Thames Riviera Hotel (left) and Maidenhead Bridge (built 1777) from across the River Thames
|Population||70,374 (2019 est.)|
|OS grid reference||SU889811|
|• London||30 mi (48 km)|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
Maidenhead is a market town in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in the county of Berkshire, England, on the southwestern bank of the River Thames. It had an estimated population of 70,374 and forms part of the border with southern Buckinghamshire. The town is situated 27 miles (43 km) west of Charing Cross, London and 13 miles (21 km) east-northeast of the county town of Reading. The town differs from the Parliamentary constituency of Maidenhead, which includes a number of outer suburbs and villages (including parts of Wokingham and Reading) such as Twyford, Charvil, Remenham, Ruscombe and Wargrave.
The antiquary John Leland claimed that the area around Maidenhead's present town centre was a small Roman settlement called Alaunodunum. He stated that it had all but disappeared by the end of the Roman occupation. Although his source is unknown, there is documented and physical evidence of Roman settlement in the town. There are two well known villa sites in the town, one being in the suburb of Cox Green, and the other just west of the town centre on Castle Hill. This villa sat on the route of the Camlet Way which was a Roman road linking Silchester (Calleva Atrebatum) and Colchester (Camulodunum) via St Albans (Verulamium) and passes through the present town centre. Remnants of the road have been unearthed at various locations nearby, but its exact route is unclear.
Maidenhead's name stems from the riverside area where the first "New wharf" or "Maiden Hythe" was built, as early as Saxon times. In the year 870, an army of Danes invaded the kingdom of Wessex. They disembarked from their longboats by the wharf and ferry crossing at Maidenhead and fought their way overland to Reading where they set up camp and made it their regional power base. The area of the present town centre was originally a small Anglo-Saxon town known as "South Ellington". The town would have likely developed on the Camlet Way on the site of Alaunodunum as the Bath Road was not re-routed until the 13th century. Maidenhead is recorded in the Domesday Book as the settlement of Ellington in the hundred of Beynhurst.
A wooden bridge was erected across the river in about 1280 to replace the ferry in South Ellington. The Great West Road to Reading, Gloucester and Bristol was diverted over the new bridge. Previously, it had kept to the north bank and crossed the Thames by ford at Cookham, and the medieval town, later to become Maidenhead grew up on the site of Alaunodunum and South Ellington, between the new bridge and the bottom of Castle Hill. Within a few years a new wharf was constructed next to the bridge to replace the old Saxon wharf which needed replacing. At this time, the South Ellington name was dropped with the town becoming known as Maidenhythe. The earliest record of this name change is in the Bray Court manorial rolls of 1296.
The new bridge and wharf led to the growth of medieval Maidenhead as a river port and market town. The present town was developed as a linear settlement in the 13th century along the newly diverted road with hostelries, a guildhall and a chapel dedicated to St Mary Magdalene was built in the middle of the road. The market was held outside the old guildhall which was set back from the High Street to form the market square. Maidenhead also became the first stopping point for coaches travelling from London to Gloucester and Bath and the town became populated with numerous inns. By the mid 18th century, Maidenhead was one of the busiest coaching towns in England with over ninety coaches a day passing through the town. The late 18th-century Bear Hotel on the High Street is the best of the town's old coaching inns surviving to this day.
The current Maidenhead Bridge, a local landmark, dates from 1777 and was built at a cost of £19,000. 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. Muddy roads were replaced and public services were installed. The High Street began to change again, and substantial Victorian red brick architecture began to appear throughout the town. Maidenhead became its own entity in 1894, being split from the civil parishes of both Bray and Cookham. Maidenhead Citadel Corps of the Salvation Army was first opened in the town in the mid-1880s. Maidenhead Citadel Band was soon founded in 1886 by Bandmaster William Thomas, who later became mayor of the town. By Edwardian times, nearby Boulter's Lock became a favoured resort, especially on Ascot Sunday, and Skindles Hotel developed a reputation for illicit liaisons.
