80 Things Slough Gave The World
September 2018 marked the 80 years since Slough received its Royal Charter to become a borough. To celebrate, BBC Radio Berkshire worked with Slough Museum to create an exhibition alongside our Pods at The Curve ’80 Things Slough Has Given the World’ to show what an amazing and important place the town is.
Items on display ranged from chocolate bars and aircraft invented here, to famous sports stars and musicians who were born or lived here. Some of the items are more significant in the history of the world than others, but without Slough as the starting place for all these ideas, people and creations, the world would be a much poorer place…
We hope that you will enjoy learning a bit about all the surprising and interesting things that have come out of Slough in one way or another. If you’d like to find out more about our Collection and the history of this place of inventors and pioneers, come and visit our Pods at The Curve and find plenty of local history books.
Around the world Mars is considered an out and out American brand – it was founded by Mr Frank Mars who started his chocolate empire in the USA around the turn of the twentieth century. But the Mars Bar wasn’t invented until Frank gave his son Forrest the money to go and set up his own chocolate business in the UK. In 1932 he came up with the famous bar, right here in Slough.
The Twix was invented at the Mars factory in Slough in 1967 and went on sale in the UK that year. In Europe it was sold under the name ‘Raider’. The chocolate bar wasn’t introduced in America until the end of the 1970s.
In 1936, working at his factory in Slough, Forrest Mars Sr. invented the milk chocolate covered malted milk balls known as Maltesers. They were originally described as ‘energy balls’ and were aimed at slimming women. For many years they were only available in Britain, but today they’re available across the world including in Australia and North America.
Originally called Opal Fruits, Starburst were introduced to the world by Slough-based Mars UK in 1960. The concept for the sweets came from competition winner Peter Pfeffer who got £5 for coming up with idea.
The hazelnut, nougat and caramel chocolate bar was another brainchild of the people at the Mars factory in Slough back in 1962. The bars are now made in France.
Spangles were a brand of boiled sweets created by Mars at their Slough factory in the 1950s. There was still post-war rationing at the time and they were popular because they only required one token, whereas chocolate required two. They remained popular through the 1960s and 1970s until they were discontinued in 1984. In a number of newspaper surveys in recent years, Spangles have been voted the sweet that British consumers would most like to see returned to our shelves.
Although Spangles are no longer available, their closely related cousin, Tunes, are still sold as a cough sweet in the UK. These menthol sweets were also created at the Mars factory in Slough.
In 1934, Slough-based Mars Limited bought Chappell Brothers Inc who were a Manchester-based dog food company making a product called Ken-L-Ration. A new factory was set up on the Slough Trading Estate and it began to produce a renamed dog food, Chappie. The factory was revolutionary at the time in its production machinery and its research into animal nutrition.
Kit-e-Kat was launched back in 1939 by the company behind Chappie dog food who were based in Slough. They relied on much of the technology and research that they had developed in order to manufacture tinned dog food. In a time of post-war rationing, the original Kit-e-Kat contained some surprising ingredients including horse and whale meat!
The hot malted milk drink has some mixed beginnings. It was invented by two British scientists working in America and was initially named Diastoid. To begin with it wasn’t very popular, then in 1906 it was given a make-over and a brand new factory was built in Slough. World domination of the bed-time drink market followed. The factory in Stoke Poges Lane is still there today and is regarded as one of the most beautiful industrial buildings in Slough, however earlier this year the site was earmarked for redevelopment as a housing estate.
11) Cox's Orange Pippin
The Cox’s Orange Pippin variety of apple, more commonly known just as a ‘Cox’, was first grown in Colnbrook in Slough in the 1820s by the horticulturalist, Richard Cox. Cox’s garden where he grew the first tree is now under the foundations of Colnbrook High Street. Popularity took off when a nurseryman from Slough began selling the trees in 1850. Throughout the 20th century the Cox was the UK’s favourite apple, before being
‘pipped to the post’ in 2011 by the Gala.
