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Slough Through the Ages
A short general history
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  Themes Homepage > A short general history
Slough Through the Ages
A short general history

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A village

The first existing record of the name Slough dates from 1196, when it was spelt 'Slo'. The name Slough most probably refers to the marshes around this area in former times, in Old English this was 'Sloh'. Many prehistoric sites and relics have been found around Slough, but little has been found within the Borough.

Although we cannot be sure when Slough originated, it certainly developed as a result of the Old London Road (now the A4), which connected Bath to London. In those days the village was well known for its brick making. In 1442, for example, Henry VI ordered bricks to build Eton College.

Expansion & Railways

By 1580 horse-drawn coaches were in general use between London and the West and Slough was one of the 'stages' (stops). Coaches had no springs and were generally uncomfortable, especially with the state of the roads in those times. However, the coaches did encourage people to travel for social occasions, instead of just out of necessity as before.

By the 17th Century lots of inns were available to travellers. In 1667 a certain coach was advertised as a 'Flying-Machine', as it would only take three days to get from London to Bath!

Railway Station, about 1890
Railway Station, about 1890

In the 1830s, the Great Western Railway from London to Bristol was built, which ran through Slough, and the town developed residentially. Slough Station opened in 1840. The present station is a fifth version and was built in 1882 when the lines were quadrupled.


Popular Slough

Slough of the 18th and 19th Century had quite a few large, attractive houses and became a popular place to live; close to Windsor Castle and Eton College.

Sir William Herschel (1738-1822), the famous astronomer who discovered Uranus in 1781 with a self-built telescope, lived in Observatory House on Windsor Road from 1786 until he died in 1822. He set up a 6-metre telescope in his garden and cut down all the trees to have a clear view of the sky.

W.G. Nixey, the inventor of 'blacklead' (used to clean and polish kitchenware), bought the 'Old Vicarage' in 1856 and built Springfield House, which was also referred to as 'Blacklead Castle'. It was later renamed Upton Towers and is now Elvian House (on Nixey Close).


Richard Bentley, who lived at Upton Park and 'The Mere', published works of Charles Dickens and some other notable authors through the 'Bentley's' firm. Richard's father George built 'The Mere' in 1887.

Upton Park, Mid 19th Century
Upton Park, Mid 19th Century

The Victorians

Telegraph Cottage, 1843
Telegraph Cottage, 1843

The Victorian Era brought about a lot of new developments. The first Electric Magnetic Telegraph, for example, was installed in Slough in 1843. It was used for the announcement of a royal birth and for arresting a murderer!


Gas was first used in 1848 to light business premises and in 1849 to light the main street in Slough. Electricity came to Slough in 1903 thanks to the Slough & Datchet Electric Supply Company Ltd.

The Windsor Express, which was first published in 1812, covered some Slough news and advertising. Royal visits and political dinners were especially discussed. The Slough Observer, however, was Slough's first own newspaper and was first published in 1883.

Industrial Slough

In June 1918 the government bought a large area of land on the West side of Slough and an army depot was set up. After the war, the depot was bought by a private business and Slough Trading Estate was founded. The Estate created a lot of employment and in the 1930s many people from all over the UK, but especially Wales, came to Slough to work in its industries.

After the Second World War, Poles and Ukrainians moved to Slough to work and in 1950/51 workers from the West Indies, India and Pakistan came over. Londoners also moved to Slough to work in the 1950s.

The centre of Slough changed a lot too. In 1964 the redevelopment of the town centre was approved and in 1979 it was finally near completion. Unfortunately a lot of old buildings were closed and demolished to make way for these new developments.

Slough has been and still is known as an industrial town and boasts big companies such as Masterfoods (formerly known as Mars), Citroen, Yellow Pages and Amazon.Com.

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