The town is part of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, with an urban population of around 150,000. Currently Cllr Andrew Johnson is the Leader of the Conservative held cabinet. It was previously an independent municipal borough. The town of Maidenhead was formerly part of the Windsor and Maidenhead Parliament constituency, a Conservative safe seat. The Boundary Commission abolished this constituency for the 1997 general election since the electorate had become too large, splitting it into the new seats of Windsor and Maidenhead.
Maidenhead has been held by the Conservative Party in every election since its foundation in 1997. Theresa May was elected MP in 1997 and has represented Maidenhead ever since. As MP, she took a series of ministerial positions, and was appointed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on 13 July 2016. May stood down as Prime Minister on 24 July 2019, but continues to serve as MP for Maidenhead. It is today one of the safest Conservative seats in the country, with the Conservatives having a 35 percentage point lead over the second largest party (Labour) in 2017. The mayor of Windsor & Maidenhead is Councillor Sayonara Luxton (Conservative).
The Maidenhead urban area includes urban and suburban regions within the bounds of the town, called Maidenhead Court, North Town, Furze Platt, Pinkneys Green, Highway, Tittle Row, Boyn Hill, Fishery and Bray Wick; as well as adjoining built-up areas in surrounding civil parishes: Cox Green and Altwood in Cox Green parish, Woodlands Park in White Waltham parish, and part of Bray Wick in Bray parish. Bray village is linked to Maidenhead by the exclusive Fishery Estate which lies on the west bank of the Thames.
To the east, on the opposite side of the river from Maidenhead, is the large village of Taplow in Buckinghamshire which almost adjoins the suburban village of Burnham, Buckinghamshire, which itself nearly adjoins the urban area of the large, industrial town of Slough. To the north are the Cookhams, Cookham Village, Cookham Rise and Cookham Dean. To the west is the area of Pinkneys Green. These lie south of the Berkshire-Buckinghamshire border, which is formed by the River Thames (which then bends southwards to form the Maidenhead-Taplow border). Adjoining Bray and Bray Wick to the south is the suburban village of Holyport. Continuing by road to the South-East leads to the historic, royal twin towns of Windsor and Eton.
Maidenhead was originally the planned western terminus for the Crossrail line (to and through London) until Reading station, situated 13 miles (21 km) southwest of Maidenhead, was chosen. Maidenhead lies immediately west of the Taplow ridge; a wooded spur of the Chilterns which rises dramatically above one of the most scenic stretches of the Thames. The ridge is crowned by the spectacular Cliveden House which can be seen from various parts of the town. Maidenhead has a site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in the northern outskirts of the town called Cannoncourt Farm Pit, where the largest hand axe of the paleolithic era in Britain was discovered. The town also has a local nature reserve called The Gullet. On 12 July 1901 Maidenhead entered the UK Weather Records with the Highest 60-min total rainfall at 92 mm (3.6 in). As of July 2015, this record remains.
Maidenhead clock tower was built for Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee and is located outside the railway station. Maidenhead Bridge was built in 1777. It takes the A4 over the Thames to join Maidenhead to Taplow. All Saints' Church, Boyne Hill was completed in 1857 is one of the finest examples of the early work of the architect G. E. Street. The site is also regarded by many as the premier architectural site in the town. The church, consecrated on 2 December 1857 by Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, became the first ecclesiastical parish in the Borough of Maidenhead. Ten years later, in 1867, his brother William Wilberforce junior founded a Catholic chapel that led to St Joseph's Church. Boulter's Lock is a lock on the river Thames on the east side of Maidenhead. It adjoins Ray Mill Island. In addition the town has a range of various statues which form part of a recognisable image of the town, including the 'Boy and the Boat' location at the top end of the High Street, near the Methodist Church.