12-14) Gary Numan, Cars, Friends' Electric
Gary Numan is best known for his success in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a new wave music star but he spent his formative years at Slough Grammar School. It was
around this time that he was to be given his first guitar and take his first steps towards the cult figure he remains today. He is probably best known for his hit single Cars as well as Are ‘Friends’ Electric? which he recorded with band Tubeway Army and was the first UK no.1 song based on the electric synthesiser.
15) Gnarls Barkley
Gnarls Barkley is an American soul duo made up of singer-songwriter CeeLo Green and producer Danger Mouse. In 2008 they had chart success with their track Run; the song features a sample from Slough-born Keith Mansfield’s Junior Jet Set. Over the years Mansfield also worked with acts such as Toast, Ken Dodd, and Brotherhood of Man.
16) Geri Halliwell
Geri Halliwell made her name in the Spice Girls in the 1990s but around the time she
chose to leave the band she bought a house on the outskirts of Slough. It became her refuge from the intense celebrity life she’d fallen out of love with. It was here that she found inspiration to launch her solo career with her no.4 debut hit album Schizophonic.
During her time living here she was nominated for two Brit Awards, wrote her bestselling autobiography and racked up four no.1 singles with Mi Chico Latino, Lift Me Up,
Bag it Up and It’s Raining Men.
17-21) The Office, Ricky Gervais, Martin Freeman, McKenzie Crook
and Stephen Merchant.
The Office, Ricky Gervais, Martin Freeman, McKenzie Crook and Stephen Merchant.
For many people, the BBC mockumentary The Office, put Slough on the map, back in 2001. It told the story of the workers in the office of a fictional paper company, Wernham Hogg and went on to win a Golden Globe and spawn a series of local versions based in other countries around the world including America, Germany and France.
The series was written by, and starred, Ricky Gervais giving him his big break into
mainstream comedy. The programme also launched the careers of Gervais’ co-writer
Stephen Merchant and actors Martin Freeman (also known for his role as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit films) and McKenzie Crook (who went on to star in Pirates of the Caribbean and Game of Thrones).‘pipped to the post’ in 2011 by the Gala.
22-23) Tracey Ullman & The Simpsons
Comedian and actress, Tracey Ullman was born in Slough and spent her early years here.
She went on to work with other comedy greats such as Rik Mayall, Lenny Henry and French & Saunders before starring in her own comedy series in America, The Tracey Ullman Show and in Britain, Tracey Ullman’s State of the Union, Tracey Ullman’s Show and Tracey Breaks the News.
It was in 1987, during The Tracey Ullman Show, that The Simpsons first appeared as a series of animated shorts before going on to be developed into the half-hour primetime show that continues today.
24-29) Gerry Anderson
Gerry Anderson, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Stingray, Supercar and Joe 90.
Gerry Anderson was a television and film producer most famous for a series of puppet-based children’s programmes in the 1960s. In 1959, Gerry moved his company
AP Films onto the Slough Trading Estate from where they produced such hit-series as Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Stingray, Supercar and Joe 90.
30) Jimmy Carr
Comedian Jimmy Carr grew up in Slough and went to Burnham Grammar School where he says he learned to handle hecklers. He made his name in stand-up comedy in the early 2000s before going on to host television shows such as 8 Out of 10 Cats and The Big Fat Quiz of the Year.
31) Una Stubbs
Actress, dancer and TV personality Una Stubbs started her showbiz education at La Roche School of Dancing in Slough at the age of 14. She started out her career as the
cover girl for Dairy Box chocolates before becoming a professional dancer appearing on TV, in cabaret and as part of Lionel Blair’s dance ensemble. She has appeared in a number of films and television series, including most recently co-presenting The Big Painting Challenge on BBC One.
32) Ulrika Jonsson
The Swedish-born TV presenter, Ulrika Jonsson, made her name living and working in the UK as a breakfast television weather presenter and went on to present hit gameshow, Gladiators. She spent her formative years at Burnham Grammar School in Slough where she described herself as “one of the drippiest girls in school”.
