There can be few towns in the UK which have such a poor image based on its name as that of Slough.

The area was originally known as Upton-cum-Chalvey, which was an ancient ecclesiastical parish. The records of the ancient parish church of St Laurence go back to 1537.

By 1838 and the opening of the Great Western Railway, Upton-cum-Chalvey's parish population had reached 1,502. However this was exceeded by the neighbouring parish of Langley Marish (1,797). If Slough was known at all at that time, it was as a source of bricks, and of hotels where visitors to the royal family at Windsor Castle might stay. The town’s growth was then accelerated by the construction of the Great Western Railway and after WWI by the development of the Slough Trading Estate.

First Coat Of Arms in 1938

Slough did not receive its Borough Charter until 1938. The town was officially granted its Armorial Bearings, more commonly known as Coat of Arms, on September 3, 1938. In it the swan symbolises the county of Buckinghamshire. The flower in its beak, which is named Mrs Sinkins Pink after the superintendent of Slough Workhouse who first grew it, signifies the horticulture in the borough. The two golden brick-hammers refer to brick-making, the largest industry in the area since the fourteenth century. The sign of Uranus is from the Arms of the family of Herschel of Slough, and relates to the discovery of the planet Uranus by Sir William Herschel. Mercury, the God of Commerce, stands to the left and Vulcan, the God of Industry, to the right; together they represent Trade and Industry. The whole is enhanced by the Latin motto – FIDUCIA ET VI - Confidence and Strength.

Local people were proud of this Coat of Arms and recognised how their prosperity related to these qualities of Confidence and Strength.

All change in 1974

In the local government reorganisation of 1974 Slough was transferred from Buckinghamshire to Berkshire, and on its northern boundary the county gained Milton Keynes. Local people did not understand the need for this change. They had a loyalty to Buckinghamshire and were distressed by the fact that the river Thames was no longer the defence against our Berkshire neighbours!

To add insult to injury, Slough Borough Council now had new Armorial Bearings. This was necessary because of the change of county. The new 1974 Coat of Arms has a Crown at the top made up of bits and pieces from the 1938 Arms. There are black lines on a yellow background representing technology; in particular, the manufacture of alloys in which Slough did excel, but what is the connection?

Finally the Motto is ‘SERVE WITH HONOUR’. What a bland statement when compared with the original Motto -Confidence and Strength, which inspired people to do their best in work and play.

The infamous poem

Older citizens of Slough in particular find it difficult to understand why the poem by John Betjeman about Slough is seen as amusing. It has damaged the real reputation of Slough and made us a laughingstock.

To quote the first verse:

Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough

It isn’t fit for humans now,

There isn’t grass to graze a cow

Swarm over, Death!

A response

One response from a citizen of Slough was published in a national Newspaper. These are the first, second and last verses:

Come people all, descend on Slough

‘Tis different from that poem now,

When Betjeman poured such scorn upon

Asking someone, us to bomb

With ridicule he put to verse,

Making Slough seem as accursed.

If friendly bombs rained on us here,

Then all around would quake with fear.

Jobs would be gone and prospects bright

Would go entirely overnight

And many whom on Slough depend

And see it as a trusted friend.

Be proud, as I am of this town

When we next you hear that poem, frown

He didn’t know us like we do

It’s home to many, not the few.

We love our town, about it brag

So come on good friends, and fly our flag.

So whether, like my family who arrived in the Slough area in the 18th century, or whether you came recently from a distant land, we welcome you and hope that the multicultural town of Slough will continue to demonstrate that our future wellbeing is with you and the talents of our children.

We wish you well.