Maidenhead has a long history of settlement, going back to the Anglo-Saxon and Roman periods. Despite this, there are no visible architectural remains in the present day town to show this. Although there are attractive residential and green areas in and around Maidenhead, the historic heart of the town has been redeveloped, primarily with office space, high technology company headquarters and apartments, making it one of the key business and commuter towns of the Silicon Corridor. This has happened in piecemeal fashion over the last forty years and unfortunately, Maidenhead town centre has lost most many historic buildings and much of its traditional English market town character. The High Street and Bridge Street areas only possess one heavily restored Medieval building and a handful of Georgian buildings in the Chapel Arches area.
Research by the New Economics Foundation rated Maidenhead as an example of a clone town and the town centre is regarded as in need of improvement. In December 2007, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead set up the Partnership for the Regeneration of Maidenhead (PRoM), which in October 2008 launched a comprehensive 20 Year Vision and Action Plan for rejuvenating the town centre. Launch of the plan coincided with confirmation by central government that Maidenhead will be part of the new Crossrail project. PRoM's plans highlight five key developments which will help shape the town for the future.
A large new retail and residential development called 'The Landing' is due for construction shortly. Additionally there will be an upgraded railway station and transport interchange, movement of the leisure centre to Braywick Park, relocating the bowls club and improved links between Kidwells Park and the High Street. There are also plans to demolish the 1960s Nicholsons shopping centre and replace it with a new retail and residential quarter built around a network of revived historic streets and a micro brewery. A new town square featuring shops, restaurants and apartments is currently under construction between the central library and town hall.
The Chapel Arches retail and residential development is under construction. Part of the scheme involves restoring the old Thames tributaries which run through a historic section of the town centre. The redevelopment will bring an attractive waterfront quarter with new apartments, boutique stores, restaurants, bars, and cafes are to be a feature this new part of the town centre. The adjoining historic section of the High Street around the 18th century Chapel Arches Bridge has been restored as part of the development. Existing Georgian and Victorian buildings have been rejuvenated, and the adjoining new builds have been sensitively constructed in the same historic style to bring back a sense of history and lost heritage to this part of the town centre. Maidenhead was home to the conference that agreed on the Maidenhead Locator System standard in 1980. It is located in grid square IO91pm. The average house price in Maidenhead in January 2021 was £540,940.
Maidenhead offers High Street shopping facilities including Nicholson's Centre, a shopping centre on the site of Nicholson's brewery. The town also offers an eight-screen Odeon multiplex cinema. The local authority also provides a Shopmobility service, where those with physical disabilities can borrow mobility scooters to navigate around the town. Maidenhead Heritage Centre and Museum was established in 1993 and moved to permanent premises in a former pub in Park Street in 2006.
In the Boyne Hill area there is Norden Farm Centre for the Arts (an arts centre including a theatre). Waltham Place Estate on Church Hill includes an ornamental garden integrated within a 200-acre (80 ha) organic and biodynamic farm estate. It is promoted by the Campaign to Protect Rural England. The Reitlinger Open Space on Guards Club Road is named after Henry Reitlinger, a leading collector of fine art. On his death in 1950, the collection was vested in a trust, the Henry Reitlinger Bequest. The trustees were his adopted daughter, Mrs. M. Cocke, and a Maidenhead solicitor, who chose to house the collection at Oldfield House, now a private residence; the building dates back to 1892.
The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead has built a new leisure centre in the town to replace the outdated Magnet Leisure Centre which is located east of Kidwells Park. The new facility, Braywick Leisure Centre, opened in September 2020. The town also has various community centres, including 4 Marlow Road, a youth and community centre, located to the side of Kidwells Park near the town centre. Various activities take place here, including scheduled youth drop in times as well as classes in dance provided privately in its large sports and dance studios. There is a publicly open gym at Furze Platt school, in North Maidenhead.