33) Robin Hood Prince of Thieves
The 1991 film may have been set around Nottingham, but Kevin Costner’s Robin had his camp not in Sherwood Forest, but just off a footpath at Burnham Beeches. Gerry Anderson was a television and film producer most famous for a series of puppet-based children’s programmes in the 1960s. In 1959, Gerry moved his company
AP Films onto the Slough Trading Estate from where they produced such hit-series as Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Stingray, Supercar and Joe 90.
34) Carry on Camping
In 1969 the seventeenth Carry On film was released in British cinemas and was the
country’s biggest box-office success of the year. Most famous for its outdoor aerobics
scene where Barbara Windsor’s bikini top flies off, Carry On Camping’s campsite, named Paradise, was actually in Slough, at Burnham Beeches.
35) Oddjob’s Hat
The legendary scene from the 1964 James Bond film, Goldfinger which sees henchman Oddjob decapitating a statue with his bowler hat was filmed at Stoke Poges Gold Club.
36) The Herschels
37 – 43) Forty-Foot Telescope, Women in Science, Infrared, Photography, Blueprints, Backpacks.
The Herschels are arguably the Slough family who have given the world the most between them. They were a family of scientists who lived from the 18th to the 20th century and made a significant contribution to the field of astronomy. It began with William and his sister Caroline who moved to Slough in 1786.
One of William and Caroline Herschel’s most impressive creations was the forty-foot telescope they constructed at Observatory House in Slough between 1785 and 1789. It was the biggest telescope in the world for 50 years and allowed the scientists to see the furthest stars anyone had been able to observe up until this time.
Caroline Herschel worked for a long time as an assistant to her brother, but she also made significant contributions to science in her own right. She was the first woman to
receive a number of awards in science, but perhaps most significantly, in 1796 she became the first woman in science to ever receive a salary for her work. She received an annual salary of £50 from King George III.
Nowadays we use infrared in many ways in everyday life, in remote controls, heating and cooking, but the infrared spectrum of light wasn’t discovered until 1800, by Slough’s William Herschel. He discovered it by accident when testing filters for his telescope that would allow him to observe sun spots and he realised that using a red filter increased the amount of heat produced.
William Herschel’s son, John, followed the family business of astronomy but also made great advances in the field of photography. He invented fixatives used in printing
photographs as well as techniques for making them in colour, but maybe his most significant contribution came when he invented the word ‘photograph’ in 1839, bringing together the Greek words ‘photos’ meaning light and ‘graphé’ meaning drawing.
Through his work in photography and printing, John also invented ‘blueprints’ which were used by designers up until the mid-twentieth century and continues to be used as a term to mean a plan or initial idea. Herschel introduced the method of printing onto light-sensitive sheets as a fast and accurate way of reproducing a number of copies of technical drawings or architectural plans.
After two generations of such successful astronomers, William Herschel’s grandson, William James Herschel was asked to pick a career other than astronomy and so he
became a civil servant. In 1958 he left his home in Slough to work in India where discovered fingerprinting. In trying to find a way to stop tradesmen lying about their signature, he found that using fingerprints meant people could be identified years later as their fingerprints were unique to them and didn’t change over time.
In recent years, the most famous Herschel may have become the popular brand of backpacks from Canada. The brand takes its name from Herschel, Saskatchewan a small Canadian frontier village, which itself was named in honour of the Slough astronomer, John Herschel.
44) Helen Sharman
Back in 1989, Helen Sharman was living in Slough and working as a chemist at Mars when she heard an advert on the radio: “Astronaut wanted, no experience necessary”.
She applied and two years later she became the first British woman in space. She spent eight days on the Russian Mir space station carrying out scientific experiments. On her
return to earth she embarked on a successful career of public speaking and in 2016 she appeared in an episode of Hollyoaks on Channel 4.
