Corporate Health – Occupational Health Innovators – History Part 2

12 Mar

Why Slough?

Is the question most asked by the present day visitor to this progressive modern industrial town some 20 miles west of London. The events below all contributed to Slough becoming a centre of industry and the prime location for our service. In 1673 Slough was the second stage out of London for stage coaches making the  journey between London and Bristol and as such assumed great importance. The inns used by travellers were a centre of local entertainment, business and even acted as make shift hospitals for the treatment of road casualties, typically fractured skulls or broken bones of those being flung from the stage as they were tossed along the route.

In 1786 William Herschel came to Slough. In the grounds of his new house known as the observatory he erected his famous reflecting telescope in 1789.


In 1835 a bill was passed which authorised the Great Western Rail Company to build a line between London and Bristol. It reached Slough but the provost and Eton college were not happy and wanted to stop the construction, they feared the railway would have a bad effect on discipline. Though their objection was overruled the college did have a clause agreed which meant no station could be erected within 3 miles of Eton, so no station for Slough. Maidenhead was the first stop, however in 1838 the railway company provided trains to take the Eton boys from Maidenhead to London for Queen Victoria’s coronation. After this the college withdrew its objection and in June 1840 Slough station was opened.


Queen Victoria took her first train journey from Slough to Paddington, it is worth noting that the journey took just 25 mins a journey time which hasn’t changed much today.


In 1843 an improved telegraphs system was initiated between Slough and Paddington and it is said it was the first in the world to be used daily. A London merchant who murdered his mistress in Slough was arrested as he stepped of the train in Paddington. This gent created two records, the first to be tracked by means of telegraph and the last person to be publicly executed in the county of Buckingham.

The Railway brought about the start of Sloughs industrial growth, but before this Slough was known for its brick making and purpose built kiln which provided the bricks for Eton college in the 15th century.

The pioneer of industrial Slough was Mr James Elliman, the founder of a drapery store decided to put a factory for the manufacture of embrocation in Slough. On Jame’s death his sons purchased an extensive site in Slough High st where a further factory and offices were built. James gave over £100,000 to the development of social services in Slough.

Thomas Nash in 1870 established the Slough and Langley brick fields, which by 1908 were producing 14,000,000 bricks per year. James Horlicks returned from the USA and in 1906 built a factory to produce Horlicks malted milk employing over 800 people.

At the beginning of the 20th century slough was a small town with a population of 7,400, by 1961 the population was 80,503 in 2010 we are close to 130,000 residents.

During the war 1914-1918 the war office acquired some 700 acres of land in Slough and formed a mechanical transport repair depot. In 1918 when the war ended it was decided that the army transport should be brought to the depot to be repaired and sold, some of the older residents nick named the trading estate ‘The Dump’. In 1920  the Slough Trading Company purchased the depot and its contents.

In 1925 The Slough Trading Company Act was passed and under the astute leadership of Sir Noel Mobbs (who was our first chairman) the estate was developed with its own station, internal rail tracks, water mains, plant for the production of gas and electricity and factories of various sizes. The company was renamed Slough Estates Limited (Now SEGRO). By the middle of 1930 there were 100 firms on the estate employing over 8,000 workers. They included the likes of Mars Ltd and Citroen Cars. The wide variety of industries ensured that Slough was not seriously affected by the the Industrial depression.


Slough Estates made available land for the building of 2000 houses for employees of the firms on the estate, Slough council built many more. The industrial development far outpaced the residential developments so thousands of men and women travelled to Slough from the surrounding areas and London. This workforce demand resulted in the building of great rail and road connections to allow fast travel to the town.

In 1964 some 270 firms were on the estate employing over 27,000 people, these numbers were increased by a further 100 firms in the local area employing a further 10,000

A man with a vision and ability, Sir Noel Mobbs who died in 1959 recognised that the prosperity of his company (Slough Estates Ltd) depended on more than purely material factors. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that it was he who took an active part in the formation of the Slough Social fund, the Slough Council of Social Service, the community centre and the Industrial Health and Occupational Hygiene service (now Corporate Health) In 1936 Sir James Horlicks  and Sir Noel Mobbs created the Slough Social fund ‘To promote the health and education of the people of Slough by the provision of opportunities for healthful and interesting leisure tim occupations and recreations.

Thats why Slough!

Previous Blogs

Upcoming Blogs

  • Development of OH services in Great Britain
  • The Origins
  • Development of the Slough OH service
  • The Casualty Service
  • The Rehab Services
  • Occupational hygiene services
  • Social Services
  • The records
  • The Future as it was in 1963

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