Eton is a town and civil parish in the ceremonial county of Berkshire, but part of Buckinghamshire until 1974, lying on the opposite bank of the River Thames to Windsor and connected to it by Windsor Bridge. The parish also includes the large village of Eton Wick, two miles west of the town, and has a population of 4,980. Since 1998 it has been part of the unitary authority of Windsor and Maidenhead. The town is best known as the location of Eton College, a famous public school.
The land that is now Eton once belonged to the manor of Queen Edith, wife of Edward the Confessor. The land was appropriated by the Normans after 1066, the main road between Windsor and London went through the area and a hamlet sprang up amid pasture meadows to maintain the road and the bridge. In 1440, Henry VI chose Eton as a location for his new college, Eton College. Workmen were moved into Eton to help build the college. All of the land immediately around the hamlet was granted to the college, which stopped further growth. The new college chapel made the village a pilgrimage point, and inns were set up along the high street. Henry VI gave the college the right to hold fairs on its grounds. During the English Civil War, after Windsor Castle was captured by parliamentarian forces. The Royalist Army moved into Eton and attempted to retake the town, occupying the college. Efforts to retake Windsor were unsuccessful and the royalists eventually fled. The college sometimes leased small plots of land to the village as an act of charity, leading to the construction of houses near the bridge, scholars at the college also used to collect ‘salt’ (money) from the inns of Eton high street. This practice continued until 1845 when a scholar refused to associate with the inns for causing ‘temptation’ amongst Eton students. Eton was favourably modernised and was the first village in the UK to have its own post office and modern drainage system. By 1925 the village was described as more commercial than residential, with most of the buildings belonging to businesses serving students at the college.