45) Craniofacial Surgery
Wexham Park Hospital in Slough is home to a renowned plastic surgery unit which, back in the 1940s was at the forefront of craniofacial surgery, a form of surgery that concerns the head, skull, face, neck and jaws. At the hospital in 1949, surgeon Stewart Harrison carried out a pioneering operation to reconstruct the face of a patient born with a recessed upper jaw; the operation is considered to mark the beginnings of the speciality of craniofacial surgery.
46) Elliman’s Embrocation
Elliman’s Embrocation was a medicinal liquid designed to be rubbed on the body to
relieve aches and pains. Made from eggs, turpentine and vinegar, it was created in 1847 by Slough man, James Elliman Senior. It was originally used as a rub for horses but three years later it was declared as good for humans too. It was a very successful product, selling in 42 countries around the world, partly due to the large amount of money the company spent on advertising. The business was taken over by Horlicks, also based in Slough, before being sold to GlaxoSmithKline who continued to produce the product until recent years.
Slough’s reputation has had it tough over the years, and it certainly wasn’t helped by
John Betjeman’s 1937 poem, ‘Slough’. The Poet Laureate was prompted to write the
poem after the appearance of the Slough Trading Estate and it is very harsh in
suggesting it needs destroying. However, later in life, Betjeman regretted writing the
poem and in 2005 poet Ian McMillan published ‘Slough Re-visited’ which recreated the original, but this time it celebrated Slough and its people.
48) – 50) Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, Far From the Madding Crowd & ‘Kindred Spirit’
Thomas Gray was an English poet who was a forerunner of the Romantics and received
critical acclaim in the 18th century and was even offered the position of Poet Laureate.
He is best known for his poem, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, which he wrote in the graveyard of the church in Stoke Poges. It is still one of the most popular and most frequently quoted poems in English. It has given rise to words and phrases which have become part of everyday English including ‘kindred spirit’ and was the inspiration for Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, with the title coming from a line in Gray’s elegy.
The inventor of snooker, Neville Chamberlain (not the British Prime Minister!) was born in Slough in 1856. He trained at Sandhurst before being posted to India where he came up with the game by mixing the rules of two other billiards games. The word ‘snooker’ comes from a derogatory name that officers would use for new recruits at the Woolwich Military Academy – it was used to mock someone who wasn’t very good at Chamberlain’s
new game, and the name stuck.
54) Fiona May
Fiona May is a World Champion long jumper who also won two Olympic silver medals for Italy in 1996 and 2000. Although May is now an Italian citizen, she only took this nationality after marrying an Italian pole-vaulter in 1994, having been born in Slough in the 1960s. Her personal-best long jump was an impressive 7.11m!
55) Mark Richardson
British athlete Mark Richardson was born in Slough in 1972 and competed mainly in the 400 metres individual and relay. He won Olympic Bronze in 1992 and Silver in 1996 as well as gold medals at the World Championships and European Athletics Championships.
56) Nicola Sanders
British track and field sprinter, Nicola Sanders, trained at the Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow Athletic Club where she started on a promising career with successes in youth competitions. She went on to win a Bronze medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing as well as Gold at the World Indoor Championships at 2012.
The Formula One team set up by Bruce McLaren moved into premises in the Poyle
Trading Estate in Slough in 1965. It was from there that they entered their first F1 race as a team at Monaco in 1966 and their success really took off. As well as developing cars such as the iconic M23 World Championship winner, it was the birthplace of machines which made poll position on Can-Am and Indy 500 racing circuits.
58) Ford GT40
One of the most iconic sports racing cars of all time was developed right here in Slough.
It’s famous for having won the LeMans 24 Hours four times in a row between 1966-1969.
The ‘40’ in its name refers to the height of the car, just 40 inches (1.02m) from the floor to the top of the windscreen. The modern Ford GT supercar was created in homage to the GT40.
59) Stirling Moss
Stirling Moss was born in London, but it was in Slough that he started his racing career.
In the days before his first official race, he tested his car for the first time (completely
illegally) on the roads around a new housing estate being built in the town, where he had a close encounter with a woman on a bicycle that caused him to end up on the verge.
