friends of the Windsor & Royal Borough Museum. There are 49 Charles Knight items in the Catalist at the Museum store and many artefacts and panels from an exhibition about him held in Windsor Guildhall.
Doris Mellor (1894-1981)
Doris became a national heroine in 1975 when she successfully registered Bachelors Acre as a Town Green so that a multi-storey car park was not built on it. She had to take the case to the Court of Appeal but Lord Denning found in her favour. It is now a green lung in the middle of Windsor with fountains and a children’s play area. In 1966 she became the first Secretary of the Landscape Committee of the Windsor and Eton Society and organised local amateur photographers to take pictures of the whole of Windsor. The nine albums of photographs were given to the museum, though one is now missing. Also at the museum is a handwritten diary, which was originally thought to be by Doris, but it is now thought to be by one of her sisters. Her father Albert Mellor was a musician and we have a copy of a piece of music he wrote which was published.
AY Nutt (1847-1924)
Alfred Young Nutt came to Windsor in 1867 as a draughtsman in the Office of Works at Windsor Castle and remained in the department until he retired in 1912. During the 45 years he worked there he became in overall charge of the department and also took on the position of Surveyor of St George’s Chapel. He also took on private commissions often making illuminated addresses for the Borough Council and showed a great interest in the artistic education of the people of Windsor. He is noted for the triumphal arches he produced for the coronations of Edward VII and George V and he painted many watercolours of Windsor and other places. Each year he produced a Christmas card and several of these are in the Museum’s collection. There are over 200 items by AY Nutt in the Museum Store including framed pictures, sketchbooks, illuminated addresses, architectural plans and designs for a war memorial at Slough. For full details of AY Nutt’s life and work see In Service to Three Monarchs at Windsor by Norman Oxley 0 95282090 0
Margaret Oliphant (1828-1897)
In the late nineteenth century the writer Margaret Oliphant was well-known and said to be Queen Victoria’s favourite novelist. She was Scottish by birth and always retained her accent, but spent much of her life in Windsor, first at 6 Clarence Crescent and then at number 9 (now called Oliphant House and bearing a plaque in her name).
She settled in the town in 1865 liking it, she said, for ‘the beauty of the river and the Castle and the air of cheerful life about’. Cheerfulness had been in short supply as she had lost first her husband Frank, then her beloved 11-year-old daughter Maggie. But she had two sons, Cyril and Francesco (born in Rome and always known as Cecco), and came to Windsor in order to educate them at Eton. Her writing was her only income, but she was doing well and felt able to afford both the fees and a house in the town’s best street. But to maintain her life-style she had to work very hard on what in later life she called her ‘treadmill’.
Mrs Oliphant wrote 98 novels, most of them 3-volume works, plus short stories, biographies, histories, critical essays and reviews. Few are in print today though most are worth reading and can be picked up second-hand. One novel that is available is the lively and amusing Miss Marjoribanks (Penguin, edited by Elizabeth Jay), which she was writing when she first came to Windsor. Novels which feature Windsor include The Story of Valentine and his Brother, and Within the Precincts, set in the lower ward of the Castle under a disguised name. There are twenty-three of her books in the Museum Store. Unfortunately, her own story didn’t have a happy ending, as both her sons, and her nephew Frank whom she brought up as her own, died before her. She is buried in Eton Wick, with her two sons. Hester Davenport’s book Writers in Windsor (Cell Mead Press 1995 and 2005) includes a fuller account of Mrs Oliphant.
John Ramsbottom (1777- 1845)
John Ramsbottom, who owned an 18th century brewery and bank in Thames Street, Windsor, was an extremely colourful character. After leaving Eton College he went on to do a short spell in the army - at the end of which he was promoted to Major and Commandant of the Clewer Volunteers, a militia regiment founded in 1803 during the French wars. In 1810 he was elected to the House of Commons as MP for New Windsor and had a rather bland career as an MP for 35 years. In 1813 he became a Freemason and became Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire in the 1830's. Because of his Windsor connections he organised two Masonic foundation stone laying ceremonies - the first for Windsor Parish Church in September 1820 and the second in 1822 - the laying of the foundation stone for Windsor River Bridge.
Ramsbottom remained Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire until his death in 1845. There are six items referring to the Ramsbottom family in the Museum and we also have the trowel used by the Duke of York to lay the foundation stone of Windsor Bridge. Ramsbottom's story is told in more detail in John Ramsbottom - Banker, Brewer, Member of Parliament and Freemason (1777 - 1845): a Vignette by Elias Kupfermann in Windlesora 23.
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