The (Brunel-built) Great Western Main Line passes through the town, calling at Maidenhead railway station and offering frequent, direct services to London, Reading, Newbury, Didcot and Oxford. Additionally, there are less frequent direct services to Banbury, Hereford, Worcester and Great Malvern. It passes over Brunel's Maidenhead Railway Bridge (known locally as the Sounding Arch), famous for its flat brick arches. Maidenhead Station is the beginning of the Marlow Branch Line from Maidenhead to Marlow, Buckinghamshire, Furze Platt railway station on this branch also serves the northern area of Maidenhead. Rail services have been provided by Great Western since 2003–04.
Local bus services are provided by First Berkshire & The Thames Valley, Arriva Shires & Essex and Thames Valley Buses. The A4 runs through the town and crosses the Thames over Maidenhead Bridge. The town lies adjacent to junction 8/9 on the M4 motorway and is accessed via the A404(M) and A308(M). The A308(M), A404(M) and A404 form the Marlow and Maidenhead bypass which also acts as an important link between the M4, to the south of the town, and M40 at High Wycombe. The River Thames runs 1⁄2 mile (800 m) to the east of the town centre, and York Stream, which runs through the town centre, connects to the Thames via a system of disused waterways. A renewal scheme is in progress to reopen these waterways. The Jubilee River, part of the flood defence scheme, begins above Boulter's Lock nearby.
In the initial plan for Crossrail, Maidenhead was expected to become the terminus for the line, which is now known as the Elizabeth line. However, after consultation Crossrail Limited and Transport for London decided to extend this to Reading, which also serves as a major hub for the Great Western route. The route will double the current timetable from four services an hour (operated by the existing Great Western Railway route) to eight services an hour (combining both Elizabeth line and GWR services). Two services an hour from Paddington to Reading have been taken over by Crossrail's precursor company, TfL Rail.
Just 2 miles to the south-west of the town lies White Waltham Airfield, a base for general aviation and flight training.
Maidenhead is in England's Silicon Corridor along the M4 motorway west of London. Many residents commute to work in London, or to the nearby towns of Slough, Bracknell and Reading. Maidenhead's industries include software, plastics, pharmaceuticals, printing and telecommunications. The town also has an office for the Department for Work and Pensions, a local Jobcentre Plus which is located in Park Street. It is open 9am - 5pm Monday to Friday (10am on Wednesday) and offers help in finding employment, including the National Careers Service. In addition, as part of the UK Government roll out of the new social care benefit system, Maidenhead is now a Universal Credit Full Service area.
Situated on the River Thames, the town is a rowing centre. Maidenhead Rowing Club organises the Maidenhead Regatta which, along with Marlow Regatta and Henley Regatta, is often seen as a testing ground for olympic rowing athletes. Maidenhead has often seen winners go on to represent the United Kingdom at the Olympic games. The town's football team, Maidenhead United, play at York Road, which is the oldest football ground in the world continuously used by the same team. Maidenhead United were crowned champions of National League South at the end of the 2016/17 season. Due to this, the team were automatically promoted to the National League (fifth tier of English Football) for the 2017/18 season. The Maidenhead Rugby Club was founded in 1921 and is the largest organised sports team in the town. It consists of four men's teams, a women's team and a large youth programme.
The local newspaper is The Maidenhead Advertiser. Maidenhead has been the home of Maidenhead Citadel Band of the Salvation Army since 1886. The head office of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is based in Maidenhead on Marlow Road. Furthermore, various private companies have their head offices located around the town including, Johnson & Johnson, the American multi-national pharmaceutical. The schools listed below consist of various types of schools including free schools and academies.
Although the town only has the one college, most students entering college level education travel to the various establishments in the area, including the Windsor Forest Colleges Group (formerly East Berkshire College) in both Windsor (Berkshire) and Langley, Slough as well as The Henley College in Oxfordshire and Reading College (Berkshire).
The closest higher education institution is Buckinghamshire New University in High Wycombe 14.5 km (9 mi) to the north. The University of Reading and University of West London (Berkshire Institute of Health-Reading) are both approximately 21 km (13 mi) to the south-west.
A number of notable figures can be counted amongst Maidenhead's current and former residents.