60) Grandstand (TV theme tune)
One of the best known TV sports theme tunes, the BBC Grandstand theme was created by British composer and arranger Keith Mansfield. Mansfield was born in Slough and used to play in the Slough Town Military Band based at the Slough Boys’ Club. He went on to compose and arrange music for TV and music productions all over the world, including music featured in Kill Bill, the BBC’s Wimbledon theme and Dusty Springfield’s album, Dusty…Definitely.
61) Lydia Simmons
Born in Montserrat in the Caribbean, Lydia Simmons moved to Slough when she was 17
and served as a councillor in the town before becoming the UK’s first female black
Mayor in 1984. Last year it was announced that Slough Borough Council will name a
development of 11 new council homes on Elliman Avenue in her honour.
62) Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin was a British Prime Minister three times between 1923 and 1937. He was educated at St Michael’s School in Slough and as well as becoming a politician he helped to grow his family’s iron and steel business into one of the biggest in Britain.
63) Tan Dhesi
In the 2017 general election, Tanmanjeet Dhesi became Britain’s first turbaned Sikh MP.
He was born in the town and has extended family connections here, writing a regular
column for the Slough Express.
64) Alan Johnson
Former Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, moved to the Britwell Estate in Slough in 1969 where he worked as a postman and lived for almost twenty years. It was during his time living in the town that he first joined the Labour Party, a move which eventually lead to his election as an MP in 1997.
65) Fenner Brockway
Fenner Brockway was MP for Slough and Eton during the 1950s and 60s and was one of the founding members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). Brockway was a passionate pacifist and anti-colonialist as well as becoming a devout vegetarian in 1908. He formed the No-Conscription Fellowship during WW1 to campaign against compulsory conscription; he was denied recognition as a conscientious objector and even spent a night held in the Tower of London for his refusal to be conscripted.
66) Ford Transit
In 1965 the first generation of Transit vans went into production at Ford’s factory in
Langley (which previously produced Hawker aeroplanes). The term ‘transit’ has become synonymous with a large van of any make and it has been the best-selling light commercial vehicle in Europe for forty years. Some of the original models from 1960s Slough are now collectors’ items and are worth over £40,000!
67) Ford Cargo
Bigger than its more famous cousin the Transit, the Ford Cargo is a ‘cab-over-engine’ truck that went into production in Langley in 1981. It was designed with windows in the cab that extended down nearly to the floor to improve visibility for drivers in urban locations. In the 1980s the Ford Cargo was the winning vehicle in three FIA European Truck Racing Championships.
68) (The English) Citroen 2CV
Although the iconic Citroen 2CV was famously developed and built in France in the 1930s, Slough was the car’s gateway to much of the rest of the world. A factory was
opened in the town to produce a right-hand-drive model that was sold in the British Empire and across the Commonwealth. A special model, the Bijou, was developed here for the British market with a fibreglass body and a less utilitarian look. Even the Royal Navy order 65 2CVs from the Slough plant as they were robust enough to drive on jungle tracks and light enough to be airlifted from aircraft carriers by helicopter.
69) The Zebra Crossing
70) Abbey Road Album Cover
The Road Research Laboratory was set up in Langley in 1946 to look into the safety and efficiency of the British Empire’s growing road system. At this time road crossings were made using metal studs in the road with unlit beacons. The government wanted to develop markings that were more visible in all conditions. A series of experiments led to the world’s first zebra crossing appearing in Slough in 1951. This crossing is no longer in existence since the area (outside Boots on the High Street) has been pedestrianised.
This form of road crossing has caught on around the world and even become, and been part, of iconic designs and popular culture such as the famous Abbey Road album cover by the Beatles, which itself has been copied and parodied ever since its release in 1969.
71) The Modern Roundabout
Although traffic roundabouts had been used in Paris and New York in the early 20th century, they were pretty dangerous and often managed to cause traffic jams. Step in, the ‘Road Research Laboratory’ in Slough and in the 1960s Britain became a worldauthority on roundabouts. In 1966, the RRL’s work led to a new law which stipulated that vehicles approaching a roundabout had to give way to traffic already on it. This modernised version of the roundabout was safer and more efficient and soon caught on becoming one of Britain’s most successful exports.
