The first recorded instance of the area was in 1196. The name at that time was written Slo. In 1336 was also recorded as Sloo. By 1437 the French influence in the language had affected the name and the area was at that time referred to as Le Slowe, Slowe or Slow. The area we now know as Slough was first spelled that way in 1443-1444. However there was a mixed use of the spellings up until the 19th Century.
The origin of the name is not clear. It may have derived from Slow. This was the name of open land in that part of the parish called 'The Slow Field', an area distinct from 'Upton Field'. Verbal evidence documented later referred to the abundance of sloe-bushes in the area. The sloe produces a berry used in cooking and for making some drinks.
Other writers have supposed the name to be derived from a 'slough', 'mire' or 'morass'. These are usually places where the soil is soaked all the time and generally muddy. Indeed a number of references are made in local writings about a 'miry place' between the Crown Hotel (at that time to the East of the High Street) and Salt Hill. During the 1880's building work in the area we now know as the High Street also recorded the need to dig out a 'slough of black mire' before being able to lay the foundations of buildings.
Certainly there was a famous 'morass' on the boundary of Upton-cum-Chalvey and Eton. It was famous at the beginning of the 17th Century and got a mention in the Shakespeare's play 'The Merry Wives of Windsor', Act IV, Scene 5.
There are three other places called Slough in England. They are not well known areas and often don’t appear on maps. They are all associated with muddy or miry places. So it would be reasonable to assume that the name derives from the Old English word 'Sloh' meaning a slough or mire.
There have been a few attempts to change the name in the past. However, it has not been a strong local theme and the name Slough as we know it today remains linked to its historical origins.
The reference source for this page is:
Chapter 1, The History of Slough: Maxwell Fraser. Published by 'The Slough Corporation' 1973.
This book, along with a range of other local studies resources, is available from Slough Library.