A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1925.
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Slough, which in 1831 is described as a township in Upton-cum-Chalvey and Stoke Poges, (fn. 1) has developed rapidly during the 19th century, and in 1894 was formed into a civil parish, which now includes the ancient ecclesiastical parish of Upton and also parts of Langley Marish and Stoke Poges. The area of Slough is 1,538 acres, of which 550 are arable land and 481 permanent grass. (fn. 2) The entire parish is very low, and the land, even in the north or highest part, is not much over 100 ft. above the ordnance datum, while in the south it is less than 70 ft. London clay is found in the neighbourhood, and supplies material for the large brickworks in the east of the parish. (fn. 3)
The inhabitants beyond the radius of the town are chiefly engaged in agriculture and horticulture; nurseries and market gardens are numerous. The royal nurseries border on the High Street at the east end of Slough. A weekly cattle market is held in the town every Tuesday.
The town itself lies in the northern part of the parish, and is one of the largest in Buckinghamshire. Its growth has been rapid, so that most of the houses are modern. It is an important station on the Great Western railway, being the junction of the Windsor branch of this line. It is, indeed, mainly to the railway that Slough owes its modern development. Lipscomb, writing about 1847, speaks of Slough as a small hamlet which had 'recently become more distinguished owing to the erection of a station on the Great Western railway.' (fn. 4) The station was not built, however, without encountering a good deal of opposition both from the authorities at Windsor and at Eton College. The first section of the railway was opened in 1838, but the college secured the insertion of a clause in the company's Act forbidding the building of a station at Slough. It did not, however, actually prohibit the stopping of trains at Slough, and trains stopped there from the very first, two rooms being hired as ticket offices at a public-house known as the 'North Star,' near the present station. (fn. 5) Once these difficulties were overcome Slough quickly progressed. In 1831 the population of Upton parish, in which Slough was included, was 1,502; it had increased by 1861 to 4,688, and in 1901 the population of Slough was returned as 11,453. (fn. 6)
The railway, with its various dépôts, now employs a large number of the inhabitants in Slough itself. The High Street, running in a westerly direction across the north of the town, is part of the old Bath Road, and, much as the modern town has grown up to meet the railway traffic, so the earliest beginnings of the hamlet of Slough are probably to be found in the old posting inns and houses of supply built on the borders of the high road for the needs of travellers. Among the property held by the Windsor family in these parts in the 17th century was the 'messuage or inn called the White Hart, and previously called the Harteshorn, in Slough.' (fn. 7)
The Grand Junction Canal (Slough branch) also passes through the north of Slough, and has wharfage there. This part of the town is non-residential in character and includes such buildings as the waterworks of Slough urban district, gasworks, police and fire stations, and the railway dépôts. The Eton workhouse union buildings stand in about the centre of the town, which towards the south becomes less thickly populated and more residential.
In the Windsor Road is Observatory House, famous as the residence of the Herschels, father and son, and the scene of many of their labours. Sir William Herschel settled at Slough in 1786. (fn. 8) In 1789 he made his largest telescope, and with its help continued to make astronomical observations until his death in 1822. He was buried in the church of St. Lawrence at Upton. In 1792 his still more celebrated son, afterwards Sir John Herschel, was born here. He carried out much of his important work at Slough, which he finally left in 1840. In the grounds at the back of the house is to be seen the circular ridge on which the great 40 ft. reflecting telescope was worked, the brick foundation of which still exists. It was taken down in 1840, and at the end of the lawn is preserved a portion of the tube. An ash tree in the grounds marks the spot where stood a smaller 20 ft. telescope, and near it is a small building containing copies of Sir William's works, with pictures and drawings in illustration of his discoveries. (fn. 9) Relations of Sir John Herschel still occupy the house, and a street in Slough is called after the family.
What appears to be the earliest record relating to Slough is found in a lay subsidy of the reign of Henry III, when the names of Osbert de Slo and William de Slo appear in the list of the men of Upton whose goods were assessed for the collection of the fifteenth. (fn. 10) In 1437 a document relating to Upton records the grant to John Eyston, 'groom of the king's picherhous,' of the keeping of the way between 'le Slowe' and Eton for a certain wage, (fn. 11) and in 1535 Eton College was paying a rent to the Earl of Huntingdon and to the Prior of St. John's, Oxford, for lands in Slough. (fn. 12)
Slough is mentioned in the account of the boundaries of Upton Manor given in 1605. (fn. 13) In the 16th and 17th centuries lands and tenements at Slough, usually the property of tenants of Upton, (fn. 14) are frequently referred to, (fn. 15) showing that the district was gradually assuming greater importance; but, as has been shown, it was not until the latter half of the 19th century that the place made much real progress.
The modern church of ST. MARY in Church Street was built in 1837 and in 1876 a new chancel, transepts and vestry were added from designs by J. Oldrid Scott. A new nave was then begun, but not completed till 1912, and the tower was rebuilt in the following year, largely at the expense of Mr. James Elliman. As the old parish church of St. Lawrence of Upton (q.v.) had been allowed to fall into decay, the parochial rights and privileges of the latter were granted to St. Mary's. (fn. 16) The bells were transferred from Upton, but were recast in 1913 and made up to a full ring of eight bells.
The ecclesiastical parish of ST. PAUL was formed in 1904 from Stoke Poges. The church in Stoke Road was built in 1906 in 13th-century style mainly at the expense of Mr. Algernon Gilliat. It consists of a chancel, nave, aisles, chapel, and western baptistery. The living is a vicarage in the gift of trustees.
The Royal British Orphan Schools, Mackenzie Park, originally founded as the British Orphan Asylum in 1827, were augmented in 1863 by the purchase of the Royal Hotel and grounds, and are supported mainly by voluntary effort.
In 1876 Algernon Gilliat by deed founded an exhibition in connexion with this institution which is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 26 January 1897, for facilitating the further education of boys leaving the same. The endowment consists of £1,200 ordinary stock and 925 deferred ordinary shares of the Improved Industrial Dwellings Co., Ltd., and £301 16s. 8d. local loans 3 per cent. stock, producing together about £110 a year. The exhibition is of the value of £30 a year, tenable for two years.
The several securities are held by the official trustees, who also hold a sum of £2,000 consols, producing £50 a year, in respect of William Thorngate's educational foundation in connexion with the same institution.
The Slough and Chalvey British school, comprised in deed of 5 February 1873, was sold in 1908, and the balance of the purchase money, amounting to £50, was invested in £51 1s. 6d. India 3½ per cent. stock, with the official trustees, producing £1 15s. 8d. yearly, which, with the sanction of the Board of Education, is at present applied for the purposes of the library of the Tonman Mosley council school, Slough.