72) Directional Roads Signs
We are used to seeing uniform, green and white directional road signs all over the
country but before the middle of the 1950s there were no set rules about how they
should look. This meant each town or county would have its own system and style of signage. Thanks to the Road Research Laboratory in Slough a number of experiments were conducted between 1955 and 1957 which tested out different colours and styles of signs to create the clearest design. The first of these was in place by the end of the 1950s and the white-on-green design is still used on primary routes today.
73) Hawker Aircraft
Hawker Aircraft Limited was a British aircraft manufacturer which was responsible for some of the most famous aircraft of the Second World War. During the late 1930s and early 1940s, Hawker produced and tested their planes at Langley, where they invented
their Tornado, Typhoon, Tempest and Fury models. The factory at Langley was originally built for the production of the Hawker Hurricane aircraft as their previous factory had become inadequate; the Hurricane was of great significance during WW2 and more of them flew in the Battle of Britain than did Spitfires.
74) Slough Trading Estate
At the end of WW1 the land around Cippenham Court Farm in Slough was locally known as ‘the dump’ because it had been used to store thousands of disused army vehicles. A project was set up to repair and sell the vehicles, employing up to 8,000 people, half the population of Slough. By 1920 it had been bought by a syndicate of businessmen who established the Slough Trading Estate. Since then the site has continued to expand providing a source of employment for local people even in times of national downturn.
It’s home to numerous international companies including O2, GlaxoSmithKline, Mars Confectionary and Gillette.
75) Slough Community Centre
In 1937 the trading estate became the location for the Slough Community Centre, which was the first of its kind in the world. It was built to cater for the recreational needs of workers on the estate and offered a large sports hall, Olympic-sized swimming pool and branches of Citizens Advice Bureau, St John Ambulance and the civil defence. The trading estate has even been immortalised in the Arts, being the subject of Betjemen’s infamous poem, Slough, as well as home of Wernham Hogg in Ricky Gervais’ The Office.
76) Wheelie Bins
According to Biffa, the UK’s leading waste management company, the wheelie bin was invented in Slough on 12th March 1968. The company responsible was called Frank Rotherham Mouldings and initially the bins were only used inside their factory to move rubbish around, but once their potential was spotted to cut down on back injuries
suffered by refuse collectors, their popularity grew.
77) Eton College
Back in the nineteenth century, brickmaking was a major industry in Slough, although it had been going in the town for hundreds of years before then. It was in 1442 that King Henry VI ordered 2.5 million bricks to build Eton College, so many that a new brickyard had to be built!
78) The ‘Slough Stench’
Not necessarily one to be proud of, but whether you’re local or you just pass by Slough on the M4, you’re likely to be familiar with the ‘Slough Stench’. The smell that wafts around the area is actually caused by fumes from the sewage treatment plant in Wood Lane which opened in 1938.
79) Station Jim
A familiar site at the end of the nineteenth century at Slough railway station, Station Jim was a ‘Canine Collector’ for Great Western Railway’s Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund. He would wear a small money box strapped to his shoulders and was trained to bark every time someone put a coin in. Over his lifetime he managed to raise £40 for the fund, which is equivalent to about £5,000 in today’s money. You can still see Station Jim at Slough railway station today as after his death he was stuffed and placed on display in a glass cabinet with a collection slot, so his fundraising continues even in the afterlife.
80) Mrs Sinkins Pink
A ‘pink’, also known as a dianthus, is a type of flower, which isn’t necessarily pink in
colour. A very popular white variety of the flower, the ‘Mrs Sinkins’ was created by a
Slough horticulturalist and Master of the Workhouse, John Sinkins in 1868. The flower is still available in garden centres today and can be seen on Slough Borough’s coat of arms, being held in the mouth of a swan