These pages were researched and created by Mrs Dianne Egan in 2001.


The Origins of Slough - A Brief History

I have tried to keep this section as brief as possible but, since the history of Slough spans a whole millennium, it is impossible to condense it into one page. I have therefore divided it into six parts, covering consecutive eras, plus a final part entitled 'Out & About With My Camera'. This will allow the reader to take in one or two pages at a time, if you so wish, thus avoiding eye-strain !

(Please click on any photograph throughout to view the larger image)

 

Part One - Slough's Medieval Origins

To many of its residents and those who speed past the town on the M4, it comes as quite a surprise that Slough is not merely a brash modern development, but a town with a long history. Its present-day suburbs of Upton, Chalvey, Cippenham and Langley began as Saxon villages more than a thousand years ago and are as ancient as most English towns and villages. Although Slough itself is not quite so old, it came into being some time in the century after the Norman Conquest, some eight hundred years ago. It began as a small settlement at a crossroads on the highway that linked London to Bristol. This highway is now called the A4, but for centuries it was known as the Bristol Road, and many new towns and villages grew up along its length. Later it became the Bath Road, an important coaching route, and eventually a short stretch of it became Slough High Street. The history of the road runs like a thread through the history of Slough.

The meaning of the town name is self explanatory - a slough or muddy area - but the site of the original settlement lay on a well drained river terrace. However, only a quarter of a mile south of the crossroads, the land dropped down to the Thames flood plain. Saxon place names (such as Chalvey, which means 'calves island') tell us that land here was once quite marshy. The road linking Windsor Castle with the Bristol Road had to cross this belt of wet terrain and this caused the new settlement at the crossroads to be known as the 'slough'. This was spelt 'Slo' in the 13th century and during the 15th and 16th centuries it was referred to as 'Le Slowe'. The modern spelling of the name was first adopted in 1443 in the accounts of Eton College.

Slough was not a manor, but lay at the junction of three - Stoke Poges, Upton and Chalvey. Both Upton and Stoke Poges are mentioned in Domesday Book and Upton has an 11th-century church (St Laurence) with several Norman features.

St Laurence Church, front & rear views

A manor house was built close to the church and the present building known as Upton Court is over six hundred years old, and is one of the oldest manor houses in Berkshire. (picture of this on page 6)

The Bristol Road, later known as the Bath Road, was one of the five great medieval highways and travellers of all kinds, including the king and his household, passed through Slough. In the 1440's Slough took on a new importance when it became the site of the new brickworks for Eton College. The College was one of the earliest buildings to use the new building material introduced from the Continent. The nearest source of suitable clay was the brickearth which covered much of the river terrace on which Slough lay. In 1442 land was leased at Slough where the clay could be dug and a brick kiln was set up by order of Henry VI. Over the next nine years nearly two and a half million bricks were produced and carried by cart to Eton.....