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Father and son pilot a Spitfire in the Maidenhead Heritage Centre's simulator

Father and son pilot a Spitfire in the Maidenhead Heritage Centre's simulator

Maidenhead - History

Maidenhead's name is thought by some to refer to the riverside area where the New Wharf, or 'Maiden Hythe' was built, perhaps as early as Saxon times. In 1280, a bridge was erected across the river to replace a ferry. The Great West Road was diverted over the new bridge - previously Maidenhead Bridge.it kept to the north bank and crossed the Thames by ford at Cookham - and medieval Maidenhead grew up around it. The earliest record of the name Maidenhythe is in the Bray Court manorial rolls of 1296. The bridge led to the growth of Maidenhead, a stopping point for coaches on the journeys between London and Bath, and the High Street became populated with inns. The current Maidenhead Bridge dates from 1777.

King Charles I met his children for the last time before his execution in 1649 at the Greyhound Inn on the High Street, the site of which is now a branch of the NatWest Bank. A plaque commemorates their meeting.

When the Great Western Railway came to the town it began to expand rapidly. A new viaduct across the Thames was designed and completed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1838. The railway is carried across the river on two brick arches, which at the time of building were the widest and flattest in the world. The Thames Path passes under the north bank arch, also known as the 'Sounding Arch' due to its spectacular echo. This bridge is the scene of Turner's 'Rain Steam and Speed', which resides in the National Gallery.

By Edwardian times, Boulter's Lock nearby became a favoured resort especially on Ascot Sunday. Since Edwardian days it has been a place for fun. Once it was champagne parties, camping punts and Guard's Club occassions, culminating in the season's most fashionable event 'Ascot Sunday', a day of finery on the river. During the 1920s Maidenhead had a string of harmless drinking clubs which earned it notoriety but its naughty past began much earlier, when the Gaiety girls were lodged here; in fact there is a short piece of riverside known locally as Gaiety Row.

White Waltham is a small village on the edge of Maidenhead with an airfield which during the Second World War was home to the Air Transport Auxiliary. The ATA ferried aircraft between factories and RAF stations, but was made up of pilots deemed unsuitable for the RAF or Fleet Air Arm. As a result, large numbers of women, physically handicapped and pilots from neutral countries signed up. They flew all kinds of aircraft, from fighters like Spitfires to heavy bombers like Lancasters. In 1943, women pilots were granted equal pay, the first time the British government gave its blessing to equal pay for equal work to an organisation under its control. This is showcased in the permenant exhibition 'Grandma Flew Spitfires' at the Maidenhead Heritage Centre.

Today the accent is on art, music, drama and dance festivals.

Modern Maidenhead is in England's Silcon Corridor along the M4, with current industries including software, plastics, pharmaceuticals, printing and telecommunications.

Sporting HeritageMaidenhead United - York Road.

Maidenhead United have played their home matches at York Road since 1871, acknowledged by the FA and FIFA to be the oldest continuously-used senior football ground in the world by the same club. Their first match was against Marlow on 16 February 1871, and they have played at York Road without break since. Maidenhead United are one of the 'Originals', the 15 clubs who played in the first ever FA Cup, the oldest football competition in the world. The following year Maidenhead United reached the last four before being knocked out by Oxford University.

The Vanwall Formula One team built their first cars at Cox Green in Maidenhead. Vanwall won the 1958 constructor's title, but due to the declining health of the owner Tony Vandervell, had stopped racing by the 1960s. The designer was a young Colin Chapman, who went on to found Lotus. Sir Stirling Moss, raised in Bray, took their first win. Described as 'the finest driver never to win the world championship', he lost the 1958 title by a single point. Despite retiring in 1961, he remained the Englishman with most F1 wins until surpassed by Nigel Mansell in 1991. Sir Stirling Moss was the first British winner of the British Grand Prix.

Maidenhead Highlights

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