VE Day in Salt Hill Way

This photograph is of a street party held in Salt Hill Way to celebrate the Allied victory in Europe. In fact like many of the other street parties, it was actually held on the weekend following Tuesday 8 May, 1945.

Salt Hill Way
Salt Hill Way VE Day Party

My mother who has been a resident of Cippenham Since 1965, was brought up in nearby Salt Hill Way. Her family had originally moved up from Newport to Slough to escape the economic depression in the 1930’s. She appears in the picture, age 8, 3rd from left and 3rd row back wearing a bonnet (which I have been reminded to say was pink). She remembers the party and before then, finding some of her friends who were playing in the communal air-raid shelter (which was below the central green) and telling them that the war was over. Unfortunately her friends didn’t believe her. At this time, her eldest brother age 19, a conscripted tank driver in the Coldstream guards, was in Germany. Having crossed the channel soon after D-day, his regiment had fought through Europe and he was at the Battle of the Bulge (the German Ardennes offensive). He had been injured while egressing from a burning tank, but had been able to return to active service after a short stay in hospital. He was to make it home from the war safe and sound.

My mother remembers the war as being a deeply terrifying time. It started when she was three and pervades her earliest memories. She remembers having to be taken out of the Adelphi cinema auditorium after launching a feisty tyrande at Charlie Chaplin who was playing The Great Dictator. It was an honest case of mistaken identity, and at the time my mother believed that Hitler personally flew in the planes that came to bomb Slough. The family house backed onto the main railway line, behind which was the Slough Trading Estate – a prime target for the luftwaffe. My mother remembers diving to the floor as a German fighter (possibly an Me 410 Hornisse) strafed the railway. She can also remember collapsing to her knees from fear in Salt Hill park while her grandmother attempted to drag her to shelter after they been been caught in the open by an air-raid.

It would be a mistake to take for granted that Britain has enjoyed a historically unparalleled 71 years of peace, friendship and cooperation with our European neighbours, which has been built on recognising that our similarities are more important than our differences, and also in the memory of the horror of the conflicts of the early 20th century. Despite the worrying signs of what may be happening in the UK, I hope that the spirit of ‘Entente Cordiale’ with Europe can prevail, as it has never been more sorely needed given the serious issues of the pandemic, climate catastrophe and the other various dangers, threats, and evils metastasizing in the less civilised parts of the planet.

The name Salt Hill Way comes from the small village of Salt Hill which situated on the Bath Road on the west of Slough. In the era of stagecoaches it had inns including The Windmill, so named because there was once a windmill nearby. There was also once a water mill and the sides of the large millpond basin can today easily be discerned in Salt Hill park. The hamlet in turn is named after the Montem Mound, an ancient earthwork hill on the south side of the Bath Road. Slough Museum was adamant that this was a Norman Motte [1]. In recent years, an archeological survey has indubitably confirmed what others had suspected: that it is of 6-7th century origin. The Montem Mound was known as Salt Hill because of a ceremony held on it by Eton College from the 16th to the 19th century. Sanctioned by the college, students armed with swords would stop passing traffic on the thoroughfares in the surrounding district and demand money from the travellers to pass. In return, a bag of salt was issued, later a token. This was a play on the ancient Roman tradition that centurions were paid in salt, which gives us the word salary. A considerable amount of money was collected which was donated to a student due to be sent up to Cambridge. Sometimes this would not be such a great sum after the exorbitant wine, banqueting bills and damages to dining premises had been settled.

A famous murder case occurred 1845, where a man by the name of John Tawell killed Salt Hill resident Sarah Hart, his ex-mistress and mother to two of his children. Tawell dosed her beer with prussic acid. His motive was to get out of paying maintenance. The body of Sarah Hart was quickly discovered and a suspect was spotted boarding the train from Slough to Paddington. Tawell might have got away, but Slough was one of the first towns to possess an electric telegraph, which was situated next to the railway station. A description of him was sent ahead and he was surprised to find himself apprehended when he alighted at Paddington. In his defence Tawell’s lawyer claimed that Sarah Hart was poisoned from consuming apple pips which resulted in a drastic national decline in the sale of apples. He was found guilty of murder and publicly hanged outside Aylesbury County Court. This was the first time that the electric telegraph had played a role in solving a crime. It is also of incidental interest that Tawell had previously received a death sentence in 1814 for stealing £10 from his employers. The employers being Quakers were against capital punishment and successfully appealed for Tawell’s sentence to be reduced to transportation, and in 1820 he had regained his freedom. Slough’s electric telegraph apparatus from the time is preserved and is in on permanent display in the London Science Museum.

Reference

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montem_Mound



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