You will hear many Slough residents refer to the Slough Trading Estate as ‘The Dump’. This originates from the Slough Motor Transport Depot that preceded the creation of what is arguably the first Trading Estate in the country.

The story starts in the Great War in July 1914 which experienced a great cost to the lives of men, horses and for the first time, the petrol vehicle. This placed great pressure on motor manufacturers of the day where the war effort was consuming over 350 extra vehicles per week. The war department owned just under fifty vehicles at the outbreak of war and soon the numbers were climbing to over one hundred thousand.

The Motor Transport Depot was controversial in many ways. The uproar of building the largest repair facility of its kind made the national newspapers where the facility was called a ‘White Elephant’ and a waste of money. The land had been compulsorily purchased in 1918 from Headington & Son, who ran Cippenham Court Farm at a price of £60 per acre. This land had previously won national prizes for produce and farm livestock.

The 668-acre site at Slough had been chosen based on its proximity to London and that Slough had ideal connections to London by Road, Canal and Rail. Other sites around the outer London area such as Baldock in Hertfordshire had been considered but Slough had the advantage that it was out of reach of the German Graff Zeppelin that had been bombing the eastern side of Britain at the time.

The initial construction was known to be shoddy and was not helped by the fact that it was being built using prisoners of war. Eventually, McAlpine was called in to complete the work. To great embarrassment, the works were only completed after the end of the war and the project was now over the £1m budget, now at a cost of £2.5m.

In late 1919, the Slough Motor Transport Depot was finally operational and had started to refurbish over one hundred thousand vehicles including motorbikes, cars and mostly trucks of UK and US manufacture. With no further need within the military, the vehicles and parts were now being sold by auction to private enterprise. Vehicles were regularly arriving by rail from all parts of the world and from other storage sites that included Richborough and Kempton Park racecourse.

The pressure on the government was continuing to grow and it was now identified that the War Department was not the best organisation to be running a commercial operation. Soon the repair facility was put up for sale with many bidders from the motor industry taking an interest.

The winning consortium was led by Sir Percival Perry and Noel Mobbs with support from Redmond McGrath who has led the WW1 tank project for Churchill. Both Perry and Mobbs were well known in the motor industry and had already started a business selling ex-USA army stock. Perry had been MD of Ford UK and Perry owned the car company Pytchley and a finance company called United Motor Finance. The price paid for the facility along with all remaining vehicles was purchased for a staggering £7m. The newspapers of the day stated that the government White Elephant had now become the ‘Golden Goose’.

The repair facility was extensive and was constructed surrounding the largest single workshop space in the country, Building No 3 (now Mars). The vehicles awaiting repair had been towed out to the surrounding fields using a tractor (made from an old Ford model T) where they collected mud and rust. The sight of 100,000 rotting trucks gave the area the name of the ‘Dump’

Founders Perry and Mobbs had a vision beyond the repair and sale of trucks that had a finite life. The Slough Motor Transport Depot had now been renamed the ‘Slough Trading Company’ and had already sold £5m of the vehicles in the first year of operations. Their vision was that spare building space would soon become available in the early 20s and this could be leased out to create a major hub for manufacturing. This was aided by the post-war 30 per cent import duties where US industries rushed to have a UK manufacturing presence at Slough, including Gillette, Black and Decker, Mentholatum, O Cedar and Johnson & Johnson. Slough Trading Estate was born.